Imagine being chosen to sing on a Broadway stage with Tony-Award-winning actress Kristin Chenoweth and having two weeks to prepare! That’s what 15 music theatre majors from the University of Hartford’s The Hartt School faced before a November 5 performance of Chenoweth’s solo show, My Love Letter to Broadway, at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre in New York City.
“It was the most incredible experience, because it’s basically what all of us dream about,” Lina Schoenwiesner ’17, a music theatre major from New Jersey, says about singing Upon this Rock and I Was Here with Chenoweth. “The minute before the first number, I was crying and I think probably everyone else was crying. It was the most exciting thing ever—like a dream come true.”
The students were also excited to find they were not performing as Chenoweth’s background singers. “When we were on the stage, she walked around and asked us questions and jammed out with us,” says Lina. “We were so included.”
The opportunity came about because Kristin Huffman, a vocal teacher in Hartt’s music theatre program, has worked with Chenoweth’s musical director, Mary-Mitchell Campbell. Campbell knew that Huffman’s professional theater company, New Paradigm in Stamford, Conn., works with local college students, and asked her for a group to perform with Chenoweth.
“They are so strong and the rehearsal time was so short,” says Huffman, who chose all of the students from The Hartt School “They worked really hard. I set the bar really high and they hit it.” Huffman explains the students only had four, half-hour rehearsals with her and none with Chenoweth.
Savannah Lobel ’17, who dreams of a Broadway career, says she appreciates the advice Chenoweth gave them after the show. “She said don’t put yourself in a box. Everyone else is going to do that for you, just do what you do, do what you love, and you’ll be fine.”
Savannah, who is from Dover, Mass., plans to move to New York City after graduation and believes The Hartt School has prepared her tremendously for that next step. “The Hartt School has allowed me to grow so much as a person and a performer and has given me what I need to feel comfortable. I feel like I have all these tools in my toolbox. I can just pick and choose which one I need, whenever I need it.”