Is it possible that musical theater could be the most popular extra-curricular activity for school aged kids? Is it possible that high schools musicals are earning just as much revenue as sporting events? Is it possible that the cool kids in school are the theatre geeks?
Some say that the Broadway musical took a step back in the 1990’s with most of the mega hits coming from the British. And, sadly, the world went almost a whole decade without significant movie musicals. Most movie musicals in the 90’s were in animation form. Brilliant as they were, I know every single word of Beauty and the Beast! Before 1996, not many Broadway shows spoke to a younger demographic- but then, every younger person was singing about not paying their rent.
So, how do we explain this fascination with musical theatre, right now?
Could it be TV competition shows like: So You Think You Can Dance, American Idol, and Dancing with the Stars?
Could it be TV reality shows like Dance Moms, The Next Big Thing and Breaking Pointe?
Could it be TV dramadies like Smash and Glee?
Could it be the comeback of the movie musical which started with Oscar Winners- Moulin Rouge, Chicago and Dreamgirls?
Could it be Broadway shows that are about kids like Spring Awakening, In the Heights and ….drum roll please…Wicked?
I think the answer is YES. It’s all of those things. Even my son, who is a maniacal sports fanatic, knows the lyrics to Wicked.
In the DC Region, Adventure Theatre MTC (formerly Musical Theater Center or MTC) has launched the careers of some of our area’s and Broadway’s most accomplished theatre geeks. Amazing Broadway talents like Nick Blaemaire (Godspell, Cry Baby); Ato Blankson-Wood (Hair, Lysistrata Jones); Caroline Bowman (Wicked); and, Ryan Watkinson (Xanadu, Movin’ Out, Hair, Promises, Promises, How To Succeed Without Really Trying) and local greats like James Gardiner, Florrie Bagel and Helen Hayes Nominee, Kirstin Riegler. ATMTC has even birthed some of our brightest area theatre leaders like Alan Paul, Associate Director, Shakespeare Theatre Company and Matthew Gardiner, Associate Artistic Director, Signature Theatre.
Many of these greats came out of the brain child of Richard Hartzell and Diane Hamilton. A little history… MTC has its roots in a performing ensemble of eight young artitsts called “Young Americans of Washington” who performed at the historic National Theatre in 1984 under the direction of Founder, Richard Hartzell. In 1986, the incomparable Diane Hamilton joined the group as a choreographer. In 1988, the group incorporated and changed its name to Musical Theatre Center in 1995. In March of 2012, MTC merged with Adventure Theatre, DC’s longest running children’s theatre, increasing its footprint and ability to serve many more children.
Nowadays, the elite performing groups of ATMTC are called the “Ensembles.” Being a part of these groups carry profound weight.
Here are a few words from ATMTC’s Ensembles Alum:
Nick Blaemire: “I found [ATMTC] when I was 14 and in desperate need of a group of people who understood and believed in me (though of course I didn’t know it yet). I was an awkward kid with a huge love for theatre and music, and not a ton of skill at it, but I wanted to learn, and learn I did. [ATMTC] gave me invaluable tools in how to put together a musical, how to learn material that was just out of my reach so that it became the triumph we all live for to surmount, and through their programs and productions I met my best friends in the world, who I’m still friends with after nearly 15 years, and who have almost all, in staggering numbers compared to other programs, ended up living our dream of making a living in the entertainment industry. I just completed my third Broadway show at 28 years old, and I owe the confidence and ability I have to do that to the fundamental lessons I learned as part of [ATMTC’s Ensembles], and to the time and care they took with me to give an awkward kid who loved theatre and music the chance to triumph.”
James Gardiner: “The Ensembles at [ATMTC] were without question one of the most valuable experiences of my young life. [ATMTC] helped me realize my passion for theatre and some of my best friends today are still people that I met performing with the Ensembles at [ATMTC].”
Kirstin Riegler: “I would not be where I am today without [the Ensembles] because it taught me professionalism, a sense of serious commitment and gave me a true theater family atmosphere starting at a young age. I was in [Ensembles] from 1994-2003 and graduating from those Ensembles meant almost as much, if not more to me than high school because being a member of them helped me realize my dream/decision to make the performing arts my career. I entered college with more knowledge of musical theater repertoire, audition material/audition technique and overall performance quality than most in my incoming undergrad class and I truly feel it gave me the added boost of confidence I needed entering college. I will truly always be indebted to my 9 years of being a member of [ATMTC’s] performing Ensembles.”
These Ensembles are intensive performance and training groups for motivated and talented musical theater students. Ensemble members learn, perfect and perform song and dance numbers from the musical theater repertoire. Audiences of all ages are entertained by performances of old-time favorites and Broadway hits. These Ensembles bring their enthusiasm and talent to community centers, senior facilities, holiday programs, street fairs, parades, and venues throughout the DC Metro Area, nationally and internationally. The Ensembles perform in Spotlight, a fully produced annual musical revue and showcase.
If you have a brave and buddy star in your midst, perhaps auditioning for Ensembles would be right for them.
PAST ENSEMBLE APPEARANCES INCLUDE:
The White House Christmas Concert
United States Capital; “Capital Fourth”
The Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage
The National Tour of Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat at The Warner Theatre
theatreWashington’s Inaugural Gala
The National Harbor
Wolf Trap’s International Children’s Festival
Disney World; Orlando, FL
Sovereign of the Seas Royal Caribbean Cruise
The Ensembles have performed with:
Clay Aiken – Broadway, TV and recording artist
Victor Borge – Internationally recognized, pianist and comedian
Barry Bostwick – Broadway, TV and Film star
David Foster – Grammy Award-Winning composer
Melba Moore – Broadway, TV and recording artist
This coming year, we are expanding the educational component of the Ensembles. The Ensemble members will get to travel to NY, see a Broadway show, get a backstage tour, visit higher learning institutions, have sessions with Broadway casting directors, take Master Classes with Broadway stars, attend area musical theatre rehearsals, record songs in a professional studio and extend their experience beyond the terrific performances that they will share with the world.
For audition and general information click here: https://www.adventuretheatre-mtc.org/academy/ensembles.html or call (301)251.5766