The resurging popularity of musical theater in the United States has increased the demand for actors, choreographers, musicians and directors familiar with the production genre. That’s why Fort Lewis College will offer a new degree program in musical theater, starting next fall. You’re watching the Local News Network brought to you by Tafoya Barrett and Associates and Happy Pappy’s Pizza n Wings. I’m Wendy Graham Settle. Fort Lewis College’s new Musical Theater Program will offer an industry focused curriculum that will train its graduates in all aspects of musical theater. Majors will take private voice lessons each semester, progressive dance lessons and specialized musical theater classes such as vocal styles and repertoire, acting the song and professional preparation. The college recently hired Michael McKelvey as an assistant professor of theater to create the degree program under the umbrella of a new Performing Arts Department that combines talent and instruction from the college’s theater and music programs.
So it’s always been on my bucket list to start a program from the ground up and then put everything in it that I think we really need for industry-focused training. And that’s what I think we have in our BA. I think our BA offers as much as a lot of BFA programs do.
McKelvey’s formal training is in opera. He’s a baritone. But he’s directed or performed in musical productions for as long as he can remember. After obtaining his doctorate in music from The University of Texas at Austin, McKelvey taught in a number of Musical Theater Programs around the country. He joined Fort Lewis College in August after serving six years as the artistic director for the Summer Lyrical Theater in new Orleans. The new musical theater degree will prepare students in all aspects of performance and production for both stage and film, so that they can enter the industry immediately after graduation. And with the researching popularity of musicals demand for musical theater majors, is growing.
I think with the popularity of musical theater in general. I mean, there was a golden age in 1940s and 50s where we saw musicals being made into film. And that seemed to taper off in the 1960s. I mean, we had some with musicals like “Hair” and “Camelot” and things like that but it really died off in 1970s and 80s, 90s. And now we’re seeing that come back especially with the rediscovery of musicals like “Rent” and then being made into film. And then now we have “In the Heights” and “West Side Story” and then during COVID the whole “Hamilton” phenomena with “Hamilton” being streamed on Disney+. So, and then also the animated features that have come out through the years.
McKelvey will make his directorial debut in Durango with a college production of “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street”. A Stephen Sondheim musical made popular by the movie of the same name, starring Johnny Depp. Performances will run Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, March 31st, through April 3rd in the Community Concert Hall. A live orchestra will accompany the actors from the pit. For a schedule of performances and ticket information visit durangoconcerts.com. For more information about the new Musical Theater Program, visit fortlewis.edu and search for the Performing Arts Department. Thank you for watching this edition of the Local News Network. I’m Wendy Graham Settle.