Tony Award Winner Wilson Jermaine Heredia Will Star In WEST SIDE STORY At Authentic Community Theatre
Authentic Community Theatre in Hagerstown, MD plans on bringing in the New Year with a bang. Authentic Community Theatre (ACT) first announced August 1st, 2019 via a Facebook video that Wilson Jermaine Heredia (best known for being in the Original Broadway Cast of RENT and the 2005 film adaptation) would be joining their cast of West Side Story as Tony. The Tony Award winner came to ACT December 1, 2018 to teach a master class in conjunction with their production of RENT which took place in March 2019 at the historic Maryland Theatre to over 1500 people in just 2 nights.
"After the class was over, I had to take him to the beautiful Maryland Theatre and show him around" said Robbie Soto, President of Authentic Community Theatre. "He said 'I have to perform here' and the wheels started to turn". The two became close over the next 24 hours as they shared dinner and talked about everything from theatre, to video games and everything in between. "We really bonded. I have taken master classes before but never from someone of Wilson's accolades and I've never been in charge of putting one together. I wasn't sure how it was going to be nor did I know how he and I would get along" Soto said. The two continued their friendship as Soto reached out to Heredia for advice, and just to check in. "The thought came up randomly when I asked him if he wanted to be in West Side Story and he said 'Absolutely. Let's do it!' I didn't expect that at all and I didn't know if he was serious. My initial thought was that was too easy". Heredia invited Soto and some people from his organization to see him perform in New York City at the famous Cherry Lane Theatre in the West Village. Soto and Heredia Went to dinner together and talked about how to make it work. After dinner Wilson walked with Soto to the Cherry Lane Theatre and a handshake agreement was made. "He told me that his dream was to play Tony in West Side Story, but he knew it would never happen because he is Hispanic. I told him, 'you've never worked with me before. I'll make it happen'. The next thing I know I'm on the phone with his agents and managers talking details and getting things worked out". On August 1st, 2019 ACT released a video making the announcement that was seen by several thousand people but have been teasing the idea since April 2019.
Many actors have been waiting and preparing to get to work with Wilson. Lawren Palmer, most recently seen on stage as Belle in ACT's production of Beauty and the Beast, is playing Maria, A hopeless romantic and innocent young girl that falls in love with Tony and finds herself at the center of the violent conflict between the two gangs, is looking forward to working with Heredia. "I'm thrilled for the opportunity to work with such a talented and well-known artist. It's a huge opportunity for the cast and the community to work with and see him on stage"! Timothy Vinson, who is an ACT regular and has been in shows like Grease, Beauty and the Beast, Oklahoma, and Hairspray echoes Palmers sentiments. "It's such an honor to get to perform on my favorite stage next to such an incredible actor that I've respected for so long" Vinson continued "I remember watching RENT online and being so inspired by his performance. Anytime an actor of that caliber with that level of skill shares their art with small-town community theatres, it's impactful. But to come and perform beside us? That is a life changing experience". "West Side Story, on TV, caught my imagination as a child". Wilson commented. "I didn't know I was watching a musical but all I knew is that I wanted to do it. I especially identified with Tony because of his blind, romantic optimism. I've played a lot of things before but Tony is the role of a lifetime for me. I thank ACT for allowing me to fulfil my dream". West Side Story is directed by award winning director Zane Oberholzer and the choreography that the show is most well known for is being done by award winning choreographer and owner of Dancin’ Time Studio in Hagerstown, Kelly Jenkins-Moreland.
Tickets are currently on sale for ACT's production of West Side Story. Tickets are $25 and can be purchased at www.mdtheatre.org. January 17th and 18th are your only chances to see the Broadway star in Hagerstown.
Heredia will be alongside some of Hagerstown best talent including ACT regulars like Lawren Palmer as Maria, Bryan Brown as Bernardo, Soto as Riff, Tim Vinson as Action, Dalton Korelle as A-Rab, Jim Zuna as Doc, Larry Knight as Officer Krupke, Tom Dean as Lieutenant Schrank and Maedene Weisnmiller as Anybodys. Also joining the cast are newcomers to ACT such as Marlena Mueller as Anita, Adam Blackstock as Pepe, Nathan Cloud as Snow Boy, and Dane Moreland as Diesel. Some familiar faces will round out the ensemble like Rachel Boyle, Danielle Sheffler, Jess Elser, Tatiana Bradshaw, Lio Salizar, Kaylie Brown, Sloan Huber, Savanah Saunders, Charity Turley, and many more!