How a College Sophomore Wound Up Leading New Off-Broadway Musical Sweetee

Special Features   How a College Sophomore Wound Up Leading New Off-Broadway Musical Sweetee
 
Sweetee star Jordan Tyson juggled a full course load, duties as an R.A. in her college dorm, and the leading role in a world premiere Off-Broadway show.
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Cedric Cannon, Jordan Tyson, and Jeremiah James Matthew Murphy

A year-and-a-half ago, Jordan Tyson was a freshman at Marymount Manhattan College auditioning for the spring show at her school. That audition would land her much more than a part in the campus production; it would pave the way for her first professional job—a starring role in Gail Kriegel’s musical Sweetee alongside soon-to-be Frozen Prince Jelani Alladin.

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Jelani Aladdin, Jordan Tyson, and Cast Matthew Murphy

Set in 1930s America, Sweetee tells the story of a young biracial woman against the backdrop of Jim Crow America. Tyson plays Sweetee, the lovable and talented singer at the heart of the show; it’s a tale of love, family, music, racism, and resilience. Directed by two-time Emmy winner and five-time Tony nominee Patricia Birch, the musical debuted Off-Broadway May 23 at the Ford Foundation Studio Theatre at the Pershing Square Signature Center.

“It’s kind of a crazy story,” says Tyson of landing the title role. It all started when she received an email from Marymount professor Patricia Simon, asking if she’d be interested in reading for Birch. Simon, who had been in the room when Tyson had auditioned for the spring musical, knew Birch was working on Sweetee, and thought the director should meet the talented youngster—who had both the vocal chops and looked the part.

“Pat Simon kicked her entire class out for five minutes, and I auditioned at school,” she recalls. “The whole class exited and there I was, just a freshman who didn’t know what was going on!” Birch hired her for a reading; nearly a year later, she offered Tyson the role in the world premiere.

Tyson debated taking on the project. She was in her sophomore year at Marymount, studying for a B.A. in theatre arts with a minor in musical theatre, and had a schedule that included daily dance lessons, weekly voice sessions, and two acting classes. On top of that, she was also a resident advisor. In the end, the opportunity was too good to pass up.

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Katy Blake and Jordan Tyson Matthew Murphy

Tyson spent her final semester juggling rehearsals and Sweetee’s production schedule while being a full-time student and R.A. “With classes, and Sweetee, and being involved at the school—it was a lot to handle,” she admits. Now that the show has opened Off-Broadway and classes have ended, Tyson is free to enjoy her first professional gig. “It was a little tough, to say the least,” she says. “But because I’ve done it, now, I know I can do anything!”

Performances of Sweetee continue through June 18. Click here for tickets.


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