Last month, University of Southern Mississippi voice instructor Maryann Kyle won rave reviews for her performance of “Sondheim in the City” in New York City.
Now, the cabaret-style production that showcases the multi-talented Kyle comes home to Hattiesburg for its only in-state performance this year on Saturday, Nov. 19 at the Mannoni Performing Arts Center. Showtime is 7:30 p.m.
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.
“We were genuinely thrilled to have this opportunity to take this show to the toughest crowds and have such a positive response,” said Kyle, associate professor of voice in the School of Music at Southern Miss. “Bringing the show back to our hometown is really a joyful homecoming.”
With song and dialogue, Kyle reminisces about her life and the sacrifices she’s made to further her stage career. She tells of romance and lost loves and how she has worked to get parts by auditioning, and auditioning, and auditioning – and auditioning.
Kyle, a 45-year-old mother of two, opened this incarnation of “Sondheim in the City” in Natchez in May, Jackson in September, and then took the show to New York’s famed Laurie Beechman Theatre that frequently hosts performances by stars like Joan Rivers.
The show received a huge endorsement from www.broadwayworld.com, a leading authority on NYC arts and entertainment, which posted a full press release - a rare occurrence.
“I’m a relative unknown in New York,” said Kyle. “I’ve done some teaching there, but I got to New York and started practicing with my pianist, Daniel Lincoln, and he went bonkers over my show.”
“The reaction was phenomenal,” Lincoln says. “When the show was over the manager walked up to her and asked her when she was coming back – and that just does not happen. That’s the ultimate stamp of approval. In New York there’s one Sondheim show after another, so to stand out from the crowd really requires something very extraordinary and special. Maryann is an incredibly versatile performer with a Herculean range both vocally and as an actress.”
The production team has big plans for the coming year. After the Hattiesburg homecoming, “Sondheim in the City” shows in Meridian in March then back to the Beechman. Offers are also pouring in from around the country, even London and beyond.
“This has truly been a wonderful journey,” said Lopinto. “There are so many experiences, but probably the one that stands out most is rehearsing in the studio apartment surrounded by the Emmys, Grammys and priceless treasures of Marni Nixon, the Hollywood singing voice of Audrey Hepburn, Natalie Wood and other popular stars.”
Nixon loved the show and is planning a collaborative project with Kyle for spring 2013. “Maryann Kyle is an inventive, creative and deeply moving performer,” Nixon says. “She is a colleague with whom I am looking forward to working with.”
Kyle is already a shining star in Mississippi. She says she is excited to be moving to another level, but she has a glorious teaching job, great students, national traction and sings in the musical theater world moving people artistically – both as a performer and a teacher.
Tickets are available at the Southern Miss Ticket Office, 601.266.5418, www.southernmisstickets.comor at the door. Faculty, staff and students with an ID will be admitted free.