Broadway Veteran Returns to Direct Musical

Brittney Osborn


Broadway Veteran Returns to Direct Musical

By Audrey Poff, Photography by Melissa Donner

For more than 25 years, New York native Joe Langworth has made a career in theater. From his start performing in “A Chorus Line” on Broadway to casting productions and directing new works and classics alike, his passion for the transcendent power of theater is palpable.

Langworth, who returned to Jonesboro in February to direct The Link Theatre’s upcoming production of “Into the Woods,” is also becoming a familiar face in Jonesboro. His recent return marks Langworth’s third time to direct a production for The Link, overseeing each production from casting calls to performances. He previously directed “She Loves Me” for The Link and, most recently, “You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown.”

In addition to “A Chorus Line,” Langworth’s appearances on Broadway as a performer include “Follies” and “Ragtime.” He has also served as the associate director on Broadway’s “Next Fall” and as the associate choreographer for the Lincoln Center revival of “South Pacific.”

The Link Theatre Company in Jonesboro was founded by Broadway couple Matt Cavenaugh, a Jonesboro native, and Jenny Powers. Cavenaugh and Langworth performed together on “The Thoroughly Modern Millie” tour. Powers knew Langworth’s husband through her preparation for Miss America, and the four eventually became friends.

Langworth said he first came to Jonesboro to attend The Link’s first production, “The Fantastiks,” and to support his friends.
Following the first show in March 2020, Langworth said he offered his assistance.

“When I came down to see ‘The Fantastiks,’ I congratulated them, told them I was proud of them and said, ‘I want to help you, so let me know when you need me,’” said Langworth.

Later, he would return to Jonesboro to direct three of The Link’s productions.

“I take pride in the work I do, but then because of my friendship with the two of them, it matters even more because I want to do a good job for them, as well,” he said.

The Link draws the finest Broadway, university and local talent to bring innovative plays and musicals to Northeast Arkansas.

As for The Link’s mission, Langworth says he is impressed with how well the three elements of professional, university and community talent have been able to work together.

“I stated the mission to our company in the beginning and was thrilled to see it actually work for everyone in different ways,” said Langworth. “For the students, they’re working with professional people, and that’s going to raise the bar and challenge them. For the professionals, they get to feel appreciated and to be able to create in a safe place and share what they know, and that is awesome. For the actors from the community, it inspires them to up their game and tap into parts of themselves that maybe they didn’t even realize they're capable of ... that’s a big reason why I come back.”

Although no one in his family was in theater, Langworth describes one of his sisters as musical and credits her for inspiring him, along with his father, who took the family to theater productions.

“My dad worked in the city for, at the time, New York Telephone, and he would take us in to see shows,” said Langworth. “I knew of theater. I loved theater. I also was aware of how difficult it was, so I wasn’t sure. I knew it was my passion. It was always my passion since the first thing I ever did in community theater with schools, which was in kindergarten.

“I just wasn’t sure whether I could make a living doing it, so I got the backup and majored in communications and public relations, but I minored in theater and dance,” he said. “I got out of college, finished my degree and was temping. I picked up a Backstage newspaper … and there was a European tour of ‘West Side Story’ and they were looking for one more person to play one of the Jets and understudy the role of Tony. So, I went in and got it and I was six months in Europe, and then my career just kept going.”

Langworth says he is drawn to the beginning, middle and end of a story and fleshing out all the details that take the audience from one point to another.

“It isn’t always the path that we think we’re going to go on, and we're really seeing that now with ‘Into the Woods,’” he said. “Even with these characters, a lot of times what they think they want ends up being ill-fitting to them once they get it. I think we all that experience that to a point.”

As for what Cavenaugh and Powers have done with The Link Theatre Company, Langworth says he is proud of what they have accomplished.

“I think they are doing great work, and what’s awesome, as well, is they’re creating community,” said Langworth. “Clearly community exists here, but it’s creating a new community for people who want to do this crazy thing that we do and use their personal experiences to tell stories that will potentially reach and resonate with people and to inspire people. It’s cool, and I really enjoy being a part of the mentoring process, as well.”

During the early part of his career, Langworth said he made career moves that would be beneficial to him in what he hoped his trajectory to be.

“Now, how I choose my work is more about how I am going to resonate in the situations that I’m in,” he said. “How am I going to have a positive effect on the people around me? I’ve taught – I have spent some time in academia, so that’s another thing I love about being here. … I feel like I can take everything I know that I’ve spent decades acquiring and make a positive ripple effect with it.

“The teachers here are doing incredible jobs, but they can’t create professional environments. It’s not what you’re doing in academia. You can try to inform your students on what those expectations will be. I come in knowing the pace in a two-week rehearsal process, and what I expect you to do and when I expect you to do it by, and if I have to tell you something twice you may get a look because I don’t have time to teach things twice. So as soon as the actors started seeing that, from me, first I saw the shock, then I saw them processing it. Then, I saw the adjustments, and then I saw the growth. It was really cool.”

Although rehearsals are condensed into two and a half weeks, Langworth says a large part of directing is in the preparation.

“I work for months on the script and the score alongside the creative team, … just coming up with the vision of the show and who is going to do what,” he said. “What we will always strive to do as long as I’m here is tell good stories and tell them with imagination and tell them with humanity. That’s always what we’re going to strive to do. And I think that is the unique power of theater – that it has a way of reaching people that are together in a room having a shared experience in a different way than being home and watching television, which is great, and I love, … but there is something really unique about being in a room with people and feeling the effect of the work in the space.”

Cavenaugh says Langworth has been an integral part of The Link Theatre Company’s success.

“Joe is an invaluable asset to The Link Theatre and to the artistic community in Jonesboro,” he said. “He brings a wealth of experience as an actor, dancer, casting director, educator, choreographer and director. Joe enters the rehearsal process very prepared, which is essential since each Link production only rehearses for two weeks before we welcome an audience.

“Yet, even though the process is quick, Joe allows space and time for each actor to play and find their own unique way of telling their story within his vision. Joe has also taught Elevate, our theater training session for junior high and high school artists. Every actor has left those sessions more confident in themselves and yearning for the next opportunity to play in a creative sandbox.”

Broadway and television veteran Jenny Powers will star as The Witch in the upcoming production, and Kevin Clay from “The Book of Mormon” will star as The Baker. Powers starred on Broadway as Rizzo in Kathleen Marshall’s Tony Award-nominated “Grease,” and as Meg in “Little Women.” Powers also performed the role of Miriam Rothberg in the critically-acclaimed Hulu series, “Fleishman Is in Trouble.”

Clay is currently starring as Elder Price in Broadway’s Tony Award-winning production of “The Book of Mormon,” a journey spanning eight years having played on Broadway and in both the U.S. and U.K. tours.

The limited engagement of “Into the Woods” will take place March 7-10 at the Fowler Center on the campus of Arkansas State University. Evening performances are Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. with matinee performances on Saturday at 2 p.m. and Sunday at 2:30 p.m.

Tickets start at $35 and can be purchased by visiting or by calling the A-State Box Office at (870) 972-2781.



Broadway Veteran Returns to Direct Musical