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February 10, 1993 - Image 1

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1993-02-10

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p +I
The j3y lissa 9tose 3ern-ardo
mere 15 years ago, plus one in New York.
the University's In April of 1985 Wagner put together
1Musical Theater the first production, a revue of the music of
(MT) Program was Jule Styne called "I've Heard that Song
nothing more than a Before." The show had a cast of about 18,
seed in the mind of its cre- accompanied by two pianos (compared to
ators. Today it is one of the most lauded, today's 40-person shows with orchestra).
most respected and most competitive pro- To tickle half of those ivories, Wagner
/ of grams of its kind in the country. You won- called in Jerry DePuit.
der how these things begin. He's Playing Their Songs




Putting It Together
When Paul Boylan became Dean of the
School of Music in 1979, he told Harold
Shapiro (then president of the University)
that he wanted to develop a musical theater
program. (Boylan, incidentally, put him-
self through college accompanying for
musicals.) Shapiro approved, provided that
Boylan raise the money for a space in
which to house the program. Boylan did so,
and so was built the Margaret Dow Towsley
Center. The program's "home" is the McIn-
tosh Theatre.
Boylan noted that initially the faculty
had its reservations. "Some faculty thought
that it might de-emphasize our opera pro-
gram, or that it might pull resources away
from our orchestra program," he said. Even-
tually, the faculty lent its support; the pro-
gram is now considered "one of the real
bright lights in the School of Music."
1984 was the first official year of the
program, Robert Chapel (now at the Uni-
versity of Virginia-Richmond) served as
the interim director, and a national search
was launched for a permanent director.
Have I Got a Guy For You
Brent Wagner had created the MT pro-
gram at Syracuse University. He was not
looking to leave his position as director of
that program, but the reputation of the U
and its School of Music attracted him.
"I was also intrigued by the notion of
having a BFA degree, essentially a skills-
oriented degree, at a major academic uni-
versity, and one that was known for its
academic standards," Wagner commented.
Begin the Begulne
When Wagner arrived, his goal as di-
rector was to restructure the curriculum.
"When I came, the BFA degree was already
in place. There were approximately 15-18
students at that time, because they had
gotten students to switch over that last
year," he said. That year they began audi-
tioning for the program. Today the MT
program holds five Ann Arbor auditions,

was living.
in New ,
York at the
time, and
after doing
the musi-}
cal direc-
tion for the
Jule Styne
revue, ac-
cepted a
faculty po-
D e P u i t
from the U
with a de-
gree in Pi-
ano Per-
in 1972.
His unoffi-
cial title is
He named
in one
breath the
hats" he
t h i n g A Day in Hollywood /A
music involved I do the musical direction
and usually play the piano for the perfor-
mance as well. If we need any arrange-
ments - vocals or orchestrations - I do all
of that. I do vocal coaching for the students
in both performance classes.
"I co-teach the Performance 235/236
and 435/436 classes as well. And then of
course I do all of the production work, so
I'm playing rehearsals and musical direct-
ing the major shows we do at the Power
(Center) or Mendelssohn Theatre." Whew.
See MT, Page 5

Night in the Ukraine,
MT students
the program,
get a little
advice from
a recent alum.
Page 5.

Into the Woods, 1991

Sheldon Harnick gives the program a professional angle

An integral part of training for MT
students is exposure to professionals. Over
the years students have benefited from in-
teraction with one of the greatest lyricist/
composers in musical theater - Sheldon
Harnick, who spent most of his career paired
with composer Jerry Bock, working on
"Fiddler on the Roof," "She Loves Me,"

"I met Brent when he was the head of
the musical theater program at Syracuse
University -11 or 12 years ago," Harnick
recalled. "He did an evening of my work,
and he got in touch with me to get certain
songs that were out of print."
"Brent said to me 'if you ever want to
try something new, think of me."'
Not too long after Wagner came to the

Each time his works were presented
Harnick played an integral part in their
development. That put him in the unique
position of witnessing not only the
development of the musicals, but also the
development of the students themselves.
Harnick found working with college-
age performers to be a wonderful
experience. "Those people in the company


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