Young talent from Menai takes up musical presence in Opera Australia's West Side Story

From Menai to Europe: Zoe Ioannou at the State Opere House in Berlin.
From Menai to Europe: Zoe Ioannou at the State Opere House in Berlin.

It's a long way from Menai to the wild west but there to take the musical reins with high notes of esteem and rigour is Zoe Ioannou.

The young performer is currently performing in Opera Australia's West Side Story in Berlin, Germany.

It is part of the European tour before she returns to the stage for the Sydney Opera House season from August 16 - October 6.

A tale of loyalty and fate, the Broadway hit remains a timeless masterpiece - one that Zoe is proud to be a part of as among the new generations of talented performers.

Bernstein's world-famous score features unforgettable songs including 'Maria', 'Tonight', 'Somewhere', 'America' and 'I Feel Pretty', that have been universally adored for decades.

A modern re-telling of Romeo and Juliet, this tragic love story tells the tale of two young people whose happiness is destroyed by the hate of two enemy camps in New York City's urban jungle. The Jets, sons of previous immigrants to America, battle the new arrivals from Puerto Rico, the Sharks, for domination of the streets.

Director Joey McKneely's vibrant new staging will feature some of Australia's most exciting young talent performing Jerome Robbins' original ground-breaking choreography in two of Australia's most iconic theatres.

Zoe is a graduate of the National Institute of Dramatic Art, with a Diploma of Musical Theatre.

Most recently she appeared in the Australian tour of The Wizard of Oz (Gordon Frost Organisation) as aDorothy cover.

Previously she appeared in Big Fish The Musical at The Hayes Theatre Co. She made her professional debut playing the role of Pepper in Annie (Gordon Frost Organisation).

She made her television debut on Disney Playhouse, and played the ongoing guest role of Paige in the ABC TV series Dance Academy. Zoe has also performed alongside Australian musician James Morrison as a vocal soloist.

Other credits include Woolworths Carols in the Domain, Australian Diving Championships, The Lord Mayors Picnic, New Years Eve at Hyde Park and New Years Eve at the Domain.

Music runs a solid tune in her blood. Always surrounded by music as a child, Zoe has fond memories of her grandfather Dudley Simpson, who was a conductor and composer. He wrote the incidental music for Doctor Who, conducted for Dame Margot Fonteyn on her world tour, and composed an abundance of scores for ballet companies worldwide.

Zoe's mother, grandmother and aunty were all ballerinas.

"Our house was always entertaining and filled with music and joy," she said.

"I grew up listening to West Side Story on cassette in the car and have loved the music ever since I was a child. It is one of the most iconic musicals and it was definitely a bucket-list show for me. I still have the same love for the show as I did when I was a child."

Zoe was thrilled when she found out she was cast.

"I was alone at the time so called my mum to share my excitement," she said. "This is my first time in Germany. The theatres are stunning and the cities are wrapped in so much culture. A highlight has been performing in the Berlin Opera House.

"I hope audiences take away one of the show's most prominent themes, the fight for love, which is unpacked by the characters of Tony and Maria. The themes resonate with modern audiences just as they did when the show was written, which is a testament to the work of Leonard Bernstein, Arthur Laurents, Stephen Sondheim and Jerome Robbins."

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