BWW Features: Act Two @ Levine Cast Members Coached By Sutton Foster
If there's one musical theatre training program in the area that seems to have endless amounts of ambition, it is Act Two @ Levine, which BroadwayWorld has featured on more than one occasion in the last year. The three-track training program, which includes an intense one geared toward the most talented high school students (known as the Pre-Professional Program), is directed by Kevin Kuchar and offers numerous opportunities for its cast members to grow as theatre artists and young people.
In some cases, these opportunities may include participating in master classes with some of Broadway's best. This past weekend, for instance, an excited group of teenagers in the Pre-Professional Program participated in such a class with two-time Tony Award-winner Sutton Foster, in conjunction with her one-night-only concert at Strathmore (see DC Theatre Scene for my review of the performance).
Although all of the Pre-Professional cast members had a chance to observe the class, as well as participate in a Q&A session that covered everything from how Ms. Foster got her theatrical start to maintaining vocal health, four of them performed for Ms. Foster and received advice on how to better connect with the lyrics of the musical theatre songs they'd chosen to prepare. Ranging from 17 to 18 years of age, Carley Rosefelt, Eitan Mazia, Audrey Rinehart, and Jhonny Maldonado were also joined by another young performer that's not affiliated with Act 2 @ Levine, the bubbly Yaya Balbed.
The four young talents took on an eclectic group of songs, accompanied by pianist Josephine Riggs. Some were from classic Broadway musicals, such as Rosefelt's "It's Bad For Me" from Cole Porter's Nymph Errant and Mazia's "There But For You Go I" from Lerner and Loewe's Brigadoon. Others were songs that have become well-known thanks for their inclusion into recent cabarets or albums featuring the work of a single musical composer team. Audrey Rinehart took on Kerrigan and Lowdermilk's "Five and a Half Minutes" (written for The Woman Upstairs, but perhaps better known as one of the selections on their Our First Mistake album) while Maldonado tackled Craig Carnelia's "Flight," which Ms. Foster performed on her debut album and in numerous cabaret performances across the country.
No matter the song, Ms. Foster proved adept at kindly and patiently guiding the students in thinking about what the song meant and what motivated the character to sing it. She also helped them draw from personal experiences to honestly interpret the song's lyrics and recommended ways to highlight the importance of particular lyrics and/or imagery found in the songs. Cautioning against over-singing, over-performing, and thinking too much, a clear difference could be found in their first performances of the songs in comparison to their second or third ones. The students took the elite performer's articulate advice to heart and made great strides as the class went on, pointing to the importance of such coaching sessions in shaping the next generation of musical theatre talent.
Photo by Scott Selman (pictured left to right - Jhonny Maldonado, Carley Rosefelt, Yaya Balbed, Sutton Foster, Audrey Rinehart, Eitan Mazia, and Kevin Kuchar)
Bravo to Act Two @ Levine, Kevin Kuchar, and Sutton Foster for making such a priceless opportunity possible.
This master class was one-time-only event on October 13, 2013. For additional information on Act Two @ Levine and upcoming performances featuring program participants, consult its website.