I've written before how excited I am about the Broadway revival of Ragtime. When the cast was announced yesterday, two names caught my attention: Bobby Steggert as Mother's Younger Brother and Stephanie Umoh as Sarah.
Steggert played Jimmy Curry, Audra McDonald's younger brother, in the 2007 Broadway revival of 110 in the Shade. I thought he was terrific in making a supporting part memorable.
He's one of many cast members reprising their roles from last spring's highly praised production of Ragtime at the Kennedy Center.
Umoh, on the other hand, is a newcomer to the cast. (Although she played the part in 2006, with the New Repertory Theatre, in Watertown, Mass. The Boston Globe review called her "a dazzler.")
I've never seen Umoh on stage but you could say I've been following the career of the 2008 Boston Conservatory graduate. She was the subject of a multipart series in The Boston Globe in 2007 that chronicled her senior year.
In the stories, she talked about her background - growing up in Texas the daughter of a white mother and a Nigerian-born father - how she got into musical theatre, the struggles of working her way through school. (While she got some financial aid, Umoh estimates that she owes $130,000, before interest.)
I thought this quote from Conservatory president Richard Ortner was pretty interesting: "None of these students have come to us without years and years of voice lessons and after-school acting lessons, and, for the instrumentalists, private lessons since the age of 5."
Except Umoh, whose training consisted of singing lessons in high school with the leader of her church choir.
Now, all of the hard work pays off in a dream-come-true moment. And how fitting, in an American Dream kind of musical!
She'll make her Broadway debut, in a role created by McDonald, her idol. And hopefully, she'll be able to whittle down some of that crushing debt.
Those are two things worth getting excited about.