Carol Stephenson began with a short vocal warm-up where she motivated her musical theater class to seize every opportunity to sing, whether it is their dream performance or not.
“Sing as if you’re performing at the Metropolitan Opera House,” Stephenson said.
As the class progressed, each student performed a musical theater piece.
The warm, welcoming environment Stephenson, voice instructor, created fostered cooperation and acceptance as she corrected her students’ mistakes.
Whether they needed to improve their body gestures or vocal style, the intimate group of four students practiced one by one without fear of failure because they understand that supporting each other will lead to their own personal success.
Junior theater major Wayne Keller began the individual performances with “When Words Fail” from the musical “Shrek.”
“The song is all about what Shrek is going to say to Princess Fiona because he’s never had feelings like this before,” Keller said.
Stephenson was quick to note that Keller excessively swung his arms to mask the fact that he was not showing enough facial expression.
Although she generally does not advocate this, Stephenson suggested Keller put his hands in his pockets so he had to focus on his face.
“Carol’s critiques are always on point,” Keller said. “Whenever I go on stage, I always know I need to work on something because it’s never going to be perfect. When she helped me figure out sections of the song where I could give more of Shrek’s personality, it was very helpful.”
Junior theater major Audie Munoz continued the individual performances with his rendition of “How to Return Home” from the musical “Tales From the Bad Years.”
“The song is about coming home after a very long time and realizing that you grew into a different person and being home doesn’t feel as great as it used to,” Munoz said.
Because the song was originally written for a female vocal range, Stephenson encouraged Munoz to work on his falsetto so he could hit the high notes the song calls for.
Stephenson went on stage and sang alongside Munoz to demonstrate how it should sound.
“Carol’s critiques were super helpful, because I didn’t even realize I was making these mistakes until she pointed it out. Any mistake you can’t exactly point out suddenly makes sense because of Carol,” Munoz said.
“All the critiques about staying on time were very helpful because I get a little too excited sometimes.”
To conclude the individual performances, sophomore art history major Ashley Visco sang “I Wish I Could Forget You” from the musical Passion.
“My character’s name is Fosca and she’s a mentally ill woman and she is currently bedridden. The man that she loves has come to see her, but she’s ugly and insane and he doesn’t love her back,” Visco said. “The song is about a letter she wrote for this man wishing he loved her the way she loved him.”
Although everyone collectively agreed that Visco’s performance was amazing, Stephenson did not believe it was her best.
Stephenson noted that her lack of physical movement and over pronunciation of the vowel “l” hindered the emotional portrayal of her character.
“Carol’s critiques really, really helped because it helped me get more grounded with what I’m trying to do with my voice and tie it in with what I want to do emotionally,” Visco said. “What I found really helpful was when Carol noticed that I was holding out the vowel ‘l’ like when I say love. I understood how it distracted from my performance when I over pronounced it.”
Despite not performing due to a sore throat, freshman business administration major Zoe Meshenberg still had nothing but positive comments to make about Stephenson and the class.
“I’m in this class to understand myself better as a performer,” Meshenberg said. “I do a lot of singing in chorale and barbershop, but this is the class where I actually have to put myself out there and be comfortable with the fact that I like to perform.”
Stephenson’s use of positive reinforcement and constructive criticism resonates with Meshenberg’s ability to learn.
“Carol is great because she made me so much more confident than I was before,” Meshenberg said. “She knows that I’m shy and that I’m going to make mistakes, but she doesn’t make me feel idiotic for making them. Her warmth and kindness is the reason why I still came to class with a sore throat.”
Although there is always room for improvement, Stephenson was still highly impressed with the class performances.
“I think the kids in this class are doing a great job with the suggestions I’ve given them because they’re all self motivated,” Stephenson said. “They all have their own individual character and their own individual needs, and I try to embrace each of them for their unique talent.”
The musical theater class will perform its Musical Theater Showcase at 7:30 p.m. May 30 in Morgan Auditorium.
Joshua Bay can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.