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Updated 3:00 PM May 8, 2003
 

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Slightly off Broadway

If you didn't know you were in Ann Arbor, you might think you were in the heart of the theater district in New York City the night of April 28 as crowds packed into the Mendelssohn Theatre. Those hoping for a ticket to the sold-out show swarmed around the box office. Some had to settle for purchasing a CD at a table in the lobby.

The attraction was the Senior Showcase, a production by and for recent graduates of the School of Music's Musical Theater Department.

The 45-minute presentation was a dress rehearsal for the production that was staged twice in New York May 1, when the ensemble members danced and sang and strutted their stuff for representatives from the theater world.

Before the Ann Arbor performance, Brent Wagner, director of the Musical Theater program, explained to the anxious audience that such performances for casting directors, producers and agents were the same as business interviews. "The casting people want groups," Wagner said, explaining that those from the theater business were looking not only for individual talents, but demonstrations of how the performers worked with others.

With that as their direction, the 19 members of the 2003 Musical Theater graduating class attacked the stage with an infectious energy that stirred the audience to wild applause.

These graduates hope to follow in the footsteps of other U-M Musical Theater graduates with work in theater at some level. Close to 75 percent of the graduates find work in the business from Broadway to Los Angeles, and all the territory in between.

One graduate will star in "Little Shop of Horrors" on Broadway. Last year two were nominated for a Tony Award and another for an Outer Critics Circle Award. U-M graduates have joined touring companies of "The Full Monty," "Cats," "South Pacific," "Annie Get Your Gun," "Mamma Mia," "Ragtime," "West Side Story" and "Evita." Two gradates appeared in "42nd Street" in Moscow.

In addition to the performers' talent, such success requires nurturing and support of the school, program and faculty, such as choreographer Linda Goodrich, acting coach Mark Madama, and vocal coach and music arranger Gerald DePuit.

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