Broadway veteran Lee Heinz to direct Sweet Charity in musical’s 50th year
There are few places where Lee Heinz Heinz feels more at home than New York City.
Before joining the Stephens College faculty last year as an assistant professor of Musical Theatre, Heinz spent more than 20 years acting in Broadway and off-Broadway shows.
So when she was asked to direct the beloved musical “Sweet Charity,” which marks its 50th anniversary this year, Heinz was thrilled. The show tells the story of Charity Hope Valentine, a dance hall hostess with a heart of gold who sings, dances, cries and laughs her way though life in the Big Apple.
“Sweet Charity” runs Dec. 2-4, 9-10 at the Macklanburg Playhouse on the Stephens College campus. Get ticket info.
Though happily settled in Columbia, Heinz still maintains a home in New York City as well as in Chautauqua, N.Y., where she first fell in love with performing.
“When I was 6, I decided I wanted to be either an actor or a simultaneous interpreter at the United Nations, she said.
However, by 9, Heinz had narrowed her choices to an actor or a ballerina.
“I opted for actor because ballerinas don’t get kissed on stage,” she said.
Heinz, who is a fifth-generation Chautauquan, is originally from Warren, Ohio. She was only a few months old when she began traveling with her family each summer to Chautauqua where her grandmother and great aunt owned rooming houses.
It didn’t take long for young Heinz to become enamored with the summer arts colony there, especially with the actors.
“I was very shy and didn’t like to talk as myself,” she recalled. “But when I could be someone else on stage, I was very comfortable.”
Heinz was 8 when she started her professional acting career on the Kenley Circuit, performing with such stars as Jo Anne Worley, Paul Lynde, Brenda Lee and Juliet Prowse, among others. She attended Vassar College where she majored in theater, romance languages and math. She later received an M.F.A. from George Washington University and an M.A. from Wayne State University.
Heinz landed the role as Tiger Lily in “Peter Pan” when she was still a student at Vassar. Over the years, she performed on Broadway and in national and international tours of “Dancin’,” “Once Upon a Mattress,” “West Side Story,” “Cabaret” and “A Chorus Line.” Regionally, some of her favorite roles have been Annie in “Annie Get Your Gun,” Drood in “The Mystery of Edwin Drood,” Hermia in “Dead Man’s Cell Phone,” Charlotta in “The Cherry Orchard,” Ruth in “Blithe Spirit,” and Puck in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”
She has worked with Bob Fosse, Michael Bennett, Jerome Robbins and Ron Field, among others.
Heinz has also been a frequent guest artist with the Chautauqua Opera, has worked in film, and was a regular on the soap operas “Guiding Light” and “One Life to Live.”
“Once you start working on soap operas, you begin to realize how good the acting is,” she said. “When you are there and see the time restraints the actors are under and the work they produce, you have a new respect for the actors who are on soap operas regularly.”
Heinz has directed at the New York Musical Theatre Festival and at the Triad Theatre, and choreographed and directed a number of off-Broadway, regional and international shows. She also served as the assistant director for the original production of “Zombie Prom” at the Variety Arts Theatre.
Before joining Stephens, Heinz worked for Dancing Classrooms, a not-for-profit project of the American Ballroom Theater Company in New York City. She taught ballroom dancing to fourth- and fifth-graders in the Bronx. The school was a three-hour subway ride from her home.
“It was fun but a lot of work,” Heinz said.
Though she’s always enjoyed teaching, Heinz said Stephens is her first official foray into academia. Some of the classes she’s taught include Shakespeare, vocal production, musical theatre history and acting.
“I have found the students and faculty at Stephens to be very talented and welcoming,” she said. “I am happy to be a part of the Stephens community.”
Sweet Charity [Musical, PG-13]
Performances are 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday, Dec. 2-3, 9-10 and 2 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 4, in the Macklanburg Playhouse, 100 Willis Ave. Contact the Box Office at (573) 876-7199 or [email protected] for more details. In addition, Stephens will host “The Works of Cy Coleman - A Musical Celebration,” at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 8. The free event celebrating the music work of Cy Coleman will feature musical performances by the Stephens College Macklanburg Playhouse Theatre Company.