Above: Luther Lewis and Patrick Joel Martin sing Lily's Eyes from The Secret Garden at the debut production by the UK Musical and Operetta Organization. Below: Rachel Farrar and Christopher Baker in Masochism Tango from TomFoolery. LexGo photos by Rich Copley.
Musical theater has been an undercurrent of the University of Kentucky voice program for years.
The annual Grand Night for Singing Broadway revue was developed to give students a taste of musicals, because UK Opera Theatre director Everett McCorvey believed it was important for students to have more than just opera in their repertoire.
The opera program has collaborated with the UK Theatre Department on several musicals and produced its own musical, Carousel, in 2006. Some genuine musical theater talents have rolled through the program, including Michael Turay, Gregory’s brother. But no formal musical program or organization has been established, until now.
No, it’s not a degree program. It’s a club, made up of UK students who want to present musicals and operetta. Think of the scene at Cambridge in Chariots of Fire where Harold Abrahams is shopping for campus organizations to join and hooks up with the Gonville and Caius Gilbert & Sullivan Society to a rousing chorus of, “If everybody’s somebody, than no one’s anybody.”
Just two-and-a-half months ago, the group was merely a concept in the minds of graduate student Susan Rahmsdorff and several other UK voice students. Three weeks before Monday, it became an official club and set a date at Natasha’s for its debut.
The show was a revue, Love in the Time of Musicals, an 18-song showcase of tunes celebrating love in many forms, from On the Street Where You Live from Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Lowe’s My Fair Lady to the naughtiness of Masochism Tango from Tom Lehrer’s TomFoolery to the devotion of All I Ask of You from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera.
The 10 performers started the show Surprise Theatre-style, with Rahmsdorff sounding a “brrrrring, brrrrrring,” to start The Telephone Hour from the Charles Strouse and Lee Adams’ musical Bye, Bye Birdie.
They then moved through staged versions of songs, showing strong voices, a lot of enthusiasm, and wrapping up the evening asking for donations to help keep the organization going. The singers worked through the aisles literally passing hats.
At the end of the evening, treasurer Megan McCauley, who had just closed the program with a stirring rendition of You’ll Never Walk Alone, sat down with the cash, but the first order of business was a champagne toast to the debut.
Advisor Margo Buchanan counted it as a great start and the group as not only a good chance to promote musicals, but also an opportunity for younger singers, who may not be ready to compete for roles in UK Opera Theatre productions, to get some stage experience.
The cast of Monday’s show included some familiar faces, such as Christopher Baker and Luther Lewis, who were recently in UK’s Hotel Casablanca, and several freshmen and sophomores, just getting started.
The organization, of course, is also just getting started. And while there was champagne to be sipped and a well-earned meal to eat after the show, the singers were already eager to get to their next projects, including a roving piano bar and an operetta revue in the late spring.
“I can’t believe we did this,” Rahmsdorff said. “Now, I want to do it again.”