Broadway Veteran Hocking to Perform at NMU

Leah Hocking

Marquette native and former Northern Michigan University student Leah Hocking has appeared in 10 Broadway shows, including Billy Elliot, Mama Mia, The Wild Party and Hairspray. She will return to her hometown to present Out of the Window, an evening of songs and remembrances about her life and career. The show is scheduled at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 28 through Friday, June 30, at NMU's Forest Roberts Theatre.

“I absolutely love Marquette and try to get back there once a year,” said Hocking, who lives in New York City but still has family in the area. “It's such a beautiful place. If I could have found a way to make a living there, as an actor, I would have stayed. I've been thinking about doing a show in Marquette for a while, but it wasn't until I met Bill Digneit, head of NMU Theatre & Dance, that it was able to come to fruition. This one was originally planned for June 2020, but COVID-19 got in the way, as it did with all performance art that year. Broadway still hasn't fully recovered from the pandemic. I think about retiring in Marquette, but then again, I don't plan on retiring ever. I love what I do.”

Hocking estimates that she performed in about 15 youth, community theater and college productions staged at NMU starting at age 13. An early highlight was playing Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. After graduating from Marquette Senior High School in 1979, she enrolled at NMU.

“We actually had an audition class that [the late Forest Roberts Theatre Director] Jim Panowski started teaching,” she said. “Then Dr. P would take us to national summer theater auditions. I got as much preparation as you could get for the real world in terms of auditioning. It was way more than other places offered. That was the era when conservatories were just starting to amp up. Now there are a lot and they are very difficult to get into.”

Despite her later career trajectory, Hocking said she only performed in one musical during her three years at Northern, in part because that time period included an internship at Milwaukee Repertory Theater. But she did appear in Northern's productions of Mother Courage and Her Children, an anti-war play by German dramatist and poet Bertolt Brecht, and The Night of the Iguana, a tale of tourists at a seedy Mexico hotel by Tennessee Williams.

“After my three years at Northern, I transferred to Ohio State University,” Hocking said. “I moved to New York City the following year, but it honestly took five years to get myself together and seriously commit to my career. Once that happened, things started going well for me. I landed my first steady off-Broadway show—Forbidden Broadway—in 1990. My first Broadway show was Guys and Dolls. I was cast in the revival in 1993, two weeks after I got married.”

Sadly, Hocking's husband died from ALS in 2010. She limited her work obligations for a period afterward to focus on raising their then-8-year-old daughter, Mabel. Her other Broadway credits over the years have included Grease, Jekyll and Hyde, The Last Ship and All Shook Up. Hocking was nominated for a Helen Hayes Award for her performance as Mrs. Wilkinson in the national tour of Billy Elliot at The Kennedy Center. She made her New York City Opera debut as Cleo in The Most Happy Fella.

“I don't have any shows coming up at the moment; things have been a little slow since the pandemic decimated theater for a year and a half,” Hocking said. “Broadway is back, but to a new normal that isn't quite at the level it was. I'm also at the age where there just aren't as many parts available. That happens to everyone; it's the nature of the business. Last summer, I played the mother in All of Me, a new play at the Barrington Stage Company. It was the first play to ever incorporate text to speech technology. The two lead actors were wheelchair users and, while they both speak, , their characters used the technology to communicate.”

Hocking's performance in All of Me earned her a Berkshire Theatre Critics Award for best supporting actress in a play. She also participates in staged readings, including a recent one for The Sustain, a new musical set in an assisted living facility where residents find new life, love and perspectives. It was developed in part with Theatre Now's Musical Writers Lab.

“My favorite thing to do is work on new plays to invent a new character,” she added.

Hocking said her three-night run at NMU will feature some songs from her past musical theater productions and others that she has never performed publicly. Her musical director is her longtime friend and former Mamma Mia musical director, Steve Marzullo. All of the technical aspects of the show are designed and executed by NMU Theatre & Dance staff.

The show contains some adult language and mild adult themes. An opening-night reception will follow the June 28 performance in the Forest Roberts Theatre lobby. Tickets are $17 for the general public; $12 for NMU faculty/staff, seniors and military; $10 for students; and $5 for NMU students. They are available at

Prepared By

Kristi Evans
News Director

Categories: Alumni, Arts and Culture