UM theatre students dream of performing on a professional stage after graduation, but some lucky Canes didn’t have to wait to finish school to reach that goal.
Thanks to Zoetic Stage’s Young Artists Program, juniors Shannon Booth, Bennett Leeds and Jonah Robinson and seniors Kelly Murphy and Jayne Ng, all musical theatre majors, are in the company’s production of “Sunday in the Park with George,” running through Sunday at the Adrienne Arsht Center.
After auditions last fall, these five actors were selected to play small roles and understudy the leads in the production. Rehearsals began in late December, and the students had the chance to work alongside professional performers.
“When you’re a student in a situation like this, you try to learn a little from everyone you work with,” Leeds said. “Both the local Miami actors and the talent hired out of NYC set an example of the working actor being someone who is driven and dedicated to their craft.”
“This show connects personally with all of us because it’s a show about creating art, and that’s what we try to do each day,” said Robinson, who plays Soldier and Alex and understudies George. “Being able to watch and work alongside these professionals who have been making art all around the country for years is inspiring.”
Two of the student performers, Leeds and Booth, had the challenge of serving as “swings,” actors who memorize every part onstage in case of an emergency. Swings also fill in the regular roles of understudies if an understudy fills in for a lead role.
“People like me and Shannon need to be able to fill in and maintain the integrity of the show,” Leeds said. “Rehearsals for me were a lot of watching, listening and writing vigorously in a master-notebook.”
The play’s music and lyrics are written by theatre legend Stephen Sondheim, who is known for the complexity of his compositions.
“Having the privilege to sing this score every night is pretty incredible,” said Murphy, who plays Celeste #1 and Elaine and understudies Dot and Marie. “This music live is something spectacular. You can’t really begin to grasp how genius this score is until you hear it live.”
Unlike shows at UM’s Ring Theatre, which run for only two weeks, “Sunday” is being played at the Arsht for a full month.
“It is great doing a month-long run because we get a chance to really settle into the show and have the show grow and shape over time,” Robinson said. “Even three weeks in, we are finding little moments that we didn’t see when we opened.”
There are five shows a week, with Monday as the dark night and two shows on Saturdays and Sundays. The students began rehearsals over winter break and missed one week of afternoon classes as the show finished rehearsing. Now that the show is playing, the students simply travel downtown each evening after class.
All of the student performers expressed how meaningful this show and experience have been to them as artists.
“Marie says in the second act, ‘You know, Miss Daniels, there are only two worthwhile things to leave behind when you depart this world: children and art,’” Murphy said. “That hits me every night in the show. That message resonates deep within me.”
If you go:
“Sunday in the Park with George”
Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts
1300 Biscayne Blvd.
7:30 p.m. Feb. 8-11, 4 p.m. Feb. 12
COST: Tickets start at $50
Correction, Feb. 9, 2017: This article originally stated that there are eight shows per week, which was incorrect. There are five shows per week. At the same time, this article originally stated that a couple weeks of afternoon classes were missed in order for show rehearsal to occur, which was incorrect. Only one week was missed.