Hometown: Parkland, Florida
Currently: Making her Broadway debut as Maria, the bright-eyed young lover caught in the turf wars of West Side Story.
Movin’ On Up to the West Side: Want to hear a fairy tale? Sarah Amengual’s got a good one for you. The young actress auditioned to play Maria before she’d even graduated from the University of Miami. “It feels like such a fluke!” she says of the process. Amengual performed a song in Spanish for a college class, and a professor remembered he’d been contacted by a casting agent about possible Marias for the West Side Story national tour. After going back and forth (and back and forth and back and forth) from Miami to New York for multiple auditions, Amengual was called into the casting office for the last time. "Should we tell her the good news, or should we tell her the bad news?" she remembers the casting directors asking one another. The bad news was that she hadn't gotten the tour. The good news was she'd landed Broadway instead. Months out of college, Amengual packed her bags and headed for rehearsals in Manhattan.
Ring Them (Wedding) Bells! Think this fairy tale can’t get any better? Think again. In between graduating from college, snagging a starring role on Broadway and moving to New York, Amengual found time to marry her longtime sweetheart, fellow actor Philip De la Cal. “I’ve hit all the biggies this year!” she says with a laugh. “It sounds like it would be really stressful, but I was pulled in so many directions that I didn’t have time worry about any one of them, which was perfect.” With Broadway as the ultimate goal, Amengual and De la Cal had been planning to move to New York eventually, but her good news forced their hand. "We were going to stay in Florida where it's a little bit safer and save some money before we moved here,” she says. “But this way is just so much better.”
More Than Just a Summer Show-mance: In a match made in stage heaven, Amengual and De la Cal met at camp. Not just any camp: Camp, as in Stagedoor Manor, that famous breeding ground of Broadway talent and, for the happy couple, lasting love. “I was 15 and he was 17,” Amengual recalls, “and we were in Grease together; he was Kenickie and I was Marty. He’s over a foot taller than me, so we don’t usually play opposite one another.” Maybe they couldn’t co-star on stage, but another camp tradition brought Amengual and De la Cal face to face. “They used to do these camp weddings every Fourth of July,” she says, “and one summer, we got married. I still have the Polaroid we had taken of us when we were teenagers at our fake wedding. We had a little fake marriage certificate and everything.”
Starting Small: Like many a Fresh Face, Amengual began performing at a very young age. At six years old, she auditioned to be a munchkin in The Wizard of Oz, and the rest is history. From the lollipop guild she worked her way through starring roles, her first rejection (“Annie! I was way too short”) and her favorite pre-Broadway role, Tina in Ruthless. “I was so excited about the part, but I was nervous because I was 12 years old and I had to curse in the show. At the audition, I was mortified to be cursing in front of my mother.” She looks back on Ruthless as the first time she really learned to love acting. “It was a formative experience, unlike anything I’d done before,” she says, adding with a laugh, “maybe because kids are not usually cast as psychotic, tap-dancing murderers.”
She Now Plays a Girl Named Maria: Tap-dancing murderers may be behind her, but Amengual’s love for complex roles is undiminished. “I love playing Maria,” she says, “because she really runs the gamut of emotions. There’s the silly adolescence of it, there’s passion and being in love, and there’s grief and anger. You have violence—you’ve got it all. And it’s West Side Story, for God’s sake. Even people who know nothing about theater know West Side Story.” After starting out on such a Broadway high, where does Amengual hope to go from here? “I’m dying to do Eponine in Les Miz again,” she says. “I don’t know what it is with me and these tragic roles, but I can’t get enough.”