By Julia Woodward, Contributor
The lights came up and I suddenly remembered that I was on the stage of the Lunt-Fontanne Theater on Broadway with 15 of my Furman Singers peers and Kristin Chenoweth. My heart was racing as I tried to remember the lyrics and my entrances. Then, all of a sudden, Kristin Chenoweth was right beside me, reaching for my hand and looking into my heart. It was a moment I will never forget.
This past weekend, Nov. 11 and 12, 15 of my Furman peers and I had the incredible opportunity to fly up to New York and perform with Kristin Chenoweth in her show “My Love Letter to Broadway.” Furman alum Mary Mitchell Campbell, ’96, set up the opportunity. She is Ms. Chenoweth’s musical director and pretty much her best friend. When they conceived the show they committed to bring in different choirs for each performance to create a unique experience for each audience. I got the news that we would potentially fly to New York City to sing with Kristin Chenoweth on Broadway right after fall break. There were so many logistics that had to be worked out to make it happen – the flight, hotel, learning the music for our two pieces, getting 16 college kids moving in the same direction – but Dr. Floyd, the Furman Singers’ director, pulled it off! Furman was able to finance almost everything so we only had to pay for our food and souvenirs for the weekend. This opportunity is truly what I would consider the Furman Advantage means for students.
We got to New York Friday night after our flight had been delayed for two hours. We were all buzzing with energy and excitement as we traveled to a new place. Once we landed and navigated to our hotel my friends James, Lilla and I decided to go off and explore the city. We ran across the street to Lincoln Center and marveled at the lights of the Metropolitan Opera House. As an aspiring opera singer, that moment was incredible. To see the place where we all dream of singing one day was inspiring and slightly terrifying. We then sprinted off to find Times Square. At night Times Square is another world. The lights and smells (some good and some not so good) take you to another place. It was not very busy or crowded so we ran around and took pictures. We were giddy with excitement because we had made it! The next thing to do was find the famous New York style pizza. Luckily there were plenty of places to choose from and we were able to taste the “best pizza in the world,” according to some.
Saturday morning we met Mary Mitchell Campbell to rehearse our musical numbers and talk to her about her experiences since leaving Furman 20 years ago. She is an incredible person and was such an inspiration. Campbell left Furman knowing she wanted to move to New York City to work on Broadway. We all sat and listened to her tell stories of her time at Furman and how she started Pauper Players, the student musical theatre group. She never thought it would carry on after she left, let alone become what it is today. We left with a better appreciation of just how much she does and how much work it all takes. Campbell showed us that if you love your work, then you will always find a way to push through on the days when you want to give up.
That Saturday night at the theater reminded me why I want to dedicate my career to performing. As I was standing there on stage, the most nervous I had been in a long time, I was able to take deep breaths and look out at the audience. The adrenaline you feel on stage is incredible but I think the most amazing thing from the entire evening was how the audience reacted. Ms. Chenoweth was able to communicate with them and give them her authentic self through music. That is the power that music has. I know for a fact that not one person left that theater feeling bad. The fact that we got to play a part in that just made it that much more meaningful and made for an experience that I will always cherish.