Jay Berkow

Joan Herrington, chair of the Department of Theater at WMU, and professor of music theatre performance, Jay Berkow, share their insight and behind-the-scenes details on the new season of WMU Theatre. Musicals include the satirical Urinetown and Sondheim's classic Sunday In The Park With George. In December, the Tony Award-winning performer Cady Huffman, who originated the role of Ulla in The Producers, appears in Next Stop, Broadway.

Several productions encourage audiences to contend with issues from diverse viewponts, as in Tribes, in which a deaf person grows up in a hearing family. Gem of the Ocean, by playwright August Wilson, examines black life at the turn of the last century;  Dominique Morriseau's Blood At The Root is a ripped-from-the-headlines play about the Jena Six. On the lighter side, there's the farce Restoration Comedy and Peter Schaffer's classic about classical composers, Amadeus.


brendabraxton.com

Brenda Braxton has starred in Broadway productions since she was 20 years old. For her appearance in "Next Stop, Broadway!" she brings that experience to the Western Michigan University Department of Theater where, with the help of dozens of talented students, she will star in a cabaret revue for three consecutive nights in the Williams Theatre, Thurs - Sat at 7:30 pm.

In a conversation with Cara Lieurance, and with director of Theater Arts Management Emily Duguay sitting in, Braxton shares some of the highlights of her career, and offers insights into recent trends and how they affected her career.


WMU Department of Theater

Many factors - from cast size, costume demands, balancing comedies and dramas, to the experience value for a theater student - go into designing a season of shows at Western Michigan University's Department of Theater. Jay Berkow, WMU's Director of Music Theater, says that occasionally, there's room for a professor's passion project as well. Berkow takes listeners through all 10 productions in the 2018-19 season, including his passion project: the regional premiere of Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown.

Janet Gover

Portage West Middle School seventh grader Andrew Klepser and Billy Elliot, the fictional title character of a film (2000) and musical (2005), have at least one thing in common: both were kind of surprised to discover they could dance. In a live interview, director Jay Berkow, actress Allison Crockett (Grandma), Max Butkiewicz (Michael) and Andrew Klepser (Billy Elliot) discuss the characters and themes of the musical, which will be a regional premiere in west Michigan.

Set during the doomed 1984-5 National Union of Mineworkers strike in the U.K. (one of the largest industrial actions in history), it tells the story of a motherless Billy Elliot, who lives with his somewhat senile grandmother and his father and brother, both coal miners, the latter involved in violence. Billy and his friend Michael are both accustomed to sometimes harsh and neglectful parenting, and so they set out to discover their own worth through trial and error -- Billy with the help of an unlikely mentor, the frustrated dance teacher Mrs. Wilkinson.

Billy Elliot opens on Friday, May 4, and performances continue through May 20. Detail at the Kalamazoo Civic website.

WMU Department of Theatre

Hear Jay Berkow, professor of music theater performance, and Emily Duguay, director of theater arts management discuss comedies, dramas, and musicals that will be be marketed, produced and performed by a talented group of Western Michigan University students. Highlights include the premiere of the West End musical The Witches of Eastwick, in its first college production, and a spring performance of the Webber/Rice classic, Jesus Christ Superstar.


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