Broadway on Allen Street: Great lunchtime entertainment
The stage—just a platform, really, in the lobby of the Penn State Downtown Theatre—is really small: 12 feet wide, eight feet deep. But there’s a lot of talent packed onto it this month.
Every June, students from Penn State’s musical theatre program perform a daily musical revue at lunch. The show changes weekly, but the performers stay the same. It’s a lot of fun for everyone.
What we get: free lunchtime entertainment that’s of exceptionally high quality.
What they get: four incredibly fast-paced weeks of performance experience. The six students are performing a daily show that lasts about 45 minutes, then practicing the next week’s show for about four hours every afternoon. (They do get an hour for a late lunch.) They work with two directors a day—the one tweaking the current performance and the one rehearsing the next one—and they perform a wide variety of songs, not only week by week, but within each show.
“It’s great training for them,” says director Stephen Brotebeck. “When they get to New York, it’ll make them more marketable.”
Three of the performers, Julia Freyer ’10, Dan Gleason ’10, and Jamila Sabares-Klemm ’10, are getting ready to make that trip soon. The other three —junior Brad Frenette, sophomore Paul-Jordan Jansen, and sophomore Alison Morooney—want to be in New York, too, one day. Every one of them is terrific, and it’s not hard to imagine them on a Broadway stage one day.
Today’s show featured 16 songs about New York and Broadway. Some were theatre standards–”Give My Regards to Broadway,” for instance, and the inevitable closing number, “New York, New York.” (The picture above, taken by Andy Colwell of Penn State’s public information, is from the finale.) But there were also songs from newer musicals, including the particularly affecting “When You’re Home” from In The Heights, performed by Sabares-Klemm and Jansen, and some pop standards, including Billy Joel’s “New York State of Mind,” beautifully sung by Gleason.
The choreography, too, is particularly challenging. The small space, says Brotebeck, a choreographer and MFA candidate in directing, is harder than having 20 dancers lined up across a big stage: “If someone does a ‘flick’ wrong, you can hide it.”
The revue runs for two more weeks. Next week’s show–which they’re rehearsing as I write this—is a Beatles tribute, “All You Need is Love,” and the final week’s show is called “Celebrate Sensation.”
If you go, arrive early! There are a few rows of folding chairs, but if you wander in right at noon (especially later in the week), you’ll be sitting on the steps or standing just inside the door. Not that you can’t enjoy the music from there, but the view isn’t quite as good.
Lori Shontz, senior editor