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From Oklahoma to Broadway, OCU Alums Shine in Popular Performances

Gabrielle Ruiz was happy to trade hours of training and dancing for a grade for a full-time career as a performing artist after graduating from Oklahoma City University. But now that she dances on and off Broadway for a living, Ruiz taps into her OCU experiences daily.

Ruiz, who made her Broadway debut in “In the Heights,” plays a lead role in in the Goodspeed Opera House’s “My One and Only” alongside Broadway veteran Tony Yazbeck.

“I haven’t danced like this since OCU,” the 2007 OCU dance performance graduate says about her role as Edythe Herbert. While “My One and Only” is traditionally a tap show, Ruiz learned during the first day of rehearsals the cast would be recreating the ideas from the original Broadway production. “Now I’m dancing in ballet shoes and partnering again,” Ruiz said. “It has been such a fun experience. I’m able to stretch my art form and really dig deep into learning how to lead a show and work as a unit with my leading man, principles and company.”

When 2010 Oklahoma City University dance performance graduate Kim Faure moved to New York City, she found instant success and landed her Broadway debut with “Anything Goes.” A member of the ensemble since October, Faure said she her training at OCU gave her the tools to succeed.

“I had absolutely no tap training before going to OCU and now I’m in THE tap show on Broadway right now,” Faure notes. “I also learned professionalism, discipline and how to have the right attitude about auditions and rejection as well as challenges along the way.”

Faure said her dance and vocal training at OCU gave her the perfect skill set for “Anything Goes.”

“The cast is the best. The creative team could not have been better to work with, the music is classic, the dance numbers are so fun to do and the audience eats it up every show,” she said.

Others in major productions include dance alumnus Tyler Foy, who appears in the national tour of “Mary Poppins;” music alumni Will Mann, who plays a principal role in “Memphis” Off Broadway; Katie Postotnik, who is cast in the national tour of “Rock of Ages;” Ernie Pruneda who made his Broadway debut in the ensemble of “Sister Act;” music theater alumni Ian Gibb, who is current in the national tour of “Les Miserables” and Shain Fike, who appears in “The Wedding Singer” national tour.

Two of Oklahoma City University’s best-known graduates, Kelli O’Hara and Kristin Chenoweth, continue their stardom. O’Hara performed this spring with the New York Pops in Carnegie Hall and with the New York Philharmonic. She will co-star with Little Richard in the 2011 national broadcast of “A Capitol Fourth” on PBS. Chenoweth, continues to do Broadway readings, most recently with Hugh Jackman in “On the Twentieth Century” and appears in guest spots on the hit show “Glee.”

Ruiz said her time at OCU has helped her excel in every aspect of her career.

“I really learned the true meaning of being a professional performer,” she said. “We are not only performers, but professional, passionate artists who are serious about our craft and intend on making this our career and life. I believe OCU helped me mold that craft and state of mind which drives me every day.”

Ruiz said she remembers watching OCU Dance Department Chairwoman Jo Rowan warmup with a full ballet barre, even while OCU’s American Spirit Dance Company was travelling, and never thought she would have the same discipline.

“But now, with a show like I’m doing, a full ballet barre is essential,” she noted. “I am now inspired by Jo every time I warm up. She’s always with me and she’s right, it’s totally worth the warmup – every day.”