Temple Theater kicked off its season with Company, A Musical Comedy Thursday at the Tomlinson Theater, but it’s the only musical the program will produce this season.
Company’s popularity among student actors affirmed a desire for a musical theater program at Temple.
“The number of auditions was astonishing,” said Company director Peter Reynolds. “144 people showed up for only 24 roles, and sometimes auditions went until 1 a.m.”
The theater program focuses on making students stronger actors, but Reynolds said he saw a lot of hidden musical talent at auditions.
“There are so many students who have to suppress their desires,” said junior Tyler Horn, who plays Harry in Company.
Since Horn has been at Temple, he has participated in musical productions outside the university, but this is the first time he’ll exhibit his musical talents on the Temple Theater stage.
“When I heard [Temple] was putting on a musical, I was so excited, since we only do one every couple years,” said Horn. Temple’s last musical was You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, performed in February 2003. Stephen Sondheim, a world famous lyricist and music composer, wrote the lyrics and music to Company. Temple Theater last performed a Sondheim production, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, in 1976.
Senior Amanda Williamson, who plays Jenny, a sweet, naïve wife, was eager to jump at the rare opportunity.
Williamson, a theater major, was unable to participate in musicals like she did in high school because Temple lacks a musical theater program.
“I was scared to audition,” Williamson said of auditioning for plays. “Because there is no musical theater at Temple, I decided to give it up. Especially since I’m not professionally trained.”
Temple doesn’t offer a musical theater program because musicals are huge productions, and they usually cost much more than a non-musical production, Reynolds said. The university has to pay royalties for music use, sets are bigger and more expensive and it also costs money to hire musicians and a choreographer.
Katie Stanislavskaya has been involved with the theater program for nearly 10 years as an undergraduate and graduate student in the Boyer College of Music. During the decade she’s been at Temple, the music school has never been associated with the theater program.
“When Peter Reynolds and I were auditioning people for Company this fall, I was stunned to see the unbelievable amount of musical talent within the theater department,” Stanislavskaya said, who is a guest musical director for Company. “I’ve known for several years that there were quite a few students who were interested in musical theater, but I couldn’t have imagined the overwhelming numbers that we saw at auditions.”
Temple’s theater program is known to produce students with great acting skills, Reynolds and Stanislavskaya said.
Some of Temple’s famous graduates include Jude Ciccolella, who has had various movie roles from Daredevil to The Manchurian Candidate and a TV role as Mike Novick on 24. Patricia Kalember, another Temple graduate, has found fame with Lifetime network’s made for TV movies. She currently plays the character Georgie on NBC’s show Sisters.
In today’s world of theater, it is important for actors to know more than just acting. “Theater students are preparing for highly competitive careers in performance, and they need to obtain every possible skill from their education,” Stainislavskaya said. “The ability to act is only part of being an actor; vocal and dance ability are also a must in order to be versatile and therefore, marketable.”
It’s all about the triple threat-acting, singing and dancing.
To cut the costs of hiring musicians and choreographers, a musical theater program could be a collaboration of the school’s theater, music and dance programs, Reynolds said.
“There are so many performers who need to do more than performing in an orchestra,” said sophomore performance major Laura Foxx, who said she would be interested in playing for a musical at Temple.
“I think it would be a great way for performance students to get more experience and to hone their skills as a musician,” she said.
The only university in Philadelphia to offer a musical theater program is the University of the Arts on 320 S. Broad Street.
“Temple’s acting training is amazing,” Reynolds said. “And in the huge business of musicals, they too need good actors.”
“The university itself would also benefit from having a musical theater department because more students would be drawn to the university,” Stanislavskaya said. “Right now, Temple has almost every performing arts curriculum-classical and jazz music, opera, dance and theater. Having a musical theater department would make the performing art area complete.”
Kaitlyn Dreyling can be reached at email@example.com.