Professor Pawk is ‘Genie’ in Broadway’s ‘Beautiful’

Michele Pawk

Michele Pawk, a Wagner College Theatre professor and Tony Award-winning actress, began playing the role of Genie Klein, Carole King’s mother, in the Broadway production of “Beautiful” on April 2.

Pawk was hired for the role by “Beautiful” producer Paul Blake, former long-time executive producer at The Muny in St. Louis, the country’s oldest and largest outdoor theater.

“I’d worked for him twice before,” Pawk said, but noted that nothing really prepares you for joining a high-profile, highly successful show that is already in its sixth year on Broadway.

“It was terrifying, like jumping onto a moving freight train,” Pawk said. Fortunately, “the actors I’m working with are sensational.”

Pawk was asked to play the role of Genie through the summer — provided she could start this month, several weeks before the end of the semester at Wagner College.

“They’ve been wonderful,” Pawk said. “They told me, ‘We’ll work around your teaching schedule,’ and they have. They’re ‘dark’ on Mondays — which is my heavy teaching day. And I can’t do the Wednesday matinee until after commencement — but they’ve worked it out, just like they said they would.”

Since debuting on Broadway in 1988, Michele Pawk has been nominated four times for Drama Desk outstanding actress awards, winning the 2003 Tony for best featured actress in “Hollywood Arms.”

After joining the Wagner College Theatre faculty in 2010, she immediately put her Broadway experience to work as the director of WCT’s “Seussical.” Ten years earlier, Pawk had originated the role of Mayzie LaBird in the show’s Broadway version.

Pawk has continued directing for the Wagner College Theatre — “Merrily We Roll Along,” “Rent,” “Little Shop Of Horrors” — while also teaching classroom courses like Acting V, Directing I and History of the American Film.

And, in her “spare time,” she continues to perform on the professional stage. In 2011, for instance, Pawk played in the highly acclaimed Playwrights Horizon production of Adam Bock’s “A Small Fire,” which earned one of her Drama Desk nominations.

“It makes me a better teacher, in a way,” Pawk says. “I have to go out and practice what I preach.”

Thanks to the Staten Island Advance for the feature photo used for this story, which first appeared on the cover of the Oct. 7, 2010 issue of the Advance Weekly Entertainment section.

Michele Pawk (courtesy Staten Island Advance)