UH’s ‘Little Shop’ to Highlight School’s Broader New Curricula, Now Including American Musical Theater

Andrew Davis, dean of Kathrine G. McGovern College of the Arts and Moores Opera House

WHEN THE AMERICAN composer Stephen Sondheim passed away in November, among those who sang his praises, besides the big names in musical theater, were musicians from the worlds of classical, rock and jazz music. “He understood these disciplines really had no boundaries,” says Andrew Davis, dean of UH’s Kathrine G. McGovern College of Arts.

Davis and his colleagues in the art college's music, theater and dance departments understand this, as well, and beginning this fall, will integrate the American lyric-theater tradition into each of their curriculums so that aspiring singers, instrumentalists and composers can study both European classical music and American musical theater. “The program is responding to the professional landscape,” says Davis, “which demands that we not pigeonhole the students or ask the students to pigeonhole themselves.”

Kicking off this new initiative is a full-scale production of the ’50s rock-and-roll-inspired Broadway hit Little Shop of Horrors, scheduled to run May 27-29. It’s the first collaborative musical between students and faculty from Moores School of Music and The School of Theatre and Dance, with a production team that includes two UH alums: puppet designer Afsaneh Aayani, who will create Audrey II, the show’s unrepentant, bloodthirsty plant, and Broadway singer and actress Sally Mayes, who will act as collaborator and master class workshop coordinator for the production. On March 31, to help promote the show, Mayes will headline a performance at the José Quintero Theatre of classic and contemporary Broadway songs.

The college of arts’ expanded offerings aligns with UH’s belief that a liberal arts education is essential to a healthy cultural conversation. “The arts promote understanding, empathy, and critical thinking,” says Davis. “To put it bluntly, you can’t be educated in the arts and hate the person next to you.”

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