(Memphis) Tony Award nominated actress and country music recording artist Laura Bell Bundy could likely spend her Thursday night anywhere, but she chose recently to spend it with a group of high school theatre students in Memphis, TN.
Bundy was host for the The Orpheum Theatre High School Musical Theatre Awards.
This is the second year Bundy has been the host and she wouldn’t have it any other way, “I definitely am reminded of why I chose this as a craft. The youthful enthusiasm they have and the excitement and desire they have, it’s the same desire and excitement I had and have.”
More than 200 students took part in the program which is a local version of the Tony Awards. Judges attend high school theatre productions then award the productions and individuals who work on them.
Pat Halloran is the President and CEO if the historic theatre, “These kids are now doing shows like Le Miserable, Phantom and you can’t just put on a mask and go out and pretend you are the Phantom. I mean these kids have the staircase, the costumes are incredible.”
Last year 62,000 students and their families went through programs at the Orpheum. Next year, ground will be broken on a ten million dollar youth arts center next to the theatre.
That’s music to Bundy’s ears as someone who got involved early in the arts at an early age, “You can have a place to focus that energy and all that pent up energy you feel as a teenager can be let out through artist work.”
Bundy’s parents divorced when she was 14 and acting, including a role just four years later on Guiding Light, helped her deal with the ramifications, “My acting work is always an outlet to what’s going on with me emotionally.”
Bundy gained fame when cast as Elle Woods in the musical version of “Legally Blonde” on Broadway in 2007. She also appeared in “Wicked” as Glinda and the original cast of “Hairspray” on Broadway.
While in New York, Bundy started a country music duo with a friend and performed around the city. In 2010, she debuted her first CD for a major label, Achin’ and Shakin.’
Bundy is preparing to release a new CD, but she hasn’t forgotten her acting roots.
Bundy and former Legally Blonde co-star Paul Canaan run an organization called “Take It From The Top,” a workshop that pairs Broadway actors with theatre students from 10 through college to teach them the ins and outs of the acting business. They also run “Kreative Kids“, and not for profit organization designed to educate, encourage, guide and support children in the creative and performing arts.
Bundy’s organizations are needed more and more as arts are being cut from schools, “I become outraged when people cut their arts program. Like this one kid who said, ‘I started doing this and my grades improved because I had a place to put my energy.’ That’s what theatre can do.”
Laura Bell Bundy is currently performing music from her upcoming album, including an upcoming performance at the CMA Music Festival in Nashville June 9.