February 23, 2018  

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School of Music Making a Mark on the New York Scene

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Maryann Kyle, associate professor of voice at Southern Miss, will perform "Sondheim in the City" next month in New York. (Submitted photo)

Three University of Southern Mississippi talents are headed to New York City next month to debut “Sondheim in the City,” a cabaret-style production that showcases the multi-talented Maryann Kyle, associate professor of voice in the School of Music.

And the gravity of the momentous event is not lost on Kyle.

“The excitement is palpable as rehearsals continue to hone the performance,” she said. “This is the first time in the history of the university that a project that originated at Southern Miss has appeared on Broadway.”

The 65-minute, one-night only performance is set for 7 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 1 at the Laurie Beechman Theatre.

The production, directed by alumnus and staff member Mike Lopinto and choreographed by Brett Barnes, a senior music education student, uses the songs of Broadway legend Stephen Sondheim to tell the story of the life, love and passion of a struggling actress.

“Sondheim in the City” represents a perfect fit for Kyle’s unique vocal style. Kyle’s skilled use of the voice becomes part of the theater itself, making her particular blend of music and theater an ideal platform for the Sondheim repertory. Sondheim favorites in the evening include “Can That Boy Foxtrot,” “Ladies Who Lunch,” “Buddy’s Eyes” and “Send In The Clowns.”

“The show originated as a faculty creative project for USM with the title ‘Wordplay,’ ” said Kyle. “Sondheim is known for being a brilliant wordsmith and frequently writes crossword puzzles for the New York Times. I had a wonderful time performing it and the audience response was overwhelming.”

Being a stage performer, Kyle says she can get “bored” with many “traditional” recitals, thus she likes to bring an element of theatre, dance and art into her musical projects. When she decided to develop the concept further, she knew just whom to call.

“Mike Lopinto has been a friend for many years, and has served the university brilliantly in the areas of marketing and event production.” Kyle said. “We went back to his kitchen table where it all started and began reworking the script and staging into the form it is now.”

Lopinto has directed high-profile events featuring classical celebrities from Plåcido Domingo, Renée Fleming, and Sir James Galway to pop icons Dionne Warwick, the Pointer Sisters, and Patti LaBelle. He is currently the PR/Marketing and Auditorium Coordinator for the School of Music.

“Maryann taught me voice while she was completing her degree at Southern Miss. I have had the opportunity to work with her on a variety of projects of both classical and popular genres,” said Lopinto. “The Sondheim show has developed into a real tour de force for her. After years of bringing the world’s finest to Mississippi with the symphony, it thrills me to be able to have this production by Southern Miss alums take the Big Apple.”

To complete the triple-threat, Kyle turned to a student who had danced in many of her productions to choreograph the show. Brett Barnes, a senior music education major in the School of Music, has an extensive performance repertoire and choreography credits across the Southeastern United States.

“I lived and studied in New York City in 2007 at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy,” said Barnes, “It’s thrilling to return with a production that showcases Southern Miss talent on and off the stage.”

The show came to the attention of well-known stage director and choreographer Wendy Taucher with whom Kyle has worked before. Taucher, the founder and director of Times Square Theatricals, Inc., thought the show a natural to play in the Big Apple. She presented the show to the director of programming at the Laurie Beechman Theatre who liked the production so much that he not only agreed to book it at the theatre, but also to put it in the prestigious Saturday evening time slot.

Mississippi Opera has created a special “sneak peek” of this production as part of its Opera Underground series on Tuesday, Sept. 13th at 7:30 p.m. Call 601-960-2300to reserve your seats. Tickets are $15.Food and beverages are not included in the ticket price, but are available for purchase. Underground 119 is located at 119 President St. in downtown Jackson.

If you are in the New York City area, the event takes place on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2011, at 7 p.m. at the Laurie Beechman Theatre, downstairs at the West Bank Café, 407 West 42nd Street. Tickets are $25 cover, with a $15 minimum.  Doors open at 6 p.m., one hour before curtain.  Reservations strongly suggested 212.695.6909, www.westbankcafe.com.