The last few years, looking for musical theatre at the Center for Theatre Arts (CTA) has been like looking for a sober senior on slope day. Even last spring’s quasi-musical The Coconuts was billed as a straight show. The student-run groups Brand X and The Savoyards have been the only access to musical theatre on this campus. Until now. A new group at CTA has been started by Peggy Powers ’03 to bring this form of theatre back to the department. This Friday, the group is presenting their “Musical Theatre Project” to demonstrate the CTA’s talent potential for this kind of show.
Powers is a member of the season planning committee at CTA. The group has met recently to discuss the 2002-2003 season. She advocated that a musical should be up for contention. The CTA wasn’t ready to take that plunge yet, but they allowed her to have a concert reading to assess the musical talent on campus. Powers teamed with Beth Milles, a CTA professor who is directing the upcoming One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Over the last few weeks, they’ve put together a musical theatre review that will workshop certain songs in an informal concert.
Milles, herself a Cornell graduate, is aware of the rift between the student-run theatre groups on campus and the CTA. “That’s part of what this project was about. We wanted to bridge that gap, and create a chance for people who want to create music in this department.” They both noted that after that, people started to come out of the woodwork. “The support we’ve gotten has been phenomenal. We’ve gotten talent from … both in and out of the CTA. It is great to hear music in this building.”
Putting on a musical is a gargantuan task. Powers noted, “musicals above all types of theatre require the most resources.” CTA has the funds and connections to provide such resources, where student groups have to appeal to the SAFC. However, the department isn’t ready to add a musical to their 2002-2003 season just yet. If things go well with this concert, Powers’ group would like to have a concert reading of an actual musical in the spring, with the help of the New Living Voices group. After that, the season selection committee could very well include a musical in next year’s season.
The form isn’t new to CTA, it just hasn’t been done in a few years. Several years ago, the CTA produced Cabaret, as well as a performance of West Side Story in the 1980’s. Powers is intent that it is time again. “It is one of the theatrical forms that is unique to this country,” she says. The major concern of CTA was that there wouldn’t be enough people to put on a musical, and not enough people who would be interested in seeing it. Powers and Milles beg to differ. “The spirit has been great. The department was worried people wouldn’t show up, and one thing that amazed me was how much time people were willing to give,” added Milles.
The cast of thirteen will sing selections from Sweeney Todd, The Music Man, and Candide, as well as the “killer” Cell Block Tango from Chicago. Powers consciously chose difficult pieces, many in quartet style with complicated harmonies. More than anything, she chose pieces that show variety. The staff includes Jared Johnson ’03 as the musical director, Eben Seaman as the pianist, and Rob Shapiro ’04 as the Stage Manager.
Powers noted, “what’s funny is that most of the people who do theatre here started in musical theatre. Secretly, we all harbor this passion for the art form.” So if you too harbor this secret passion, come check it out at the Black Box Theatre tomorrow at 5:00. Admission is free.
Archived article by Daniel Fischer