Western Carolina University students will perform in New York City in “A Salute to Rockette History,” a show choreographed and produced in part by Karyn Tomczak, director of WCU’s dance program and a former Rockette herself.
The Ziegfeld Society will present the show, which features 12 Rockette alumnae in addition to WCU dance and musical theatre students from the School of Stage and Screen at Lang Recital Hall at Hunter College on Saturday, March 30. Performances are at 3:30 and 6 p.m. Students also will perform the numbers in Niggli Theatre at WCU at 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 4, as part of the Undergraduate Expo that showcases student research.
Tomczak said she loves the history of the Rockettes and has incorporated Rockette-inspired elements into WCU dance performances since coming to the university.
“It’s great to culminate this in an experience where students get to dance with Rockette alumnae and put what they have learned in class into a performance in New York City, home of the Rockettes,” said Tomczak.
Tomczak said she became involved with the show through colleague and friend Mary Six Rupert, a professor of tap dancing at Wagner College and fellow Rockette alumna. Rupert, the show’s director and co-choreographer, was excited about Tomczak’s idea of inviting WCU students to take part, and the two began working together to develop the production.
“The combination of 12 former Rockettes, the Western Carolina University dancers and singers and three Broadway singers should make for a great show, and the audience will learn about the legacy of the Rockettes while being entertained,” said Rupert.
Ten WCU dance students will perform numbers ranging from “Dream Girls,” which honors the idea that the Rockettes were Russell Markert’s dream girls, to a tribute to the Radio City Christmas Spectacular.
Meanwhile, musical theatre students will perform pieces including a version of “That’s Entertainment” in which Tomczak and her father, Arthur Tomczak, rewrote the lyrics to reflect opening night at Radio City. Another highlight will be the students opening the show with a song that Mark York, executive producer of the Ziegfeld Society, wrote about the Rockettes.
The students say they are excited about the opportunity to perform in and explore a city so linked to their love of musical theatre and dance.
Tyler McKenzie, a senior from Long Island majoring in musical theatre, said he goes to New York whenever he can for auditions and that he looks forward to taking the stage in Manhattan.
For Sydney Troxler, a sophomore from Denver majoring in musical theatre, performing in the city is something she has dreamed about. Dancing since age 3, Troxler said she loves telling stories through movement.
“In dance, you are acting and letting the audience inside the story,” said Troxler.
While in New York, the students will take classes at two dance studios and enjoy tours at Radio City Music Hall and the New Amsterdam Theatre, which hosted the Ziegfeld Follies. The group also will see the Broadway show “Pippin” and meet with Terrence Mann, a performer in the show the students have worked with on campus. Mann is WCU’s Carolyn Plemmons Phillips and Ben R. Phillips Distinguished Professor in Musical Theatre.
York said the Ziegfeld Society is thrilled to stage “A Salute to Rockette History,” noting that the whole concept for the Rockettes was inspired by the Tiller Girls appearance in the Ziegfeld Follies of 1922.
He commended Rupert and Tomczak for developing the show and said he has high expectations of the WCU students, noting that in the past WCU dance alumnae have been great additions to their shows.
“WCU students are quite lucky to have someone with Karyn’s expertise in the real world of show business,” said York. “You can tell that her instruction prepares the students for a successful future in the New York theater scene and abroad. Getting to meet and work with her is a real treat.”
Tickets to “A Salute to Rockette History” are $10 for members of The Ziegfeld Society and $15 for nonmembers. For more information about the show and tickets, visit The Ziegfeld Society’s website at theziegfeldsociety.com, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 917-371-5509.