Temple theater club gives all majors outlet to perform

Broadway on Broad hosts several cabaret-style performances each semester with students from diverse majors.

Members of the student-run theater club Broadway on Broad rehearse for their upcoming performances on Friday. | DAN CHUA / THE TEMPLE NEWS

In classes, they are marketing, mechanical engineering and early childhood education majors.

But at Broadway on Broad, its members are just altos, sopranos, tenors and basses with a passion for musical theater.

Each rehearsal begins with Jack Denman leading the 30-person group of students through a lengthy vocal warmup. For the next two hours, he guides them through a series of popular, and sometimes raunchy show tunes in Presser Hall in preparation of their upcoming performances.

Broadway on Broad is a student-run musical theater club at Temple University, where members perform songs from their favorite musicals in a cabaret style. Denman, a sophomore music education major, is the club’s musical director.

Cabaret is a theater performance where an ensemble of actors performs songs, dances and dramas. The Underground in the Student Center acts as the stage for Broadway on Broad’s shows. 

The club is preparing for its second performance of the semester, “Broadway After Dark.” The actors will also perform songs on March 30 from racier musicals, like “Spring Awakening,” which explores sexual awakening, and “Heathers,” based on the 1988 movie in which a couple kills the bullies at their high school while framing it as suicide.

“It’s all shows we don’t necessarily put into our usual shows,” Denman said. “We’re having one night where we’re not as family friendly.”

The student organization’s mission is to give more performance opportunities to students interested in theater, said Maddy Dunne, the club’s production assistant. While Temple Theaters, the performance arm of the Department of Theater, often employs musical theater majors in their shows, Broadway on Broad tries to be accessible to students of other majors.

“For those who know that theater is not the career they’re pursuing, there are opportunities like Broadway on Broad,” Dunne said.

Abigail Garrigan, a junior musical theater major, and Christopher Lynch, a senior theater major, founded Broadway on Broad in Fall 2017. Club president Christina Concilio, a sophomore tourism and hospitality management major, now runs it.

The club provides non-musical theater majors an environment free of judgment and competition to perform in, Concilio said.

“It takes the pressure away, a lot of us aren’t here for that,” she added. “It’s more of a fun place and safe space for us. You want to do it for fun and expression, not to have a competitive and negative atmosphere.” 

Broadway on Broad tries to include as many members as possible in its performances. 

The February cabaret, “Once Upon a Broadway” featured several women singing “Poor Unfortunate Souls,” a song from Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” that is usually performed by one person. 

“We’ve been able to turn solo songs into duets, trios and group numbers, which gives so many more people opportunities,” Concilio said. 

Past Broadway on Broad cabarets include the March 2018 performance of “MisCast,” where actors performed songs by artists of the opposite sex, and the October 2017 performance of “Villains,” where actors sang songs from villains in musicals. The club hopes to explore new, creative themes for upcoming cabarets, Concilio said.

Temple’s Black Law Students Association, Pre-Law Division also selected the club to perform alongside other Temple performing arts groups, like Temple Tappers, in a talent showcase this Saturday at The Discovery Center in East Fairmount Park. 

The group will conclude its season in April with the cabaret “Tonys Through the Years,” where the actors will perform musical numbers from Tony Award-winning musicals like “A Chorus Line” from 1975 and “Hello, Dolly!” from 1964.

Concilio hopes audiences gain an understanding of how important theater is to the organization’s members after watching a cabaret. 

“I want people to enjoy it and forget about whatever it is outside,” Concilio said. “That is how theater is for me. It’s an escape from life.” 

Denman found a home in his role as the club’s musical director, and the family-like bond he created with his castmates became a “shaping factor” of his college career, he said.

“It’s that home feeling, finding the friends I have found and connecting with people in this creative outlet,” Denman said. “Arranging all of this tests me and pushes me to my limits, which is fun, and it really has prepared me for my future.”

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