Victoria Baroni (BM ’24) performs the role of June Mathis in the Musical Theatre production of the new musical Valentino’s Tango taking place at The Riverside Theatre from OCT 28 to 30 for three performances only.
Victoria gives us an inside look into the rehearsal process and her experience as a student at MSM.
Victoria is a junior in MSM’s musical theatre program where she studies in the voice studio of Bob Stillman. Originally from San Jose, California, she has been enjoying a bi-coastal life these past three years – even the six-hour flights!
Growing up, most of her performance experience took place outside of school; studying at MSM has been her first time in an academic music conservatory environment. Victoria was encouraged by her previous voice teacher, Rachel Michelberg, to audition for performing arts colleges.
“From the moment I stepped foot on MSM’s campus, I knew I wanted to study here,” says Victoria.
What is Valentino’s Tango about?
The show follows the life of the silent film star, Rudolph Valentino; his rise to fame, his struggles with his sexuality and relationships, and his tragic death. Despite the fact that the real Rudolph Valentino lived 100 years ago, the show really captures the similarities between life then and now.
You are featured in the musical – tell us about your character! What is challenging about this role?
I’m performing the role of June Mathis! She’s a prominent screenwriter and executive in Hollywood who takes Rudy under her wing and gives him his big break. This show takes place over several years, so one of the biggest challenges is trying to be conscious of making the state of Rudy and June’s relationship clear at every moment. It’s a bit of a tumultuous one, so it needs to be communicated to the audience when we’re at odds and when we’re not.
How has the rehearsal process been going so far?
Victoria: Rehearsals are an actor’s playground. It’s really our chance to explore the boundaries of a show and a character, and it’s especially exciting when you’re in a room with people who encourage you to go crazy and make bold choices. It’s been an exciting time trying new things, keeping what works, and tossing what doesn’t. You really can’t bring any ego into the room with you, the focus needs to be on what’s best for the show, even if that means discarding a moment or an acting choice you particularly enjoyed.
“Valentino’s Tango is a wonderful example of how the classic can be made contemporary, and really holds space for performers and audiences who perhaps traditionally favor more golden age material.”
Why should people come and see Valentino’s Tango?
Victoria: It’s all too rare to hear an original score these days, so it’s been a real treat to sing and hear songs written in a style I grew up listening to. I get to sing a piece towards the end of the first act called “Silent Treatment”. It’s reminiscent of the torch songs that came to prominence in the 1920’s and were favored later on by performers such as Barbra Streisand. Valentino’s Tango is a wonderful example of how the classic can be made contemporary, and really holds space for performers and audiences who perhaps traditionally favor golden age material.
Why did you choose to study at MSM?
Victoria: A big part of why I chose MSM was how positive my audition experience was. From the moment I stepped on campus, I could feel a sense of warmth exuding from every person I encountered, students and faculty alike. Liza Gennaro, the Dean of Musical Theater, leads the department with grace and intelligence. She really encourages us to develop our unique identities as performers, and works hard to provide us with opportunities to explore how we fit into the Musical Theater community as it exists today. Valentino’s Tango is a perfect example of this since we’re getting to work with writers and directors who are actively creating new material in 2022.
What is your favorite thing about studying Musicial Theatre at MSM?
Victoria: It is most definitely the community. A big part of growing as a performer is taking the time to figure out who you are as an individual. The faculty and students here really work to create a safe space where you can be yourself and try new things without fear of judgment.
What’s your favorite thing about living in NYC?
Victoria: I love that you are constantly surrounded by art. I’m always telling people that living in Morningside Heights and on the Upper West Side gives you the best of both worlds because the neighborhoods are a slightly quieter than Midtown, but you’re just a short subway ride away from the Theater District. That being said, you don’t even have to make that trip to hear good music; particularly in the warmer months there are tons of outdoor concerts and street musicians, and of course, there are many performances at MSM year ’round.
What are you excited about this academic year?
Victoria: Junior year is particularly exciting because it’s when you start to come into your own as an artist. I feel that I’m really beginning to implement the training I received over the past two years in my work in shows and my current classes. It’s also been exciting to get to work on new shows that aren’t already part of the musical theater canon. There’s a special challenge involved in building a role from the ground up, especially when the writers are often in the room with you adjusting the script and score to make sure the piece flows right. Working on Valentino’s Tango has made me extra excited for next semester when we get to start work on Paperboy, another new musical, based on the novel of the same name by Vince Vawter.
If you could add any song from Valentino’s Tango to the soundtrack of your life, what would it be and why?
Victoria: Hmm. I’d probably have to go with “I Choose to Dance.” It’s Rudolph Valentino’s anthem throughout the show, and it truly encapsulates the drive every artist has to generate. Every day is a new chance to choose our art, and our Rudy, played by Matthew Greer, really carries that feeling throughout the entire show. He’s truly a force to be reckoned with, I’m starstruck each time I see him perform this piece.