Kristen Hoffman’s experience with the Kent State University musical theater program has come full circle since she was 10 and played young Abel in Children of Eden under the direction of Terri Kent.
Now, Hoffman, a 22-year-old senior, is playing a leading lady under Kent as the title character in the musical Thoroughly Modern Millie, which runs through Sunday at E. Turner Stump Theatre at 1325 Theatre Drive in Kent.
The actress, who previously lived in Stow and now hails from Solon, was a transfer student to KSU’s musical theater program after her sophomore year at Indiana University. At KSU, she was reunited with director Kent and has been molded into a true dancer under the tutelage of choreographer MaryAnn Black, said Hoffman, who previously had little formal dance training.
“I felt like here, I had a lot more control over my own success,’’ she said of Kent State. “MaryAnn Black has been my fairy godmother here.”
Now, she’s enjoying doing tap, jazz and ’20s-style dances in the jazz-age musical Millie, in which small-town girl Millie Dillmount bobs her hair and becomes a flapper, moving to New York to get a job and marry a rich man, which is what she thinks “modern” girls should do.
“This is definitely the biggest role I’ve ever had. I’ve never carried a show before,” Hoffman said. “She [Millie] has this spark and this energy about her. The word I like to use for her is ‘naivete’ because she’s not quite innocent.”
The mezzo-soprano belter, who has always loved the ’20s time period, also loves wearing Millie’s elaborately beaded red flapper dress. She plays opposite Jonathan Gruich of Copley as Jimmy. (Hoffman also will play Rusty in Footloose and backup singer Michelle in Sister Act this summer at Porthouse Theatre in Cuyahoga Falls.)
Millie premiered on Broadway in 2002 starring Sutton Foster. It won six Tony Awards, including best musical.
Just as the people in Millie’s world rally around her, the supportive KSU Millie cast has rallied around Hoffman. “It’s just been really, really amazing working with this cast,’’ she said.
Director Kent said the young actress has recently hit her stride as a triple threat: “The synthesis of her singing and dancing and acting did not come together until this year. And now she’s a little star.”
She added, “There’s that ethereal thing you cannot identify and when it’s just right and it clicks, that’s just what happens.”
For tickets, call 330-672-2787 or see www.kent.edu/theatredance. Cost is $18; $14 for KSU alumni, faculty and staff and senior citizens; $10 for non-KSU students 18 and under; and free for full-time Kent campus students.
Arts writer Kerry Clawson may be reached at 330-996-3527 or email@example.com. Like her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/kclawsonabj or follow her on Twitter @KerryClawsonABJ.