Musical Theatre

Q&A with Actress, Composer, and New York Film Academy (NYFA) Alum Xiren Wang

Canadian-born Xiren Wang is quite comfortable wearing many hats in the entertainment business–she is an actress as well as a composer, and has found success doing both. Wang first attended the 4-Week Musical Theatre workshop at New York Film Academy (NYFA) before pivoting to the 1-Year Acting for Film conservatory at our New York campus.

Since then, she has found work both in front and behind the camera, especially when it comes to scoring films and as well performing live. Her biggest project to date is scoring The Eyes, which aired on Showtime. New York Film Academy spoke with alum Xiren Wang about her eclectic work and how she first ended up at NYFA:

New York Film Academy (NYFA): The Eyes was released nationwide and had a run on Showtime. You scored and appeared in the film. Tell us more about this project and your experience working on it.

Xiren Wang (XW): After graduating from NYFA, I started taking classes at One on One, where I met Robbie Bryan, who directed the film. It was the first class that was back and running, because it was immediately after Hurricane Sandy, so I was one of the two people who actually showed up – and sometimes, showing up is that important. I met him as an actor, and invited him to the shows and concerts I performed in, and later on, when he needed a composer for the feature film, he thought the tone of The Eyes was a good match. The Eyes is a psychological thriller. Cerebral themes and dark emotions are definitely my genre of music. I write mostly for romance, drama, and yoga, all very different tones, but knowing your forte helps you define your sound, and film needs that specificity. Even though every trained composer, in theory, should be able to write for anything, doing something well is another level. Knowing your own sound helps carve out your sound world, and just like how there’s no actor who really can take every role, there’s no composer that is good for every general story. 

Xiren Wang

Because The Eyes was mostly filmed in one room, the sound world needed to be rich and multidimensional to keep the story moving forward. I blended classical sounds and electronic soundscapes to give each character another layer of identity, to speak to their backstories, and to expose a bit of what’s going on in their heads. I like to study the script and characters, and really get deep into the subtext and the headspace of what each character is holding back from the audience. 

Working on the film also afforded me the opportunity to learn about foley, and I was fortunate to have worked with the team at Skywalker Ranch for this. Because we had such a small team, I learned on the job what foley editing was about, and I’m glad to say that after the post-production process, I can handle any work that’s under the sound and music departments – usually consisting of a dozen or even hundreds of people, depending on the scale of the production. I’ve definitely started paying extra attention to the credits, just to see how the soundworld is sculpted for each film. I want to take what I’ve heard and then break it down into how it’s made, sort of like reverse-engineering, and then find ways to recreate something that sounds like the expensive output, but with a more resourceful approach, because most movies don’t allocate much budget or team to the music and sound departments. 

The reality of Hollywood orchestras recording for Hollywood films is not the reality we live in today, and a lot of production teams want skeleton crews and one-(wo)man powerhouses to take care of “everything”. Unless the director is keen on music, they often don’t know what creating a score really entails – composing is just one step of the journey, which then goes to recording, editing, mixing, matching to picture, etc. It’s a full suite of work, for many people, and having gotten my sound design start at NYFA really helped me understand this world, so that when I was hired as a composer, I could double as the sound designer as well. Understanding foley and other audio elements of the film is also crucial, and important lessons I learned from working on The Eyes

I’m fortunate to have worked with director Robbie Bryan, who trusted me enough to have this be my first feature film score. The soundtrack is also available to stream and buy on most digital retailers, but definitely get the whole experience on Showtime.

Xiren Wang

NYFA: You also music directed and performed live concerts at venues ranging from Arlene’s Grocery to Carnegie Hall, in which you also performed original music. Is your approach to composing music for your concerts different from the one you have for composing original film scores? How?

XW: Definitely. Music for film and music for picture is driven by story and frame. Music for live concerts is standalone music, driven by the pulse of the music itself, removed from the frames that anchor what it should be about. When I’m scoring a film, everything has to serve the story, and I believe a good film score should carry you further along and deeper into the story. A good film score makes you sink into more of your feelings and more of the story, it shouldn’t distract you with sounds that take you out of the story. It’s like a piece of fabric, tailored to the script and to each frame of what’s going on visually. 

Film music isn’t standalone music, it has to serve the story, and whatever doesn’t, is cut, like so much visual footage, as well. Composing for live concerts is where the musicians are the rockstars, and the performance itself is the story, so it’s a completely different mindset and landscape. Using the fabric analogy again, this time without a “body” of work to adhere to, the fabric can form its own shape and dynamics. 

I’m fortunate to be able to switch back and forth, because an actor-composer brings an extra set of eyes to the film, I feel. And being and actor-musician, I’m able to play with style, lighting, and the overall design of the music in a way that is storytelling, so this hybrid definitely heightens the production value, as it creates a multi-layered and multi-sensory experience. After all, whether we are actors or musicians, we are delivering an experience, and we want to make our work memorable.

Xiren Wang

NYFA: What brought you to NYFA?

XW: It was a talent scholarship to the Musical Theatre program, and then an extended talent scholarship for the Acting for Film Program. But there was definitely a distance between learning about NYFA and receiving the scholarships. 

I first came to New York when I was still in high school (2005!) at the time–I competed as a junior actress at IMTA (boosted as the talent convention where Katie Holmes and Ashton Kutcher got their start), and one of the girls in our group received a scholarship to NYFA, which for her was a huge deal, and for me, that meant more than the callbacks I got from the various modeling agencies in both LA and NYC. It was more valuable because it offered a journey, a journey of becoming something more, and of self-actualization. 

In 2010, I went to IMTA with one goal in mind, and that’s to get a scholarship from NYFA. As fortune would have it, one of the callbacks I received was from NYFA, and Steven Chinni, whose offer really changed my life, helped me make the transition to move to New York. One of the lines he said during the callback, I’ll never forget, was  “as an actor, you can be whoever you want.” And the possibilities of living a full and rich life, that line offered, meant the world to me. 

By August, that dream became a reality, and I did a record amount of student films while in the program. Working with the cinematography class also afforded me friends who not only gave me reel material, but helped me cut my first reels, some clips which remain in my material today! When I was in the Acting program, I was also taking composition classes at Juilliard, and I saw a NYFA filmmaker’s poster on the bulletin board asking for original music scores. So, I made a lot of posters saying that I could score your film, and put them all over NYFA, and I ended up scoring a lot of student films, and my first sound design job also came from that, and it was something NYFA instructor Paul Warner had produced. 

Xiren Wang

NYFA: What was the most valuable takeaway from your time at NYFA both artistically and personally?

XW: The education I received at NYFA made me a better human being. It introduced me to the entire spectrum of human emotions and taught me what empathy is. I learned about human behaviour, and about darker emotions, and confronting them in a safe place was something so rare – it doesn’t happen outside of school. It gave me access to emotions I never knew existed or knew what to call them. It taught me how to speak clearly, so that my voice lands. It taught me what subtext is, and what pathology is, and life is richer when you understand these layers.

NYFA: What advice do you have for aspiring actors and composers?

XW: First of all, this is not an easy life! If you’re going after fame and celebrity, then it won’t take long to realize that the craft of both acting and composition is really hard work, on so many levels. I’m fortunate to still count myself in the business, but I’ve done a lot of work to get here, juggling multiple careers as an actor, musician, fitness model, composer, sound designer, VO artist, and radio host/producer. You’re constantly competing with people better looking than you, and surviving in the industry requires a lot of inner work, work that we have to do every day, long after we’ve graduated. Because keeping our tools sharp is just one part of the puzzle, having a strong mental game is so necessary. 

Lastly, this is a piece of advice that was given to me, and I finally started to apply it: to create your own content. Find your voice, know what you’re about, and start creating your own work, because most people are waiting for work, and waiting is not a way to live. It’s most disempowering. So figure out what fuels you, and be proactive about life and career, because this really is a marathon, not a sprint. Art comes from life, and in every stage of life, there is story. It’s easier now than ever to create content, but not everyone who has a Canon5D is a great photographer! Continue training, always be learning, and learn about business and look at this as an entrepreneur.

New York Film Academy thanks actress, composer, and NYFA alum Xiren Wang for taking the time to speak with us and wishes her success as her career continues to grow!

Q&A with Jagged Little Pill and Christmas Carol Producer and New York Film Academy (NYFA) Musical Theatre Alum Chase Thomas

Chase Thomas was only ten minutes to places for a performance of Disneyland’s Fantasmic! when he received a call asking him to become a producer on Broadway’s upcoming A Christmas Carol. 

It was a phone call that would change the life of Thomas, who attended the 2-Year Musical Theatre program at New York Film Academy (NYFA) in Fall 2015, but it wasn’t out of the blue. Through years of hard work, networking, and dedication, Thomas had earned the job offer.

Chase Thomas

New York Film Academy recently spoke with Chase Thomas about his journey into musical theatre, the value of hard work, and the importance of always being genuine and nice to everyone you meet.

New York Film Academy (NYFA): First, can you tell us a bit about yourself, where you’re from, and what brought you to New York Film Academy?

Chase Thomas (CT): Hello! My name is Chase Thomas and I am originally from Laguna Beach, California. I will be making my Broadway producing debut with Jagged Little Pill and A Christmas Carol. I am also the founder of Carmine Theatrical Entertainment LLC, a group of Broadway investors located in Southern California.

I chose New York Film Academy because I was looking for a program that would not only polish my previous training but help me build connections within the entertainment industry. While at NYFA, most of my teachers were working professionals in the television, film, and/or Broadway with incredible resumes. As a student, I was taught many skills that would build me into a proactive business person and a better performer in the industry. 

After leaving New York Film Academy, not only was I a more polished performer, but I left inspired to create my own path in the entertainment  industry.This inspiration led me to become a performer at The Walt Disney Company and to produce two shows on Broadway, both at the same time.

NYFA: What attracted you to musical theatre?

CT: When I was younger I would run around the house singing, and making up songs about everything around me. My parents, noticing I had talent, enrolled me into a theatre school when I was six (The Center Stage Studio). From there on I was hooked! My young self was so intrigued with the idea of acting, singing, and dancing at the same time! 

At just twelve years old, I was given the chance to produce my own shows at The Center Stage Studio. The thrill of producing at my theatre school is what gave me the bug to want to be a producer. The experiences I had at The Center Stage Studio lit the fire of my passion for the entertainment industry, and I have been pursuing it ever since.

NYFA: How did you get involved with Jagged Little Pill?

CT: As I decided to take a different career path than my peers, I got a Bachelor of Science in Business as well as completed a two-year internship at Warner Brothers under the mentorship of Andrew Lazar (American Sniper, Get Smart, 10 Things I Hate About You). During the last months of my internship, Yael Silver (NYFA Alumni/producing partner), reached out to me asking if I would be interested in working with her on Jagged Little Pill. I will never forget that phone call as it was a day that my life changed forever.

NYFA: Can you tell us about A Christmas Carol?

CT: All I can say is that it is wickedly STUNNING! Jack Thorne (Harry Potter and The Cursed Child) and Matthew Warchus’s (Matilda) adaptation of A Christmas Carol is unlike any holiday show I have seen. Get ready, it is going to be the new holiday staple in New York City for many years to come.

NYFA: How did you get involved with A Christmas Carol?

CT: When it was just ten minutes to “places” before I had to go on stage for Fantasmic! at Disneyland, I got an offer from one of the lead producers asking if I would like to be a producer on A Christmas Carol. I immediately said yes and ran on stage to my spot. After the show ended and my adrenaline stopped I questioned, “How is this real life?” But then I quickly reminded myself of all the hard work that I put in that has gotten me to where I am today. It has all made me understand the value of hard work, and has inspired me to continue to work hard for what I want. Putting goals to my dreams has helped me get to where I am.

NYFA: What challenges have you faced producing A Christmas Carol? What has been most rewarding?

CT: There are going to be many ups and downs while working in the entertainment industry. Instead of looking at the lows as a “negative,” I look at them as lessons that will make me a better producer moving forward. “By seeking and blundering we learn,” says Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

NYFA: What did you learn at NYFA that you applied directly to your work on Jagged Little Pill and A Christmas Carol, or your work in general?

CT: I have learned that it is so important to be nice to everyone, and to be genuine. The industry, in fact, is very small. You never know who is going to give you your big break. It could be the classmate you are sitting next to or the person you walked by on the subway. You never know!

NYFA: What advice would you give to students just starting out at NYFA?

CT: Enjoy the ride because it is a marathon, not a sprint. This means it’s important to train well and practice good habits early on. Remember to always work hard and never give up, no matter how challenging it may seem. The ones who succeed are the ones who do not fall back but push forward, even when it seems impossible.

New York Film Academy thanks Professional Conservatory of Musical Theatre at NYFA alum Chase Thomas for taking the time to speak with us and share his experiences and advice with our students!

Q&A with New York Film Academy (NYFA) Musical Theatre Alum Stasi Berezovskaya

Stasi Berezovskaya knew she wanted to study at the Professional Conservatory of Musical Theatre at New York Film Academy (PCMT at NYFA) from the moment she stepped inside the building after traveling to New York City from her hometown of Moscow. Now a PCMT at NYFA alum, she started her own creative production agency, SB Productions, which has afforded her the opportunity to combine her love of fashion, performance, and art. New York Film Academy spoke with Stasi about her time at NYFA, where her passion stems from, and what it takes to create your own company:

Stasi Berezovskaya

New York Film Academy (NYFA): Can you tell us a bit about yourself, where you’re from, and what brought you to New York Film Academy?

Stasi Berezovskaya (SB): My name is Stasi Berezovskaya. I came to New York City from Moscow to improve my skills in Musical Theatre and pursue my career as a performer. I already had an education as a Musical Theatre Artist at GITIS University in Moscow, and I was choosing between a few schools at the time I traveled to NYC to study. However, I fell in love with NYFA as soon as I entered the building. It was all about the people who work there, because they make the atmosphere magical. From the Admissions office and the incredible teachers, to the President of the Academy, Michael Young, and Vice Presidents David Klein and James Miller, everybody made it feel like they were family that you could turn to starting from the first day. They all shared their amazing skills, but most importantly, they shared their hearts.

NYFA: Why did you decide to focus on fashion? 

SB: As far as fashion concerns, I guess it has always been in me, I was just previously too busy or too scared to accept it and pursue it professionally. My mom is a stylist and I grew up around all of the beautiful clothes, collections, and models. I remember a picture of myself that my great grandmother used to show me–I was three years old, standing in her heels that were probably eight sizes too big for me, and around my neck hung incredible pearls that made me feel like a princess. I suppose fashion is in my genes, because all of the women in my family used to create beautiful pieces to wear and the passion was evidently passed on from generation to generation.

Stasi Berezovskaya

NYFA: Can you tell us about your agency and what the process was like getting it off the ground? 

SB: After two years at the Professional Conservatory of Musical Theatre at NYFA, while I was auditioning in New York City, I started working as an assistant for Russian designer MONOSUIT and met an amazing family of independent designers called Flying Solo. Meeting such talented people and seeing their hard work throughout the long process, including how they use their talents and skills to make something different and absolutely stunning, I realized that we are all artists. We, as actors and performers, have the voice and the platform to say what others can’t, as do designers. Designers’ collections are inspired by the same events that happen in the world every day and the same struggles we face in musicals and performances, they just talk about it in a different way. 

Given this, I thought to bring these two special worlds together, and opened a creative company called SB Production Agency. My team and I create and produce content for designers such as look books, campaign shoots, and fashion videos. Beyond this, the most important element of what I do is combine the two worlds and show designers’ collections through dance and performance, telling a story led by unique music.

Stasi Berezovskaya

My company has only just started its journey, but it has already been a great experience. I love to combine various types of art in order to allow people to see the bigger picture and see the different angles of artists’ work. 

For example, I recently had the honor of working with the amazing painter Tigran Tsitoghdzyan. He was hosting an art show in Fremin Gallery, which allowed us to use their space and helped us bring our idea to life. Tigran’s series of paintings are very unique, as they depict women who appear to be confident and beautiful, but in reality they are struggling to show who they really are. Given this, we came up with the idea of inviting dancer Abigail Kelvas and choreographer Dolly Sfeir to process the paintings and guess what the women within them actually feel. We put together a video and finalized the film in just two days, thanks to our wonderful creative team. Women on set included NYFA alum Luciana Baldovino, who is a talented director and a filmmaker in my company, and current NYFA student Beth Ribeiro, who served as a DP. Also on set to assist was NYFA Chair of Cinematography Piero Basso. Small clips of the video we produced became a part of Tigran’s interview on Armenian TV and I believe this is only the beginning for this project and more to come. We have so many more wonderful projects ahead!

NYFA: What advice would you give to students just starting out at NYFA?

SB: This has been a wonderful journey since my graduation and I am so grateful for NYFA. I met so many amazing and talented people that became co-workers, friends, and family to me. I believe that we are all here for a reason. We are from different countries and cities, speaking different languages, but the language of art is the only one that everyone can understand. I believe we all met for a greater purpose to make this world a better place. NYFA is a place to start building these kinds of relationships, believe in art’s power, and move forward together.

Stasi Berezovskaya

New York Film Academy thanks PCMT alum Stasi Berezovskaya and wishes her the best of luck on her journey with SB Production Agency!

6 Essential Books on Musical Theatre

While books have seemingly taken a backseat to everything from YouTube videos to audiobooks, they are still an invaluable resource to supplement your musical theatre education, especially when it comes to the history of the stage and the biggest names behind the biggest works.

Musical Theatre

Here are some must-read books for musical theatre performers–both informative and a great way to pass the time when you’re resting your voice. 

Broadway Babies: The People Who Made the American Musical 
by Ethan Mordden

Recounting the development of the American musical comedy genre, this history is as entertaining as the song-and-dance productions it describes. The book features musical legends including Florenz Ziegfeld, Harold Prince, Bert Lahr, Gwen Verdon, Angela Lansbury, Victor Herbert, Liza Minnelli, and Stephen Sondheim, and explores shows with staying power like Anything Goes, Show Boat, Oklahoma!, Follies, and Chicago, to offer a rich account of a beloved but often overlooked American staple.

Not Since Carrie: Forty Years of Broadway Musical Flops
by Ken Mandelbaum

This book explores the various how’s and why’s that led to dozens of Broadway musicals that seemed like surefire hits to flop hard at the box office. Mandlebaum is both objective and generous though, finding the positives where he can in shows whose failures could have simply been a product of bad luck and timing. Published in 1992, the book doesn’t describe the infamous Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark, but after reading it, you may have an idea of why even Marvel failed on Broadway.

The Vocal Athlete
by Wendy D. Leborgne and Marci Rosenberg

Musical theatre can push the human voice to its limits, and The Vocal Athlete is written specifically to help performers meet the high demands for a sustainable career on stage, providing ideal tools and exercises to help preserve vocal wellness. When it comes to taking care your most important asset, you’ll want all the help you can.

How Sondheim Found His Sound
by Steve Swayne

This highly-praised book is a biography of one of Broadway’s biggest icons–Stephen Sondheim, the composer and lyricist behind works like Into the Woods, Sweeney Todd, Follies, and Sunday in the Park with George. Knowing Sondheim’s work and what makes the artist tick is key to understanding the very nature of Broadway, and Swayne’s book is a perfect way into his world and understanding how one of the greats came to be.

The Complete Phantom of the Opera
by George Perry

The Phantom of the Opera has cemented its place in Broadway history as an iconic musical, but its roots go much farther than Andrew Lloyd Webber’s 1986 masterpiece. This definitive account of The Phantom of the Opera recounts the history of the work from its historical origins to Gaston Leroux’s classic novel that inspired Webber’s version, as well as the story’s other incarnations in between. All of this is supplemented with beautiful photography that include images from the production itself.

Up in the Cheap Seats: A Historical Memoir of Broadway
by Ron Fassler

Up in the Cheap Seats is a truly original take on Broadway, looking at it as a fan from the ground up, or rather in Fassler’s case, from the cheap seats down. By imbuing the history of Broadway and hundreds of its productions from the personal point-of-view of an actor in his youth, along with the dozens of people he met along the way backstage, the book gives a memorable but relatable and unique take on the musical theatre scene from a heartfelt place of true love.

6 Reasons to See ‘Beetlejuice: The Musical’ 

While a lot of movies seem ripe for adapting to Broadway–like Frozen, Kinky Boots, and Once–many people were surprised when it was announced Tim Burton’s 1988 dark afterlife comedy Beetlejuice would be turned into a big-budget musical.

Though it may have been a surprise, it was certainly the right choice as Beetlejuice: The Musical has become a hit with critics and audiences alike, racking up an impressive eight Tony nominations earlier this Spring.

Beetlejuice Musical


If you haven’t already, here’s six reasons to check out
Beetlejuice: The Musical:

The creepy story

Fans of the film are well aware of the story, but it’s not one you’d normally see on Broadway:

A lonely teenage girl befriends the ghosts of a married couple after her family moves into their home. Scott Brown and Anthony King are well deserving of their Tony nominations for Best Book of a Musical.

It’s devilish fun

Director Alex Timbers (Peter and the Starcatcher, Moulin Rouge) takes a leap with this spectacular show that never takes a break from its silly energy and slapstick physical comedy. Capturing the manic energy of Michael Keaton’s original performance and Tim Burton’s direction is no small feat, so it’s no wonder the show has been Tony nominated for Best Musical.

There are visual effects, projections, and puppetry

Awarded for Best Makeup at the Oscars 1989, this visionary show lives up to the original film’s Hollywood special effects. Tony nominations for Best Lighting Design, Sound Design and Scenic Design should tell you that you’ll be in for a treat when seeing the various magical moments offered by this blockbuster musical.

Costumes straight from the film

A six-time Tony nominee for Best Costume Design, William Ivey Long obtains two more nods this year for his brilliant work in Beetlejuice and Tootsie. Original film director Tim Burton built his career on the stunning warped visuals from his own imagination, and Long’s wardrobe work both evokes the unique style while offering something new to a live theatre audience.

It is wickedly cast

Tony nominee and Broadway veteran Alex Brightman (School of Rock, Wicked, Matilda the Musical) is the perfect choice for the fast-talking wild card ghoul, Beetlejuice. After all, it’s not his first time in a Tim Burton adaptation–in 2013 he also performed in the musical adaptation of Big Fish. The stellar cast of Beetlejuice is rounded out by Anne Caruso (Blackbird), Kerry Butler (Les Miserables, Mean Girls) as Barbara, and Rob McClure (Avenue Q, Something Rotten) as Adam.

New and familiar tunes

A musical isn’t worth seeing if the music isn’t great, and the numbers offered by Beetlejuice are fantastic. In addition to new, diverse rock- and pop-based tunes written for the show (Beetlejuice also earned a Tony nomination for Best Original Score), the play also features two classics from the original film–the “Banana Boat Song (Day O)” and Harry Belafonte’s “Jump in the Line.” So if you haven’t already, now’s the time for you to jump in the line for tickets to see Beetlejuice: The Musical!

8 Broadway Shows You Need To See in 2019

Whether you’re a tourist in town or a long-time resident of New York City, it’s always a great time to see a show on Broadway, Off Broadway, or even Off Off Broadway. The choices are vast, diverse, and there’s something for everyone:

Here are just some of the shows to see with friends and family!

Phantom of the Opera. A masterpiece from the French novel of the same name written by Gaston Leroux and published in 1910, the longest-running musical in history is a must-see, and a must-see it again! Every detail is sharp, specific, and a delight to observe while memorably scored with lyrical and rock opera songs. The Tony Award-winner for Best Musical in 1988 was written by Broadway legend Andrew Lloyd Webber (Cats, Jesus Christ Superstar) and if there’s one to see one when your family comes to town, this may be the one!

Chicago. The second longest running musical in the history of Broadway, this satire on the criminal justice led by two fierce women truly knows how to showcase its choreography. Another classic to discover or re-discover, each and every song will be stuck in your head after leaving the theatre, and dancing in Times Square won’t surprise anyone. The show was adapted into a film directed by Rob Marshall and won the Best Picture Oscar in 2003; the show itself won the Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical in 1997.

Frozen. Frozen is adapted from the 2013 smash hit Disney animated film, which itself was adapted from the Hans Christian Andersen tale The Snow Queen. Disney Theatrical Productions knows what to do to make audiences feel the magic of the story and sing along to its catchy numbers. Director Michael Grandage and choreographer Rob Ashford had already collaborated on Broadway for Evita, and were a perfect team to make alive this tale of sisterhood with superb technical effects, new songs, and the ones we already know so well.

Wicked. The untold story about the witches of Oz, this creative, witty sweet, and fun comedy is for the whole family. One of the most expensive shows to produce on Broadway due to its makeup and scenic effects, Wicked never gets old and puts some of the finest singers in musical theatre on center stage. Indeed, this show helped make household names out of its stars Kristin Chenoweth and Idina Menzel, who won the Tony Award for her role as Elphaba.

School of Rock. The 2003 film of the same name, directed by Richard Linklater and starring Jack Black, was a smash hit when it came out, so it was only a matter of time before producers brought its dynamic, rock ‘n’ roll vibes to Broadway. The show stars a strong cast of talented children headlined by a charismatic lead, and is passionate, touching, and just a whole lot of fun.

Jersey Boys. Inspired by the lives of the celebrated doo wop group Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, this lively show mixes comedy and drama with classic golden oldies. First starting on Broadway before moving Off Broadway, Jersey Boys was adapted into a film by Clint Eastwood in 2014.

Kinky Boots. Adapted from a British movie from 2005, this fresh and energetic show is an LGBTQIA+ story with an uplifting story, vivid colors, and strong characters and includes songs from activist-singer Cyndi Lauper and lyrics by Harvey Fierstein (Hairspray, Mrs. Doubtfire). Kinky Boots is closing on April 7, so now may be your last chance to see it on Broadway for a long time!

Stomp. Stomp is a British creation from the city of Brighton founded in 1991 that toured the world and has been performed Off Broadway since 1994. With no dialogue, this percussion celebration is a journey through unique sounds: matchboxes, zippo lighters, push brooms, and garbage cans to name a few. Each number is precise, musically innovative, and a heck of a good time.

The Difference Between Broadway, Off-Broadway, and Off-Off Broadway

Many consider New York City to be the Cultural Capital of the World — there are countless things to do for both tourists and native New Yorkers alike. But nearly everyone visiting the Big Apple makes sure they catch a show. While Broadway is obviously the flashiest of the options out there, there are also Off-Broadway and even Off-Off-Broadway productions. But what do these labels mean exactly?

The answer is surprisingly simple. What gives a show its designation as Broadway, Off-Broadway, or Off-Off-Broadway isn’t its production value or budget, or a measure of its success. It’s actually mostly related to a show’s seating capacity!

Broadway

Off-Off-Broadway

Off-Off-Broadway theatres have 99 seats or less, so are obviously smaller venues than their more well known cousins. There are around 120 Off-Off-Broadway theaters in New York City at any given time, with many located in the city’s more artistic neighborhoods, like the West Village.

Often these shows will have cheaper ticket prices, and closer access to the actors after a performance. Because it’s easier to take financial chances with smaller productions, Off-Off-Broadway shows are also more likely to be avant-garde or experimental than more mainstream venues. They can be more traditional plays and musicals however, and give theatre-goers a healthy amount of options throughout the year.

An example of an Off-Off-Broadway production is Benten Kozo, directed by Jim Simpson, an Obie award-winning production that ran for over six months.

Some Off-Off-Broadway theatres:
HERE Arts Center, The Kraine Theater, La MaMa E.T.C.


Off-Broadway

Off-Broadway theatres can be significantly larger than on Off-Off-Broadway, and can hold up to to 499 seats. With fantastic original stories, musical revivals, and even performance art shows, many shows that begin on Off-Broadway can jump to Broadway if successful enough and warrants larger audience capacity — a famous example being historical musical, Hamilton.

Well-known stage performers can also be prominent in the Off-Broadway scene, not just limiting themselves to larger Broadway shows. Many performers tend to go back to the intimacy of a smaller theatre where an audience can be engaged more intimately with a production and its cast. There are roughly 85 Off-Broadway theatres in Manhattan.

Stomp is an enormously popular production that began in the United Kingdom and has been running in the East Village’s Orpheum Theatre for years, and is a unique example of the varied types of shows you can catch on Off-Broadway.

Some Off-Broadway theatres:
Cherry Lane Theatre, SoHo Playhouse, Minetta Lane Theatre

Theatre Ballet
Broadway

Broadway shows have the strictest guidelines to earn their moniker. In addition to having 500 seats or greater, they must be located in the Theatre District (around Times Square in Midtown, Manhattan) as well as in venues certified by The Broadway League, the trade association for the Broadway industry.

Because of their prime locations, Broadway shows have a greater chance to attract tourists and other theatre-goers, and as such, have long since been known to have much larger budgets and production values than other musicals and stage shows in New York City. Similarly, they can also attract larger stars, as well as adaptations of famous films and other works whose rights may be expensive to procure.

Examples of famous Broadway shows are nearly countless, with The Phantom of the Opera being the longest running show on Broadway to date.

Some Broadway theatres:
Gershwin Theatre, Winter Garden Theatre, Ambassador Theatre

The 5 Musicals You Should Watch Out for in 2018

Whether you’re a dyed-in-the-wool theatre kid or have never seen a Broadway show, you’re in luck in New York City. NYC is the global epicenter for this distinctly American art form, and has so much happening at any given time that there’s bound to be something for everybody. While the word “Broadway” conjures up images of bright lights, sequins, and jazz hands, there’s also a whole lot more to it, especially in the last few years (look no further than Hamilton, the steeped-in-hip-hop-American-history hit).

In any given Broadway season, there will be a slew of brassy revivals, pairing seasoned stars with favorite works (Hello, Dolly! currently stars ageless diva Bernadette Peters), as well as new works and adaptations (Mean Girls is now a musical, with music written by Tina Fey’s composer husband Jeff Richmond), and innovative new pieces (In Transit, an original a cappella work written for the stage).

Here are five hot musicals of all varieties that might tickle your fancy this year:

Frozen

St. James Theatre, currently running

In case you’d finally gotten award-winning composers Bobby Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez’s 2014 score out of your head, Disney’s newest live theatrical experience features your favorites along with a bunch of new tunes.

What’s especially exciting about this production is the pairing of newly-minted stars Caissie Levy (Les Miserables) and Patti Murin (Lysistrata Jones) as Elsa and Anna. It’ll be hard to get a ticket for this week, but with an open-ended run, you won’t run out of time to see this.

One Thousand Nights and One Day

Prospect Theater Company, April 4-29

Prospect is well-known for its commitment to producing new musicals, and this year is no exception. One Thousand Nights and One Day features an ensemble of eight vocalists, and combines the traditional story of Scheherazade with a modern love story between a Jewish man and Palestinian woman.

The heavily-female production team features music by Marisa Michelson, composer of Prospect’s acclaimed Tamar of the River. If you’re after something fresh and authentic, get tickets for this limited run!

Me and My Girl

New York City Center, May 9-13

This delightful 1937 Broadway hit features book revisions by the masterful Stephen Fry. It’s a happy romp about a Cockney who discovers he’s an earl, and it’s getting a limited run featuring contemporary Broadway mainstays like Christian Borle (Something Rotten!) and Laura Michelle Kelly (Finding Neverland). A treat for the traditional and not-so-traditional Broadway enthusiast.

The Beast in the Jungle

Vineyard Theatre, May 4-June 10

This innovative and much-anticipated production pairs legendary composer John Kander (Cabaret, Chicago) with legendary director/choreographer Susan Stroman, as well as accomplished international dancers, fusing modern dance and ballet with a dark and epic love story.

Beetlejuice

October 2018, National Theatre in D.C.; Broadway opening TBD

It’s become common to see film properties adapted into musicals this past decade; they don’t all work, but they don’t all have Eddie Perfect at the helm.

An Australian Renaissance man about to make quite an impact on American audiences (he’s also revising the score for autumn’s King Kong), Perfect is a pianist, composer, actor, singer, and theatre artist, whose wit and exuberance make him the perfect guy for this job.

While the Broadway opening date of Beetlejuice is TBD, this one tries out in Washington D.C. in October of 2018, which makes a New Year opening in NYC likely. In the meantime, D.C. is just a weekend train ride away!

Which musicals are you most excited to catch this season? Let us know in the comments below! Learn more about Musical Theatre by studying with Broadway professionals at the New York Film Academy.

Who Are We Rooting For at the 2017 Tony Ceremony?

The 2017 Tony Award Season is going to be a blast.

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While “A Doll’s House Part 2” imagines a sequel to the famous Ibsen play, “Groundhog Day,” based on a film of the same name, is a romantic comedy about a man stuck in a time loop. Meanwhile, “Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812,” a musical based on Tolstoy’s “War and Peace” is leading the show with 12 nominations.

So who are your expected winners? Below are our predictions in the top categories for this year’s Tony Awards.

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1.  Best Play: Our guess is that it’s going to be “Sweat,” which is based on the Pulitzer-prize winning play by Lynn Nottage and takes a cold hard look at working-class America. However, “Oslo” may be a close contender for this award.

2. Best Musical: We’re torn between two choices — “Come From Away” and “Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812,” but we’re willing to place a bet on the former.

3. Best Revival of a Play: Set in a gypsy-cab station, we think “Jitney” was one heck of an amazing ride and we’re hoping it will bag this year’s Tony.

4. Best Revival of a Musical: We think it’s going to be a close call between “Hello, Dolly!” and “Falsettos” but we’re slightly biased towards “Falsettos.” 

5. Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play: We think Kevin Kline did an amazing job as Garry Essendine in “Present Laughter.” 

6. Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play: As much as we love Cate Blanchett, we have a feeling it’s going to be Laurie Metcalf for her fantastic role in “A Doll’s House, Part 2” as Nora Helmer.

7. Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical: For this, our heart simply goes out to Josh Groban from “Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812.”

8. Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical: Both Christine Ebersole and Patti LuPone stole our hearts with their mesmerizing performances in “War Paint,” so we’re hoping it might be a draw, though we suspect Bette Midler from “Hello, Dolly!” is going to be stiff competition.

9. Best Direction of a Play: We think it’s a tough choice between Sam Gold (“A Doll’s House, Part 2”)  and Ruben Santiago-Hudson (“Jitney”).

10. Best Direction of a Musical: We’re rooting for Christopher Ashley for all the little ways he made “Come from Away” such a captivating experience.

11. Best Book of a Musical: In our opinion, the award for the best librettist should go to Steven Levenson for “Dear Evan Hansen.” 

12. Best Original Score Written For Theatre: We really hope its Dave Malloy’s heart-wrenching score for “Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812.” 

Do you agree or disagree with the above predictions?

In fact, we will be live-streaming during the Tony Awards ceremony, so follow us for live updates on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and see how many of our predictions came true!

The 4 Top Grossing & Longest Running Current Broadway Shows

No trip to New York is complete without seeing a Broadway show. The most famous theatre district in the world, Broadway is a 13 mile strip in Manhattan that is full of culture, lights, and theatre magic. The most popular shows on Broadway are the musicals, to the point that the very word “Broadway” has become synonymous with the American style of musicals made famous by the Great White Way. There’s no business like show business, but what many don’t realize is that show business can be big business.

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Here’s a list of the highest grossing, longest running, and most significant Broadway shows going on right now. We only included shows that are still going: unfortunately, “Mamma Mia” ended its first run in 2015, so it barely missed this list. However, it is the most popular “jukebox” musical of all time (a musical that uses popular music). If you want to see the longest-running Broadway shows to date, check out Playbill’s comprehensive list. 

Here are 4 current shows that embody the spirit of Broadway, and are also busting box office records:

Wicked

There haven’t been very many new Broadway shows that have crept their way onto the list of the longest running and highest grossing Broadway musicals. “Wicked” is not only an exception to this rule; it’s gross has been exceptional. Debuting in 2003, the story of the Wicked Witch of the West’s untold and ill-fated friendship with Glinda the Good Witch and how she came to become one of our culture’s most famous villains has made over a billion dollars. And as long as it’s run continues, it’ll soon unseat “Mamma Mia” to become the 8th longest running Broadway musical of all time. Currently, “Wicked” sits at 9th place for all time.

Chicago

The only show on this list to spawn a film adaptation that went on to win Academy Award for Best Picture, the revival of 1975’s “Chicago” has been running ever since it reopened in 1996. This makes it the second longest running Broadway musical of all time, and the longest running show to debut on Broadway. Like many Broadway musicals, it had its origins in a different medium: a non-musical play written by reporter Maurine Dallas Watkins about a pair of female murderers: the star Velma Kelly and her rival, the fame hungry Roxie Hart, as they try to make themselves famous while awaiting trial. The original show was choreographed and directed by the legendary Bob Fosse, who dramatized this busy portion of his life in the 1979 film “All That Jazz” (he was also directing a film based on the life of Lenny Bruce, entitled “Lenny”).

The Phantom of the Opera

The story of “The Phantom of the Opera” is an odd one. The Gaston Leroux novel had already been adapted twice into film with Lon Chaney and Claude Reins portraying the title role, respectively, when Andrew Lloyd Webber crafted the definitive stage version of this tale about a soprano’s obsession with a maimed and musically gifted recluse who lives under the Palais Garner. Now,  “Phantom” is synonymous with Broadway — and with good reason: it’s been running since 1988, which means it currently holds the title of the longest-running musical in the world. Not only that, but “Phantom” was also the most financially successful musical until it was surpassed in 2014 by…

The Lion King

“The Lion King” is truly a dynamo in the world of Broadway. It launched the career of Julie Taymor, who went on to become the first woman to win a Tony for directing for her work on the show. She also won a Tony for the costume designs and even helped with the script. “The Lion King” is based on the Disney blockbuster, which follows the coming of age, framing of, and triumphant return of the rightful king of the Pride Lands, Simba. “The Lion King” may only be the third longest running Broadway show, but it’s the highest grossing, which is incredibly impressive when you consider it started its run nine years after “The Phantom of the Opera.” Boasting innovative puppet work and the music of Elton John, “The Lion King” on stage stands alongside the film as an inspiring example of what each respective medium can do.

Have a great experience with one of these shows or want to talk about your favorite show? Sound off in the comments! And learn more about musical theatre at NYFA!

NYFA Alumna Niki Landella: In Her Own Words

By Niki Landella

My experience at the NYFA was without a doubt one of the best things I have ever done for myself, for my spirit, for my artistic process and for my personal and professional development.

I only spent four weeks there and I am an entirely different woman as a result.

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Photo provided by Niki Landella.

Picture this:

Picture perfect facilities, the Statue of Liberty in the distance and an amazing view; state-of-the-art equipment, people from all over the world in one building studying with you, every single teacher with credentials which, when mentioned, could easily be mistaken for name dropping — but none of that is what really makes NYFA special.

For me, the best part about NYFA was the souls I encountered and the depth of the humans with whom I had the privilege of interacting. My experience was one of absolute respect and dignity.

Each and every teacher encouraged me to trust myself more, and I think this has something to do with the success that they have already experienced in their lives. There is something about people who have already experienced legitimate success in their careers — they don’t need to put you down in order to get a sense of significance. I think because they had already experienced professional fulfillment, their teaching process was free of the subconscious agendas I find many teachers in the arts have. I speak as an individual who has grown up in the arts and has been in the arts for 15 years.

No NYFA teacher ever motivated me through shame. I found myself doing things I had struggled with for years, just because my NYFA teachers had the necessary patience with me. I absolutely blossomed under their nurturing.

In improv class I was taught to listen to my own inner compass.

In Meisner I was taught to listen to others.

In dance I was taught to give myself the dignity of my process in getting to know my body. In singing I learned to trust my own voice.

In lab classes I also learned to respond to my own inner stimuli.

Music teachers all gave me the comfort of knowing that, with enough patience, I am capable of understanding what I once thought of as a complex art; to trust that there is music inside of me, and that they would be willing to help me unlock it.

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Photo provided by Niki Landella.

There’s something indescribably beautiful and empowering about the culture of respect under which I found the New York Film Academy to operate.

Then there are the classmates. I know it may sound like a luxury to have global classmates, but picture this: You’re sitting in music theory, and an Italian word like “Acapella” comes up. Your actual Italian friend from actual Italy who is sitting next to you says, “In my language that word means ‘in the chapel,’ because acapella music was first sung at church,” and then the music teacher responds and gives you all the historical data on that.

Now imagine how many of these little serendipitous moments you have every day, which add so much to your store of knowledge and such depth of calibre to your education in a way that few schools are able to provide on this globe. And I say that as someone who has lived on three continents.

Then there is just something about New York. In the arts at least, New York is where the best of the best go to refine themselves. When you are in New York you are swimming with the big fish and you have an unparalleled wealth of resources at your fingertips.

My short time at the New York Film Academy was worth every penny, every drop of sweat that went into getting there — and then some. I would recommend a course at the New York Film Academy, at any of their campuses, to any individual who considers themselves serious about being a storyteller in any field. They source the best of the best, they give you their absolute best every day, and all they ask for in return is that you give your best. There is a culture of excellence coupled with a culture of respect. There is absolutely no way one can walk away from such an experience without being deeply enriched.

New York Film Academy would like to thank Niki Landella for taking the time to share her story about her wonderful experience in our musical theatre program. We are so glad to have you in our community, and can’t wait to hear about your next adventures!

 

How to Adjust Your Singing Voice for Different Microphones

We all have an idea of how our voices sound, but the idea doesn’t usually match the reality. Most people are surprised and even sometimes horrified by hearing themselves in a recording. In fact, only 10 percent of the people in the world are able to recognize their own voice when it’s played. But if you’re a professional singer or hoping to become one, you’re probably used to hearing yourself and have taken special steps to improve your vocals. Nevertheless, you’ve noticed that your voice doesn’t sound the same in different microphones, and sometimes the results can be quite alarming.

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So the first thing to realize is this: different microphones are manufactured and calibrated to suit a variety of needs. The type of microphone to use will depend a lot on your genre of singing, the accompanying musical instruments used, location, and the result you’re aiming for. As the world’s only musical theatre program that creates fully-produced, original movie musicals, NYFA’s Musical Theatre School offers students the opportunity to record their vocals in state-of-the-art, professional studios. But what if you’re looking to do your own project on the side, or have booked an outside job? This guide will help you adjust your singing voice across different microphone and help you determine the best ones to pick for your next recording session.

1. If You’re Using A Condenser Microphone

If your music is focused primarily on your vocals or acoustic instruments, this is the microphone for you. However, a condenser mic is more prone to sibilance, so when you’re singing something which has a lot of S and F sounds, you can either use software to mask it or sing at an off-axis angle. Alternatively, you can do the “pencil trick,” which basically involves tying a pencil over the mic’s diaphragm with a rubber band that splits up and diverts the high frequency vibrations.

2. If You’re Using A Dynamic Microphone

This is a cheap, all-rounder alternative to the former that is good for vocals, drums and even recording guitar amp. However, one of the chief drawbacks is the “proximity effect.” This means that if you sing too closely to the mic, there’s a perceptible low-end boost in the frequency response. You can counterbalance this to some extent by using a pop filter or omni-directional mics.

3. If You’re Using A Ribbon Microphone

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These are extremely expensive and extra sensitive and are perfect for those who want to bring a vintage vibe to their music. If your music involves piano, strings or woodwind, or if you’re singing in a choir, this is your best choice.

Whether you’re recording your voice for a music project or for a musical film, there are two more very important things you can do to improve and adjust your voice for the mic…

4. Work With a Vocal Coach

As you already know, hearing your own voice is vastly different from the way others hear you. Getting a trained vocal coach to oversee your singing lessons is very important, as they can help spot new areas of your vocal work that need attention, and direct you to new techniques and skills. Not only will a professional vocal coach make sure you hit the right notes, you’ll also have an objective, outside perspective to help you practice better posture and breathing as well as how to adapt your techniques when you’re singing in a studio or live.

5. Control Your Vibrato

Most of us tend to have a natural vibrato, but professionals must learn to control and harness vibrato at the right time for best results. A vibrato can be similar to having an accent, and with regular practice you’ll be able to control and manipulate the rhythms and add more style to your singing.

Finally, remember that singing is a performance. For any show to be successful, your emotions must be real and you must enjoy what you do. Happy singing!

Ready to up your vocal game with some formal training and hands-on experience with real-world projects? Check out NYFA’s musical theatre programs.

Movie Musical Icons and Why They Continue to Inspire Us

What is a movie musical icon?

In the performing arts world, musical theatre is timeless and classic. No wonder movie musical icons continue to inspire us!

Movie musicals combine acting with singing and dancing in order to give life to a masterpiece. A good musical can withstand the test of time, regardless of what time period the musical itself is encapsulating.

The same applies to the stars that play leading roles. Performers like Judy Garland are essentially immortal in the grand scheme of our cultural memory. Plotlines needn’t be complex for a musical to be entertaining or successful. Performers get to show off all aspects of their talent, which is what makes them so inspiring!

How does a musical theatre icon inspire us?

Musical theatre icons inspire us with their fantastic performances. To become an icon, their musical theatre presence has to be so great it makes a lasting impression. All it takes is one strong performance to become elevated to icon status in the public eye.

For instance, Tim Curry is an established actor who has played a lot of roles, yet most people remember him wearing a garter belt. Thanks to playing the role of Dr. Frank-N-Furter in “Rocky Horror Picture Show,” the most prominent image of him is a lipstick-toting transvestite from space.

But a role doesn’t need to be outrageous to stand out. For example, Ryan Gosling is also a well-established actor, who this year showed a new side as a jazz pianist in the award-winning “La La Land.” Will his performance join the iconic musical theatre performer hall of fame? Only time will tell, but we already know his performance is part of what has brought movie musicals back into the spotlight.

How do icons become icons?

Musicals require multidimensional talent. Acting talent alone does not suffice in musical theatre, or musical films. Performers must also be able to sing and dance in order to bring the musical to life. Being talented in one of these fields is enough to wow audiences. Excelling at all of them, all at once is absolutely exceptional!

How can someone not fall in love with Emma Stone when watching her sing, dance, and act as Mia Dolan in “La La Land”? Many of us can relate to Mia Dolan, a barista who aspires to be a successful actress. Stone brings that relatable character to life in the most spectacular way, which may propel her to icon status as well. That’s why the New York Film Academy aims to sculpt students into “triple threat performers” that are bound to impress critics.

How can you become a serious musical theater performer?

If you want to follow your dreams to become a serious musical theatre performer and inspire others, why not make it happen? The only way become successful is to get out there and perform musical theatre roles. Come to NYFA to learn the skills you’ll need to pursue your dreams.

The New York Film Academy trains students in fully-produced movie musicals to showcase their talents and prepare them for the rigors of delivering a stellar performance both on stage and on screen. Students also gain experience by working with industry professionals such as casting directors, agents, producers, experienced teachers, and more. Joining the 2-year program will give students tons of filmed, on-screen experience for auditions and later reference. 

Learn more about musical theatre and film performance at New York Film Academy. Who are your favorite musical theatre icons? Let us know in the comments below!

Who Run the World: Powerful Women in Musical Theatre

We all have idols or people we look up to for inspiration and motivation. With the amount of work you have to do as a dedicated performer, it never hurts to have someone to look up to as you focus on giving your best efforts on a daily basis. Regardless of strides made in equality for women in the arts, it’s still sometimes hard to make it as a female performer. But that doesn’t mean you can’t still make every moment in your career worthwhile! At the New York Film Academy, we encourage aspiring musical theatre artists to pursue big dreams and to improve on professional-level skills every day. So, for inspiration, we’re giving you examples of insanely powerful women in musical theatre anyone can look up to:

Idina Menzel

Queens, New York native Idina Menzel became a smash-hit in “Wicked” as Elphaba and an international sensation starring as Elsa in Disney’s “Frozen.” Her performance of hit song “Let It Go” won an Oscar, and she became the first person to have both a Tony Award and a Billboard Top 10 song. Menzel originated the role of Maureen in “Rent,” which she reprised for the 2005 film adaptation.

Menzel also co-founded the organization A BroaderWay Foundation, dedicated to helping girls in low-income areas experience the arts while building leadership skills, developing self-esteem, and teaching girls to dream big.

Phillipa Soo

Known for starring as Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton in “Hamilton,” Phillipa Soo won a Clarence Derwent Award in 2015 for Most Promising Female Performer as well as a Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Musical. She’s also the winner of a Tony Award and a Grammy. Oh, and did we mention she also provided some vocals for the “Moana” soundtrack? To top it off, she’s only 26!

Nikki M. James

The actress who played the original Nabulungi in “The Book of Mormon,” Nikki M. James has won a Tony Award and was nominated for a Drama Desk Award and an Outer Critics Circle award. After her time with “The Book of Mormon,” James landed the competitive role of Éponine in the 2014-2015 run of “Les Misérables.” She has also had roles in “Law and Order: SVU,” “The Good Wife,” “The Blacklist,” and “Brain Dead.”

Kristin Chenoweth

Starring alongside Idina Menzel in “Wicked” as Glenda (or Galinda) Upland, Kristin Chenoweth is not only a musical theatre actress, but also a singer with six albums, a voiceover actress, a film and TV star, and more. She has also won an Emmy, a Tony Award, and other performance awards throughout her 26 year career. Chenoweth is 48 years-old and still enjoying a vast and busy show-life. Her hometown in Oklahoma named the local theatre “The Kristin Chenoweth Theatre” after the multi-talented actress. She also partnered up with the Broken Arrow Performing Arts Center (BAPAC) Foundation to support the arts in her home state.

Who are your favorite women that inspire you in musical theatre? Let us know in the comments below! And check out NYFA’s musical theatre programs.

“La La Land”: NYFA Examines What Makes a Movie Musical Work

The New York Film Academy is the only school currently offering students the opportunity to perform in an original, fully produced movie musical (check out the write-up on our movie musicals in The Huffington Post). And as reported recently by Broadwayworld.com, NYFA’s movie musicals frequently feature collaborations with Broadway and industry professionals. Which is why we find it both exciting and important to help our community better understand the success of recent Award-season darling “La La Land.” What makes a movie musical so successful, and what can our students learn from this moment?

“La La Land,” Damien Chazelle’s follow-up to “Whiplash,” was the dark horse of 2016 films. It started off as a limited release, yet by Christmas it was in theaters nationwide. Despite its quiet start, the movie musical has gained traction quickly in the industry.

The jazz-themed musical, featuring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, took the industry by surprise when it secured seven Golden Globes at the beginning of January. With the Oscars a little less than a month away, Chazelle’s sophomore debut has received 14 Oscar nominations, with two songs from “La La Land” taking spots for original songs:

  • Best Picture
  • Actor in a Leading Role
  • Actress in a Leading Role
  • Cinematography
  • Costume Design
  • Directing
  • Film Editing
  • Music
  • Music (Original Song)
  • Production Design
  • Sound Editing
  • Sound Mixing
  • Writing (Original Screenplay)

Prior to “La La Land,” only two movies in history have secured 14 Oscar nominations – “All About Eve” (1950) and “Titanic” (1997).  “Mary Poppins” (1964), a beloved classic movie musical, received 13 Oscar nominations but it didn’t win Best Picture.

So, to the question burning on all of our minds:

What makes this movie musical successful?

Compared to its fellow Oscar contenders, “La La Land” isn’t a hearty drama nor does it touch on serious issues. Chazelle’s romantic musical, set in Los Angeles, doesn’t immerse its audience into bouts of depression or isolation. Instead, “La La Land” revolves around two attractive people chasing their dreams and at its core exists a romantic comedy — the type of movie that rarely wins Oscars, but that tells a very human story in a directly relatable (if somewhat more glamorous) way.

For a movie musical to succeed, the performances must rivet and move the audience. “La La Land” succeeds at this, unconventionally — for while both Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling are strong actors, neither are experienced in singing and dancing. Nevertheless, audiences and critics alike have agreed that their performances do what matters most: captivate. Ann Hornaday of The Washington Post wrote in her review of “La La Land”: “They have the unforced grace of natural performers, lending an offhand rakishness to every step they take.”

So how can students build their own captivating performances in movie musicals? Here at the New York Film Academy, we believe it’s important that every student in our Musical Theater program receives the highest level of training in professional skills as triple threat performers under the guidance of Broadway-level faculty. In the quest to build a powerful performance, professionals must have a full arsenal of tools to draw upon. NYFA musical theatre instructors have toured in various Broadway and touring productions, regional theaters, opera, movie musicals and television shows. They can offer students real-world training that will prepare students to offer their best possible performance.

What makes “La La Land” different than other romantic comedies?

Unlike most romantic comedies to hit the market today, the two main characters don’t get drunk, have a one-night stand and move on with their lives. Instead, Chazelle uses the first act of the movie to establish the main characters’ individual careers and passions. The dynamics between Mia and Sebastian are effortless. Instead of forcing the characters to be dependent on each other to move the film forward, it allows the audience to bond with both characters on a personal level before the characters become fully entwined. These fully fleshed, individualized characters are what propels the story. And it is the attention to the individual details in the characters that allow Stone and Gosling to shine.

Musical theatre students at NYFA get to experience this careful, deliberate level of individual characterization in the most spectacular way: their roles in original movie musicals are specially written for them. Like Stone and Gosling in “La La Land,” NYFA musical theatre students get the benefit of performing in roles that are tailored to their individuality.

Another factor in the success of “La La Land” is the way the film pays loving homage to movie musicals before it, perfectly balancing affection with clever innovation. The movie isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel. Instead, it gives nods to movie musicals like “Singin’ in the Rain,” “Grease,” “Sweet Charity,” “Boogie Nights,” and “Shall We Dance,” achieving an intoxicating blend of freshness and nostalgia for the audience. This knowledge of and ability to build upon the musical theatre canon is a strength one that we firmly believe in teaching at NYFA, where students not only gain training and experience in performing classic musical theatre pieces, but are able to experience Broadway productions from their base in New York City.

Chazelle didn’t set out to deliver a movie focused on serious issues, which would more than likely cloud the plot of the movie. What he set out to do was create two relatable characters reminiscent of earlier movie musicals meant to break the monotony of super heroes and far-fetched action movies dominating today’s film industry. And it worked. Amazingly well.

Start your own movie musical adventure today with the New York Film Academy’s Musical Theatre School.

Study How to Make Movie Musicals Like “La La Land” at NYFA

As BroadwayWorld.com recently put it: “La La Land isn’t the only vehicle opening the door for a new era of movie musicals. NYFA’s original productions feature Tony Award winner James Monroe Iglehart (Hamilton, Aladdin), Tony Award nominee Charlotte d’Amboise (Pippin, A Chorus Line), Jen Perry (Kinky Boots) and others.” With “La La Land” breaking Oscar-nomination records, movie musicals are in the spotlight. And NYFA is the only school in the world where students can learn to perform in professionally produced original movie musicals. It’s not only an option but an explicit opportunity, and we a write up in The Huffington Post to prove it. 

Mike Olsen, who chairs NYFA’s musical theatre program, stresses that making movie musicals at NYFA is an incomparable experience: “Imagine being a student of musical theatre and having a team of professionals gather to collaborate with you on the creation of an original movie musical,” he says, “Where the character you portray is written for you, the songs are devised around your unique sound and capability, the movement and dance elements reflect your personal wheelhouse, and the whole endeavor is a highly professional journey that culminates in a fully edited, professionally engineered final half-hour movie musical that gets submitted to festivals across the country.

 

 

“No other training academy has our unique capacity to bring filmmaking and musical theatre together to create such a practical and highly professional educational experience,” Olsen continues. “We are on the cutting edge of this and if I were a young musical theatre talent, and while this popularity swells, I would jump at the chance to get this valuable training.”

Today, the critically-acclaimed movie musical everybody’s talking about in Hollywood and beyond is, of course, “La La Land.” The movie made headlines once again after scoring 14 Oscar nominations.

“While this has been percolating recently in our culture, the recent film ‘La La Land’ has tipped the scales,” says Olsen. “Film producers are now putting movie musicals in their top priority file. As America experiences a new renaissance of the movie musical, it is an exceptional piece of good fortune that the musical theatre program at the New York Film Academy is on the cutting edge of training young talent to meet this new demand.”

Olsen isn’t the only one to point out the cultural relevance of movie musicals. New York Times writer Manohla Dargis recently penned a piece about how “La La Land” gives musicals new importance.

At NYFA, students can merge stage talent with the technical training necessary to bring an original musical vision to the big screen.

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“While the primary training focus of the Musical Theater Department remains rooted in the traditional elements of solid stagecraft, NYFA is also uniquely in the lead when it comes to getting movie musical experience,” says Olsen. “Students in the advanced stages of their training enjoy an unprecedented chance to collaborate with the creative process of writing a movie musical, working in a professional studio to lay down vocal tracks, and being on set and on location, acting and performing, in a fully realized movie making experience.”

Picture this: You and your NYFA classmates making the next “La La Land.” It could happen! Apply for our musical theatre program today.

Beyond Broadway: 7 Musical Theatre Cities to Know

Of course, New York City’s Broadway can’t be beat for the sheer number of musical theater productions, but it’s not the only place to sing and dance into the hearts of adoring audiences. Here are seven other cities with a thriving musical theatre scene. And don’t forget that no matter where you audition, you need to properly prepare!

1. Chicago

It may be the improv capital, but Chicago is not lacking in musicals. The Marriott sells nearly a half million tickets a year and boasts the largest subscription base of any musical theatre in the world (according to Arts America). For more intimate musicals, there’s Northlight Theatre and, in its 37th season, Music Theater Works (formerly Light Opera Works) is “a professional musical theater company, casting primarily Chicago area talent” that pays all its performers!

2. Boston

Broadway shows often incubate in this college town, where theatres and conservatories abound. The A.R.T. has a long history of creating shows that win Tony’s, while SpeakEasy brings new and intimate plays and musicals to Boston. There’s also the Lyric Stage Company — the oldest professional theatre company in Boston — whose mission is “to produce entertaining, challenging, and inspiring theatrical productions of varying genres,” and who are “committed to support and nurture the talents of Boston-area theatre artists.

3. LA

Hollywood tends to overshadow the Los Angeles theater scene, but with all the talent driving around, live performances are by no means dead. For Broadway-style shows there’s the Geffen Playhouse, and The Center Theatre Group has a long history of developing and premiering Broadway hits.

4. San Francisco

Sure, San Francisco has reason to be proud of its edgy black boxes, for instance those of EXIT Theatre, but within walking distance, you can also find glitzy productions of classic and new musicals at the three big houses: The Curran, Orpheum and A.C.T.

5. Minneapolis

This northern city boasts a surprising array of diverse small theaters as well as two prestigious independent gems. The Guthrie Theater and Park Square both regularly produce new and classic plays and musicals.

6. Washington D.C.

A lively theatre scene provides the nation’s capital with some much needed distraction, though American interests often take center stage. Ford’s Theatre is famous for being the place where President Lincoln was shot by John Wilkes booth. Today it is a historical site with many educational programs, but it is also dedicated to producing plays and musicals that explore the American experience. Arena Stage also dedicates itself to “putting the American spirit in the spotlight,” producing “diverse and innovative works from around the country.”

7. Atlanta

Atlanta is home to a vibrant and surprisingly diverse theatre scene. Actor’s Express tagline is “Atlanta’s Gutsiest & Most Vital Theatre Company,” while the Atlanta Lyric Theatre, “is dedicated to producing the best in musical theatre and fostering the growth of the Atlanta theatrical community by showcasing local professional talent.”

Making a career in musical theater does not necessarily mean you have to elbow your way through Manhattan crowds. You may find a more nurturing place for your talents nearer to home. Let us know in the comments if your city has a burgeoning musical theater scene we should know about!

What Is Hamilton’s Legacy for Broadway Musicals?

“Hamilton” has gone from Broadway musical to total phenomenon. The story of a scrappy “son of a whore and a scotsman” who helps mold the beginnings of the United States — only to fall to his career rival in a duel — has taken America by storm. The musical has gained plenty of famous fans, including President Barack Obama, who joked that the musical was the only thing that he agreed with Dick Cheney about. Central to the musical’s success are its diverse cast and the way it engages with hip-hop. These unique facets will be the foundation of its legacy.

HAMILTON: THE NUMBERS

What a success it’s been: Hamilton has been sold out from its opening performance at the Off-Broadway Public Theater. By the time the show opened on Broadway, it had already taken in $30 million in its advance ticket sales. The peak of its historical success was in late November 2016, when it grossed 3.3 million for 8 performances for the highest grossing week in Broadway history. As far as sales of the original recording are concerned, the Original Broadway Recording was one of only three cast recordings to move into the top 10 of the Billboard 200.

HIP-HOP

One of the big factors in Hamilton’s success lies in its natural conversation with contemporary culture through hip hop. Before “Hamilton” was a phenomenon, it was a workshop performance called The Hamilton Mixtape, hearkening to how rappers without deals would debut their music on independently released recordings hoping to strike up a buzz. One of the first people to fully buy into “Hamilton” was Daveed Diggs, the rapper for experimental rap group Clipping, who played both Thomas Jefferson and the Marquis Lafayette.

After the show became a phenomenon, a mixtape helmed by Questlove of The Roots and Lin-Manuel Miranda featured plenty of rap luminaries, including Busta Rhymes and Nas. The musical’s reverence for hip-hop is totally sincere, and as hip-hop becomes america’s most appreciated and popular music form, it follows that its best practitioners would respond to a musical that is a love letter to the very genre they pioneered. Broadway musicals often respond to popular music, but rarely respond like this, and it’s shown to be a winning formula.

DIVERSITY

It’s easy to see why “Hamilton” inspired Busta Rhymes to reach out to Lin-Manuel Miranda after he saw the musical: Lin-Manuel Miranda’s project very consciously features a cast made up of people of color and women, reflecting the changing makeup of the United States, with the only white actor in the original cast playing King George III, the King that inspired the American Revolution. As the play asserts, “Immigrants/we get the job done,” and that’s inspiring to a wealth of people across the world.

CONCLUSION

“Hamilton’s” legacy will certainly be represented by its bold embrace of hip hop, the diversity of its cast which is itself an unprecedented embrace of the story of the founding fathers by people of color, and perhaps most importantly the depiction of immigrants as the backbone of the American success story. If more musicals follow “Hamilton’s” example, we’ll continue to see fruitful collaborations of socially aware concepts, inclusive casting, and the exciting currency of popular music.

The Best “Hamilton” Quotes

Three leading actors from Broadway musical Hamilton’s original cast officially departed the show. Hamilton started making headlines in 2015 as it became one of the most sensationalized and beloved modern musicals to date. Now, an international following full of avid fans and musical theatre lovers has its eyes on the cast members taking over the vacant roles. And the verdict? Praise and approval on all counts. Some people even say that the new cast is better than the original.

New York Film Academy students know that in any well-written musical, song numbers serve as structural elements; they further the plot, acquaint the audience with character dynamics, and enhance the show’s innate themes. As each musical number has great value, it is vital that performers sing every lyric with a clarity and attention to expression that properly represents the meaning behind it.

This undoubtedly applies to the show at hand. Hamilton is acclaimed for its writing, and its musical numbers have managed, not only to benefit the structure of the show, but to move and inspire a vast audience. In honor of Hamilton’s explosive success, its meaning to New York City and to our students, here are 10 of the most insightful quotes, ripped from the soundtrack, ordered chronologically.

  1. “If you stand for nothing Burr what’ll you fall for?” – Hamilton, Aaron Burr, Sir
  1. “I’m past patiently waitin’ I’m passionately smashin’ every expectation. Every action’s an act of creation!” —Hamilton, My Shot
  1. “’We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal.’

And when I meet Thomas Jefferson … I’m ‘a compel him to include women in the sequel!” – Eliza/Angelica/Peggy, The Schuyler Sisters

  1. “Why do write like you’re running out of time? Write every day like you’re running out of time? Every day you fight like you’re running out of time.” – Burr, Non-Stop
  1. “ ‘Everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree, and no one shall make them afraid.’ ” – Washington, One Last Time
  1. “I’m only nineteen but my mind is older. Gotta be my own man, like my father, but bolder. I shoulder his legacy with pride. I used to hear him say that someday I would – blow us all away.” – Philip Hamilton (and Ensemble), Blow Us All Away
  1. “We push away what we can never understand. We push away the unimaginable” – Angelica Schuyler, It’s Quiet Uptown

 

  1. “I don’t pretend to know the challenges we’re facing. I know there’s no replacing what we’ve lost and you need time. But I’m not afraid, I know who I married. Just let me stay here by your side. That would be enough.” – Alexander Hamilton, It’s Quiet Uptown
  1. “Legacy. What is a legacy? It’s planting seeds in a garden you never get to see.” – Alexander Hamilton, The World Was Wide Enough
  1. “America, you great unfinished symphony, you sent for me. You let me make a difference. A place where even orphan immigrants can leave their fingerprints and rise up.” – Hamilton, The World Was Wide Enough

The Best Broadway Shows Of The 1960s

The 1960s were a time of revolution, which included protests for politics, civil rights, and sexuality. Many Americans protested the Vietnam War and woman demanded more rights. Social change was being demanded and progress was being made. The shows on Broadway depicted these situations and relevant times for the public to see and enjoy. Here are some of the best musicals from the 1960s and be sure to check out our guides to the best Broadway shows of the 1940s and 1950s.

Hair

Hair,rock musical that tells the story of exuberant politically active hippies during the time of the Vietnam War debuted on Broadway in 1968. The show follows Claude who battles against his draft notice while living a bohemian lifestyle with his roommate Berger and Sheila. Claude must decide whether to go along with his hippie lifestyle or give in to the stress and pressure of going to war. Hair gives us a ticket to the 60s generation full of sexual revolution and protesting. The show raised some controversy for its depiction of drug use and nude scenes. It was an honest look at the way it was during the “Age of Aquarius.” Hair features songs like “Aquarius,” “Going Down,” and “Good Morning Starshine.” It was nominated for Best Musical and Best Direction in 1969, but more importantly, Hair successfully made a social and cultural statement.

How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying

How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying is a Tony Award-winning musical about the rise of “Big Business.” J. Pierrepont Finch is a window washer in New York City who comes across a book called How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. By following the rules in this book he gets his first job in a mailroom and eventually climbs the corporate ladder. Along the way we are introduced to characters like the arrogant Bud Frump who Finch outsmarts and Rosemary Pilkington the pretty secretary who believes in Finch from the start. With that desire in mind, she sings the lovely song “I Believe in You (Reprise).” Finch must make choices about business and love, but at what costs. Standout songs include “Rosemary” and “Coffee Break.” This funny musical depicts the struggles and manipulations that are faced in an office culture, to which many in the audience will find themselves relating. Hopefully with a laugh.

Cabaret

Directed by Harold Prince, Cabaret takes place in the late 1920s to the early 1930s. The scene is set in a sleazy Berlin nightclub called the Kit Kat club into which Cliff Bradshaw, a struggling American writer, wanders. There he meets the vivid and vibrant cabaret performer Sally Bowles and they begin a romance. Sally gets pregnant and Cliff assures her that it will be safer for her to come back to America with him, to avoid the increasingly violent and dangerous situation in German as the Nazis begin to take over. Other characters include Ernst, a German man that Cliff meets on the train and begins a friendship with, German boarding house owner Fraulien Schneider, and the sexually free Master of Ceremonies “the Emcee.” Cabaret opened on Broadway on November 20th, 1966 and was a fierce production featuring sexually explicit choreography and songs such as “Willkommen,” “Two Ladies,” and of course “Cabaret.” Cabaret pushed boundaries in the 60s with its provocative content, including antisemitism, abortion, and sexuality. Flirty, fun, and free, Cabaret is a sure winner that continues to excite audiences.

Hello Dolly

Hello Dolly is a delightful musical that takes place in New York City and tells the story of Dolly Levi who is a middle-aged matchmaker and widow who decides her next client, Horace, might make for a perfect match for Dolly herself. Not only is Dolly a successful matchmaker, she is also a meddler. Everything seems to go awry when it comes to matching Horace. Hello Dolly boasts a strong score featuring “Put on Your Sunday Clothes,” “It Takes a Woman,” and “Hello Dolly.” Hello Dolly opened in January of 1964 at the St. James Theater, and became one of the most iconic and charming musical shows of the 60s, enjoying a very lengthy run.

Learn more about the School of Musical Theatre at the New York Film Academy, located in the home of Broadway in New York.