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Thursday, June 21, 2007

Broadway veteran to lead UNCP’s Musical Theatre program

Veteran of Broadway and London stages, Hal Davis will lead the Musical Theatre program at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke.

Hal Davis

Hal Davis

Black Line

A Kansas native, Davis was trained at The London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. He joined UNCP’s faculty on an interim basis in fall 2006 and became full-time in the spring semester. He has returned this fall as an assistant professor of Musical Theatre.

He has ambitious plans for the young program.

“The future is hopeful, although some days it feels overwhelming to me,” Davis said in an interview this summer. “I’m very excited about the prospects of a fulltime dance/choreographer/costumer not only for the Musical Theatre program but for the Theatre Department and the Physical Education Department as well.”

In the spring semester, Davis staged “1940’s Radio Hour” in Moore Hall Auditorium, a choice of plays that stretched the limits of his and his students’ talent. The musical is set in the Algonquin Room of New York’s Astor Hotel and is staged around a fictional radio broadcast of swing-era music.

“The exciting thing about this show was that the jazz band played live on stage,” Davis said. “It’s a play wrapped around a musical.

“I couldn't have been prouder of the students who got up there on stage and went beyond what maybe even they thought they could do,” David said. “The collaboration and support between the Music and Theatre departments is growing and I know it will continue.

StudentsUNCP Jazz Ensemble and its director Dr. Larry Arnold took to the stage. Dr. Chet Jordan and Holden Hansen of the Theatre Department added their talents.

“’Radio Hour’ was one of the most fulfilling tasks I’ve undertaken in years,” Davis concluded.

Live music was a hit, and dance is the next frontier, Davis said.

“In my view, a strong dance program for all students at UNCP is a positive step not only for our productions but for healthier performers and students in general,” he said. “I took several hours a week while in college, mostly as an elective or I volunteered, and it really paid off in a career where I had to dance from time to time.

“I never considered myself a dancer,” he continued. “Musical Theatre students and UNCP will reap the benefits of a fulltime choreographer for productions as well as class.”

A graduate of Wichita State University, he received his post- graduate training and terminal degree in London.

Students“I went to college as a business administration major, and came out doing Shakespeare, Shaw and Coward,” Davis said. “It was an intense and remarkable experience.”

From London, Davis migrated across the Atlantic to New York and the lights of Broadway.

“There were 500 people auditioning for every job at that time in New York,” he said. “I ran a newsstand and sold very expensive shoes on 5th Avenue.”

Davis did break onto the Broadway stage, and he brings a lengthy resume of work. His last role was in the Broadway run of “Titanic,” and he recently played in a revived Broadway version of “The Sound of Music.”
Davis participated in national tours with “The King And I” with Sandy Duncan and Stefanie Powers in 2004-05, “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas” with Ann-Margret in 2001-02, “Titanic” in 2000, “Grease” in 1988, with Jack Wagner, and “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat” among others.

He has directed, produced and taught master classes and auditioning skills for many years while touring the country. At UNCP, Davis sees many challenges in organizing production and advancing curriculum, but things are taking shape.

“Here, my organizational skills are being stretched, but I want to do this,” he said. “I feel challenged everyday and will probably continue to learn as much from my students as they do from me for sometime to come.

“Most of the students remind me of me in some form or other; looking for answers, looking to find the easy way around things yet, understanding and knowing in their hearts that hard work is always the best teacher,” he concluded. “They need to be inspired; don’t we all.”

For more information about the Musical Theatre program, please contact the Music Department at 910.521.6230 or email hdavis@uncp.edu.

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