In recent years, there has been a crescendo in the number of musical theater groups on campus. Jae Yeon Yoo ’18, the musical director of “Spring Awakening” last semester, believes this increase may reflect broader trends in the theater industry. 

“Recently, musicals have gone from being spectacles to being more focused on a revolutionary way of storytelling,” Yoo said.

For Yoo, musicals have the ability to connect to people on a deeper emotional level, which attracts an audience that extends beyond regular theater-goers. 

“People are less intimidated [by musicals] because they are so permeated through our current culture,” said Yoo. “There’s so much potential for a musical to reach a lot of people.”

According to Professor of Theater Davis Robinson, musical theater hasn’t always been such a resounding force on campus. The theater department only stages a musical once every three years in an effort to showcase a full spectrum of theatrical styles. However, the addition of more student groups devoted to performing has opened the doors for singers, actors and musical-theater lovers alike. 

“There are certainly more opportunities [for musicals] because there are more groups that are stable, that have formed, that are chartered, that are presenting opportunities,” said Robinson.
Curtain Callers, which was founded in 2010, typically stages a full-length musical in the fall and a revue-type performance in the spring. This semester, leader Max Middleton ’16 will direct “Sweeney Todd.” Next semester, Yoo hopes to work with the group as well as Peer Health to produce rock musical “Next to Normal.” 

Beyond the Proscenium, the newest addition to the cluster of theater groups on campus, was founded by Sarah Guilbault ’18 and Cordelia Orbach ’17 last year, with the intent of making theater more accessible on campus and in the community at large. 

“We saw this vacuum that needed to be filled with theater groups on campus,” said Guilbault. 
“We wanted to create another space for more theater that was somewhat easier to partake in because of the time commitment that theater often imposes.”

According to Guilbault, for some people, there weren’t enough opportunities between the department show and other theater group productions. The group’s inaugural performance, “Spring Awakening” was designed to create more opportunities to fill that gap. 

“People were interested in doing something that stretched them both theatrically and in a musical sense,” Guilbault said. 

Musicals tend to attract performers from both musical and theatrical backgrounds—students involved with a capella or other music groups use musicals to explore their theatrical skills, whereas students from the theater department may use the production to hone their musical talent. 

Robinson noted the ability of musical productions to mix many different disciplines, including music and theater but also dance and design. 

“For me, it’s more interesting when there’s more crossover, so we try to keep these boundaries open,” said Robinson.   

The main barrier to producing musicals is funding. According to Guilbault and Yoo, obtaining the necessary copyrighted materials can be expensive.

“It makes me angry because I think art should be accessible to everyone,” said Yoo. 
Guilbault hopes the increase in enthusiasm for musical theater on campus will encourage the Student Activities Funding Committee (SAFC) to finance more musicals in the future. 

“[The SAFC] has more faith now that students are really interested in going to see musicals,” Guilbault said.