Troupe works with Broadway legend
Reprinted from the Thomasville Times-Enterprise
Local performing arts students from Brookwood, Thomas County Central and Thomasville High Schools had the opportunity to hear and learn from a Broadway legend during a recent master class sponsored by the Thomasville Entertainment Foundation as part of its educational outreach program.
Held October 22 at the Thomasville Music & Drama Troupe’s Fred Allen Building, the class featured Tony and Grammy Award winning performer Barbara Cook, who was in town for her concert as part of TEF’s 75th anniversary season.
Cook, whose 60+ year career includes dozens of Broadway performances as well as cabaret and concert appearances in the world’s premiere venues, shared her views, her techniques and some highlights of her performance career with nearly 50 middle and high school students in attendance.
“This is not a performance opportunity - it’s a class,” Cook made clear at the outset, admitting that she was more accustomed to working with older, more advanced students of the arts. “I stress the importance of the lyrics, not so much the sound.”
Four senior members of the Thomasville Music & Drama Troupe volunteered to sing for Cook, who is widely known for her blunt, if sometimes brutal, assessments and analyses of student work in an attempt to prepare them for possible careers in music and theatre. Hearing each performer individually and walking them through exercises designed to force them focus on and emphasize the meaning of the lyrics, the feisty singer-actress encouraged them to “give the words their full due” and to open themselves up and be vulnerable on stage as they work to perform, not just sing, their songs.
“Be present – really present – and, when you are ready, present yourself as honestly you know how,” Cook explained. “Be yourself – you are enough! Don’t try to be someone else – you are enough!”
“When, as a performer, you put yourself in touch with your humanity, it puts the audience in touch with their humanity, and a connection is made. That’s why the arts are so important… they allow us to heal. So whatever you do, do it honestly,” she advised.
Also during the class, Cook also shared memories of a performance career that goes back to the early 1950s when she first arrived in New York from her native Atlanta, and she answered questions from the audience of students, educators and arts volunteers on training, technique and her performing experiences.
The Thomasville Entertainment Foundation, since its earliest days, has included among its mission and goals to make the arts relevant and accessible to area young people. TEF provides scholarships for promising music students, reduced price student tickets for concerts and performances, and classes and workshops with performance professionals. The master class with Barbara Cook, like all of its educational outreach programs, was funded through TEF’s education fund, a designated fund within the Thomasville Entertainment Foundation Endowment Trust.
Troupe Members Train With Music, Broadway Professionals
Opera Maestro Raymond Hughes Teaches Opera Choruses For Troupe's 2012 Spring Show
During our 2011-12 year, Troupe members had the opportunity to work with professional artist-teachers from the highest echelons of music from both the classical and Broadway communities. Thomasville native Raymond Hughes, the former longtime chorus master for New York's renowned Metropolitan Opera, worked with the Troupe to prepare a number of opera choruses and other production numbers for the show. Hughes' distinguished international career also includes conducting posts with opera companies in Germany and South Africa and, most recently, as chorus master and conductor of the Norwegian State Opera in Oslo.
Broadway Veterans Scott Wise and Elizabeth Parkinson Teach Group Choreography
Troupe's student entertainers also had the opportunity to work with two of Broadway's most versatile and popular triple-threat performers - Scott Wise and Elizabeth Parkinson - who in mid-April taught choreography and performance techniques for a segment of show pieces associated with the late legendary Broadway choreographer/director Bob Fosse. Veterans of 14 Broadway musicals between them, Wise and Parkinson helped prepare song and dance numbers from Fosse productions "Sweet Charity," and "Chicago," among others, for the Troupe's Spring show. Wise is a three-time Tony Award nominee, with a win for "Jerome Robbins' Broadway," while Parkinson was Tony nominated for her performance in "Movin Out." The husband-and-wife team starred in the Broadway hit "Fosse," the award-winning musical revue drawing from the 20 musicals Bob Fosse was involved with, and Wise and Parkinson have permission of the Fosse family to teach elements of his original choreography to performing arts students like those in Troupe.
Tony Award Winner Scott Wise Sets "Big Spender" For Troupe Show
Tony Nominee Elizabeth Parkinson Teaches Fosse's Choreography To "Razzle Dazzle"
Earlier in the year, Broadway triple-threat performer Tyrick Wiltez Jones transformed one of Troupe’s Sunday night rehearsals into a “Song Interpretation” workshop and sat down with the student performers in a Broadway Q&A session to answer questions about his preparation and training for a professional theatre career and his path to Broadway. Jones, who appeared on Broadway in “Hairspray” for nearly four years and as Howard in “Finian’s Rainbow,” also taught a “Scene Study” workshop and a “Musical Theatre Dance” master class in January for students who wanted to build on previous acting and dance experience.
Triple Threat Broadway Performer Tyrick Wiltez Jones And Scene Study Workshop Participants
Musical Theatre Master Class Students With Broadway's Tyrick Wiltez Jones
Having Raymond Hughes, Scott Wise, Elizabeth Parkinson and Tyrick Wiltez Jones work directly with our members in Thomasville adds a special dimension to the Troupe experience that just cannot be duplicated, and that opportunity is even more special because it's happening in a small southwest Georgia community for a group of middle and high school students.
New York Trip: Troupe experiences Broadway “first-hand”
Telly Leung of "Godspell" and Sonny Paladino of "Jesus Christ Superstar" In New York With Troupe's Broadway Workshop Participants
During Spring Break, a group of Thomasville Music & Drama Troupe members traveled to New York to learn about the performing arts first-hand from professional singers, actors and dancers during a theatre experience enrichment trip. Participants on the trip saw three Broadway and off-Broadway musicals, and, following the performances of two shows, students met in educational “talk back” sessions with a total of 12 cast members, during which performers answered questions about their education and training, their rehearsal regimes, the process of building a character and their advice to young performers, among others.
The students also participated in a Broadway song and movement workshop with Telly Leung, a lead cast member of Godspell who has also played a recurring role in the hit TV series Glee, and Sonny Paladino, pianist and assistant conductor of the current Broadway revival of Jesus Christ Superstar. Along the way, the group found time to do some site-seeing, with visits to Times Square, Central Park, Chinatown and Little Italy. Students saw the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island aboard the Staten Island Ferry and experienced a walk down New York’s famed Fifth Avenue, with stops in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Rockefeller Center and the flagship Apple store. A backstage tour of Radio City Music Hall provided a rare walk on the theatre’s great stage and a meeting and discussion with a current member of the famed Radio City Rockettes dance troupe.
Periodic theatre enrichment trips have been an optional part of the Troupe experience since founders Fred and Winnie Allen first took the group’s early members to New York in 1973.