BWW Interviews: WEST SIDE to MADISON COUNTY - Jessica Vosk, Part 2
In Part 1 of our interview, theatrical talent Jessica Vosk www.jessicavosk.com shared her early performing experiences leading up to her momentous portrayal of Anita in Leonard Bernstein's West Side Story with Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony. In Part 2 we learn about her Broadway debut in the Tony-nominated The Bridges of Madison County. /shows/The-Bridges-of-Madison-County-330723.html#.U2FBDeZdWAY
EM: As if West Side Story wasn't wonderful enough, then came Bridges on Broadway. Tell me how that happened.
JV: My agent gave me a phone call. They had work shopped Bridges in Williamstown this past summer, and were casting it for Broadway. I knew nothing about it going in. I received these beautiful Jason Robert Brown songs for the audition, which I could not get out of my head. Getting the chance to go in and audition for this show, this stunning musical - I think it was three auditions total - came out of nowhere. From start to finish, to call backs to finally getting the offer - another surreal moment of "Wow." If you'd told me six months ago I would be working on Broadway, I would not have believed you. If you put in the hard work and have the passion and are willing to hang in there, and you know the work you're doing will be noticed, then things like this happen. The entire creative team is wildly successful in our business, so smart and creative. To be working with Jason Robert Brown and Bartlett Sher - and Kelli O'Hara! I'd worked with her on another show a few years ago. Now I'm working with her every night and watching her genius.
EM: Passion is good, being in the right place is good. A lot of people say talent is secondary. But it sure helps to have talent as you have - in spades.
JV: That's what's tough about this business. So many different factors and opinions on what it takes: whom you know or sheer luck. At the end of the day, especially with this show, which thousands of people have come to see, it really is about talent. It's a singers' show. Jason Robert Brown is such an incredible musician, and the show is really like an opera. That's exactly what Jason writes for singers. These are singers that can act the hell out of a song, and have to, every single night. To be part of that group of people is validation that you're supposed to be here. Of course the theatre has become my second home. Having the chance to perform this masterpiece of a work is incredible. It's months of work and a process of putting a new show up - but on Broadway. Now we're in a different game, a whole different swimming pool. A couple of weeks of previews, you figure out what works and doesn't work with an audience, and the show changes immensely. That's exactly what our show did. Dramatically. But everybody got a chance to give input and say how they felt about it. Even in rehearsal today, you get to find different things that are new. Kelli does that every single night.
EM: And how exciting about her Tony nomination for best actress in a musical.
JV: Yes! I get to watch her find new little pieces of information that she can use in different ways. That way you never get bored. This show is so meaningful, it gives you a chance to learn at every performance. I cover all five female roles on this show, a really difficult task. I've never done that before, and I'll say it's one of hardest jobs I've ever had - my former job in finance included.
EM: But it will give you chops for whatever you're doing next.
JV: Absolutely. I'm so grateful to have been able to watch our director put this show together, and our musical director, and seasoned performers that have done so many Broadway shows, with so many Tony nominations between them. It's a treat, and something I'll be able to use in future, if I ever teach a master class. These are the lessons I can take with me from my experiences to teach other kids. I sometimes go back to my high school and teach seniors that are going off to audition for colleges, or know they want to go into musical theatre. I think that's so important to do.
EM: You have to keep hoisting the flag, keep the momentum going for the next generation.
JV: So many kids have been in my position, wanting to be on the Broadway stage. Now that I know the work and the talent it takes, I think it's important to give some of that back.
EM: Very much so. When did you actually find out you were going "on" in a major role the night of March 28th? How did that feel?
JV: Getting to perform on the Broadway stage for the first time is - I don't even know how to describe the feeling. Amazing. As a female "swing," I can go on stage at a minute's notice. That's happened for me here several times. So those moments are very nerve wracking. It's really all you can do to make sure you get through the show without killing anybody. But I had a little bit of notice when I was going to be making my debut with this principal role. Something that's so beautiful about this particular show is that I get to sing a solo piece, a kind of Joni Mitchell type song, with a girl and her guitar, this intimate song, that tracks the emotional journey between the two leads of the show. I was able to have a couple of days to prepare, to have what they call a "put-in" rehearsal, to make sure I knew everything I was doing, all my blocking, where I was going. I found out Jason Robert Brown was going to be conducting that show, which was awesome but also made me so much more nervous, knowing that as I'm sitting in this chair with a guitar singing this amazingly beautiful song, and there's my conductor, who happens to have composed the music, sitting there right in front of me. I had a chance to invite people, so a ton of folks came, people I knew from the business, casting people, family. The whole thing was incredible, to be the second person that has ever sung this song on the Broadway stage, was kind of out of body. Our director came to see it, and there was so much support. That's something about this cast of people - our "family" here - everybody is so wonderfully supportive, from our director, to Jason, to Kelli O'Hara - they were so kind afterwards about how the song went and how it sounded. It felt really great to have your composer come up to you at the end of the show and say that you did such a great job. Wonderful.
EM: Well, he has good taste. I'm sure it was fantastic. How does the cast recording fit into all this? https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/bridges-madison-county-original/id854595512
JV: It's been extremely successful. It was already number one on iTunes the day it came out. People that have been waiting for this album to come out, asking about it since before the show opened - the music has been a very hot topic for quite some time now - are going wild over it, which is all we could ask for. It's such a beautiful score to sing every single night, so nice that the public can listen in their cars, on their iPods or in the subway. And it's nice to have friends who I normally wouldn't be in touch with everyday say how gorgeous the soundtrack is, or how they're looking forward to coming to the show a second or third time. That makes it really special for everyone here.
EM: And now it's in the "Billboard Top 200" /article/THE-BRIDGES-OF-MADISON-COUNTY-Cast-Recording-Breaks-into-Billboard-Top-200-20140423#.U2FBouZdWAY. I'm just thrilled for all of you. The show's been so successful - and four Tony Noms just announced! I imagine it's going to go on for quite some time. Do you have a sense of what might come next?
JV: We only hope it will keep going. As for what's next, you never know. The great thing about this business is it that things pop up all the time. I've had a chance to do readings, and a bunch of concerts and workshops of shows. So it's a mixed bag of things coming up. You're always on your toes auditioning, and it's like you're running your own business in your mind.
EM: Being freelance in any way, you have to be self-driven. That's probably the hardest thing to do in any field, so I'm filled with awe about you and all you've accomplished. Is there anything you can share about future plans?
JV: A few things are coming up that I can't say anything about yet. But I have concerts coming up at 54 Below, http://54below.com a wonderful theatre club in the City. It's like Studio 54 but underground.
EM: Yes, that video of you performing there was fantastic. [media]
JV: I just did a Sondheim show on April 27th, Sondheim Unplugged, with cast members from other Sondheim shows. We all do a piece or two and it's just a gorgeous evening. The West Side Story CD https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/bernstein-west-side-story/id864266179 is the really big thing happening right now, I have my fingers crossed that good things will come of that.
EM: I have no doubt.
JV: This year has been in many ways so cool. But maybe the coolest was being lucky enough to be cast in a new Broadway musical, and make my debut. Watching it take shape and being in a room with astounding talent on both sides of then table was VERY cool. Now they're family, and I get to go to work and play with them every day. And the bonus "cool" is waking up to see NINE Drama Desk nominations this morning! Go team Bridges!
EM: I'm thrilled for you, Jessica. Thank you so much for sharing. I expect wonderful things from you!
JV: Thank you so much, Erica.