Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A Taste of Broadway in Frederick

 Photos provided by Hood College Student Musical Theatre.

     The Hood College Student Musical Theatre group will present Broadway 101, a spring cabaret featuring student performances, tomorrow at 8pm and on Friday, 7 and 10pm in Hodson Auditorium in Rosenstock Hall.  The show will include some of the most popular acts from the most popular Broadway musical productions to ever hit that that famous NYC street.  Because this show brings together three of my favorite things (musicals, student productions, and local theatre) I recently sat down with three of the production staff members to get the scoop on what it's all about.
     Co-director Ashley Birdsell said that the show will include singing and dancing from Chicago, Rent, Les Miserables, The Producers, Phantom of the Opera, Avenue Q and more.
     “The reason we pick the songs is because we really want to appeal to the audience and what they want to see, and provide them with a basic understanding of Broadway and provide them with the best of each (musical),” she said.
     Assistant director Zachery Roberson told me that this particular theatre group is an entirely student-run organization and decided to put on productions as a response to a lack of a formal musical theatre program at the college, but that they do have the full support of both the theatre and music departments, as well as the student life office. 
     "We’re hoping that by the start of this we can show interest in the program and in the future it will lead to bigger productions or larger involvement,” he said.

     Ashley said that their first performance as a group last semester sold out their small 70-seat venue, and that she is really excited to have an auditorium with 400-plus seats this time.
     Billy Lewis, co-director, said “The exact words that I want out of every audience member are ‘Wow, that show is amazing, I want to go see a full-scale musical by these same people.’”
     Ashley said she believes that musical theatre is an important form of artistic expression because it represents the culture in which it was created and every element is chosen for a precise reason.
     “I think it’s a cultural phenomenon that says a lot about a culture itself and musical theatre has really evolved over the eras and really shown the progress of politics and worldviews and really everything else that’s going on in the world,” she said.  “Obviously it’s a form of entertainment, but it’s a form of commentary and it’s even an educational tool.”
     Zach says that the really important reason for doing these shows is the way in which they can bring people together.
     “If you take the musical theatre factor out of our group, we are really quite an eclectic group of people, ranging in different things that we’re involved in, and so musical theatre definitely is important because it’s one way to bring people together and find that commonality element and really use it to our advantage,” he said.
     Billy said, “It’s the expressing yourself that I personally love about musical theatre.  I love the way they express themselves through song.”

     Zach said that he hopes to dispel certain popular myths about male involvement in musical theatre.  “You do have a fun time up there and you aren’t performing these flamboyant dance numbers that you might see from the 1930s and the 1940s, but we’re doing more modern things as well as acknowledging the oldies as well.  We have a wide array,” he said.
     When I asked Ashley how she hopes the audience will respond to her show, she said, “I hope first and foremost they’re going to appreciate live theatre and everything that goes into it, and you know the mishaps that happen on stage and all the magical moments that happen on stage.  I really hope they take away a good, solid down and dirty run-through of musical theatre and all the different varieties and things it has to offer and realize it isn’t all sparkly dances.  It’s humour and it’s sadness and it’s really deep things and it’s really moving things.  I just hope they have a good time.  I hope they are really entertained.”
     These students really interest me because they remind me of my days doing youth Shakespeare.  I see that same spark in their eyes for wanting to test the limits of their abilities as young adults with minimal resources while trying to leave a lasting impression on their world.  I didn't have a chance to watch their rehearsal, but if their talent is anything like their passion, I can't imagine that a professional Broadway troupe could put on a better show than what will take place in our own community in the next two nights.

For more information about the group or the show, visit the group's web site at


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