No class? No problem.
LSU dropped its music theater class, but that hasn’t stopped the students who want to perform. Now they take to the stage as members of the Musical Theatre Club at LSU.
“The response has been amazing,” says Curran Latas, club president and one of three directors of the club’s “Singo de Mayo” on April 30. “No one is getting class credit for this performance, yet they’re still coming.”
The class was part of the LSU School of Music, and for 13 years, staged its popular “Singo de Mayo” at the end of the spring semester.
When the class was canceled, students immediately put their efforts into beefing up the club, which was formed in 2014 as an offshoot of the class. Terry Patrick-Harris, artist-in-residence for voice in the School of Music, taught the class and is now the club’s faculty sponsor.
“The club attracts the same mix of students as the class,” Patrick-Harris says. “We have students who come from all disciplines across campus. And with the club, we have more flexibility to let alumni perform with us. We even have a student in the LSU Law School who’s a part of the club.”
And the show will go on with 26 musical numbers in a program titled, “Singo: Past, Present and Future.”
“This is our 14th year, and we wanted to look at this timeline,” Patrick-Harris says. “We’ll be inviting alumni to help us close out the first half of the show, which will be us looking at the past. Then, we’ll look at the future of musical theater at the end of the second half when we perform some songs from ‘Hamilton.’”
“Hamilton” is the current Pulitzer Prize-winning Broadway hit, which saved the Founding Father from being kicked off the $10 bill.
“That’s the power of popular opinion,” says Patrick-Harris, who is also directing along with Brittany Spencer. “The kids are so excited about performing the songs from that show.”
The club will also look at the present by performing songs from musicals with no Broadway credentials yet strong followings, such as “A Very Potter Musical,” which was written by a group of college kids and can be seen on YouTube.
From the Off-Broadway hit “Heathers the Musical” comes the crassly hilarious “Candy Store,” and numbers from such musicals as “Spamalot,” “The Producers,” “The Lion King,” “Waitress,” “Grease,” “Next to Normal” and “Chicago” will be interspersed throughout “Singo de Mayo.”
The show may help younger audience members become more familiar with Rodgers and Hammerstein, while the older set may get an introduction to such newer musicals as “35 mm,” based on a series of photographs.
“This really is a show where there’s something for everybody,” Latas says. “And the greatest part is that it’s all student-driven. The costumes are done by students, and our four choreographers, Tony Collins, Alix Achee, Alex Gulino and Colbi Landry, are students.”
But there has been a little help along the way. The club received a grant from the LSU Union Theatre, which helps with production costs and provides a performance space.
“The only stipulation was that we don’t charge admission,” Patrick-Harris says. “So, ‘Singo de Mayo’ is free.”
The club also has received support from Theatre Baton Rouge. “(Artistic Director) Jenny Ballard has been so great in helping us,” Latas says. “She’s always there for anything we need.”
Local musician, composer and producer Brian Breen arranged the orchestration for the show and also will be conducting the accompanying band, which didn’t rehearse with the singers and dancers until last Sunday.
Before that, students rehearsed with a pianist and soundtracks in LSU’s Old Band Hall and in rehearsal rooms in the LSU Music and Dramatic Arts Building.
“That’s been the only drawback to not having a class,” Patrick-Harris says. “With a class, we had a set rehearsal time.”
The students didn’t let that stop them. “Everyone has a different schedule, but we made it work,” Latas says. “We were able to coordinate it around everyone’s schedule. We have between 50 and 55 in this show, which is a large group. We welcome anyone who is interested in musical theater at LSU to join us.”