Concord native Alysha Umphress is making her first evening-length local appearance since she’s been busy in musicals in New York and on tour. (Courtesy photo)

Alysha Umphress: From Bay Area to Broadway and back

“Cabaret star” is a new kind of homecoming for Bay Area native Alysha Umphress.

The New York-based performer has been home to visit, but other than a couple of songs at a benefit for the San Francisco nonprofit No Bully and a summer stop singing “On the Town” with the San Francisco Symphony, her work has been elsewhere.

“It’s really the first time I’ve done my own show in my home town since I graduated high school,” says the Concord-born singer, talking about her two-night stand at Feinstein’s at the Nikko this week.

She made the move to New York in 2004, learned the ropes, got the requisite restaurant job and started making the rounds.

“When I first moved to the city and I was auditioning for Broadway shows it was so easy to get star struck like, ‘OMG, that person was in that show!’ You definitely put people on a pedestal. Then you’re there for a couple years and it starts to wear off, that shimmer of Broadway stars,” she says. “You come to realize, they’re my peers. I’ve got this. I can do this.”

That kind of confidence got Umphress noticed. She appeared in dozens of cabarets and ensemble concert events featuring new and rising talent around Manhattan. She also connected with the new works circuit, performing in readings of new musicals and recording demo songs for shows in development.

It paid off. She was cast in a succession of ensemble and featured roles in Broadway productions of “American Idiot,” “Priscilla Queen of the Desert,” “On a Clear Day You Can See Forever” and “Bring It On The Musical.”

Then came an offer to go out of town for a revival of Leonard Bernstein’s “On the Town” at Barrington Stage Company in Massachusetts.

“I never took that job thinking it was gonna go to Broadway,” says Umphress. “Not in a million years.”

It did, and the part of wise-cracking cab driver Hildy – originated by Nancy Walker in 1946 – and her big number, “I Can Cook Too” – fit the Umphress style perfectly.

Now Umphress is contemplating her next career steps. The trajectory of “On the Town” precluded continued involvement with a workshop of the stage adaptation of the film “Beaches” and the role of CeeCee originally played by Bette Midler.

“It was such a huge challenge for me because it was something like 19 songs, the type of role where I literally never left the stage. So it was quite a feat and again I learned, ‘I can do this.’”

IF YOU GO
Alysha Umphress
Where: Feinstein’s at the Nikko, 220 Mason St., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. Nov. 11, 7 p.m. Nov. 12
Tickets: $35 to $50
Contact: (866) 663-1063, www.ticketweb.com
Alysha UmphressBeachesBroadwayConcordOn The TownPop MusicTheater

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

SFUSD: City schools to stay closed for the rest of the year

District joins five other Bay Area districts in announcing closure

John Prine, revered singer-songwriter, dies of COVID-19 complications at 73

John Prine, who traded his job as a Chicago mail carrier to… Continue reading

Supes push to procure hotel rooms for the homeless as coronavirus spreads

‘Friction’ between board and mayor over strategy to protect those living on the streets

Coronavirus cases exceed 600 in SF; 9 reported dead

Mayor launches data tracker after calls for transparency

Breed changes plans for massive new Moscone West homeless shelter

City now moving more shelter residents to hotel rooms after three test positive for COVID-19

Most Read