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'Dreamgirls' star Sheryl Lee Ralph returns to Uniondale High School
While promoting her book, “Redefining Diva Life: Lessons From the Original Dreamgirl,” actress and singer Sheryl Lee Ralph learned from a New York TV reporter that her alma mater’s show choir won a national competition at Lincoln Center in March.
Ralph, 56, a 1972 Uniondale High School graduate, immediately knew she had to visit the school and congratulate the Rhythm of the Knight show choir face to face.
Standing center stage Thursday in the auditorium talking to the students after they performed for her, Ralph admitted the experience was an “a-ha” moment.
“Being back here is amazing,” Ralph said. “It’s strange to stand in the same places that you stood when you were younger. I stand here thinking about all the times I sat in those seats in the auditorium listening to speakers wondering, ‘What I am going to do with my life?’ and now I am here today talking to the students about what they can do with their life.”
Ralph, a film and television star who was nominated for a Tony in 1982 for her role as Deena Jones in “Dreamgirls,” was impressed with the song and dance medley from the 52-member show choir. They performed songs from “Dreamgirls,” as well as James Brown favorites.
Uniondale High School Choir Director Lynnette Carr-Hicks was elated to meet her.
“Sheryl Lee Ralph is a Tony-nominated actress and for her to acknowledge us is unbelievable. I read ‘Redefining Diva’ and I loved it,” said Carr-Hicks.
Uniondale High School Choir President Cary Lamb, 16, echoed her teacher’s excitement.
“She is an iconic person and to have Sheryl Lee Ralph come here and watch us is an honor,” Lamb said of Ralph, who still has family in West Hempstead. She now splits time between Philadelphia and Los Angeles and is married to Pennsylvania State Sen. Vincent Hughes.
During a conversation in the auditorium following the show choir’s performance, Ralph shared some personal experiences in show business.
“I got my first job after graduating from Rutgers University in a Skippy peanut butter commercial. I made $12,000,” she said.
Taking a walk down memory lane, Ralph remembered playing violin at Uniondale and fondly recalled her performance in the school musical “Oklahoma.”
“I couldn’t do a thing with it now,” said Ralph, “but I still remember playing it.”