Musical theater major a unique sequence

Temple one of two Philadelphia universities to offer a musical theater concentration, which has given theater students a chance to advance their skills.

Temple’s undergraduate musical theater program, the theater department’s newest concentration, is growing in popularity and shining with talent.

The musical theater concentration is based in Tomlinson Theater. The program is the only one in Philadelphia other than UArts (Kevin Cook/TTN).

The department’s most recent musical, Damn Yankees, won the Best Ensemble award for the American College Theater Festival.

The musical theater concentration chose to perform the musical in honor of the musical’s playwright, George Abbott.

Temple will soon receive a large endowment to strengthen the program.

Freshman musical theater major Ryan Streit said the concentration is on its way to becoming “one of the top liberal arts theater programs in the country.”

Jumpstarting the musical theater concentration was not a simple task for Peter Reynolds, who designed the entire program.

“It was a lot of paperwork and a lot of work, but very rewarding,” Reynolds said.

Temple is the only school in Philadelphia that offers a musical theater concentration, other than the University of the Arts.

But unlike UArts, as well as many other musical theater programs, Temple does not offer a Bachelor of Fine Arts, which focuses on intensive training in singing, acting and dancing classes.

Temple’s musical theater students receive bachelor’s degrees in theater with a musical theater concentration because of the General Education program, a curriculum that allows students to develop other skills.

“I think it’s beneficial to get a B.A.,” Reynolds said. “It makes the student better rounded.”

Sophomore musical theater major Nathan Edwards transferred to Temple from Pace University.

“Temple gives me the facilities and the flexibility to make the program what I need it to be,” Edwards said. “Peter Reynolds is so caring and so knowledgeable of his craft. He might be the reason I am here.”

Last fall, the musical theater program admitted five freshmen – two women and three men – from more than 50 people who auditioned. During the past two months, more than 70 students have auditioned for the 2009-2010 school year.

Amanda Allison auditioned for the program last February and said being a part of the musical theater concentration and Philly’s art scene are reasons Temple is No. 1 on her list.

“It’s in Philly, and I can literally walk two blocks, and there’s like a gazillion theaters in a row,” she said.

“It’s awesome helping with something that is just starting because you can help it build,” Streit said.
Edwards said he is comfortable at Temple and glad he transferred because the university has a strong sense of community.

“We are always here for support and love,” he said, “and are working hard to grow and improve as a unit. It’s really incredible.”

Matt Petrillo can be reached at

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