As Professor Glenn Carlos tickled the ivory keys of the piano, PCC student Jessica Young slipped to the front of a group of performers, lending her voice to the popular musical number, “Singin’ in the Rain.” The rehearsal goes according to plan until a performer in the back falters in choreography. The music halts and Richard Kuller, the director and the choreographer of Broadway Songbook, intervenes. Moments later, the music picks up again and the song is driven to its entirety without mistake.
“They have to be fast learners for the musical theater workshop,” said Kuller of the cast. “They need to be good singers, dancers, and actors.”
The cast for this year’s Broadway Songbook were evaluated during a three-day, three-hour audition. Those auditioning for the workshop joined together on May 8, 9, and 11 to perform scenes, learn choreography, and sing two types of songs: an up-tempo one and a ballad. Under the supervision of Kuller, the musical director Carlos, and Broadway Songbook veteran Jessica Young, the auditions cut the cast from a hopeful 40 to the current 14, comprised of 10 returners and four newcomers with skills that range from opera, gymnastics to comedy.
The performances for the Broadway Songbook are scheduled for August 13, 14, 15, 20, 21, and 22 and will take place in the Little Theatre in the C Building in Room 106.
For newcomer and theatre major Allie Olson, auditions proved to be most taxing.
“[Auditions] were nerve-racking because you’re around people who’re so good,” Olson said. “But it’s really encouraging. Now that I made it, I’m learning so much.”
The 14 cast members joined again on June 22 for the start of the musical theater workshop. There, the cast would utilize their singing, acting, and dancing talents while learning new musical pieces, choreographies, and adapting to whatever changes there may be to the script.
Because the workshop is only eight weeks and is in preparation for the Broadway Songbook, pressure is definitely in the minds of the performers, but that doesn’t necessarily hinder their progress to polish their craft.
“Sometimes I feel like I’m in the bottom of the food chain,” said newcomer Alex Mashikian. “But Kuller is patient and encouraging. His criticisms are extremely constructive and not in a way where you’re angry.”
Returning cast member Paula Tsoi-A-Sue expressed nothing but confidence in both the cast and production team.
“We’re relaxed because we know we’ll get it together,” said Tsoi-A-Sue. “We have a lot of faith in each other.”
As of the second week of the workshop in mid July, the storyline is still in its brainstorming stage. Songs from different musicals were compiled at rehearsals for practice while Kuller kept an eye out for potential character angles in his cast.
“The cast really don’t reveal themselves until later which is why I don’t write the script early,” Kuller said. In addition, the cast will have to engage in pantomime, emphasizing in elaboration rather than use of props because the setting of the stage will utilize a simple “black box effect.” This feat, however, might actually be a walk in the park because of the casts’ strong variety, according to Carlos.
“It’s such a homogenous brand of singers that I’ve had in four years,” said Carlos. “They’re a tight blend, very musical, great sense of discipline. Everyone stands out and it’s such a broad spectrum of talent.