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Archive of 'Recently in the News' Famous Alumni from UC

See current listing of alumni Recently in the News.


Lion 'King' roars over new Disney album — 10-12

Alton Fitzgerald White, CCM '86, has spent more than 10 years with Broadway's most successful show — Disney's "The Lion King" — both on Broadway and on tour, primarily playing the "king" role of Mufasa. In October 2012, he released "the thing I'm most proud of," he says. His new CD "Disney: My Way!" gave him the chance to re-imagines Disney songs, like "Supercalifragilistic" with a swing beat. White also played Mister in "The Color Purple," Coalhouse Walker Jr. in "Ragtime, The Musical" (composed by Stephen Flaherty, CCM '82), "The Who's Tommy," "Miss Saigon" and "Smokey Joe's Café."

Watch a September interview with him, talking about how hard it is to perform a physical show like "Lion King" eight times a week, while singing, dancing and maneuvering heavy costume components. He also mentions how great the UC College-Conservatory of Music is. (Quicktime is needed.)


CCM alumnus new 'Mamma Mia!' star9-12

Aaron Lazar, MFA (CCM) ’00, joined the Broadway cast of "Mamma Mia!" in June 2012, playing the role of Sam Carmichael. In mid September 2012, he was featured on’s “Broadway Buzz” column. May of this year was a particularly busy month for Lazar as he shot the season finale for CBS's "Person of Interest," starred in Gentlemen "Prefer Blondes" at City center in New York City and performed his solo show "Look for Me" in the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.


CCM news in Disney's "Newsies: The Musical" summer 2012

Ryan Breslin, CCM '11, was nominated for the 2012 Fred & Adele Astaire Award as Outstanding Male Dancer in a Broadway Musical for his performance in "Newsies: The Musical," which recently became an "open-ended" show, meaning there is still time to see his dazzling feet in action at the Nederlander Theatre.

Winner of the 2012 Tony Awards for Best Original Score and Best Choreography, the show was inspired by the real-life "Newsboys' Strike of 1899." The book by Harvey Fierstein deals with an unlikely band of underdogs who take on the biggest names in publishing in a remarkable fight for justice and fair pay.

Breslin was nominated for the Astaire Award along with Matthew Broderick and Hugh Jackman, but all three lost to Leslie Odom Jr. in "Leap of Faith."

Also in the show with Breslin is Garett Hawe, CCM '09.

LINK: Video of Breslin talking about the show and demonstrating techniques.

CCM grad stars in 'Addams Family' spring '12

Sara Gettelfinger, CCM '99, had been starring as Morticia in the national tour of "The Addams Family," which played in Cincinnati in March and April 2012.  Fellow CCM'er Martin Vidnovic, CCM ’71, shared the stage with her in the role of Mal Beineke in the productiion. While in town on March 29, she received the 2012 Musical Theatre Young Alumni Award from the College-Conservatory of Music.

Kaitlyn Davidson head shot

"Nice Work If You Can Get It" 4-12

Kaitlyn Davidson, CCM '09, made her Broadway debut as an actress in the new Gershwin musical "Nice Work If You Can Get It" in April 2012. She was 8 years old when cast in her first musical in Kansas City, playing an orphan in "Annie Warbucks."
Read more.

Tiffany Haas as Glinda in "Wicked"

Tiffany Haas as Glinda in "Wicked"

Alumna Tiffany Hass Glinda in 'Wicked' fall '11
In fall ’11, Tiffany Haas, CCM '05, the Broadway soprano and former Miss Ohio, took the role as Glinda on the second national tour of “Wicked” following her Broadway run in the "Wicked" ensemble.
LINK: Read about Haas’ Miss Ohio win.

Broadway alumna Savannah Wise on magazine cover 7-11
Broadway actress Savannah Wise, CCM '06, made the July 2011 cover of Dance Spirit magazine.
LINK: See magazine cover and read about her Broadway accomplishments.

Liz Pearce dressed in a sequined flapper dress holding a top hat over her head and singing.

CCM grads on stage at Cincinnati Playhouse — 11-13

Liz Pearce, CCM '00, is starring in "Cabaret" at the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park through Nov. 16, 2013. Carl Draper, CCM '10, is a member of the ensemble.

Pearce plays the role of Sally Bowles in the Kander and Ebb musical about the cabaret singer and a novelist set against the backdrop of the rising Nazi influence in pre-war Berlin. On Broadway, Pearce appeared in the Tony-winning musical "Billy Elliot." Draper performed in the national tour of "Monty Python's Spamalot."

LINK: Read UC Magazine article on Pearce.

► At left, UC grad Liz Pearce belts out
the title song in "Cabaret," at Cincinnati
Playhouse in the Park. Photo/Sandy Underwood

GENERAL BROADWAY LINK: Read about other alumni on Broadway.  


DAAP grad brings Hobbit figures to life2012

Peter Jackson's new movie, "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," brought forth a demand for toys — which was answered, in part, by Daniel Meyer, DAAP '71. Meyer is director of marketing and design at The Bridge Direct, a Florida-based toy company that landed the worldwide toy and game licensing rights for the Warner Bros.' film last fall.

Before joining The Bridge Direct, Meyer had worked for Fisher-Price, then as brand manager for Jakks Pacific, a major toy and leisure-product company in Florida, where he designed action figures and play sets related to the movie "The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian." At that time, he placed a likeness of his own face on the Telmarine soldier action figure.

Madden Protectors Award

NFL's Madden Protectors Award, sculpted by Tom Tsuchiya

Grad's NFL sculpture on Super Bowl TV 2-12

The night before the 2012 Super Bowl on NBC, the NFL’s 102-pound Madden Protectors Award, sculpted by Tom Tsuchiya, A&S '95, was presented in the first televised NFL awards show. The sculptor, who created life-sized likenesses of Johnny Bench, Joe Nuxhall, Frank Robinson, Ted Kluszewski and Ernie Lombardi at the Cincinnati Reds' Great American Ball Park, is working on a 50-foot-tall Jesus for the Solid Rock Church on I-75 in Monroe, Ohio, where the previously recognizable "touchdown Jesus" was struck by lightening, then burned to the ground.
LINK: Read about Tsuchiya's achievements.

Interior designer Maddox honored 2011

The award-winning interior designer Eva Maddox, DAAP '66, HonDoc '06, was honored with Contract magazine’s 2011 Legend Award for having “contributed in a significant way to raising the standards of commercial interior design and architecture” and for developing a "personal brand that is one of the most highly respected throughout the architecture and design community."
LINK: Read about Maddox's achievements.

GENERAL DESIGINERS, ARTISTS LINK: Read about other alumni designers and artists


'Oz: The Great and Powerful' as brought to life by two alumnae 3-13

Debbie Denise, CCM '73, and Jessica Peel-Scott, DAAP '93, were instrumental in bringing the box-office sensation "Oz: The Great and Powerful" to the theaters in 3-D in March 2013. The film was the 13th highest grossing film of the year with audiences entranced with the visual-effects masterpiece and inventive-costume showcase.

Debbie Denise, an expert in 3-D, is executive vice president of production at the Academy Award-winning visual effects and animation studio Sony Pictures Imageworks, which Disney hired for the film. She oversees production of all the company's films, which have included  "Harry Potter," "The Amazing Spider-Man" and "Men In Black 3."

Jessica Peel-Scott was one of two assistant designers considered "key collaborators" to the head costume designers. The team spent weeks researching fashion trends from various periods to develop the costumes, then oversaw a staff of 60 who clothed Emerald City citizens, workers and attendees at a traveling circus, 36 Munchkins (who averaged 3 foot-6) and 48 Winkies (Emerald City guards, who averaged 7-feet tall and wore feathered hats to add another 20 inches). Peel-Scott has also worked on "Spider-Man 2" and "Second Hand Lions."



Famed film composer Edelman takes audience to the movies1-13

A CCM audience had the rare opportunity to listen to music from such classic films as "The Last of the Mohicans” and “Gettysburg” under the baton of the original composer and alumnus in January 2013. Randy Edelman, CCM ’69, HonDoc '04 — the famed composer, orchestrator, conductor, score producer and singer/songwriter — played the piano and conducted CCM’s Philharmonia Orchestra and Jazz Ensemble in performing some of his best-known film scores. During the evening, he also received a Kautz Alumni Masters Program award.

Among the more than 100 scores Edelman has written are the "Mohican" score, for which he received nominations for both a Golden Globe and a British Academy Award, and the "Gettysburg" score, which is more familiar because its themes are often heard in film trailers and TV shows. His music has also been played at the Super Bowl and the '02 and '08 Olympics.

A picture of Katniss, from "The Hunger Games," shows her looking lovely on one half, and haggard on the other.

Brad Look makeup artist for 'Hunger Games' again11-12

“The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” opened nationwide on Nov. 22, 2012, with an imporant UC connection. Alumnus Bradley Look was one of the makeup artists for the movie, just as he was when the original "Hunger Games" was released last year. An Emmy-winner with nine additional prime-time Emmy nominations, Look, M (CCM) '88, is one of the most sought-after makeup artists in the industry.

His Emmy win for Outstanding Makeup for a Series came in 1995 for his work on “Star Trek: Voyager.” His remaining nominations came for “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” in “1996, 1997 and 1999; “Star Trek: Voyager” in 2001; "Star Trek: Enterprise" in 2002, ’03 and ’05; "Pushing Daisies” in 2008; and "How I Met Your Mother" in 2011.



A&S grad writes, directs best 'cutting edge,' 'religious' film — 1-13

Creative-writing alumnus Matt Dunnerstick, A&S '01, received eight film-festival awards for writing and directing his first independent feature film "The Custom Mary" — enough acclaim that the movie will soon be released internationally. In January 2013, he made a particularly impressive showing at one of the country's largest black film festivals, San Diego Black Film Festival, with a win for Best Cutting Edge Film and Best Religious Film.

CCM grad Lisa Howard in 'Twilight Saga' finale — 11-12

Lisa Howard, CCM '97, has an important role in "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part Two," which brought in nearly $341 million its opening Nov. 16, 2012, weekend. Wearing red contacts and a red wig that took an hour to put on, the musical-theater grad is the vampire Siobhan (pronounced “Shi-von”), the head of the Irish coven, which works with Bella, Edward and Jacob to defeat the corrupt vampire leaders, the Volturi.

This was Howard's first film. She has done a little TV —  "Ugly Betty" and "Late Show with David Letterman" — but is best known for her Broadway performances. In 2005, she nabbed a Drama Desk nomination for Outstanding Ensemble Performance for playing the diva Rona Lisa Peretti in “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee."

Movie poster for movie "Lincoln"

Alumnus brings reality to history and sci-fi 11-12

Brad Look, MFA (CCM) '88, the Emmy-winning makeup artist, has recently been busy working on some major motion pictures, including  "The Hunger Games," "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter" (for which he was a special-makeup-effects artist) and "Lincoln" (a Steven Spielberg movie due out on Nov. 16, 2012, starring Daniel Day-Lewis and Tommy Lee Jones).

"Cloud Atlas" concept designer DAAP grad 10-12

George Hull, DAAP '93, is among Hollywood's most sought-after conceptual designers, cinematic artists and visual-effects art directors. His newest endeavor, "Cloud Atlas," opened October 2012 for regular and Imax screens. He was the senior conceptual designer for this sci-fi thriller that stars Tom Hanks, Hugh Grant, Susan Sarandon and Halle Berry.

"J. Edgar" -—11-11

Aaron Lazar, MFA (CCM) '00, plays prosecutor David Wilentz in this Clint Eastwood film, and Evan Charest, CCM '10, plays a reporter in a scene with star Leonardo DiCaprio.

"The Rum Diary," "X-Men” -- summer '11
Dawn Swiderski, CCM ’89, was art director for the movies "The Rum Diary" with Johnny Depp and “X-Men: First Class" with Kevin Bacon.
LINK: See Swiderski’s other 10 movie credits.

Rules for the movie

Rules for the first interactive feature film.

Hollywood’s first interactive social film -- 7-11
Cooper Thornton, M (CCM) '92, (known as Ray while a student) played agent McArthur in “The Inside Experience,” billed as “the first interactive social horror film experience.” Film, videos and social media interactions lived organically on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, where audience members were able to tweet clues, comment via YouTube and post Facebook advice to the protagonist whose only connection to the outside world was her laptop.

Presented by Intel and Toshiba, new videos (or episodes) were released as viewers solved pieces of the puzzle. Consequently, no one knew how long it would take to complete the movie, which began in July 2011. Once the mystery was solved, all the episodes were combined into a final movie and released in September.

"Thor" — 5-11
The Emmy-winning makeup artist Brad Look, MFA (CCM) '88, worked on Kenneth Branagh's film featuring Sir Anthony Hopkins.
LINK: See Look’s other 11 movie credits.

"Transformers: Dark of the Moon" — fall '11
George Hull, DAAP '93, was conceptual designer for "Transformers: Dark of the Moon," which opened in the fall of  '11, starring Shia LaBeouf, John Malkovich and Leonard Nimoy.
LINK: See Hull’s long list of movie credits.

MUSEUMS led by alumni

Cincinnati’s Contemporary Arts Center -- late 2011
Drew Klein, CCM ’07, became performance curator in late 2011, producing one performance event a month. “We want to have a global program touching on all different continents,” he told Cincinnati's CityBeat tabloid.


Group takes second Grammy — 2-12

Five CCM alumni who form the group Eighth Blackbird won its second Grammy in February 2012 — this one for their recording of Steve Mackey’s "Lonely Motel." The sextet studied as an ensemble at CCM in the late 1990s. Members in the group are Michael Maccaferri, MA (CCM) '00, clarinet, founding member; Matt Albert, AD (CCM) '00, violin and viola, founding member; Nick Photinos, AD (CCM) '00, cello; Matthew Duvall, AD (CCM) '01, percussion; and Lisa Kaplan, AD (CCM) '00, piano, founding member.

Alumni play for Lady Gaga, Tony Bennett -- 11-11

Four CCM jazz alumni recently performed in Lady Gaga’s duet with Tony Bennett for her Thanksgiving TV special on ABC. Playing on “A Very Gaga Thanksgiving” were Steve Kortyka, CCM '04, saxophone; Brian Newman, CCM '04, trumpet; Alex Smith, CCM '01, piano; and Scott Ritchie, CCM '02, bass.

GENERAL MUSICIANS LINK: Read about other alumni musicians.


Four rounds of 'Jeopardy!' tackled 5-13

After winning $60,112 on three rounds of "Jeopardy!" in early May 2013, John Anneken, PharmD '13, reappeared on the quiz show on May 20, 2013 (the delay due to the show's two-week college tournament). "The hardest part of the contestant experience was waiting and waiting and waiting to get started," he says. "The time I was on the stage playing was relaxing compared to the anticipation."

On May 1, he dominated most of the game and won $18,911 after answering the final Jeopardy clue in the theater category. He added $14,000 with another victory May 2 and $27,201 more on May 3.

LINK: Try some of Anneken's questions at UC Magazine story.

Lifetime Christmas movie 12-12

Karen Olivo, CCM '97, appeared in the Lifetime TV Christmas movie "Holiday Spin," several times during Christmas week 2012. TV viewers may have recognized her from her recurring role in NBC's "Harry's Law" with Kathy Bates in 2011-12, and theater lovers may recognize her name from award-winning performances on Broadway.

Not only did she nab a Tony for her starring role in the "West Side Story" revival, as well as a Drama Desk Award for part in "In the Heights," she also who won the Fred & Adele Astaire Award for Broadway's Best Female Dancer in '08 and was nominated for it in '09.

Betsy Werbel

Betsy Werbel

HGTV show transforms alumna's living room 2-12

Broadway actress Betsy Werbel, CCM '96, was featured on TV in February 2012 on HGTV’s “Dear Genevieve,” titled "Enchanted Living Room." Home decorating was a new concept for Werbel, who had spent years on the road in national Broadway tours. But things changed more than a year ago when she landed a Broadway slot in "Wicked." Ready to settle down, she bought her own apartment, but the living room was full of hand-me-down furniture that fit together poorly. On the TV show, Genevieve remade the room, inspired by a hand-knit blanket from Werbel's grandmother.

Grad in Super Bowl commercial 1-12

Eric Tepe, Bus ’06, moved to L.A. in 2011 in hopes of breaking into modeling/acting. His first gig was among the best, a Toyota commercial that aired duriing the 2012 Super Bowl. Tepe was filmed in the Camry commercial about things being reinvented. He appears 10 seconds into the video as part of the “man couch,” second from the left.
LINK: Read Tepe's whole story and download some of his songs.

Riva shown with Cheech Marin, playing her husband, and Eugenio Derbez, playing an uncle.

Riva shown with Cheech Marin, playing her husband, and Eugenio Derbez, playing an uncle. Sonja Flemming/CBS Broadcasting

CBS series 'Rob' stars UC alumna  1-12

CMM grad Diana Maria Riva (aka Uhlenbrock), CCM '91, MFA (CCM) '95, starred as Rosa in the CBS comedy "Rob!" (which premiered in January 2012 but was canceled at the end of the season). She played opposite Cheech Marin in the comedy starring Rob Schneider. Based on Scheider’s life, the show was about a lifelong bachelor who just eloped with a woman way out of his league and tried to fit in with her tight-knit Mexican-American family, including her overprotective, judgmental parents, Riva and Marin.

Photo of the Waltons cast on the front steps of their TV homested.

40th anniversary of 'Waltons' — created by alumnus9-12

The TV series "The Waltons" celebrates the 40th anniversary of its premiere in September 2012. The show's creator and narrator Earl Hamner, CCM '48, HonDoc '08, wrote a funny recap of the early reviews the show received, including one that offended him so badly that he nearly canceled his New York Times subscription.

In his blog, he also presents a charming history of the show that ultimately won six Emmy awards, six Christopher Awards, the Golden Globe Award from the Foreign Press Association, the People’s Choice Award and the highest award given in broadcast journalism, the coveted Peabody Award from the University of Georgia. He also noted, "In a magazine called Twin Circle, which is the voice of the National Catholic Press, a picture of the cast of 'The Waltons' was given equal space with a picture of the Pope. At that point, I began to worry that we had gone too far."

Hamner explains how the show changed his family's lives back in Virginia because the characters were based on his real relatives and how his hometown became a tourist destination.

Although the writer is mostly known for his tales of growing up in Virginia, he also wrote episodes of the Twilight Zone, was the screenwriter for the original "Charlotte's Web" and produced the 1980s series "Falcon Crest."

'Amazing Race' winner UC alumna — 12-11

Cindy Chiang Halvorsen, biomedical engineering '04, and her then-fiancé Ernie Halvorsen captured $1 million in December '11 by winning the latest edition of “The Amazing Race,” the 40,000-mile race through 10 countries on CBS. The show's 19th season began Sept. 25 with 11 couples in the race. The couple told New Jersey's The Star-Ledger they will use the $1 million prize to start a charity to help people in need around the world.

UC’s 2002 homecoming queen is a senior associate brand manager at Kraft Foods in Chicago. At UC, she was a UC Honors student, creator of Camp Bearcat, recipient of the '04 Presidential Leadership Medal of Excellence and a Cincinnatus scholarship winner.

Jay Peterson and TV host Alex Trebek.

Peterson and host Alex Trebek. Photo/CBS

Jeopardy!" win -- 10-11

Jay Peterson, M (A&A) '98, an assistant English professor at Atlantic Cape Community College in southern New Jersey, appeared on two episodes of "Jeopardy!" on Oct. 20 and 21, 2011. He won $26,201 on the first episode, but lost on the second one.
LINK: Read the story.

"Rising: Rebuilding Ground Zero" -- 9-11-11

Jennifer Honn-Rennie, CCM ’92, was editor of Steven Spielberg's six-hour, commercial-free documentary on the Discovery Channel.
LINK: See Honn-Rennie’s extensive TV-documentary credits.

GENERAL TV LINK: Read about other alumni in TV.  


Countertenor performs in with renowned choir — 4-13

The a cappella men's group Chanticleer returns to Cincinnati this week for its almost yearly concert at the downtown cathedral, St. Peter in Chains. When this concert takes place on Friday, April 12, 2013, alumnus Cortez Mitchell, MM (CCM) '06, will again be singing countertenor.

Anyone who has never heard a countertenor in person needs to experience it. The notes are so much more powerful when you hear them coming out of someone standing in front of you. Originally Mitchell sang opera, but he joined the internationally acclaimed choir in 2008.
LINK: Read about Mitchell's professional accomplishments; watch two videos.

Baltimore Symphony Orchestra - 12-11

Two alumni are involved in Baltimore Symphony Orchestra’s "A Christmas Carol in Concert," Friday and Saturday, Dec. 16 and 17. Scott Coulter, CCM '93, is a featured soloist, and Alisa Klein Hauser, CCM '93, wrote the lyrics.
LINK: Read more about Scott Coulter and other UC alumni musicians.

page compiled by Deborah Rieselman / updated 10-14