BWW Interviews: Steven G. Kennedy and Humphreys School of Musical Theatre Students Talk iTheatrics DVDs

BWW Interviews: Steven G. Kennedy and Humphreys School of Musical Theatre Students Talk iTheatrics DVDs

Humphreys School of Musical Theatre Students film
for iTheatrics on Zilkha Hall's Stage.

Earlier this Spring, Theatre Under the Stars (TUTS) and the educational musical theatre consultancy firm iTheatrics announced that students from the audition-based Humphreys School of Musical Theatre (HSMT) would be performing in four nationally distributed choreography DVDs for the Music Theatre International (MTI) Broadway Junior Collection of Musicals. The choreography DVDs are being produced by iTheatrics, and will feature original choreography by its chief choreographer, Steven G. Kennedy. Also contributing to the creative team are Shay Rogers, the Manager of Education at TUTS, who is serving as the Assistant Choreographer. Music Direction is by Lindsay Weiner Lupi, the music supervisor at iTheatrics.

These choreography DVDs can serve as a resource and are to be included in the complimentary "ShowKIT" of educational materials provided to anyone who is producing one of these shows. Both iTheatrics and the HSMT students were thrilled about this collaborative endeavor. Taking time out of their fully-packed rehearsal schedule, Steven G. Kennedy and some of the Humphreys students gave us more information about the DVDs, all of the work that goes into them, and how much fun they were having preparing for them.

BWW: Why the HMST Kids?

Steven G. Kennedy: We have a festival in Atlanta every year called the Junior Theater Festival. We have been working with TUTS and the Humphrey School for years, having met them at the festival. You know what, I don't think we met them at the festival. We were down here working with TUTS one year with the program, and we really just loved them. We loved the whole team. They later came to the festival, and we have a new work showcase where we premiere Broadway Junior titles. They did THE LITTLE MERMAID for us and some other titles, and it was just a natural fit.

There are so many talented groups here in Houston and all over the country. However, we have never actually done a DVD shoot like this where we have somebody else frontload it for us. So, for our first horse out of the gate, we decided to see how it worked with a school that we've already worked with. We already know their space, their facility, because it's not just about the kids. It's also about making sure that the facility is appropriate to film in and that the community is okay with it. So, at this point, this is amazing. We hope down the road that we can include other Houston area kids as well and make sure that it is available to a larger demographic.

BWW: The DVDs will be released nationally, right?

Steven G. Kennedy: It's national and international. We've recently had ANNIE JR. performed in South Africa. It's huge in Japan. There's also Joseph Weinberger in Australia and in the UK, and they are huge with Broadway Junior. So these Humphreys School students will be seen internationally, but yeah, there will be a national release first off.

BWW: And there will be four shows that you're doing?

Steven G. Kennedy: We are re-filming some of our old DVDs just to freshen them. About every ten to twelve years, you know, they look a little dated. We're re-filming THE MUSIC MAN JR. We're re-filming PIRATES OF PENZANCE JR. and BUGSY MALONE JR. These students are actually premiering a brand new title which is a 30 minute version of SUESSICAL KIDS, and that will be a unique and brand new experience.

BWW: Let's talk about the process for a little bit. So, you guys are rehearsing this right now. What is the process for shooting?

Steven Kennedy: So yeah, that's a great question. It's fun! Again, this is the first time we've done this. What I ended up doing is sending Shay Rogers and Mikeitta Williams the DVDs previously filmed. So, the choreography is basically the same choreography that the two of them then refreshed and improved upon and made a lot stronger, especially with this wonderful cast. So, I came out, and Shay Rogers came out and created a dance audition. She brought me a bunch of wonderful Houston kids, Humphreys School students. I came out just by myself. We auditioned them physically, gave them a great dance audition, and then they each came in with sixteen bars because the kids do sing live. All of the solos are sung live, so we had to make sure that they could do that. We cast the kids, cast an ensemble of students and then my music supervisor, Lindsay Weiner Lupi, came in with me about three weeks ago with the students again, the full casts, and auditioned roles so that Shay Rogers, Mikeitta Williams, and Jo Ellen Hubert, who is the amazing music director here and who has done an incredible job, had more to work with because there are specifics. For example, looking at the titles we know if there needs to be a changed voice or an unchanged voice, and all of those things to take into consideration. So we did that and we cast the show. Mikeitta and Shay went ahead, using all of those DVDs, and frontloaded all of the choreography. So, when Lindsay and I came in yesterday, the majority of staging was completed. I staged two numbers today which weren't previously included on the DVDs because they were fresh, so I restaged those today. It's a simple process, but there's a lot of thought put into it.

BWW: When do you guys start filming?

BWW Interviews: Steven G. Kennedy and Humphreys School of Musical Theatre Students Talk iTheatrics DVDs

Humphreys School of Musical Theatre Students film
for iTheatrics on Zilkha Hall's Stage.

Seven Kennedy: We start filming on Wednesday. The four shows will be filmed on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. We won't even need to film on Friday. (Laughs) These kids are so prepared. It's amazing. We work with kids all over the country. In fact, we worked with kids in Australia this summer. We work with kids all over, and these students are so disciplined and respectful, but they are still musical theatre kids who are just having a great time. They really respect the process. They are so on their game that it's just a delight. It's been a pleasure, and it's something kind of unusual that we don't always see. There's a great discipline. I wouldn't say a lot of times, but sometimes that discipline is mistaken for them not having fun, and that's the combination that I see here. There is a complete discipline for the arts. You work hard, but that's where the fun is. That's the joy of it. So, I am thrilled. It's been an amazing rehearsal process.

BWW: About how often do you find yourself filming these DVDs?

Steven Kennedy: One of the reasons we found ourselves filming in the spring, and the necessity of using the Humphreys School and TUTS is that our New York schools are inservice 100% of the time. Even during Spring Break, they are still working. We do use students to pilot some shows throughout the year, but it's more on weekends. So, we film only in the summertime. This summer we are filming ten choreography DVDs. Again, what we are essentially doing here is re-filming what we call our legacy shows, our shows that have been in the market for quite some time. We just couldn't film fourteen titles, so that's where we came up with the idea. In the summertime, we film with kids all over the country. Again, we audition at our Junior Theater Festival, and this year we have over 100 kids from all over the country coming to New York to film these 10 DVDs. It just seemed natural to use this Spring Break in Houston. We decided to try something new to see that we could spread the wealth and make sure that kids who can't necessarily travel to New York still had that opportunity. That's our goal. You don't necessarily have to spend a lot of money to get to New York. We can come to you, and we can make it work. You know, that's what we're hoping to do with this initiative. We wanted to see how it works, and it's been working beautifully.

Following our interview with Steven G. Kennedy, we were able to catch up with a couple of the HSMT students who filled us in on the rehearsal process and what their favorite parts were about filming these choreography DVDs.

BWW: What is like for you guys filming these DVDs?

Dylan Lambert: First of all, it's a ton of fun. When we went to New York, we were with each other and with people that we knew. It was fun to meet all of these new people who also enjoy doing theatre just like us.

Ashton Lambert: Yeah, I agree with Dylan. The first time I went to New York, I only knew four people there, but you meet all of these new people. You get so close to them in just two weeks because they love all of the same things that you do, and have the same interests. It's really fun.

Mihl Maeda: I like the fact that we are doing these DVDs for people who don't have the opportunity to perform all of the time, or who don't have the best resources. It is cool knowing that when we make these DVDs, we're helping them put the show on.

Alexa Magro: Well this is my second time filming one of these DVDs. I didn't know what to expect when I went to New York the first time. This is very different than regular theatre because we film. It's a great experience to be able to put both together. It's definitely busy! We have a lot of work. They are so much fun, and one of the best things about them is that you get to put the DVDs on your resume under film.

BWW: How do you guys feel about getting to film these DVDs in Houston now?

Dylan Lambert: Well, since I knew every single person before coming in, it's a lot more fun. You're with your friends, and it's always more fun to do a show with your friends. It's different from New York because, when I was in New York, I would always go sightseeing after rehearsals. Now, after rehearsal I like to go home and take a nap. (Laughs)

Ashton Lambert: I think it's really nice because I loved the experience so much in New York, and I love what iTheatrics is doing. So, the fact that I get to do it during Spring Break, and I am going to go to New York and do it again this summer, it's really awesome.

Mihl Maeda: It's really cool, because we are in our own home. I mean, we always practice here, so we know how to work with it. We know the floor well, so we know how to use it.

BWW: What is it like getting to do a premiere for them? You guys are doing SEUSSICAL KIDS and that is brand new.

Dylan Lambert: It's really cool. It's fun working with Steven, Lindsay, and Tim. They are just really strong directors and choreographers. You can always learn a lot from them, because they're geniuses. (Laughs)

Ashton Lambert: It's really nice because you sort of get to make it your own because you're the first ones that anyone is going to see. To me, that's really awesome.

Mihl Maeda: (Laughs) That's what I was going to say. I agree with Ashton.

BWW Interviews: Steven G. Kennedy and Humphreys School of Musical Theatre Students Talk iTheatrics DVDs

Humphreys School of Musical Theatre Students film
for iTheatrics on Zilkha Hall's Stage.

BWW: Is it daunting having to learn four shows at once?

Dylan Lambert: Whenever we were in New York, we spend two weeks, and it would be day after day of learning and cleaning everything. Here, for the past few weeks, we've been doing it every Friday, so it's not day after day. I always worry about forgetting something. (Laughs) But, it's not as daunting as you would think it would be. It's not as hard as it really seems. I don't know, because I have four different characters, when I am that character, I know that choreography, and it comes naturally to me.

Ashton Lambert: It's definitely a bit scary. (Laughs) But, we like the challenge. I agree with Dylan. It seems daunting at first, but after the first day, when you start getting into your characters, it all seems to come a bit more naturally.

Mihl Maeda: For me, it's learning all of the lyrics to the music. (Laughs)

Alexa Magro: I love it. It's a huge load, and I am doing two other shows right now. It can get a little confusing, but I love it.

BWW: Okay, easiest question in the world. What's your favorite part about filming these DVDs?

Dylan Lambert: I think that my favorite part is learning all of the choreography because it is something completely new that you've never done before. I just find sort of a challenge in that. If it's hard, you have to work on it, make it fun, and make it look good. I find that really fun.

Ashton Lambert: The first thing is the fact that you are doing four different shows, so you get to be a different character in every different show. That's really awesome to me. Then, the other thing that I really love is that you get to help people do shows when they might not actually be able to do them without the help of these DVDs. Also, I remember when I did a show at my school, and I felt so much closer to the entire class, and it was amazing. I want everyone to be able to have that experience and that bond with their class.

Mihl Maeda: I like that we do four different shows and learn so many different numbers. Because they are all different, it's a challenge to change your character and dance style.

Alexa Magro: I love working with Steven Kennedy. He's so sweet, and Lindsay is great too. It's just great getting to work with people from New York because they have connections. (Laughs) You never know what can happen, you know? It's like a family. For example, when you go to New York you make all of these friends, and we still keep in touch. It's so much fun.

TUTS' Humphreys School of Musical Theatre (HSMT) is celebrating more than 40 years of offering the best musical theatre training to the Houston community. HSMT strives to build a musical theatre repertoire that helps students develop confidence, foster language arts, increase physical coordination, enhance a cooperative ensemble attitude and expand social skills through the rehearsal and performance process. Students at HSMT have gone on to achieve successful careers on Broadway, film and television. For more information about TUTS and HSMT, visit http://www.TUTS.com/HSMT.

iTheatrics was founded in 2006 by educator and author Timothy Allen McDonald. Headquartered in New York City, iTheatrics develops three separate collections of musicals for leading musical theatre licensing agencies including the Getting to Know Collection (R&H Theatricals); the Young Performers' Edition of musicals (Tams-Witmark Music Library); and MTI's Broadway Junior Collection and School Edition musicals (Music Theatre International and Disney Theatrical Group). Working with esteemed partners such as the President's Committee on Arts and the Humanities, New York City's Department of Education, The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, McGraw-Hill Education and NBC Universal, iTheatrics develops and implements dynamic programs to build cost-effective and sustainable musical theatre programs in under-served schools. Find out how you can make the world a better place - one musical at a time - at http://www.iTheatrics.com.

Music Theatre International (MTI) is one of the world's leading theatrical licensing agencies, granting schools as well as amateur and professional theatres from around the world the rights to perform the largest selection of great musicals from Broadway and beyond. MTI is particularly dedicated to the idea of theatre as education and has created special collections for younger performers. The MTI Broadway Junior Collection includes JR. titles, 60-minute musicals for performance by middle school children; and KIDS titles, 30-minute musicals for performance by elementary school children resulting in 80,000 productions consisting of more than 300,000 performances. For more information about Music Theatre International and the MTI Broadway Junior Collection visit http://www.broadwayjr.com.

Photos courtesy of Theatre Under the Stars.

high res photos

BWW Interviews: Steven G. Kennedy and Humphreys School of Musical Theatre Students Talk iTheatrics DVDs
Humphreys School of Musical Theatre Students film for iTheatrics on Zilkha Hall's Stage.

BWW Interviews: Steven G. Kennedy and Humphreys School of Musical Theatre Students Talk iTheatrics DVDs
Humphreys School of Musical Theatre Students film for iTheatrics on Zilkha Hall's Stage.

BWW Interviews: Steven G. Kennedy and Humphreys School of Musical Theatre Students Talk iTheatrics DVDs
Humphreys School of Musical Theatre Students film for iTheatrics on Zilkha Hall's Stage.

high res photos

Comment & Share

About Author

Subscribe to Author Alerts
 
Advertisement Advertisement