After the unfortunate cancellation of the New York trip, KO’s theater students were thrilled by the announcement of a week of virtual and easily accessible Broadway masterclasses. During the week of April 27, Theater Director Kyle Reynolds introduced the students to six performers who, in advance, listened to each of the students’ submissions and were able to give them feedback virtually. Because these masterclasses were virtual, Mr. Reynolds had many more options when considering whom to bring in.
Mr. Reynolds announced the guests a week prior over an Instagram live on @wyvernnation. He played music from some of their famous shows, and guests started to flood the comments. “I really wanted to draw out the process and make it as suspenseful as I possibly could,” Mr. Reynolds said.
Monday’s masterclass artist was Lesli Margherita. She made her Broadway debut playing the role of Mrs. Wormwood in “Matilda the Musical.” She then starred as Mona Kent in “Dames at Sea” before returning to “Matilda the Musical” before it closed. Most recently, she starred in “Emojiland” Off-Broadway. She is a recipient of the Olivier Award for her West End debut as Inez in “Zorro the Musical” in 2008. Ms. Margherita was able to highlight the importance of training and dedication to Broadway and its importance to her during her masterclass.
On Tuesday, Christopher Fitzgerald logged on for the masterclass. Launching his career by playing the role of Boq in “Wicked,” he went on to star in musicals such as “Young Frankenstein” and “Finian’s Rainbow.” Additionally, he won both a Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Award for his role as Ogie in the hit musical “Waitress.”
Wednesday’s exclusive masterclass, limited to 11 participants, featured actress Taylor Louderman. Ms. Louderman made her Broadway debut in “Bring it On: the Musical.” Most recently, she played Regina George in “Mean Girls,” and she was nominated for a Tony Award for that role.
Thursday was a dance-centered masterclass featuring actor Grasan Kingsberry. He has performed in 11 different shows including both the original “The Color Purple,” as well as the 2015 revival. He has, most recently, played the role of a storyteller on the revival of “Once on This Island.” Kingsberry is a Daytime Emmy Award Winner. During the masterclass, he taught the students a dance from “We Dance,” the opening to “Once on This Island.” Senior Remy McCoy and junior Olivia Pear took on the challenge of performing it live for Mr. Kingsberry to receive feedback. “I was very impressed by everyone’s confidence, because we haven’t done anything like this before,” Mr. Reynolds said.
Friday’s first guest was the talented Kate Baldwin, who has been acting on Broadway since 2002, where she was cast as the understudy for Miss Dorothy in “Thoroughly Modern Millie.” She has most notably starred in “Finian’s Rainbow” and “Hello, Dolly!” among others. She has two Tony Award nominations as well as four nominations for a Drama Desk Award. “Kate was already going to be someone we took a masterclass with when we went to New York,” Mr. Reynolds said, “and I really wanted students to get the opportunity to meet her because she is someone I admire a lot.”
The final surprise guest on Friday was Eva Noblezada, an actress who started her Broadway career in a production of “Ms. Saigon,” in which she played the role of Kim and was nominated for a Tony Award. Currently, she stars as Eurydice in “Hadestown,” for which she has also been nominated for a Tony Award. “When I logged onto the masterclass and saw her, it was so amazing,” Olivia said. “She is an incredible performer, and I really admire what she has done with her character.”
All these actors serve as great models for what performers in the industry should represent. “I wanted to make sure I hired people that preached good values and kindness,” Mr. Reynolds said. All of the actors spoke to the importance of being kind, gracious, and positive, both in and out of the audition room.
Overall, the week of masterclasses was very valuable because of the amount of experience the performers have had throughout their lives. “The advice they gave was unique, individualized, and it felt like they really understood us as performers and had spent the time considering how to help us improve,” Olivia said.
While the experience and feedback student performers got was invaluable, Mr. Reynolds is excited to return to KO and do more masterclasses in the dance studio. “There is nothing like having a dance masterclass in person, or getting live feedback about singing,” he said. “I think it was a good solution to the obstacle we had in our path, but I would always prefer masterclasses where we were all together.”
The next exciting event coming up for those involved in KO theater is the Halo Awards, which will be taking place virtually. Nominations are coming out on June 2, and schools will log onto an online meeting to find out who won awards. “I am so happy we were fortunate to be one of the few schools who got the opportunity to perform,” Mr. Reynolds said, “and I am truly proud of what we put on stage back in February.”
Nonetheless, especially in these difficult times, it is important to remember that there are still ways to spread the love of theater at KO. Even though we are not all together, the Broadway masterclasses served to celebrate what many in the KO community love and cherish most.