After role of Maria in 'The Sound of Music,' Leah Yorkston plays the newlywed game
In the near future, Broadway Rose audiences will be able to say that they saw Leah Yorkston perform "back in the day" when she was just starting out.
Leah has thrilled Broadway Rose audiences in such demanding roles as the Narrator in "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" and as Maria in last summer's production of "The Sound of Music," and she also has appeared in other local theater company shows.
Leah will next perform in the Broadway Rose Theatre Company's "I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change," before leaving for the bright lights of the other Broadway in New York City.
She and her husband of just over one year, guitarist and musician Ross Seligman, are Broadway-bound, planning to audition for shows on the Great White Way.
"I'll find a bartending job so I can audition during the day," Leah said.
The sweet ex-postulant Maria working in a big city bar?
Leah, 28, is nothing if not versatile, and she credits Broadway Rose co-founders Sharon Maroney and Dan Murphy with giving her her start in Portland.
Leah was cast in the chorus of Broadway Rose's 2009 production of "Evita" as well as in one of its children's productions, "Sleeping Beauty."
Those experiences were followed by performances with Lakewood Theatre Company, Portland Center Stage and others, and then came the opportunity to play Maria in "The Sound of Music."
"It was intimidating," Leah said. "It was the biggest role I've ever done. It was amazing - it was 100 times the experience I thought it would be. It will forever be a highlight of my life."
But the audition was nerve-wracking: "It went on six or seven hours, with rounds of cuts," Leah recalled. "It was like a reality TV show. Then it got down to two girls - it was so intense.
"You have to have thick skin when you audition - so many factors go into casting roles. There is a saying in this business that auditioning is our job, and getting a gig is a bonus. It's a constant learning process."
She and Ross were married in August 2011 and have been selling real estate together while keeping their creative juices flowing. He appeared in the world premiere of "One Night with Janis Joplin," a show that brings to life Joplin's music, words and art, at Portland Center Stage in 2011.
Ross appears with a 12-person group of singers and musicians in the show as it periodically travels around the country.
Leah is a Northwest native, born and raised in Bellingham, Wash., into a musical family who enjoyed singing harmony together.
"My first solo was singing 'Wind Beneath My Wings' in first grade," Leah said.
At 14, she started taking singing lessons with an inspiring voice teacher and now fellow Portlander Margot Hanson, who taught her a wide range of music, including classical, jazz and pop; Leah also appeared in some high school musicals, including "Bye Bye Birdie," "Babes in Arms" and "Oklahoma!"
After high school, "I knew I wanted to stay close to home and study music," Leah said. "I applied to several universities in Washington and got accepted, but I wasn't excited about any of them.
"At the last minute, as my best friend was going to the University of Portland, my mom said, 'What about PSU? It has a good music program.' Everything worked out - it was fun to explore a new city on my own, and I decided to stay in Oregon.
"At PSU, you get a lot of performing opportunities. I was in the choir that traveled all over the world, and I spent my last term in Siena, Italy. I met a Dutch man and his wife who ran a concert series, and every week I sang arias while he played the piano."
In 2006 Leah earned a bachelor of art degree in music, majoring in opera performance.
After college, Leah first worked at Starbucks, then started waiting tables and finally turned to bartending, and she spent two summers at the Astoria Music Festival singing opera.
While Leah was working in Portland, she met Ross.
"The short version is we met on the Portland Spirit, where I was working while he was in the band," Leah said. "We had lots of mutual Facebook friends, and we went to PSU at the same time in the music program. I remember seeing him, but he doesn't remember seeing me!"
Although they have developed a nice life in Portland, it will soon be time to move on, but Leah won't forget the people and experiences that shaped her here.
"Broadway Rose has been instrumental in my artistic development," she said. "I treasure this theater so much - it is one of the best places in town to work. Dan and Sharon know how to treat people - they are very thoughtful and have created a family within a professional atmosphere."
As for "I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change," the romantic comedy revue is a celebration of the mating game, taking on truths and myths from dating and waiting to love and marriage to the agonies and triumphs of in-laws and newborns and pick-up techniques of the geriatric set.
The show features two men and two women in the ensemble cast, and the audition process involved putting the actors in different pairs and combinations to find the perfect fit.
"I'm so excited to be doing this show," Leah said. "It's hilarious. The songs are based on real couples' experiences, and I can totally see myself in some of the situations. It is totally awesome."