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‘Catalyst Sessions’ recap: Ephraim Sykes

Bill DeYoung



The great Angela Bassett might take exception, but it’s the opinion of The Catalyst Sessions that Ephraim Sykes will soon be the most famous St. Petersburg native in entertainment history.

Sykes was our guest on the 100th edition Thursday.

A graduate of the Pinellas County Center for the Arts, Sykes will star on Broadway in 2021 as Michael Jackson in MJ The Musical, with book by two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner Lynn Nottage. The show would be in full swing right now if Covid hadn’t shut theater down for a good long while.

This follows his Tony-nominated turn as Motown icon David Ruffin in Ain’t Too Proud: The Temptations Musical, with book by Dominique Morriseau. In a show packed with scene-stealing performances, Ephraim Sykes was the guy everyone talked about after they witnessed it.

Oh, and Sykes was in the original Broadway cast of Hamilton, as George Eacker; you can see him in the video version on Disney +. And he was in NBC’s Hairspray Live! as Seaweed J. Stubbs, the love intertest for Ariana Grande’s character. He was on Broadway in Newsies, Motown the Musical and The Little Mermaid.

How talented is he? Look up the expression “triple threat” in the dictionary and you’ll see his picture.

Sykes gave generous shout-outs to Suzanne Pomerantzeff and Patricia Paige of the PCCA dance program. “They taught me a lot about discipline,” he told us. “They taught me a lot about hard work. They taught me a lot about how to stay open, as well. To of course let dance be my focus, my main priority, but they were always encouraging me to study inter-disciplinary.

“That’s something else that PCCA does really well – they encourage their students to focus not only on their main craft, but also expose yourself and share and meet, and do the things as artists, things that I found made my career … by being able to be open to, communicate with and learn all the other disciplines.”

In the interview, Sykes talks about his time with the Ailey II company, the lengthy development of Hamilton, the rigors of being David Ruffin, eight shows a week for two years, and his ongoing preparation – both physical and mental – for MJ The Musical.

Copeland (left) and Block

Today on The Catalyst Sessions: Musicians Ken Block and Andrew Copeland from the band Sister Hazel; they’ll be performing as part of the Ruth Eckerd Hall lobby cabaret series Sept. 3-6.

Streaming weekdays at 7 p.m. on the Catalyst Facebook page. All episodes are archived on our YouTube page.


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1 Comment

1 Comment

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    S. Smith-Hayes

    August 21, 2020at6:32 pm

    Thank you for spotlighting a positive image of Americans of African descent that are young and doing positive things.

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