Student Blog: Letters from a Nobody in New York #6: Meet a Professor, Dean Liza Gennaro!

Welcome Associate Dean and Head of the Manhattan School of Music's Musical Theatre Department, Liza Gennaro!

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Student Blog: Letters from a Nobody in New York #6: Meet a Professor, Dean Liza Gennaro!

There is something really exciting about a Brand New Musical Theatre Program in New York City - Welcome to the Manhattan School of Music's New Musical Theatre Degree! I had the pleasure of speaking with Liza Gennaro, the Associate Dean and Director of the Musical Theatre Program at MSM. MSM has produced several quarantine musicals over the last year, including Rupert Holmes's The Mystery of Edwin Drood! Located in the heart of the Upper West Side, this brand new degree offering is rooted in fantastic training, exciting opportunities and all in a beautiful location. Thank you to Dean Gennaro for this lovely interview.

Question #1: The Manhattan School of Music is now offering a Bachelor's Degree in Musical Theatre- we are witnessing the birth of a new Musical Theatre program! That in itself, is so exciting. What do you think makes MSM special compared to other programs in the city?

Liza: Musical Theatre at MSM is a mid-size program with a stellar faculty housed within an internationally respected 100 year old conservatory of music. We offer a Bachelor of Music in Musical Theatre providing exemplary voice and music training as well as exceptional acting and dance training. We encourage students to explore their creative impulses offering independent project opportunities featuring student directors, choreographers, writers, composers and of course performers. We value each student's individual artistic journey and support them as they develop into multi-faceted artists.

Questions #2: Students at Manhattan School of Music not only get really great acting, singing and dancing training but students also get the opportunity to perform a lot. What have been some of your favorite memories as a Professor and as an audience member at MSM?

Liza: MSM Musical Theatre produces 7 productions a year including both the classic musical theatre canon and contemporary musicals. Every year we are committed to producing at least one musical in development offering students the important experience of working on new material. We hire emerging and established directors, choreographers and designers to work on all of our shows thereby developing relationships between students and the artists they will work with as professionals. During this pandemic year we pivoted to producing 7 virtual musicals including Senior Showcase 2021. Our 2021 virtual production of THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD directed by Evan Pappas received high praise from the show's creator Rupert Holmes who reported, "It brims over with youthful energy in league with a savvy world-class creative team. An incredible accomplishment, a miraculous affirmation of the 'all-for-one' spirit that is musical theatre, and proof positive that where there's a willing company, there's a way to go on with the show! As the show curtain rises on their vivid streaming stage, MSM Musical Theatre truly becomes The Little Music Hall That Could!"

Among my favorite live MSM productions are CABARET (2019) directed by Don Stephenson, WILD PARTY (2020) directed by Chloe Treat and SWEENEY TODD (2019) directed by Ted Pappas.

Question #3: Boyd Gaines, Andrea Burns, Randy Graff.. There are some amazing working Professors at MSM. What are some of the qualities that you look for in college educators?

Liza: MSM MT has gathered an exceptional group of artist-educators who share a passion for musical theatre and training the next generation of musical theatre artists. They are intelligent, compassionate, talented artist-educators who draw from their rich experiences in the profession and an analytical approach to the art form they love.

Question #4: We are in a huge moment of systematic change, students are looking for more racial equality in the classroom. What steps are MSM taking to ensure safety for the BiPoc students on campus?

Liza: MSM has demonstrated its commitment to Equity, Diversity and Inclusion with a Cultural Inclusion initiative that addresses issues of racial inequity through both Town Hall discussion and individual mentoring and anti-racist training for both faculty and students. We practice Inclusive Casting on all MSM MT productions and welcome all students regardless of race, ethnicity, class, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity/expression, and disability status.

Question #5: The Manhattan School of Music is located in the heart of the Upper West Side; how does MSM use New York as their campus?

Liza: MSM's location in Manhattan allows us to bring the industry to campus. In addition to our exceptional faculty we offer master classes with industry professionals including Merri Sugarman (Tara Rubin Casting), Mark Redanty (BRS/GAGE), Jeanne Nicolosi ( Nicolosi & Company Talent Agency), Leah Gardiner (Theatre Director), Or Matias (Musical Director), Christopher Jackson (Broadway), Bebe Neuwirth (Broadway, film and television actress), Donna McKechnie (Broadway). Students are encouraged to see Broadway, off-Broadway, off-off Broadway and Fringe Theatre as well as taking advantage of the museums, concerts, dance and opera available in NYC.

Question #6: Describe life at The Manhattan School Of Music in Three Words.

Liza: Creative, Rigorous, Exploratory.

Thank you again to Dean Gennaro for spending some time with me this week! If you're interested in getting more information about The Manhattan School of Music, please visit

Liza Gennaro (Associate Dean and Director of Musical Theatre at Manhattan School of Music) choreographed the critically acclaimed Broadway revival of The Most Happy Fella directed by Gerald Gutierrez and the Broadway revival of Once Upon a Mattress starring Sarah Jessica Parker. She choreographed Roundabout Theater Company's Tin Pan Alley Rag (2010 Outer Critics Circle Nomination, Outstanding New Off-Broadway Musical) and has choreographed extensively in regional theaters across the country including: Hair at Actor's Theatre Of Louisville, directed by Jon Jory, the world premiere of A...My Name is Still Alice at The Old Globe in California, and the world premiere of Martin Guerre at Hartford Stage, directed by Mark Lamos, Babes in Arms at Guthrie Theater, directed by Garland Wright, Kiss me Kate and The Most Happy Fella at The Goodspeed Opera House, Fiorello, Gypsy, My Fair Lady, Jesus Christ Superstar and The Secret Garden at Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera, Gypsy, starring Betty Buckley, and Ragtime at the Paper Mill Playhouse and twelve consecutive seasons of musicals at The St. Louis "Muny" Opera. She collaborated with Stephen Flaherty and Frank Galati on their chamber musical Loving, Repeating: A Musical of Gertrude Stein for the About Face Theater in Chicago and choreographed the 30th Anniversary tour of Annie. Liza has choreographed and directed The New York Pops Carnegie Hall Christmas Concert: How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2010), Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer (2014), Holiday Follies (2015) and A Charlie Brown Christmas (2012, 2015) and 'Twas the Night Before Christmas (2016). Her adaptation of A Charlie Brown Christmas has become a beloved season regular at the San Francisco Symphony Christmas Concert (2014 -19). She choreographed the 20th Anniversary concert of Titanic: The Musical at Avery Fisher Hall starring Michael Cerveris and Brian d'Arcy James. Liza is a member of the SDC Executive Board, a Tony Voter, and has served on the Tony Award Nominating Committee. A writer and scholar, her chapter, "Evolution of Dance in the Golden Era of the American 'Book Musical'" appears in The Oxford Handbook of the American Musical and a new chapter, co-written with Stacy Wolf, "Dance in Musical Theatre" appears in the Oxford Handbook of Dance and Theater. She is represented in the soon to be released Routledge Collection, 1970's and Beyond. Liza has taught at Barnard College and Princeton University.

Liam Joshua Munn (he/him) is a New York Actor who has been seen on the stages of Williamstown Theatre Festival, Barrington Stage, Walt Disney World & Lincoln Center. His voice can be heard singing some spooky Bass harmonies on Ryan Scott Oliver's new album, Future Demons. Liam made his 54 Below debut last year with his solo cabaret show "Sailing" and is taking it around the country. Season 2 of his theatre podcast "on the callboard" has just premiered on your local podcast provider app- feating guests from Broadway and beyond.


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