Name: Jennifer Burt
To quote one of the most acclaimed British lyricists, “All you need is love.”
Judging by the recent success of SUU’s own songsmith, Associate Chair and Director of Theatre Peter Sham, John Lennon was not far off the mark – though a lot of hard work and a keen sense of cadence and rhyme may have bridged a few gaps in the journey from Cedar City to London’s West End where Sham’s hit "Lend Me a Tenor: The Musical" will debut this fall.
For reference, London's West End is akin to New York City's Broadway.
And after months of cross continental meetings, rewrites and worry, Sham leaves for the UK this week to begin the last leg of a five-year expedition that started on the night shift in his son’s nursery as a newborn Orlando Sham screened a rudimentary rehearsal of his father’s now acclaimed lyrics in lullaby.
Says Sham, “When I wrote 'Tenor', I was dripping with love for my new son – for family. I was experiencing something at the very center of humanity.”
Fitting beginnings for a musical that has been hailed as heart-warming, uproarious and, yes, family friendly.
And as he prepares for a semester on sabbatical abroad, Sham looks forward to the work that lies ahead and to sharing his experience with those he loves: his wife and children, his brothers, his colleagues and his students.
Of the latter, Sham explains, “I take my students with me. I think of them all the time and try to figure out how to get them out there, working, acting, living.”
Looking down the road, after he has returned to campus, Sham plans to use his experience in London as a catalyst to expose students to some of the industry’s best by bringing stage colleagues to SUU as visiting artists.
Additionally, Sham hopes to include several of his future students in internship roles in preparation for Tenor’s New York City Broadway debut slated for 2012.
For an aspiring actor, such is the stuff of dreams, says Sham. “Our students will see people – work with people – that no other Utah school can touch. Their training will be off the charts.”
And that is Sham’s ultimate ambition. The lights of Broadway are bright, but for Sham, nothing is quite as rewarding as helping others along on the journey.
For all he has to offer the young artists under his tutelage, Sham is certain his has been the larger benefit. “Teaching forces me to live the stuff I spout every day to all of [my students].”
Not yet jaded in what many consider a cutthroat industry, Sham says the very values he works to instill in his students are to credit for all that has come of the late sleepless nights spent writing: hard work, passion and humor.
“Especially humor,” says Sham, who worked for 12 years in New York City without ever working on Broadway and finds it nothing short of ironic that his path to the Great White Way will now come through his work in Cedar City, Utah.
“It keeps taking my breath away. I wake up every day hoping for one more day to do all of this.” He adds, “Don’t pull the curtain away from the wizard just yet.”
With the curtain intact, Sham continues doing what he loves.
He writes. The West End debut will feature five new songs not included in the 2007 world premier of "Lend Me a Tenor: The Musical" at the Utah Shakespearean Festival.
Additionally, he and Tenor’s musical composer Brad Carroll are currently working with screenwriter Andrea Gibb to adapt her 2004 British drama "Dear Frankie" into a stage musical. And, he quips, “I’ve written four screenplays – just in case anyone asks me ‘what else have you got?’.”
Though not one to prematurely celebrate victory, Sham is “hopeful but anxious” as he looks forward to the coming months in the UK. “Tenor opens the door to a whole new world and I’m ready to step through that door.”
“It’s been a long road, but now I know what’s really important. This – all of this – only means something when you see it in the eyes of the people you love.”
He continues, “When I’m in the audience with my friends and family. When we’re all laughing, and my work is the thing that has brought us all together, that’s when I’ll really feel like I did good.”
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