A timeless love story and classic musical gets revamped this year, stopping in Springfield in February. Star on the rise, Addison Reid Coe, plays Tony in this year’s West Side Story tour. 417 Magazine got a chance to chat with Coe on the morning of his first performance in front of a live audience, and just like his character, Coe played it cool.
417 Magazine: So why theater? How did you get started?
Addison Reid Coe: When I was a senior in high school, I was going to play soccer, but I didn’t make the team. I was always hanging out in the choir room, but I’d never really sang until my choir teacher said I should join. I did theater on the side in college at a community theater in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
417: When did you decide to move to New York City?
Coe: I didn’t move out to New York until last December. [...] I moved about three days before the West Side Story audition. I showed up, and a few callbacks later it happened.
417: What was the audition process like?
Coe: The last callback we did with our prospective Marias. They had us paired off already, so Mary Joanna was my Maria, and I’ve been with her the whole time.
417: Why West Side Story? Have you always loved it or do you just love performing?
Coe: I love West Side Story. [...] Have you ever watched a movie and every single time you discover something new and you’re like, “Wow how did I miss that?” It’s totally like that. Every day we’ve done this show there’s something new.
417: What is your favorite part about playing Tony?
Coe: I love the balcony scene. I think it’s so much fun. I really like the relationship I get to have with Riff, too. I had two best friends growing up, and with Riff it’s one of those things where you’re buddies and are always like “C’mon man, help me out.” It’s funny.
417: You are around the cast so often. What is it like spending so much time with the same people?
Coe: It sounds more daunting than it is. You hear horror stories about it, but this cast seems to be bonding very well. I’m blessed that this has been nothing but a positive experience.
417: What are you most excited about for this production?
Coe: I think this is going to be one of the best experiences and shows that anybody can see this year. [...] I think it’s great for guys because it’s a dude show as much as it is a girl’s show. If any guy is on the fence about going to see a musical, this is the one to try.
417: What cities are you most looking forward to visiting as you travel the country?
Coe: I am looking forward to visiting Los Angeles and I’ve never been to Vegas. I’ve been to the west coast before but only as far as San Francisco and I’ve never stayed over night in Missouri so I’m excited for that too.
417: What are most nervous about when it comes to performing?
Coe: You know, the nerves hit me last minute. When I’m about to step on stage I’m nervous but its exciting nerves. All of the sudden you step on stage and you’re just telling the story. The train is moving.
417: So you’re prepared now but what was the hardest part of rehearsal?
Coe: The moment you start wanting to multitask after you have all your lines memorized and songs memorized and start throwing acting in there. The moment you get emotionally involved in it, you forget all your lines and its like poof! They’re gone. When you put yourself in the role all of the sudden you start saying things that maybe your character wouldn’t say but you need to say the exact line. The fourth of fifth time you run the show it really starts to click.
417: You do the show so often, what do you do when you’ve got time off in different cities?
Coe: Well depending on your role you have more or less freedom. Maria and I don’t really get to go out much, we pretty much just go straight to bed after rehearsal or a show and wake up in the morning to do the same things but other people get to explore more and stay up later. It’s just one of those things where you just find where you fit.
417: So are you hoping to stick to theater after West Side Story is over or move into television and movies?
Coe: My last semester in school I was asked to do a web series called Perks and I had a ton of fun doing that. It was my first real film experience as far as not just doing a commercial or something. If I had the opportunity to do film I would love it. My perfect world would be doing both at once.
What: West Side Story
When: February 1, 8 p.m.; February 2, 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.
Where: Juanita K. Hammons Hall, Springfield
Cost: Visit hammonshall.com/ticket services or call the box office at 417-836-7678 for more information.