NKU theatre grad performing at the Aronoff

Theatre students and aspiring Broadway stars are always told how tough the business is. But for the persistent few that get out of Highland Heights and into the bustling streets of New York City, it just might happen; just like it did for Northern Kentucky University graduate Sarah Peak.

Peak, who graduated in 2006 with a musical theatre degree, is returning to Cincinnati to perform with the touring production of “Shrek The Musical” at the Aronoff Center.

“I’m so thankful to be working in something that I went to college for … so thankful to be performing,” Peak said.

After graduation, Peak moved to New York City to pursue an acting career. She was able to get a side job and was “pretty successful” in finding acting jobs in both regional and children’s theaters. After only about six months of auditions, Peak began touring in the first production of the musical “The Wedding Singer.”

Upon returning to The Big Apple, Peak found truth to the statements about not finding jobs and hearing hundreds of “no’s” before one “yes” because of the struggling economy.

She was working as a nanny when she booked a job with the touring production of “Shrek The Musical.” “Shrek” is based on the story and characters from William Steig’s book “Shrek!”, as well as the Dreamworks animation film “Shrek”.

Peak has been touring with “Shrek” for almost a year and she loves it. In the production, Peak is a member of the ensemble, so there is a lot of singing and dancing for her. She also plays one of the fairy tale creatures, The Ugly Duckling, as well as teen Princess Fiona for one number.

“It’s fun, I get to sing a pretty song and dress up like a princess,” Peak said about playing Fiona.

Because of the transition from cartoon to stage, the cast has to undergo serious makeup application for every performance, and they are always quick changes. Peak, for example, has four major costume changes in the first 40 minutes of the show.

When rehearsals first began, Peak and the cast thought the makeup transitions would be crazy, but after almost a year they seem to have the routine down. The cast and makeup and costume crew have choreographed motions to get them out of one costume and into another in the shortest amount of time.

Today, after being out of NKU for five years, Peak said her time in the theatre department was a great experience. She credits the students she graduated with as “a strong factor in what made my experience so great.”

Through her experiences in New York City, Peak has learned a lot; and she gives the same advice that she lives by to aspiring Broadway stars, which is to be persistent. “Persistence is the most important thing,” Peak said. “Hang in there, because once you get the job, it’s worth it.”

The teachers were also helpful in teaching Peak everything she needed to know about moving to the Big Apple and making it.

“Ken Jones really helped me a lot,” she said. “He is a terrific addition to the NKU campus in general.”

Ken Jones, chair of the Department of Theatre and Dance, knew from the beginning that Peak was going to be successful. “She was one of the best we ever had,” he said.

Jones described Peak as hilarious, “smart as a whip,” and also said she was “probably the best dancer to come through NKU.”

Since graduation, Jones has invited Peak back to campus multiple times to choreograph some of NKU’s musicals. Most recently, Peak choreographed half of the spring 2010 production of “Bye Bye Birdie.” Peak won a Cincinnati Acclaim Award for her work in the musical.

The entire Department of Theatre and Dance plans on seeing Peak in the upcoming production of “Shrek The Musical.”

The show will be at the Aronoff Center in Cincinnati from April 12 through 24. Tickets range in price from $22.50 to $66.50 and can be purchased online at http://www.BroadwayAcrossAmerica.com, or in person at the Broadway in Cincinnati box office or the Aronoff Center box office.

Story by Claire Higgins