Category Archives: Musical Theatre

Senior recital

My three seniors have now completed their senior recital. Two of them are off to college soon.

Sydney Jones, Jett Blackorby, and Maria Knasel had a good day Sunday.  Our recital featured solo songs, duets, and trios. I’m deeply in awe of these three, and going to miss their banter and fun.

And that same evening I caught two of these students in Footloose at the Muny!

TBT: Rehearsal photo

July 1986. I was 25 years old.

The show was Where’s Charley? by Frank Loesser. I was playing Sir Frances Chesney, with Erica Gulick as my opposite number.

A rehearsal shot:

The production was directed by a local school teacher. My student Terry Murphy was Charley. I was also music director. The producer was Kansas City Parks and Recreation. And that’s about all I remember.

Fan boy

I must admit to a fan-boy moment on Thursday.

Here’s the set-up: I was at the table in the audition room, thirty minutes prior to auditions starting at the International Thespian Festival in Lincoln.  This 60-something man asked me what the wi-fi code was.  He looked vaguely familiar.

My boss, Peter, turned around a minute later and said “You know who that is, don’t you?”

Turns out he was Robert Westenberg, Tony Award-nominated actor who originated the role of Cinderella’s Prince and the Wolf in Sondheim’s Into the Woods, and the role of Dr. Craven in The Secret Garden.

See, these are two of my down albums for a desert island.  I grew up as a musical theatre artist listening to this guy’s voice.

And there he was all day, sitting 15 feet away from me in the audition room.

He is now professor of theatre at Missouri State University, where he directs the musical theatre program.

I finally spoke to him in the afternoon.  He’s a sweet and kind man.

And I’m still fan-boying a bit.

 

 

And thus . . .

And thus begins a few weeks of reduced pace.  I return to full-time work at the office on August 1.

Meanwhile, there are miles to go — to Lincoln, to NYC, to Washington, D.C., to my hometown, to Meramec Caverns, to Ste. Genevieve.

And there is food to prepare and share, and shows to see — in NYC, at the Muny, at Ozark Actors Theatre, at the circus.

And gardens to tend.  And books to read.  And hours to sleep.

And a senior recital to present.  And always voice lessons to teach.

May summer commence!!  (To be exact, at 10.54 a.m. CDT today!!!)

Be More Chill

New Line Theatre is closing the current season with Be More Chill in a pre-Broadway version.

I attended Saturday evening.  While the rest of the run is sold out, some educator tickets and student tickets may be available each of the remaining evenings over the next two weekends.

I’ve been attending New Line shows for many seasons now, and I was employed by the company as Resident Music Director for three seasons.  My music-directing majors from Webster University have been involved for the last three years as well. (That’s the full disclosure.)

This production of Be More Chill is New Line’s finest work in some time.  The show feels organic, complete, totally satisfying, with acting and singing that are uniformly strong.  Mike Dowdy-Windsor and Scott Miller pulled together a stand-out, believable cast full of age-appropriate types with pipes and the ability to make the characters zip off the page.

The show is subversive in some ways, starting out with apparent stock characters who then become increasingly complex.  And the big moments are delivered in song, which I love indeed. One standout moment — gripping and haunting and lingering in my mind today — occurs early in the second act, when the sidekick to the lead comes face-to-face with his own reality, delivered in the tear-jerking “Michael in the bathroom.”  Kevin Corpuz has never had a better moment on stage.

Jayde Mitchell engagingly carries the show.  He has an appealing stage presence and a sweet voice that, after a few early moments of squishy intonation, locked right in.  His angst, his change in character, his moral dilemma — all carried the punch they needed to make this show work.

I was talking with Scott Miller after the curtain, and commented on how organic this show’s humor is.  He noted that the show is not funny intentionally, but that the humor derives from the all-too-natural human situation.  As I’ve commented before, Scott is brilliant at directing shows where normal people do abnormal things.

Nic Valdez, Webster BM in Music Directing for Musical Theatre ’19, is the music director.  The ensemble was rock solid, and the few choral moments were glorious.  The show was tight, with nary a slip of diction or a misplaced release.  Leading the whole production from the keyboard is Webster senior Marc Vincent, who with this show is making his first big outing leading the band while playing the show. His fingers barely leave the keyboard, and he’s brilliant.  I was one proud teacher Saturday evening.

Other reviews, this time by professionals: