When you reflect on the state of theater in North Carolina, think about this: Two actors with five Tony nominations between them come to Children’s Theatre of Charlotte this week to teach a master class and hold auditions for their summer intensive programs.
He’s Terrence Mann, who created the roles of Javert and Beast in the American productions of “Les Miserables” and “Beauty and the Beast.” (He earned Tony nominations for both, as well as the 2013 revival of “Pippin.”) She’s Charlotte d’Amboise, who got her Tony noms for “Jerome Robbins’ Broadway” and the 2007 revival of “A Chorus Line.”
Mann’s an endowed professor at Western Carolina University; d’Amboise, his wife, was recruiting for National Dance Institute, the New York-based training program founded by her dad. (She comes from a dancing family; father Jacques starred for years at New York City Ballet, and brother Christopher got a Tony nomination for Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Song and Dance.”)
Mann and D’Amboise quickly filled their two-hour master class. Students were spending one hour Wednesday working on dance technique and choreography with d’Amboise, then moving over to study with Mann. He teaches musical theater performance techniques designed to provide “a vocabulary for thinking about and acting upon movement and gesture.”
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I’ve enjoyed both onstage. She danced movingly in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Song and Dance,” and I’ve been a fan of Mann’s since 1982, when he played Rum Tum Tugger in the American version of “Cats.” In fact, he got me tickets on the aisle for a Saturday matinee at the Winter Garden, two months after it opened in 1982.
Those were impossible for an ordinary citizen to obtain at that point, but a mutual actor friend named Leon Rippy put us together. I called Mann, who told me to send $100 in cash through the mail for two seats. I worried he might forget to put the tickets aside – or, if he were unscrupulous, “forget” to put them aside – but he came through beautifully.
So I took my younger brother to his first Broadway show at the age of 24. “Are they ALL like this?” Russ asked afterward, amazed. (Ummm ... no.) I went backstage to thank Mann and ran into another cast member who was the ex-husband of a dancer friend. That, of course, reminded me what a small world professional theater can be – small enough, sometimes, that Tony nominees find themselves searching for students at ImaginOn.