Posts tagged ‘Broadway’

Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story

When we met Mike Karns ’11 for our Sep./Oct. 2015 feature on alums making their way on Broadway, his digital startup Marathon Live Entertainment was handling social media for small, off-Broadway clients, a few real estate agents, and was in the infancy of its current stint with a show that had just started its run on Broadway, Hamilton. And just as the “ten dollar founding father’s” star has risen, so has Karns’ profile.

Today, he oversees a digital and social media empire for the Broadway phenomenon, which still plays to packed houses in New York City and has spawned a national tour. With tickets still in high demand, merchandising for the show has grown to include a mixtape, an instrumental soundtrack, and now a smartphone app—launched Aug. 11 by Karns’ company—that recently surpassed 750,000 downloads.

His social media efforts have attracted more than two million followers. In addition to Hamilton, Marathon Live handles the digital marketing for a number of other Broadway and off-Broadway productions, and he himself has become a Tony-nominated producer, after having latched on as a co-producer with Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812, a Broadway musical that has featured, among others, Josh Groban and Ingrid Michaelson. Away from Broadway, he’s president of the School of Theatre Alumni Program Group and a recipient of the 2017 Alumni Achievement Award.

Not bad for a guy whose claim to fame (more…)

September 5, 2017 at 1:46 pm 1 comment

Caroline Bowman Takes On Evita

Caroline Bowman is headed to Canada.

Bowman ’10, who was on the cover of our Sept./Oct. ’15 issue, ended her starring run as Elphaba in the long-running Broadway hit Wicked last September. Next up is a leading role north of the border: According to, Bowman will join the Vancouver Opera’s production of Evita during its limited run from April 30 to May 8. She will play the title role of Eva Perón, the former First Lady of Argentina.

It’s a familiar role for Bowman, who played Perón during the 2013-14 national tour of Evita. Here she is performing the show’s most well-known song, “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina”:

For information on tickets, click here.

Bill DiFilippo, online editor


April 4, 2016 at 11:01 am Leave a comment

Making Broadway Sound Great

Most of the folks I interviewed over the summer for our Sept./Oct. cover story on Penn Staters in theater were actors, and most were under 30. This was pretty much unavoidable: Performers naturally thrive in the spotlight, and the overwhelmingly majority of those performers on and off Broadway—particularly those who can withstand the rigors of singing and dancing through eight shows a week for months at a time—tend to be young.


Bob Etter was a memorable exception.

The dean of Broadway sound mixers, Etter ’77 recently wrapped a 76-week run behind the boards for Hedwig & The Angry Inch, which closed last weekend. Our piece in the magazine focuses on Bob’s career—among other gigs, he started at Phantom of the Opera, just months into its record-setting Broadway run—but didn’t have the space to get into more of his personal story. And it’s pretty interesting stuff.

When we sat with him at his station in the back of the Belasco Theatre back in June, Etter talked about his life while simultaneously listening to sound cues and adjusting levels accordingly. We told him it was hard to believe he could do both. His smiling reply? “I’ve been doing this for 30 years.”

Etter said he initially came to Penn State from Western PA to study journalism, then left and came back planning to go pre-law. Neither hinted at where his career would take him, but a final switch to the theatre department, and then a call from a friend in Pittsburgh who worked in local theatre, did the trick. He took a gig as a laborer at the Pittsburgh Public Theatre; not long after, he said, “a union guy I knew in New York convinced me to move to the city.”

He did, memorably. “I moved here in March of ’79,” he said. “I pulled up in my Dodge Dart, this place out in Prospect Park, Brooklyn. It was the tail end of worst winter in ages. The trash was still piled up on the sidewalks.” Rent on his apartment—which did not include a toilet or heat, he says—ran him $50 a month. His first job at the Manhattan Theatre Club paid $50 a week.

At the time, Etter said, “this” —the idea of a professional path in theatrical sound—”didn’t exist.” But he got in at the right time: The success of A Chorus Line helped spark more serious interest in making Broadway musicals sound great, and Etter turned out to be a perfect fit for the fledgling profession. “I had always been involved in music,” he said. “I played piano since I was 5 or 6, and I played in bands in high school and college.” Among his favorite college memories was living in an apartment above the Old Main Frame Shop and playing to entertain impromptu crowds on the lawn across College Ave.

In New York, he worked his way up through various jobs and landed fairly quickly on Broadway, where he’s remained almost exclusively—”which is pretty unusual,” he admitted. Affiliations with shows like Phantom, Rock of Ages, and Hedwig have reinforced Etter’s talent, and his love of shows with a rock-inspired score. Along the way, he gave his daughter (now a dancer) a taste of showbiz—”When she was 5 or 6, she’d come hang out with me at the boards, and she’d have her own cues”—and also developed a love of sailing; he was involved in commercial sailing for years, but now does it only for personal enjoyment.

“I found there to be a lot of similarities between sailing and mixing,” he said. “We manipulate, and it’s about finding a constant balance.”

Etter said Hedwig was the show he’d “wanted to do for 30 years,” and might well be his last. He should have more time to enjoy the open sea soon enough.

Ryan Jones, senior editor

September 16, 2015 at 10:59 am Leave a comment

Penn Staters Take Center Stage

Our current cover story features Penn Staters who work in New York and national theatre. We thought it’d be cool to share a selection of performances by some of the folks we profiled.

Caroline Bowman

Bowman ’10 is the leading lady in one of the biggest shows on Broadway, as she plays one of the co-leads in Wicked. There’s a chance that you’ve heard a performance of the show’s most well-know song, “Defying Gravity,” but if you’ve never heard Bowman perform it with her co-star, definitely give it a listen.

Alan Wiggins

Another member of the class of 2010 is Wiggins, who currently has a role in the ensemble of the Tony Award-nominated Beautiful: The Carole King Musical. In the video above, Wiggins and fellow Penn Stater Laurie Veldheer ’10 perform the Broadway classic “Tonight” from West Side Story.

Audrey Cardwell/Adam Jepsen

Two of the younger Nittany Lions on stage are Audrey Cardwell ’12 and Adam Jepsen ’12. While the two aren’t performing together now±Cardwell is an ensemble player in the national tour of Cinderella while Jepsen is an ensemble player in Chicago—they took to the stage together back in 2012. Cardwell and Jepsen were joined by Dan Higgins ’12 for a performance of the song “Good Morning” from the film “Babes In Arms.”

Bill DiFilippo, online editor

September 3, 2015 at 9:14 am Leave a comment

Lions in the Limelight

We’re in the final week (or so) of production on our Sept./Oct. issue, and among the stories we’re putting finishing touches on is a feature package on alums working in New York and national theatre. As it happens, a couple of the Penn Staters featured in the piece—musical theatre grads Caroline Bowman ’10 and Natalie Weiss ’07—have popped up in the news in the past few days.

maxresdefaultBowman currently stars as Elphaba, the misunderstood green witch, in the Broadway smash Wicked. She and co-star Kara Lindsay were featured last week in a behind-the-scenes segment on New York’s WPIX-TV. (Among other things, you get a sense of just how much time she spends every week covering herself in green paint.) Weiss, meanwhile, recently wrapped a headlining concert at New York’s Highline Ballroom, which is featured in a new post at Among the highlights: A very funny, pop-inflected six-minute version of Les Miserables. There are more videos at the Playbill link, but you can see that one below:

For much more on Bowman, Weiss, and a slew of similarly talented Penn Staters, keep an eye out for our Sept./Oct. issue in a few weeks.

Ryan Jones, senior editor

August 5, 2015 at 2:30 pm 1 comment

Matthew Hydzik Makes It On Broadway

Joyce Hoffman, the alumni coordinator in the College of Arts & Architecture, gave us a heads up a few weeks ago that a pretty recent alumnus of the musical theatre program was about to take over a starring role in West Side Story on Broadway. Matthew Hydzik ’05 had been an understudy to Matt Cavenaugh in the role of Tony (the West Side Story equivalent of Romeo), but Cavenaugh announced plans to leave the show, and starting last night, the role now belongs to Hydzik.

Today’s Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has a profile of Hydzik, who grew up in Sewickley, Pa. He sounds wonderfully unassuming about his newfound fame. I especially love this description of what it’s like to be onstage at a key moment in West Side Story:

Among his favorite moments is just before the first strains of “Maria,” when he can feel the anticipation from the audience.

“It’s the do or die moment. The moment beforehand, they’re doing all this Bernstein music, pounding, fighting, then everything is being pulled away. Onstage, you can hear the ropes to your left, the sound of everything being whisked away, and everything becomes dark. You can take as much time as you want to start. It seems like forever, you can take it in, and then decide, now I’m going to join in.”

The show is at the Palace Theatre in New York.

Tina Hay, editor

December 16, 2009 at 3:16 pm 1 comment

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