“Charming: A Tale of an American Prince” comes to Houston for one night only.
by Donalevan Maines
Photo by DC Anderson
Dreams really do come true in Charming: A Tale of an American Prince, a one-man cabaret show that out Broadway performer Bret Shuford, a Houston native, created about choosing joy while embracing reality. “It has a lot of Disney music you would expect a prince to sing,” he says, “but there’s also a song by Prince, the artist.” In addition, Shuford sings music by Rascal Flatts, Stephen Sondheim, Richard Rodgers, Elton John, and contemporary Broadway favorites Jason Robert Brown (The Bridges of Madison County) and Steven Lutvak (A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder), among others.
When Shuford booked Charming this month in Orlando, Florida, home of Disney World, he figured that as long as he was in the neighborhood, why not add a Houston show at Ovations? “It’s the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, so I’ll stay and get to be with my family at Thanksgiving,” he says.
Shuford, who lives in Manhattan’s East Village, visited Houston last month to be best man at his twin brother’s wedding. “My brothers picked sports: basketball, football, soccer, hunting—all the things that Texas boys do,” says Shuford. “I liked to sing and dance, and I loved doing musicals.” Growing up in Beaumont, through graduation from West Orange Stark High School in 1997, Shuford says, “I was in shows at all of the community theaters. If it was within a 30-mile radius, I was in it.”
He also studied at Chris Wilson’s Studio for Actors that was in Bellaire, which is where a teacher pointed him to Wagner College in New York City.
Shuford stuck around Broadway after college, debuting in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, then taking roles in Beauty and the Beast and The Little Mermaid. He also toured in South Pacific and The Sound of Music, and played a Rothschild broker in the movie The Wolf of Wall Street.
Last year, he was accepted into the Eugene O’Neill Center Cabaret Conference, where Donna McKechnie (a Tony Award winner as Cassie in A Chorus Line) and others inspired Shuford to create Charming. “All we did for 11 days was wake up, eat, sing, eat, sing, eat, watch people sing, drink, and sing,” he says.
Charming begins with Shuford telling the audience, “Once upon a time, far, far away, in a magical kingdom called Texas.”
“It’s about a young, idealistic prince who goes on a journey,” he explains. “It’s about finding your own kingdom.”
The show bowed last November in New York, where Shuford performed it again in August at Don’t Tell Mama. Other cities on his dance card this fall include Los Angeles and Laguna Beach, California.
As for Shuford’s personal journey, he found his prince in the form of Stephen Hanna, whom he married in 2011. In 2008, Hanna was Broadway’s first Older Billy in Billy Elliot the Musical. He’s featured in a pas de deux during the song “Lonely Town” in the current Broadway revival of On the Town.
What:Charming: A Tale of an American Prince
When: 8 p.m., Tuesday, November 25
Where: Ovations, 2536 Times Blvd.
Details: 713.522.9801 or e-mail [email protected]
Donalevan Maines also writes about Mass Appeal in this issue of OutSmart magazine.