‘I’ll remember it forever’

Performing on stage with the New York Philharmonic is a dream for most music students, but it was a dream that came to life for one former Dannemora local.

Jessica Gomes-Ng, who studies Musical Theatre at the University of Michigan, recently played the co-lead role of Maria in selections from  West Side Story as part of one of the Philharmonic’s popular Young People In Concert series.

Her love for professional theatre began after watching a touring production of  Wicked at age 15 which inspired her to start performing seriously while attending high school in Singapore before auditioning for the University of Michigan.

It was during auditions for the university department shows that students were told that the New York Philharmonic would be selecting two Musical Theatre students to sing the roles of Maria and Tony at one of their concerts, but Jessica didn’t spend too much time thinking it over.

“We were asked to prepare a short 16-bar to sing at auditions, so I did that for the first round and then I was cast in one of our department’s main stage shows and went straight into rehearsals for that.

“I honestly forgot about the Philharmonic audition until we were notified about call backs about a month later!”

After making it through two call back rounds, Jessica was told she had been cast as Maria, much to her shock.

“I couldn’t believe it! For a while I didn’t even let myself wrap my head around it because I wanted to focus on being professional and didn’t want to get intimidated by the thought of it all.

“The reality of the experience didn’t hit me until we were flown to New York to observe one of the [Philharmonic’s] rehearsals and I heard the music for the first time and I just thought this is it,” she said.

While she says it’s hard to pick a favourite moment from the performance, there is one that stands out.

“During the introduction to I Feel Pretty, I ran out into the audience as Maria and interacted a little with them. I remember waving at a little boy a few rows back and he was really excited and waved back.

“Moments like that are really my favourite thing about performing – what I do is such a blessing and a gift and being able to share that gift with people is really fulfilling.”

After she graduates in May, Jessica plans on moving to New York City and “seeing what happens.”

“I’d love to work on Broadway or the West End, or be in a national tour in some capacity. I’d also love to work in Australia or New Zealand do one of those touring productions – that would be a real full-circle moment for me!”

Until then, she has the memories of this once-in-a-lifetime experience to look back on fondly.

“It was – and continues to remain – an unreal experience.

“I’ll remember it forever.”