A newly renovated Dowd Fine Arts Center won’t open until the spring semester, but actors in SUNY Cortland’s Performing Arts Department this fall plan to deliver the same high caliber of musical theatre entertainment their audiences have come to expect.
“Every year, the level of our students’ work grows,” said Kevin Halpin, an associate professor of performing arts. “We’ve been very successful in creating a professional musical theatre training program within a strong liberal arts education.”
When the College’s Dowd Fine Arts Theatre re-opens with a brand-new stage and 440 new seats, it will include significant improvements in acoustics, lighting, storage and more. The surroundings might seem new to patrons of the original theater, but the department’s first major musical this spring might not be. The College will present “Brigadoon,” the 1940s Broadway hit about a mysterious Scottish village. The play was the first performance in the theater when it opened in 1967.
Since then, the program has launched performance careers, with graduates playing important roles in off-Broadway productions of “West Side Story,” “Beauty and the Beast,” and other hit musicals. Dowd’s upgrade, however, was many years in the making.
“We are really excited to get back in there,” Halpin said, noting that a production of Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible” is in store for the spring. “This is an opportunity for (the community) to see great musical theatre artists at the beginning of their careers and enjoy some really entertaining and thought-provoking work.”
The fall semester’s highlights include the rock musical “Rockabye Hamlet,” slated to be re-worked by students for a contemporary audience, plus a holiday season performance of Alan Menken’s musical “A Christmas Carol.” Both will take place in Old Main Brown Auditorium.
The revamped version of “Rockabye Hamlet” will provide “a chance for students to be involved in the creation of something,” Halpin said. The year’s first production also will incorporate the input of Clive Jones, the musical’s composer, lyricist and book writer.
“It’s not just a re-staging or a recreation of something that’s already existed, but rather a new take, a new version of this musical to bring it to life,” Halpin said.
When “A Christmas Carol” opens in November, it will include children from the local community in its cast. Choices of family-friendly musicals come with community members in mind, Halpin said.
And, as part of a new project, senior musical theatre majors are planning a performance of “The Rocky Horror Show” to open in the first week of October in a local community venue.
“To be honest, we have a very loyal audience and a really great relationship with the community,” Halpin said.
Along with consistently remarkable student casts, that much should remain the same when the first curtain opens this fall.