Andy Coxon & Gabriela Garcia: Desert Island Sondheim

2 May 2019


Andy Coxon and Gabriela Garcia are currently wowing audiences as Tony and Maria in West Side Story at Manchester's Royal Exchange Theatre. This new revival is directed by the Royal Exchange's Artistic Director Sarah Frankcom, is MD'd by Mark Aspinall, and features electrifying new choreography by Aletta Collins and a score re-orchestrated by Jason Carr.


Here, the two leads share their thoughts on their Desert Island Sondheim choices.



A 2010 Mountview graduate, Coxon's other credits include Berger in Hair at The Vaults and Mitch in Yank! at the Charing Cross Theatre, both for Aria Entertainment; Jamie in Last Five Years in Frankfurt; and Montparnasse/Cover Marius in Les Miserables at the Queens.


1. What are your three favourite Sondheim songs and why?

"Johanna" (Sweeney Todd)

Anything from Sweeney – I love ALL OF IT – but probably [Anthony's] "Johanna" because it’s beautiful and I want to play Anthony. He’s got a lot of similar qualities to Tony.


"Being Alive" (Company)

It’s almost a song for millennials or anyone at a crossroads by bringing that life-searching, lost and almost desperate for happiness feeling. A lot to play in a short song – and a dream for an actor.

"Someone Is Waiting" (Company)

Purely because it’s the first MT song I learnt with my first ever singing teacher. And from that moment I learnt the intricacies of Sondheim’s work and knew every detail he puts in is for a reason. We as actors have to understand why.


2. What is your favourite Sondheim song to perform and why?

"Maria" (West Side Story)

At the minute, it's "Maria" but its slowly being pipped by "Something’s Coming". It’s getting more exciting to perform as our run goes on. I almost find something new every night... Something in the song makes it fresh every time and you can’t help but search for "something" everyone you sing it.

3. What Sondheim role would you most like to play and why?

Sweeney Todd. Every time I see a different production of Sweeney, I see a new version of the character. I’d LOVE to get under his skin and create the life of what has made him the way he is.


Or Maria in West Side Story – her last speech is what dreams are made of for an actor!

4. What Sondheim lyric do you carry with you in your life?

“Someday, somewhere, we’ll find a new way of living...  We’ll find a way of forgiving.”
["Somewhere", West Side Story]


The way the world is currently, this line brings me a constant state of hope.


5. What has Sondheim brought to your life and career, so far?

Before I graduated, I performed at the Albert Hall for Stephen’s 80th Birthday celebration with other winners of the BBC Performing Arts Fund, and that day opened my world properly to his work and the way his songs give actors the ability to emote and connect in a very special way. I sat behind Judi Dench on the stage singing "Send In The Clowns" at the dress rehearsal and I was blown away. A moment I’ll never forget. Now, 10 years later, I’m playing Tony in a new production and I’m able to emote and connect the way I’ve always wanted as an actor.




Born and raised in Mexico, Gabriela travelled to England when she was 16 to follow a career as an actress. She studied at the Tring Park School for the Performing Arts and then Arts Ed, graduating from the Three-Year Musical Theatre course in 2012.


Other theatre credits include Vanessa in Strictly Ballroom at the Piccadilly, Nina in In The Heights at the Kings Cross Theatre, ensemble and covers in the UK tour of Ghost, and ensemble in Paul Taylor-Mills' Rent at Greenwich.


1. What are your three favourite Sondheim songs and why?

"Send in the Clowns" (A Little Night Music)

I was deeply moved when I saw Hannah Waddingham perform this song, and was lucky enough to get the opportunity to play Desirée in a project at college. As part of the process, I translated the lyrics into Spanish, which gave me an even deeper appreciation of the song and reinforced the power of the lyrics.


"Loving you" (Passion)

It’s just heartbreaking. I saw Elena Roger play Fosca and it was one of the best performances I’ve ever seen. It was a real masterclass.


"Being Alive" (Company)

It’s a beautiful song


"Losing My Mind" (Follies)

Ah, it’s hard to pick only three!!


2. What is your favourite Sondheim song to perform and why?

"Fosca's Entrance (I Read)" (Passion)

Fosca is such a complex character. I performed the song at college but would love to get to perform this song again at some point! Elena Roger has been such an inspiration to me and is perhaps the reason why Fosca is one of my dream roles. 

3. What Sondheim role would you most like to play and why?

Well, I’ve answered this one already! Fosca, in Passion


4. What Sondheim lyric do you carry with you in your life?

“‘Hard to see the light now.

Just don't let it go.

Things will come out right now.

We can make it so.

Someone is on your side.

No one is alone."
["No-one is Alone", Into the Woods]


5. What has Sondheim brought to your life and career, so far?

I remember I cried when I saw him, he was just metres away from me at the Olivier Awards at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane. I was in my first year at college. I mean, I had studied him for years, I’ve seen so many YouTube masterclasses of him explaining the intention behind the lyrics, and to say he’s been an inspiration to me is a massive understatement. I never thought I would get to sing his lyrics professionally, I am so grateful and cherishing every moment of being in West Side Story.



West Side Story runs at the Manchester Royal Exchange until 25th May (mostly sold out but try your luck here) and will be returning in April/May 2020.

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