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Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Meet Maria from the Stratford Festival's 'The Sound of Music'

Continuing with some of my retrospective articles from the Stratford Festival's SceneNotes e-magazine, I thought it might be fun to share this 'Meeting Maria' interview with the lovely and oh-so-talented Stephanie Rothenberg. We had a chance to chat back in the winter before rehearsals began. Since it opened, the production of this classic Rodgers and Hammerstein musical has earned rave reviews-- and well deserved, too! Stephanie is a shining star, as you can see and hear in the video above.

(I will be giving another live audio described performance of The Sound of Music again this week, so the show is at the front of my mind!)

Q: Since this will be your Stratford Festival debut, can you tell our readers a bit about your background?

A: I grew up in Nashville, Tennessee – though my parents both hail from the East Coast (Dad’s from New York and Mom’s from Pennsylvania) – and at the tender age of eight, I hit a fork in the road: should I continue with swimming lessons or theatre? I chose theatre and I’ve never looked back!

Being in the music mecca of Nashville, it seemed everyone’s basement contained a recording studio. I learned a lot about singing and started doing recordings with one of the city’s biggest kids’ music producers, working for companies like Disney and MTI. I was in a production of Grease at eight, and went “professional” with a dinner theatre production of Annie at eleven, then starred in The Diary of Anne Frank with Tennessee Repertory at fourteen.

Q: How did you get your big start as a leading lady on Broadway?

A: After high school, I applied to study Drama at the Tisch School of the Arts in New York. I left there in 2011 and went straight to the Broadway production of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying as an understudy.

The big moment came when I suddenly had to go on as Rosemary opposite Daniel Radcliffe – yes, Harry Potter himself! I only had a few hours to prepare for a sold-out performance. My dad managed to get a ticket, and it meant the world to me having him in the audience (along with notable patrons like Nathan Lane). Daniel was amazing and supportive, and he told me, “You’re not meant to just be understudying – you need to be doing this!”

I went on to take over the role of Rosemary opposite Nick Jonas, and no doubt once again made every teenage girl out there extremely jealous. It was the cherry on top of a really great cake. I had so many fantastic experiences doing that one show!

Q: What are you most looking forward to about being in Stratford next season?
A: It’s such a beautiful place! Growing up in Nashville, I was always surrounded by parks and outdoorsy spaces, and Stratford reminds me so much of that. I can’t wait to explore the town and dig into the local foodie scene, farmers’ markets and great restaurants – I love food and cooking.

Most of all, I am so honoured and thrilled to be on the Festival stage working with [director] Donna Feore and the amazing company. I saw Crazy for You this past season, and I was completely blown away by the energy and the palpable enjoyment between the cast and the audience. I can’t wait!

Q: Lastly, what are a few of your favourite things? Name five!

A: My choices are all so incredibly girly, but here we go!

One: In the winter, there’s nothing better than a luxurious bubble bath. And I mean a proper bath, with Mozart playing in the background, candles and a glass of wine while I lie back with a Travel and Leisure magazine. I love travel. In fact, I am visiting Austria over the holidays – it will be wonderful to get a first-hand look at the actual setting of The Sound of Music.

Two: I adore swimming and water, especially swimming in the ocean. I get a kick out of exploring gyms in New York – especially ones with rooftop pools.

Three: Cooking. I enjoy making meals for a crowd and throwing themed dinner parties. I just held a Mexican fiesta themed party with a bunch of friends, and it was great fun.

Four: Date night. I adore going out for a good ol’ fashioned dinner and a movie night with my guy. We go someplace fun for some food, like a neighbourhood Chinese joint, and then stroll through the Village to a great local movie house that screens old films, like Hitchcock classics.

Five: High tea. I love pulling out all of the stops and having a great formal spread with scones and cream with my best girlfriends.

The Sound of Music is on now -- and has been extended until November 1st!

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