Walnut Street Theatre opens its 204th season with the American premiere of Erich Segal’s Love Story, the musical. Inspired by Segal’s romantic novel of the same name, and one of the most romantic films of all time, Love Story runs through Oct. 21.
Most audience members will remember the theme of the show when Oliver Barrett IV meets Jenny Cavilleri for the first time. They come from different worlds. He was a Harvard man, she was Radcliffe. He was rich, she was poor. But they fell in love. And as the audience members continue to reach for their handkerchiefs, the story unfolds.
Taking the lead of Jenny is Alexandra Silber, 29, making her WST debut. Raised in Detroit, she attended the prestigious Interlochen Arts Camp throughout her childhood, later enrolling in the Interlochen Arts Academy for most of her high school career.
“I always knew I was a creative person and initially approached performance through dance,” she said, “but later switched to theater performance.”
After graduation, Silber chose to hone her acting skills at the Royal Scottish Academy in Glasgow. During her final year at the Academy, a man who worked for Andrew Lloyd Webber came to the school to teach a class on how to audition for a role in musical theater. One look at Silber and he made a call to a casting director in London. She was hired as the ingénue in Webber’s play The Woman in White.
“It was that role that made me an instant West End star,” Silber said. “The following year I was cast in the West End revival of Fiddler on the Roof as Hodel, and next as Julie Jordan in Carousel.”
Later, after nearly a decade abroad, Silber decided to move back to the U.S., making New York her new home.
“I wanted to take a break and relax for awhile, but within three weeks I had an agent, a manager and nine months of work ahead of me,” she explained.
The first role she undertook was in the Kennedy Center’s production of Master Class. It was later remounted, giving Silber her Broadway debut. Since then, she’s amassed an impressive list of credits, including Love, Loss and What I Wore, Hello Again and more. On film and TV, she’s made appearances in Stephen King’s 1408 and three Law and Orders segments.
Her current role as Jenny brings much joy but also some challenges.
“For example, Will (the actor who plays Oliver) and I never leave the stage. So having the ability to keep going all through the play requires a great deal of stamina,” she said. “Additionally, vocally you have to be able to stretch yourself, while emotionally it’s important to keep a lid on your emotions and not give anything away, because the audience doesn’t know exactly what’s going to happen with these people.
“So you must pace yourself throughout,” she continued. “You must play it moment to moment. You have to fall in love and get married and live in the here-and-now. And once the tragedy does take place, you have to make sure you leave enough room for the audience to be moved by it all.”
Silber believes that Love Story remains universal in its appeal because “it revolves around something all of us wish we could find — a kind of enduring and true love that all of us dream about.”
Silber is quick to say how much she enjoys playing Jenny, but acknowledges that one of her all-time favorite roles was Hodel in Fiddler on the Roof.
“She was the dearest role of all,” Silber said. “She still feels like a dear friend that I don’t hear from anymore. I felt deeply connected to her and I hope that one day we’ll see each other again.” ••For show times and ticket information, call 215-574-3550.EndFragment