A new dance-oriented production called “Half Time” could become a full-time step to big possibilities for a Columbus native who is moving and grooving toward bigger Broadway roles.
Mary Claire King, 28, recently scored a principal role as a pro basketball team’s assistant coach and comic relief in a New Jersey theater presentation directed by Tony Award-winning Jerry Mitchell of “Kinky Boots” Broadway fame. The show is based upon the true story of 10 senior citizens’ dream to dance at halftime of a major pro basketball game.
King, who spoke recently by phone from New York City apartment, is part of the pro franchise’s real dance team that must prepare the seniors for their few minutes of fame in the production.
“They’re hoping to take the show to Broadway,” said King, who debuted in the ensemble of the Broadway production “War Paint” last year.
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“We’ll see. It suits me well, and it’s an exciting opportunity because it gives me the chance to sort of be in on the ground floor of a project — kind of like I did with ‘War Paint’ when I originally started in Chicago with it. It should be a hoot,” she added.
Same goes for her second sold-out Cabaret at The Commons show Feb. 15 at the 400-seat Commons. The Columbus North High School graduate has chosen a 16-song, multi-genre set list for a show she has titled “Stop and Smell the Rose: Cheers to Now.”
“I’m basically celebrating the beauty of the now,” she said.
That celebration includes considerable appreciation for the journey thus far, even though “War Paint” was forced to close prematurely when lead and two-time Tony Award winner Patti LuPone had to have surgery.
“I’ve been very grateful about my (Broadway) debut,” she said. “And it definitely has opened some doors for me.”
Columbus voice teacher Janie Gordon, King’s high school choral teacher and current cabaret music director, said she still believes in King’s overall ability “150 percent,” as Gordon put it.
“I think she’s definitely right in continuing to pursue Broadway right now,” the music director said, adding that added options such as TV opportunities can come later. “She’s a triple threat equally gifted with her acting, singing and dancing. And she’s made for the stage. Her sale-ability for Broadway is fantastic. Plus, she’s got that ‘it’ factor.”
Gordon added that she believes King has withstood some of the businesses’ pitfalls, including the revolving element of rejection at auditions, with a certain toughness.
“She likes the word fierce,” Gordon said. “And fierce is a great word to describe her.”
King said she is uncertain when her next big break will come — and seems OK with eyeing uncertainty in an often-unstable business.
“If I could tell you exactly when that would happen, we’d all be rich,” she said with a laugh. “But I’m happy to feel momentum right now in my career. And I feel very lucky.”
King acknowledged that keeping a focus is key, and that requires a mental clarity paired with a physical release.
“In order to stay healthy in all ways, working out becomes my best friend,” King said. “That and dance class helps me stay grounded.”
Gordon said King always has been solidly grounded.
“I think people will notice that she sounds more confident than before,” Gordon said. “And now, her voice has a certain, added edge.”
An added edge and added confidence. Seemingly understandable for a young talent who now has sold out both her hometown cabarets.
Education: Graduate of Columbus North High School and New York University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in musical theater from Syracuse University.
Broadway debut: In an ensemble role in “War Paint” last year.
Away from productions: Remains a part of RANGE a cappella group that has performed as part of a Kelly Clarkson concert in the past.
Parents: Peter and Cathy King of Columbus.