She’s played Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz,” the title role in “Evita,”and Eponine and Cosette in “Les
Miserables.”A classically trained singer who has performed musicals on Broadway and on national tours, lyric soprano Gina Feliccia knows her craft. Now she’s a voice coach in Jackson Hole with a goal of helping budding singers let their unique talents shine. “I try to see where their own voice lies,” she said. “I don’t try to make everyone sound like Judy Garland. ... If we all sound alike, it’s not as exciting.”
Born in Los Angeles, Feliccia discovered her own voice early. Maybe a better way to put it is to say family
members discovered her voice. They would sit the 2-year-old on the kitchen table so she could sing, and she did. On pitch. When Feliccia was 6 the family moved to San Diego. Her dad owned Feliccia’s Italian Restaurant and Deli, which is still open, and her mother helped with the catering
Feliccia has a sister, Christina Feuz, one of the principals of Wyoming Title and Escrow in Jackson, and a brother, Frank, a police officer in San Diego. When Feliccia was in sixth grade a choir teacher noticed “there was something a little bit more” about her voice, she said. At age 13 she began lessons. It was like learning an instrument, she said. Singing “is an art form,” she said. “There’s foundational fundamentals of singing and being a vocalist for healthy singing and strong singing, the kind that can get you through eight shows a week.” She started doing musical theater, community theater and youth shows.
By the time she moved to New York at age 18 to attend the American Musical and Dramatic Arts Academy, she said, “I was ready.” Musical theater is her first love. “Singing, dancing, costuming and fashion, acting ... all those departments come together and make a musical. That’s why I was always drawn to musical theater and that’s why I love it to this day.” Her triumph was being selected as understudy for two roles — Eponine and Cosette — in the Broadway production of “Les Mis.” She was the first to be tapped to take on both parts, she said.
She went on a touring production as well, traveling the country with nine semitrailers and about 60 cast and crew members. It was rigorous. “Can you imagine taking [your] entire office, all the people you work with, and going on tour?” she asked. “You’re eating with them, staying at the same hotel and working with them. ... It wouldn’t necessarily be all the people you choose to live with.” The varying climates and the vocal requirements of the musical — “Les Mis,” a “rock opera,” she said — tested performers. “In Denver we had oxygen tanks right onstage, because we came from El Paso, Texas.” On the positive side, she said, “you make more on the road than you do in the national company.” And touring allowed her to see the United States. “Our country is gorgeous,” she said. “There are so many places to visit I don’t know why you need to go anywhere else.”
More recently Feliccia was in a regional production of “Evita.” “It was the most demanding role I’ve ever played,” Feliccia said. “It was a challenge, and I loved it.” That was in 2011, and as soon as “Evita” closed, she said, “my life kind of exploded.” She had some seizure like episodes, and her mother noticed she was acting a little strange. It turned out she had a meningioma, a type of brain tumor. “It was extremely large and sat on the brain stem,” she said. She underwent two operations to remove it, spending about 15 hours on operating tables. “It took three months to really kind of see and walk and do all that,” she said of the aftermath, “and six months to a year of total real recovery.”
Her sister was by her side, along with aunts, cousins and other family members. “I was surrounded by love, and I think that really got me through it,” she said. Twenty-five percent of the tumor remains, but while Felicca occasionally skips letters when writing she feels lucky not to have lost her eyesight, facial expressions or ability to eat. “I escaped all of the falls I could easily have had,” she said. “It’s a true miracle.” She and her two young daughters moved to Jackson Hole in the fall of 2012. “I definitely came here for healing and restoration and a fresh start,” Feliccia said. Giuliana, 6, and Sofia, 7, attend Davey Jackson Elementary School. “They love it here,” Feliccia said. “That school is incredible.”
Last winter she and the girls skied “on that big bad mountain called Snow King,” she said, but running two businesses doesn’t leave her much time for recreation. One venture is Gina Feliccia Vocal Coach (GinaFelicciaVocalCoach.com). And with a group of other theater professionals she operates Big City Broadway (BigCityBroadway.com), a nonprofit offering a variety of services to train kids in the performing arts and launch careers. Big City Broadway still has spots open in its latest project, a Christmas carol workshop for children 8 to 18 that starts Friday and will culminate with a performance at the Wort Hotel in December. What Feliccia can share with students in lessons, workshops and other venues goes beyond technique. “When you have a gift you need to share it,” she said. “It’s about serving the audience, not showing off in front of the audience.”