Former students of the Music Theatre Program are everywhere theatre is being performed, from Graham Mortier on Norwegian Cruise Lines in the Mediterranean and Europe performing Priscilla Queen of the Desert, to Jay Jaski returning to FSU to direct A Christmas Carol for our Annual Benefit Concert. Here are some highlights from the past year.
On Broadway this year Christiani Pitts took over the leading role in A Bronx Tale. It has been officially announced she will be leaving the show soon, however, to take the leading role in the new musical King Kong. Michael Fatica closed Groundhog Day and then joined Christiani in A Bronx Tale for three months. He is now rehearsing for the Broadway-bound new musical Cher, which will open first in Chicago. Hello, Dolly! continues to be an FSU affair with Justin Bowen, Leslie Flesner, and Amanda LaMotte all in the cast. Christian Delcroix and Stephen Anthony were in the cast of Book of Mormon this past year. Tiffany Howard is currently in Aladdin and Morgan Rose is in School of Rock, while Greg Mills continues in the long-running Phantom of the Opera. Harris Milgrim was in CATS. Danny Burgos made his official Broadway debut in On Your Feet before he left to tour with the show. Darren Bagert won his fourth Tony Award producing Dear Evan Hansen, which is about to embark on its North American tour. He was nominated for his second Olivier Award in London for An American in Paris, which is also on tour in the US. The Color Purple is also touring the US. Darren is currently producing and developing a new adaptation of the play Kiss of the Spider Woman and the London premiere of Ruthless: The Musical, featuring double Olivier Award winner Tracie Bennett. Upcoming projects include both Ain’t Too Proud, the Temptations musical by the same team as Jersey Boys, and the anticipated stage adaption of Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge, directed by Alex Timbers.
Off-Broadway Grace Choi continues in Avenue Q as Christmas Eve, and quite literally next door Austin Owen is in Jersey Boys as Bob Crewe. Nick Jones made his Off-Broadway debut as Billy in Anything Goes at Theatre Row. Also Off-Broadway, Holly Butler was Kate Keller in The Miracle Worker at Queens Theatre. Emily Franklin debuted a new show called Dance Diva Nutcrackers and did the cast recording as well.
In Chicago Montego Glover is currently playing the role of Angelica Schuyler in Hamilton. Also in Chicago Angel Lozada and Mykal Kilgore are in Jesus Christ Superstar at Lyric Opera of Chicago, going directly from the NBC Live Jesus Christ Superstar on Easter Sunday, where they performed with fellow alum Mike Evariste. Leryn Turlington is currently playing Flaemmchen in Grand Hotel with Kokandy Productions. Earlier this year she played Iola in Parade, and helped raise nearly $22,000 for civil rights and humanitarian non-profit organizations with the cast of HAIR at the Mercury Theatre, where she played Chrissy. This summer she will be playing Chutney and covering Elle Woods in Legally Blonde at the Paramount Theatre.
Alumni you might have seen on national tours this year include Danny Burgos in the first national cast of On Your Feet, Matthew Janisse on the Cabaret tour, and Trevor Schmidt in A Chorus Line. Jenn Maurer and Morgan Rose were in the ELF the Musical tour, which included a three-week run at Madison Square Garden. Zach Williams is in rehearsal for the first national tour of Aladdin.
In other New York news Chris Gleim completed his eleventh year in the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, and has been invited to return. Tanner Lane was also in the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, and has been invited to return as well. Whit Baldwin continues to do improv with New York BATSU!, the live Japanese Game Show, which is closing in on its 1000th performance. Whit has been involved since about performance 10. The company now has a production in Chicago, as well as a national tour version. Holly Ann Butler was Oksana Baiul in a new play called Toe Pick at Dixon Place, directed by fellow alum Christopher Murrah. She was also in Irving Berlin–Lyrics and Lyricists at the 92nd Street Y with another of our alums, Aaron Gandy, who was the Music Supervisor and Arranger. She also did a reading of a new musical called Diana. Christopher Murrah is currently directing A Blanket of Dust by Richard Squires at The Flea Theatre. Jennifer Swiderski played Susan in the first production of Title of Show since the Broadway run. She is continuing her advocacy for Actors’ Equity, reimagining New Member Orientations and expanding attendance. Mekia Cox, Mike Evariste, and Tiffany Howard’s production company 42 Seven Productions now has shows at the W Hotel in Times Square, New York, and in LA. Emily Franklin spent a little over six months with a new immersive piece called The Prettiest Boy in the USA, which is still in development.
Based in NYC and doing film and TV work, Rebecca Watson shot episodes for HBO’s High Maintenance and the latest Hulu series The Looming Tower. She recently did a guest star role for the new CBS series Instinct with Alan Cumming. Heather Parcells shot a short film called Sane People. Jenn Maurer’s episode of Divorce and her scene with Sarah Jessica Parker aired in February. Shayla Benoit’s company Shady Theatrics is based in NYC but has taken her all over the country this year from projects in Miami filming a charity event for the Miami Dolphins, to filming educational videos in Los Angeles. Shayla also got to work on the theatrical production end for readings of The Sting and Monopoly: The Musical.
In the West, Mekia Cox is still based in LA, where she was seen playing Robin Charles in Chicago Med on NBC. She just finished shooting Season 7 of Once Upon a Time, in which she stars, playing Tiana and Sabine. Jacob Mondry is playing weekly at The London Hotel in West Hollywood and Woodley Proper in Encino. Max Chucker is currently working as a musician, songwriter, and music producer. This past winter he did a cover of the Christmas Classic “Up on the Housetop” for Hallmark Channel’s original Christmas movie “Romance at Reindeer Lodge.” He has been building a working relationship with Hallmark Channel and should be hearing back soon about an original song that he wrote with Peyton Tucker for placement in a movie that is coming out in September that is being Music Supervised by one of the members of the rock band Velvet Revolver.
Meanwhile, in other regional theatre highlights, Heather Parcells was in the premiere of Rock and Roll Man at Bucks County Playhouse, playing one of the leads, Jacki Freed. She also took part in the readings for Reefer Madness, aiming for a revival on Broadway. Most recently Heather and Michael Hunsaker starred in Kiss Me Kate at Virginia Musical Theatre, playing opposite each other as Lilli Vanessi (Kate) and Fred Graham (Petrucchio). Michael also did Mamma Mia! this year at Tuacahn Center for the Arts in Utah, this time playing opposite fellow alum Jennifer Swiderski, who was playing the leading lady, Donna. For good measure Michael escorted fellow alum Montego Glover to the Tony Awards, as Montego represented the Broadway League as a Tony Award Nominee. All FSU – all the time! Meanwhile, Montego Glover starred in the world premiere of Maltby and Shire’s Souzatska in Toronto, and made concert debuts with Dayton Philharmonic, Toronto Symphony, and the Jacksonville Symphony, as well as return concert dates with the Edmonton Symphony, Houston Symphony, and Philadelphia Pops. She was in the “One to Watch” feature with Vogue magazine and shot two national commercials. Zach Williams did Young Frankenstein and Evita at North Shore and is headed back to North Shore to do Mame this summer. Kevin Nietzel was at Drury Lane Oakbrook to do an unusual production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Randy Dierkes finished off his season with Cleveland Playhouse in Macbeth, Shakespeare in Love, and The Diary of Anne Frank. He also did a showcase in NYC, and is about to showcase in LA, as he finishes his grad school work. Jess Hartman has had an incredibly busy year. Last summer she choreographed All Shook Up for the MUNY, and this summer she will be back there choreographing Annie. In between she was in Orlando to set the Holiday Season for the theme park, she choreographed the flash mob for the United States Air Force Band in Washington DC using Broadway performers, choreographed Memphis at Theatre Under the Stars (TUTS) in Houston, and taught (see below!). Julio Agustin is currently choreographing for Guys & Dolls at TUTS. Adair Watkins has moved to Orlando and is working for Disney – Finding Nemo! Summer Broyhill performed at Weathervane Theatre as Kathy in The Last Five Years. Summer is one of seven students to be accepted to the MFA program at University of San Diego/Old Globe, which will entail working with the Old Globe as well as doing theatrical outreach. She will start the program in the Fall. Chris Gleim will be at Forestburgh Playhouse playing Sam Phillips in Million Dollar Quartet. Katie Finan played the lead, Jenny Steinburg, in It Shoulda Been You at Mason Street Warehouse, and is still modeling. After spending last summer at Wagon Wheel Theatre, Kara Ziringer did A Christmas Carol and Showboat at Arizona Broadway Theatre and will be returning there this summer to do Mary Poppins (understudying Mary). Taylor Kate Eubanks was in Beauty and the Beast at Atlanta Lyric and Miracle on 34th Street at Wagon Wheel for the holiday season. Taylor Kate was cast in her first SAG short film, called Parked, which is being submitted to film festivals all over the world. She worked as a stand-in on The Walking Dead as well as photo double on a Lifetime movie called A Sister’s Secret. She just booked a SAG commercial for Shell Fuel – so be on the lookout! Holly Butler played Clair De Loone in On the Town at Sacramento Music Circus, Sheila in A Chorus Line at the MUNY, and “a million characters” in The Honeymooners at Paper Mill Playhouse (including going on for Leslie Kritzer as Alice Kramden). She has started a burlesque career and won a national pole dance competition. This summer she will heading to Barrington Stage to do the new William Finn musical The Royal Family, playing Della, followed by a return visit to the MUNY, playing Lily in Annie. Logan Mortier did A Chorus Line at Westchester Broadway Theatre. Tyler Fish did The Producers at American Stage in St. Petersburg. Tanisha Moore was June in Gypsy at North Carolina Theatre and one of The Dynamites in Hairspray at Maltz Jupiter Theatre. Michael Fatica was also at North Carolina Theatre for Gypsy as Assistant Choreographer, and just did the world premiere of the new musical The Sting, starring Harry Connick Jr. at the Papermill Playhouse. Irene Adjan did the world premiere of Finding Mona Lisa at Actor’s Playhouse. She remains the chair of South Florida Equity Liaison Committee. Candice Condor Pipkin sang for the Army Aviation Association of America in Nashville. Laura Plyler understudied Ilona (and got to go on) in She Loves Me at the Wick Theatre in Boca Raton. She then did Lina Lamont in Singing in the Rain at the same theatre. This summer she will be playing Ellie in Freaky Friday at Wagon Wheel Theatre, as well as being the dance captain for the season and playing other roles. Kate Beahen is still working in Minneapolis and will be doing Adelaide in Guys & Dolls this summer. She’s also been doing some commercial work – so be on the lookout for her. Nick Jones will be playing Sky in Mamma Mia! twice this summer – at Theatre by the Sea and then at North Shore Music Theatre. Lily Kaufmann will be at PCLO this summer.
This year was a busy one for alums and cruise work, performing while getting to see all sorts of amazing places. In addition to Graham Mortier doing Priscilla Queen of the Desert for Norwegian, Erin Wasmund has been on another ship, the Norwegian Breakaway, doing Rock of Ages, playing Constance and covering Regina, as well as Katherine in Wine Lovers Musical and covering the female singer in Burn the Floor. Nikka Wahl has been with Princess Cruises as a lead singer. Her main show was Stephen Schwartz’s Born to Dance, an original work created for Princess.
Many of our alumni are currently teaching or writing. Julio Agustin will be joining the faculty of the University of Miami’s BA/BFA Department of Theatre Arts. His new musical, Out of Line, with book by Julio Agustin and music/lyrics by John Franceschina, had a fully-produced workshop and is currently being shopped to producers in New York City. His book, The Professional Actor’s Handbook, is gaining publicity; Julio recently did a workshop titled “Get the Callback in the First Five Seconds” at the Actors Connection in NYC. He was invited to join the International Dance Council. Morgan Rose continues to teach for Broadway Dance Center, Broadway Classroom, Broadway Workshop, STUDENTS LIVE, as well as other organizations around NYC. Jess Hartman’s company, Broadway Theatre Connection, had their 8th season in New Orleans with great guest artists. Kevin Covert is Director of Musical Theatre and Assistant Professor of Theatre at Shenandoah Conservatory. He will be choreographing Cabaret at the Festival Repertory Theatre before coming back once again to FSU teach at our Music Theatre Intensive. Lynn McNutt is an Assistant Professor of Acting at Florida Atlantic University. After teaching for the past five years at The Peddie School in Princeton, Jay Jaski has taken a new position, to begin this coming fall, at the Savannah College of Art & Design (SCAD) as Professor of Musical Theatre. DeWitt Cooper is currently teaching Intro to Theatre at the Bolles School. This is his contemporary dance company’s fifteenth year. They offer a three-week intensive in Jacksonville and one-week intensive in Tallahassee. This year they also began “The Experience: A New Conservatory for the Arts.” There are lots of great things going on, which you can check out at http://www.coopermorgandance.com. DeWitt is teaching beginning ballet at Ruth Upson Elementary School through a Cathedral Arts program. He is also choreographing In the Heights for Players by the Sea. Heather Parcells has been teaching workshops and master classes all over the country. Amanda Watkins is still the General Manager for Broadway Dreams. She is now also consulting at The Alliance Theatre in Atlanta in production. In spring of 2019 she will be directing Approval Junkie, at the Alliance. It is based on the book of the same title by Faith Salie (of NPR and CBS Sunday morning). Faith and Amanda are currently writing the script together, and Faith will star in it. Meagan Morgan Williams has been teaching and directing high school theatre at Mount Paran Christian School. Her productions have been recognized by the Georgia High School Music Theatre Awards (Shuler Hensley Awards). She is also directing for other education programs and this summer will be directing The Little Mermaid at The Earl Smith Strand Theatre. Jason Rowland runs the middle school theater program at Campbell Hall School in Studio City, California. Shayla Benoit was the Musical Theatre Camp Director for The Pocono Mountains Music Festival, where she was in charge of 63 children. She taught dance and choreographed a staged reading of The Music Man at the Festival. Candice Condor Pipkin maintains a private voice studio and teaches Music Theatre classes at the local theatre. She choreographed Beauty and the Beast as the Junior Arts production there and is currently working on choreographing Annie. She will be Music Directing The Little Mermaid next.
Many of our newest alums will be busy, as well, this summer. Ian Bossung will be in Santa Cruz, California, performing with Santa Cruz Shakespeare. Michael Bradley is playing Elvis Presley in Million Dollar Quartet at Peach State Summer Theatre. Both Justin DeParis and Sean Watkinson will be at Oklahoma Lyric, and Dori Waymer will be at the Fireside Theatre in Wisconsin doing The Little Mermaid.
So be sure and watch carefully wherever you are. Chances are there is an FSU Music Theatre alum or current student performing for you.