Tony Winner Leslie Uggams to Take Part in First Grade Theatre Study at P.S. 212, 11/18

Legendary Tony and Emmy Award-winning actress, singer, and recording artist Leslie Uggams will take part in the First Grade Theatre Study program at P.S. 212 (Midtown West School at 328 W 48th Street) on Monday, November 18 at 1 p.m. The Study, part of the school's social studies curriculum, was started by Kindergarten/First Grade Teacher BRyan Andes as a way to introduce students to the bustling theater community in which they live.

"I know firsthand that careers and a lifelong passion for the arts can begin at a very early age," says Ms. Uggams, whose first professional acting job came at the age of six in the television series Beulah. "My early mentors were Ethel Waters on TV and then Louie Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald and Dinah Washington at the Apollo. I think what BRyan Andes and P.S. 212 are doing is terrific. Theater can teach children so many valuable life lessons, not to mention skills that will serve them well for the rest of their lives."

Since its inception in 2005, the Theatre Study has drawn a Who's Who of Broadway A-listers to Andes' classroom. Stephen Sondheim, Hugh Jackman, Vanessa Redgrave, Julie Andrews, Bernadette Peters, Susan Sarandon and Phylicia Rashad are but a handful of the more than three dozen actors, directors, producers and composers who have shared their stories and engaged students in dynamic activities.

This year the Study examines the works of Rodgers and Hammerstein, building on the fairytale stories the students learned about in Kindergarten. Guests (in addition to Ms. Uggams) include Anjelica Huston reading from Beauty and the Beast; Santino Fontana and Laura Osnes performing "Ten Minutes Ago" from Cinderella; Vanessa Williams and Melissa Dye discussing and singing from Into the Woods; Andrea Martin leading the students in a sing-along and square dance from Oklahoma!; and Marni Nixon singing "Getting to Know You" from The King and I.

On November 18 Ms. Uggams will discuss her rich and varied career and reprise her featured number "All at Once You Love Her" from Rodgers and Hammerstein's musical Pipe Dream. Ms. Uggams starred as Madame Fauna in the City Center Encores! concert presentation in 2012. Music director Don Rebic will accompany Ms. Uggams on piano.

In addition to sharing classroom experiences with Broadway stars, Andes' students actually journey through the theater district mapping out their neighborhood. They visit many theaters and learn about the importance of every job involved in mounting a Broadway show. Students then reflect on their experiences by taking notes and writing about each job. In the second half of the school year they undertake the task of writing, designing, producing, and promoting their own show, taking on the jobs they feel suit them best. In June their show debuts Off-Broadway for two days with proceeds benefiting a Broadway-related charity.

"It's quite remarkable to see how the Broadway community has supported our Theatre Study," says Andes. "The students learn so much and begin to apply important concepts and skills they are developing to all areas of the school day. One of our graduates, Sydney Lucas, is now Off-Broadway in the musical Fun Home. It's sweet serendipity, because Sydney plays the daughter of the characters played by Michael Cerveris and Judy Kuhn. It just so happens that the year Sydney was in our Study class, Michael was one of our guest artists. Dreams do come true!"

For more information on the P.S. 212 First Grade Theatre Study, contact BRyan Andes at 212-810-1254. For more information on Leslie Uggams, visit her on Twitter @LeslieUggams, on Facebook at or see her website at

Photo Credit: Walter McBride

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