From Curtain Call to Curtain Rise: Behind-the-Scenes at the Musical Theater Center

From Curtain Call to Curtain Rise: Behind-the-Scenes at the Musical Theater Center

Unveiling the Theatrical Magic

As the house lights dim and the curtain rises, the audience is transported into a world of song, dance, and captivating storytelling. But what lies beyond the enchanting performance on stage? Join me as I take you on a behind-the-scenes journey at the Musical Theater Center, where the true magic of theater comes to life.

The Beating Heart of the Stage

Just like the kickoff at a Friday night football game or the last dance at prom, the curtain call is a definitive ritual for countless students in our community. Every year, hundreds of local students pour their hearts into high-caliber musical theater productions, proving that northern Michigan is a hotbed for theatrical talent.

At the Musical Theater Center, we recognize the immense popularity of this art form. In fact, it’s not uncommon for a single musical production to involve more students than an entire sports team. “Twenty percent of the student body,” shares Maureen DeYoung, our resident Producer. “That’s how many kids participate in the annual musical at our center. We typically average 50-60 students in some aspect of the show, between cast and crew.”

This level of involvement is crucial to our success. “To succeed, we need a lot of students to say yes to a part, either on stage or behind the scenes,” explains Cathy Nelson, our Director of Marketing and Communications. “The popularity of musical theater allows us to punch above our weight in terms of the shows we can perform and the caliber of performances we can achieve.”

Selecting the Curtain-Raisers

Choosing the right musicals to produce is no easy feat. Our team carefully considers a variety of factors, from challenging our students to learn and grow as performers, to showcasing their diverse talents, to ensuring that our limited performance spaces can accommodate the production.

“We try to make sure we are introducing students to a variety of genres and styles over their years of participation,” says Erich Wangeman, our Director of Choirs. “The real fun of choosing musicals is making sure that we are selecting titles that have a wide range so that students get to explore different styles.”

This year’s lineup at the Musical Theater Center is a prime example of that dedication to diversity. From the rock-based music and large-scale production of Jesus Christ Superstar, to the absurdist musical Promenade, to the golden age classic An American in Paris, our students are immersed in a rich tapestry of theatrical experiences.

Of course, audience appeal is also a crucial consideration. “Most folks don’t realize that producing a musical is a costly endeavor,” Wangeman explains. “The sale of tickets has to cover all overhead costs, from rights and royalties to set construction and costuming. Higher-performing shows mean extra profits that can be used to help support curricular needs throughout the music department.”

Shining the Spotlight on Student Stars

While the audience may marvel at the polished performances they witness on stage, the true stars of the show are the students themselves. For many of them, the path to professional success in musical theater is paved with immense dedication and challenge.

“According to Bill Church, our Director of Theater, students interested in pursuing that path almost always need to advance to college musical theater degree programs, which are extremely competitive,” I share. “For many of the top schools for musical theater, the acceptance rates are less than 1 percent. They are as competitive, if not more competitive, than Ivy League academic schools.”

Despite these overwhelming odds, the Musical Theater Center has an impressive track record of churning out professionals in the musical theater field. Our alumni include the likes of Anthony Rapp, Emily Koch, Sydney James Harcourt, Michael Arden, and Tom Kitt – all of whom have gone on to achieve remarkable success on Broadway and beyond.

The Curtain Rises on the Future

As I reflect on the rich history and bright future of the Musical Theater Center, I can’t help but feel a sense of awe and excitement. This place is not just a hub for artistic expression; it’s a springboard for young dreamers to launch their careers, a beacon of community pride, and a testament to the power of the performing arts.

Whether you’re a seasoned theater enthusiast or a newcomer to the world of musical theater, I invite you to join us as we continue to push the boundaries of what’s possible on stage. From the moment the curtain rises to the final curtain call, the magic of the Musical Theater Center will captivate your heart and soul. So, let’s raise the curtain and witness the extraordinary unfold before our very eyes.

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