Broadway @ KO: Actress Breaks a Sweat with Theater Students - Kingswood Oxford

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February 12, 2024

Broadway @ KO: Actress Breaks a Sweat with Theater Students

Our award-winning theater department had yet another Broadway star, Mara Davi, who portrayed “Maggie” in the 2006 original Broadway revival of A Chorus Line, pay a surprise visit to campus on Saturday to work with the students for their upcoming performance of A Chorus Line! This is becoming a happy habit at KO!

 

As the students broke from their rehearsal and listened to a recording of one of the essential songs from the show, another powerful voice from backstage joined in, gaining intensity and volume as the voice came closer and closer to where the students sat. Startled, the students turned around and saw Davi standing before them. The group cheered and gasped as they recognized the star.

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But, this would be no ordinary masterclass with a working actress. 

 

Davi explained she would train the students in a novel approach to preparing for the show. They would undergo intense physical exercise on a circuit (treadmill, elliptical, steps, bands, and weights) in the Field House to develop stamina for their roles alongside the school’s varsity boys’ basketball team and coach while singing the show hits.

 

Davi herself said of the treadmill training, “It’s the only way I got through the show.” Many Broadway stars prepare for their punishing roles by subjecting themselves to rigorous treadmill workouts to ensure they have the strength demanded by the role. (Tony Award-winner Cynthia Erivo, the upcoming Elphaba in the new Wicked movie, has shared that singing on the treadmill is one of her secret tricks to mastering vocal stamina.) 

 

“The first time I played Cassie in A Chorus Line,” she said, “my jazz teacher made me do pushups and then sing “Music and the Mirror” while in plank position in front of my whole class. She knew what kind of stamina was needed to get through that song and that show, and she helped me build that endurance. Not only do physical workouts build stamina, but they also open up the vocal and emotional channels of the actor, allowing for more vocal freedom and emotional depth in the storytelling. I make my actors do jumping jacks and pushups at the beginning of every coaching to open up this body/heart/voice connection.”

 

The students changed from their dance shoes, donned their sneakers, wore personalized sweatbands of their characters’ names, and headed to the fitness studio.

 

 

The mood in the Field House was positively exultant! Davi gamely jumped on the treadmill and led the students in song. The students were gasping for air as they did a step circuit and had plenty of encouragement from the basketball team, who pushed the actors through the training. The finale of the 45-minute workout included a kick line of the show’s signature song, “Singular Sensation.” Even the basketball team joined in! Brad Seaman, coach of the team, jokingly said this would be the new pre-warm-up for the team.

 

After the workout, Davi worked on choreography drills, character work, and coaching from 1:30 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. with the musical theater students. Following the masterclass, Davi worked one-on-one with Audrey Karasik ’24, playing Maggie in the school’s production for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

 

Starstruck is one way to measure the emotions of the day!

 

Davi’s Broadway credits include A Chorus Line (2006), The Drowsy Chaperone (2007), White Christmas (2009), The Play That Goes Wrong (2017), and the starring role in Dames at Sea in 2016. She’s played the role of “Maggie” and “Cassie” in A Chorus Line several times throughout her life. She’s worked with Rosie O’Donnell, Sutton Foster, and many other famous Broadway stars. When not performing on Broadway, she is an acting coach in New York City. 

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KO and a Cup of Joe – Thursday Mornings throughout the Summer

Join us for a brief information session to learn about the academic and co-curricular offerings at Kingswood Oxford School during the summer: June 20, 27, July 11, 18, 25, August 1, and 8 at 8:30 a.m. in Roberts Building’s lower lobby. For more information, contact our Admissions Office at (860) 727-5000. What a Difference a Day Makes!