UNCSA’s Oklahoma! breaks million-dollar mark

by Mark Burger

This spring’s UNCSA production of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s musical classic Oklahoma! proved a big winner at the box-office, exceeding all expectations and grossing more than $1 million, according to the school’s chancellor, John Mauceri.

“We are grateful for the support we received from our enthusiastic audience members, our tireless volunteers, our many corporate sponsors and the foundation support that made our production possible,” he said in an official statement. “Because of them, talented and deserving students will be able to study at UNCSA, and the school’s profile has been raised across North Carolina and the nation.”

Mauceri also acted as the production’s musical director and conductor for the production, which was directed by Gerald Freedman, the dean of the UNCSA School of Drama. After production and related expenses, the show and the opening-night gala netted more than $330,000 for student scholarships, surpassing the $325,000 net from the 2007 production of West Side Story. Oklahoma! was, in fact, the first all-school production since West Side Story. Along with UNCSA’s December 2010 production of the holiday perennial The Nutcracker, Oklahoma! brings the total to over $500,000 during the 2010-’11 year for student scholarships.

“This money was raised by everyone, especially our students, who were ‘doing their homework’ by performing on stage, in the orchestra pit or behind the scenes in supporting these productions,” Mauceri added.

More than 400 UNCSA students worked on Oklahoma! and nearly 250 worked on The Nutcracker. The UNCSA production of Oklahoma! ran from April 28-May 8 of this year and was a faithful re-creation of the original 1943 Broadway production, which marked the first musical penned by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein and became one of the most popular shows in history, running more than 2,000 performances (more than five years!) and even earned Rodgers & Hammerstein a special Pulitzer Prize in the category of “Special Awards and Citations — Letters.” Although Oklahoma! pre-dated the Tony Awards, in 1993 it was given a special Tony to mark its 50 th anniversary. The show remains one of the most commonly revived shows in history, nearly 70 years since its premiere.

The UNCSA production, which re-created the original choreography by the legendary Agnes de Mille, earned over $484,000 in ticket sales, $291,000 in gala/after-party proceeds, and $223,000 from production underwriters (corporate sponsors, foundation grants, and the like). The production attracted nearly 10,000 theatergoers to the Stevens Center in downtown Winston-Salem , and thanks to a grant from the AJ Fletcher production, the production was filmed and will be broadcast by UNC-TV in the near future. The Fletcher grant ($100,000 a year or $500,000 over five years) was designed to bring UNCSA’s performances to television audiences across the state.

Of course, the good work by the students at UNCSA wouldn’t be at all possible without the teachers there, and recently the school recognized six faculty members with Excellence in Teaching Awards: Franco Colavecchia (who retired in 2010), School of Design & Production; Wanda Coyle, High School Academic Program; Dr. Steven LaCosse and Dr. David Winkelman, both of the School of Music; Greg Shelnutt (also a UNCSA graduate), Visual Arts Program, School of Design & Production; and Greg Walter, School of Drama.

The University of North Carolina Board of Governors first established the awards in 1994, which are designed to “encourage, identify, recognize, reward and support good teaching within the university.”

Each year, six teachers at UNCSA are selected from current full-time faculty members, nominated by faculty, students and alumni to receive the award. One is then forwarded to the Board of Governors to receive a system-wide teaching award. Dr. LaCosse was this year’s recipient, and he received both a commemorative bronze medallion saluting his selection, as well as a $7,500 stipend.

For more information about the goingson at UNCSA — and there always seems to be something! — visit the school’s official website: