Stepping onto the big stage

Alumna Stephanie Umoh tells of her experiences on Broadway


Rohanna Harvey

Alumna Stephanie Umoh poses for a photo with theater students after speaking to them about the theater industry and her experiences performing.

An overwhelming pressure surrounds her as she stands in front of her peers. She looks out and all she knows is the darkness in front of her and her muffled voice. She wants to do it, show everyone she has the talent and the abilities to be more than she is, and it starts now.

“Mary had a little lamb, little lamb, little lamb, Mary had a little lamb, its fleece was white as snow.” 

As a junior, Stephanie Umoh was thrust into the theater scene when Lewisville High put on a rendition of the play “Ragtime” during the 2002 school year. This was her first time performing in it, but it certainly wouldn’t be her last time with this particular show.

Her enthusiasm and bright personality seemed to fit the role. With the help of her theater teachers Wendi Brozek and Wendy Barrett, she would surely learn the true essence of this show. 

“When Stephanie was a senior we did a show called ‘Ragtime,’ and we told her she reminded us of Audrey McDonald who played Sarah in ‘Ragtime’ and she was like who’s that?” Brozek said. “And she did it and [now] ‘Ragtime’ has for her a whole story.”

She participated in more school plays showing versatility in roles and mediums in theater.

“So Stephanie did both musicals and plays throughout her time here,” Brozek said. “One of her more memorable shows was when she was a junior was ‘Honk.’”

Later on after “Ragtime” on Broadway, Umoh reached a point in her career that was well deserved. She stood on stage where she could bask in the light and prove to everyone this was her moment. She was in a role she had fallen into from high school, through to college, and triumphantly onto Broadway. It was a bookmark to one of her life’s most beloved chapters.

“They were casting ‘Ragtime’ on Broadway,” Umoh said. “The. Broadway. And I said ‘Well, I’ve got to go. I’m going to test [my] luck.’ My agents were like, ‘You’ve got to go for this.’ So I auditioned and they said, no and I was like, no, no, no, I’m this role. I know I am in this role. So I auditioned with my director. They already actually had somebody they were going to give an offer to. And I kept coming in and going and surpassing that person [a] step further, further going deeper and deeper each audition.”

Fortune smiled onto her once more and after her diligence and talent shone through she impressed a room of directors. 

“I finished and they said, ‘How would you like to play Sarah in ‘Ragtime’ on Broadway?’” Umoh said.

Though she experienced success, for Umoh that didn’t stop her from remembering her fondest memories when starting her theatrical career in Lewisville High School. She reminisces on her days going in on Saturdays to paint the grass for their set, her mom helping to make costumes and the overall communal feeling experienced putting on a production. This background she has is something she uses to not forget what it all is about. Umoh admits while theater is her job, it is also an art she has groomed and wishes to further flourish in for the following years and she never truly lets go of her origins.

“Broadway isn’t the end all be all,” Umoh said. “Beautiful productions are happening in small theaters around the country, they’re more fulfilling artistic experiences at summer stock festivals or small theaters around the country.”

It’s dark and her voice is muffled as she sings “Mary had a little lamb.” She’s nervous and near faint with worry, but she’s not going to let that stop her. When Umoh is done, relief hits her and her classmates cheer. The worry she had melts off and her confidence swells, from here she’ll grow to be the best, all from that classroom sprouts a passion. One she’ll cultivate throughout theater and even further into her career.  

“Theater is my first love, and I will always come back to it,” Umoh said. “But it has given me my foundation, of where to grow from here. But I always will come back to [the] theater at the end of the day.”