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Broadway stars bring musical theater talent to UH

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Mayes Prince

From Enterprise Staff

The Kathrine G. McGovern College of the Arts at the University of Houston, alongside Tony-nominated Broadway actress, UH alum and artist-in-residence Sally Mayes who is originally from Polk County, will present a musical theater showcase concert at 7:30 p.m. Thursday titled “A Little Faith: An Evening with Faith Prince and Our Broadway Stars of Tomorrow,” with Broadway and television star Faith Prince.

The showcase concert will be performed in the Quintero Theatre at the University of Houston located at 3351 Cullen Blvd. in Houston. General admission tickets are $20, senior citizen (65+) tickets are $15 and student tickets are $15.

The concert is part of the McGovern College of the Arts’ new course, announced in October and taught by Mayes, titled “Song Performance for Musical Theatre.” The course was designed to provide students with cross-disciplinary training in song performance and stemmed from the college’s efforts to create opportunities for aspiring musical theater actors and singers.

Prince, a collaborator with Mayes for the past four decades, has dazzled audiences on both stage and screen in a variety of memorable comedic and dramatic roles. She quickly rose to Broadway fame after winning a Tony Award, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Award for her performance as Miss Adelaide in “Guys and Dolls,” directed by Jerry Zaks and has remained one of the most prolific leading ladies working in American musical theater. Since then, she has starred in various roles on Broadway, in TV and in film. Prince is perhaps most widely recognized for the many colorful characters she has created on television, including Nellie Cantrell on “Monarch,” Judith Robertson in “Emily in Paris,” Kristy Swenson in “Scream Queens,” and Elaine Bingum in “Drop Dead Diva.”

Her dedication to her work and years of experience will be a source of invaluable knowledge for students. “When your commitment is to the work and the craft, it naturally opens doors to finding a path to a career filled with passion … I’m excited to be a part of Sally’s master plan and be a resource for students,” Prince said.

A veteran actor of both stage and screen, this is Mayes’ second return to UH as artist-in-residence. Her course, “Song Performance for Musical Theatre,” is structured as an intensive one-month course focused on helping students tell stories through song by capturing the raw emotion and intent of the characters singing them. Mayes said it is designed to empower students with the tools necessary to deliver compelling, believable vocal performances.

“I want this to be the kind of class that I would’ve killed to have when I was in college,” Mayes said. “It was never a musical theater program. We just had two professors there who always did musicals and they meshed with the music department, but there was not an actual program. And so how great would it have been to have been able to do that when I was like 18 years old instead of having to go and just do it in the school of hard knocks?”

Now based in New York, Mayes made her Broadway debut in 1989 as Winona Shook in Cy Coleman’s Welcome to the Club. Her credits include performances in She Loves Me, Urban Cowboy, and Steel Magnolias. In addition to her work in a variety of film and television roles, Mayes is also a revered nightclub singer and performer.

Mayes said the idea for the course stemmed from a desire to bring more opportunity for aspiring musical theater actors to campus. “We noticed that there is a dearth of any musical theater. And I believe that you’re hamstringing your actors if you don’t at least give them a modicum of it. You have to teach them a little bit of it because like at least 50%, and sometimes it’s more like 75%, of the work in New York is musical.”

In addition to lessons around vocal performance, Mayes said the course will also incorporate the teachings of Stanislavski and Strasberg to help students adopt a more confident approach. “I want to see where they are as actors. I want to see what I can do to help them loosen up and learn to trust each other and become a unit.”

Mayes said that she has long held a passion for teaching and guiding younger performers. “I love to see that aha moment when you see a kid get it. And then I love to see them do it in performance and have them see the response that they get from the audience when they get it, because it’s different.

“I just want to help these kids be comfortable in their own skin. This is a conversation. And when you sit and you sing a story song to an audience, that’s a conversation you’re having with them. It’s not enough to sound great. You have to also tell the story.”

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