Faith Prince She prefers working to playing diva

Friday July 20, 2012

Special to The Eagle

GREAT BARRINGTON -- Faith Prince makes a profound impression wherever she goes, it seems, especially on Broadway, where her name has been prominent in the Tony lineup several times.

Prince won the coveted statuette and also the Dra ma Desk and Outer Cri tics Circle awards for her performance as Ms. Ade laide in the 1992 revival of "Guys and Dolls."

Nominations for both the Tony and the Drama Desk awards followed her portrayal of the zany Ella Pe ter son in the 2001 revival of "Bells Are Ringing." Then her casting as the loyal wife, Aggie, in Harvey Fierstein and John Bucchino’s "A Catered Affair" brought a different side to the singing actress known "for her madcap musical turns," as the New York Times critic Ben Brantley noted in his review. Brantley described her performance as "tight, disciplined and at times quite affectingŠ"

Prince takes the awards and the praise in stride, seeming more the earnestly working actress than the diva, as she illustrated during a phone interview one evening earlier this week.

"I like the work of collaborating, putting the show together. That’s more me," she said. As for the spotlight in those award shows that the rest of us watch with awe: "I feel it’s a little like a deer in the headlights," she demurred. "Awards are not one of my favorite things," although Prince conceded that, yes, she was pleased to receive the Tony and those other honors.

Prince has several irons in the show-business fire, and she appears to pursue them handily. In addition to the shows on Broadway and on tour, she has assembled four successful one-person cabaret acts that reflect some of the stage work she has done.

Songs from her life

One of those more personal efforts will arrive here Saturday evening at 8 on the stage of the Mahaiwe Per forming Arts Center. "Total Faith" will offer a cavalcade of tunes that have been significant in her life.

"They are songs from the shows that I’ve done, or that I want to do -- songs I love," she explained, suggesting that she was still in the selection process for this particular show.

But it leaves a great deal of choice, given the stage credits she has accumulated. In addition to those already mentioned, her list includes "Jerome Robbins’ Broadway," "Falsettoland," "The King and I" (1996 revival), "The Little Mermaid" and "Billy Elliot."

Would play ‘Hello Dolly’

And the shows that she would like to do? Prince mentioned "Hello Dolly."

"I did a tribute to (composer-lyricist) Jerry Herman with the Boston Pops, and Jerry Herman said ‘You should be doing that.’ I think I’m about ready," she affirmed with confidence.

Another stage assignment that Prince believes is right for her is Mrs. Lovett, Sweeney Todd’s cohort in Stephen Sondheim’s musical, which she did in a concert version with the Orlando Philharmonic. "It’s a good role for me," she said.

For the Mahaiwe performance, Prince will be joined by Alex Rybeck, her musical director and pianist. Among the choices for songs, "Kander and Ebb, Sondheim, a little Mary Rodgers, a little Dave Frishberg, definitely some Jerry Herman; a little bit of something for everybody," she said.

Prince is enjoying a presence on television, appearing on Lifetime’s "Drop Dead Diva" as Elaine Bingum, the mother of Jane Bingum, a character inhabited by a woman brought back from heaven, played by Brooke Elliott. "We just wrapped the fourth season," Prince said with clear delight at this accomplishment.

Prince also fits a dedicated mission as a teacher into her busy schedule, with more than 40 students in Sacramento, where she lives with her husband, trumpeter Larry Lu netta, music coordinator for the California Music Theater, and in San Francisco, a city to which she commutes twice each month.

"I teach musical theater," she explained, "what it takes to be in the business, how to manage your life, things you may not know, especially in a town like (Sacramento)."

She said she also directs students to appropriate schools; her own degree in musical theater was earned at the Uni versity of Cincinnati Col-lege/ Conservatory of Music, from which she subsequently ac cepted an honorary doctorate.

"We have great kids coming through; they know how to express themselves," she said. "If anything, kids are more well prepared; they have to go through a lot more school than I did, a lot more training. People expect a lot of our of students when they get to New York."

One of her great joys has been raising her own son, Henry, now 17, "getting him through high school, and now he’ll be off to college. He’s looking at music schools," she explained. "He’s a guitarist, a very good one, and he works for his dad at the (Sacramento) Music Circus. He even has a union card."


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