Phumzile Sojola as Pinkerton in the UK Opera Theatre's 2005 production of Madama Butterfly. The South African-born singer is now Off Broadway, starring in Three Mo Tenors. Copyrighted photo by Brian Tietz for the Lexington Herald-Leader and Kentucky.com.
The latest Lexington-connected artist to make it into the spotlight of New York comes from the University of Kentucky's opera program. Phumzile Sojola, who has sung roles such as Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly and Don Jose in Carmen with UK Opera Theatre is now one of the Three Mo Tenors in the Off-Broadway edition of the hit show.
Three Mo is a showcase for classically-trained black singers that has been touring around the country, including a stop at the Lexington Opera House in 2002. The show starts with operatic fare and then moves to pop, jazz, gospel, spirituals and other genres.
Even some New York critics who were lukewarm on the actual show sang Phumzile's praises. Claudia La Rocco's New York Times review, which begins "Please. No mo' tenors," gives props to the tenor, known around UK Opera as Puma, saying he, "surely has a Hollywood contract or two in his future."
Joe Dziemianowicz of the New York Daily News says, "Sojola stands out - not because of his pipes, but because he's such a charmer. Watch him lead a South African medley in which he asks the audience to join in. I'm dubious about sing-alongs - but he made this a truly joyful noise."
Good stuff, especially if you consider New York critics aren't the easiest folks to win over. Just ask Laura Bell Bundy. Ben Brantley used his Forbidden Broadway review to take another dig at the Lexington star's (Tony nominated) Legally Blonde performance.
(For the record: I have seen Three Mo twice, though not the Puma edition, yet. It was a delicious mix of music and one of the better variations on the tres tenors theme out there.)
Note: This post originally said Three Mo Tenors was a Broadway show, due to the initial information I received. I since learned it is Off Broadway, which is still great, and modified the post to reflect that.