SMU has offered a minor in Musical Theatre for a few years now. This fall, the Division of Music is bringing a whole new performance factor to Meadows. To give us the scoop, Virginia Dupuy, a professor of voice at SMU, and Steven Jones, the founder and producer of professional musical theatre company Lyric Stage in Dallas, sat down with us to explain why musical theatre fans should look forward to this November.
What is this partnership with Lyric Stage?
Next month, Lyric Stage – winner of 35 Dallas Theatre League Leon Rabin Awards – is partnering with SMU Meadows School of the Arts to put on the regional premiere of Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame at the Majestic Theater in downtown Dallas.
The auditions, which were held in August, were open to all SMU students because Dupuy and Jones recognize that there are students all over campus who have done musicals before and would like the opportunity to perform again. Jones was very impressed by the students who auditioned two months ago: “They’re really good! There are some phenomenal voices and these are some younger students who have wonderful potential.”
According to Dupuy, “This partnership is about our students getting the opportunity to perform with a professional company. It has to do with preparing our students to be what they call a triple threat – better dancers, actors and singers – so they are more qualified to audition successfully for musical theatre.”
A new musical theatre workshop class was added at Meadows this year to focus on triple-threat training: four weeks of intense acting, four weeks of intense dance, and four weeks of intense singing to prepare the students who are interested in musical theatre at SMU to be even more competitive than they already are. The workshop was first offered in May term – which culminated in full houses for their production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee – and is also being conducted this fall. Two students in the workshop – Alyssa Barnes and Vivian Frederick – and two SMU alums – Shannon Conboy and Alex Beane – were selected for the Lyric Stage production The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
Why is this opportunity so important for SMU students?
Jones and Dupuy have been friends for years. “When this partnership came up, it just fell into place so beautifully,” says Dupuy. “This kind of experience is what these kids have got to have if they’re going to audition successfully.”
There is a great deal of professional work available in musical theatre, Dupuy says. “And I think to be practical, looking ahead to how our students are going to make a living, we want to help prepare them for it.” Dupuy says a number of her students are already auditioning and performing successfully with musical theatre companies. For example, alumnus Elias Henricks is currently in the West End in London performing in Motown: The Musical after finishing his time in the title role of Simba in The Lion King; another SMU alumnus John Campione is currently in his second national tour; and even more SMU students are currently performing in musical theatre companies all over DFW.
Meadows does not offer a major in musical theatre, but the minor is very successful, says Dupuy. She feels it’s important to provide as much hands-on training as possible in the field. “Having this opportunity for our students to perform with a professional musical theatre company is wonderful – it’s a first for SMU, and we look forward to a long partnership with Lyric Stage.”
And it’s important for Lyric Stage too
Jones’ enthusiasm for this partnership was very obvious in our interview. “It will help the visibility of both the Meadows School and the minor in musical theatre and Lyric Stage,” he says. “There’s opportunity for wonderful synergy with faculty from SMU and the professionals that the kids here at SMU will get to work with. I think it’s a win-win!”