USM alums Broadway bound
Published: Thursday, September 23, 2010
Updated: Thursday, September 23, 2010 00:09
Several Southern Miss faculty and alumni have recently had the opportunity to work on "Twist- An American Musical," a Broadway-ready adaptation of a book by author and seven-time Tony award winner William F. Brown.
"Twist" retells Charles Dickens's classic Oliver Twist with a little spin and a lot of Southern flavor. The coming of age story delves into the hardships and struggles of a young mulatto boy in the 1920s in New Orleans after the death of his parents – his mother, a white aristocrat, and his father, a black entertainer. "As the roaring twenties danced their way down Bourbon Street, one talented orphan finds family in the most unexpected places," reads the "Twist" website.
Michael Lopinto, marketing manager for the College of Arts and Letters, recently saw "Twist" in its current home in Atlanta.
"People would literally start clapping in the middle of songs," Lopinto said.
As a viewer, Lopinto believes "Twist" will climb the rungs of musical stardom and become a Broadway headliner.
"I think this is the most refined version," he said. "They will only learn from what they are doing in Atlanta and hone the show even more to take it to Broadway. I think that's their ultimate goal, and they are well on their way."
Associate professor of music here at USM Maryann Kyle was first introduced to the musical by Tena Clark. Clark, a Grammy award-winning composer, USM alumna and a long-time friend of Kyle, had previously worked with Kyle as a producer for "United in Song," a diva mega-concert that featured jazz-R&B singers, Patti LaBelle, Dionne Warwick and Patti Austin.
Clark, who now works as the producer and lyricist for "Twist," initially invited Kyle to a rehearsal in Atlanta to work with a few actors. Kyle then not only visited a rehearsal but also walked away as the official vocal coach for the entire cast.
Kyle's primary responsibility for "Twist" is to properly train the singers to withstand numerous shows and vocally demanding songs.
"I come into the production and work with all aspects of the music," she said. "These are all professional actors, singers and dancers. I work with the large group numbers in getting them to clean their voices up and sing accurately."
Kyle said the cast ranges from ages 8 to over 60, so she therefore deals with a variety of vocal stages.
Kyle reflected on her time with the cast and crew and had nothing but praise for all who are involved.
"My most rewarding experience is seeing how they want information and how quickly they incorporated it," she said. "They love every minute of it, and they give you that affection back. They have been a blessing for me."
"Twist" opened Sept. 15 in Atlanta and will continue to run at the Alliance Theatre through Oct. 3. "Twist – An American musical" will begin its first stint on Broadway in the fall of 2012.