Guys and Dolls, gather ‘round. Whether you dream of singing in the spotlight or Dancin’ in A Chorus Line, you feel a Wicked need to shine on Broadway. Grab your Hairspray and hit the stage, because these 10 schools know how to shine a spotlight. With recent grads stepping right into the limelight, Tony-winning alums, niche program sizes and quirks galore, these musical theatre programs stand out from the rest. Look elsewhere if you’re trying to learn How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. Make no mistake, these 10 schools will make you work. But you’ll reap the rewards with a long, successful career on the big stage. If you’re looking for inspiration, download TodayTix and get your tickets to the hottest musicals now.
10. Roosevelt University
Oh, the irony that one of the best (and most often under-rated) musical theatre schools sits right in downtown Chicago. After all, Chicago may just be the greatest musical of all time. When you stop rocking it out to “All That Jazz,” take a second to marvel at all the different performance venues available to students at the Chicago College of Performing Arts within the vibrant city of Chicago. From the Privatebank Theatre to the Cadillac Palace Theatre, Broadway’s most popular musicals (we’re lookin’ at you, Hamilton) are only a train-ride away. Students can easily grab last-minute tickets with TodayTix to see a show any night of the week. “With a world class faculty and prime location, I’m graduating with invaluable connections,” said senior Rebecca Marowitz. “Something that drew me to the conservatory is the family atmosphere that makes for a positive and supportive environment. Our motto, ‘Be good people,’ is something that helps distinguish Roosevelt graduates as people that industry professionals want to work with.” Roosevelt University’s CCPA offers two musical theatre majors: One focuses on dance, while the other focuses on vocals.
9. Ithaca College
At Ithaca College, musical theatre students hone their acting skills by training with the acting majors. In-between your future time dazzling on Broadway, you can nail those TV and movie roles in a breeze. But as recent graduate Devon Solorow Cox pointed out, Ithaca offers more than just great training. “Ithaca College is not just a training program for the professional theatre,” said Cox. “I believe the training I received there was exceptional—but more than that, it was a place where I was encouraged to grow as an artist, intellectual thinker, and contributing member of society.” Once your senior year arrives, feel free to reach for the stars like recent-alum Connor Briggs. Briggs starred in the Kitchen Theatre Company’s production of Peter and the Starcatcher in January and February 2016 during his senior year. Prior to graduation, students can expect to spend a whole week in New York City forming connections with Ithaca alums in the entertainment biz. Alum Greg Mosher, for example, won two Tony’s in his career for his productions of Anything Goes and Our Town. Not to mention he’s been nominated 13 additional times. Casual.
8. Shenandoah University
Do you like your musical theatre edgy? Shenandoah students do. As the only school in the entire nation with musical theatre faculty dedicated to the pop/rock genre you can bet that SU delivers musical theatre training with a twist. Shenandoah Conservatory just so happened to be the first school to premiere American Idiot after its run on Broadway. SU produces three musicals a season, giving all musical theatre students—including freshmen—ample opportunity to audition and polish their skills before being thrust into the spotlight. “Our Musical Theatre program is so well-rounded that I feel comfortable working in many different mediums of theatre, whether it’s performing, directing, writing and more. As I will finish my BFA this spring I feel completely confident entering the industry with all of the knowledge and experience I obtained from my time here,” said senior Christopher Castanho.
7. Millikin University
Wanna sing like the Little Mermaid? Of course you do, we all do. But only Millikin University can claim to have trained the actual Little Mermaid. That’s right, Jodi Benson received her BFA in musical theatre from MU in 1983. More recently, 2013 graduate Jack O’Brien starred in the first U.S. national tour of Ghost The Musical only one year after completing his BFA. MU’s Musical Theatre department caps classes at 16 students, offering everyone individualized attention from the faculty. “Our program consists of a wide variety of people from very diverse backgrounds,” said sophomore Michaela Williams. “Everyone has unique talents and strengths that help each other learn and grow. Since we’re a small school, we have access to individual attention.” Outside of class, students can join Pipe Dreams Studio, a student-run business that offers a full-season of plays and musicals each year.
6. Oklahoma City University
For a small school in Oklahoma, OCU certainly knows how to produce magical and royal musical theatre stars. Both Wicked’s Kristin Chenoweth and The King and I’s Kelli O’Hara performed their way through OCU’s halls. Did you know O’Hara’s been nominated for a Tony six times? Not to mention 2013 grad Ben Lanham toured with the First National Tour of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella. Talk about a dream come true. When not undergoing intensive training in dance, acting, performance techniques and stagecraft, catch current OCU students looking forward to their future on the stage. “Through the incredible training and encouraging community of people, I feel I am getting everything I need to be a successful actor in life after school. I couldn’t imagine getting my training anywhere other than OCU,” said sophomore Elise O’Connell. Since 1951, OCU has produced 63 consecutive seasons of musical theatre, and they don’t plan on stopping anytime soon.
5. Baldwin Wallace Conservatory
Baldwin Wallace turns out the stars in a matter of four short years. Don’t believe us? Look at their recent alumni. Class of 2016 alum Malik Akil made his Broadway debut in Holiday Inn, The New Irving Berlin Musical only four months after graduating. His awe-inspiring progression isn’t out of the ordinary for Baldwin Wallace grads. Over the past six years, 100 percent of BW students signed with highly regarded agents. But how do they do it? Well, they start by keeping their incoming class sizes small (under 20). Then they add a program coordinator with more directing credits than we can count. They also collaborate with organizations and centers like Playhouse Square, Beck Center for the Arts and the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival. These collabs give their students as many opportunities to perform nationwide as possible. Outside of class, musical theatre students can join Ars Nova. This student organization is designed to build relationships between the professional community and students. The organization invites guest artists to network and speak with students.
4. Elon University
Say hello to North Carolina’s not-so-secret musical theatre gem. Elon University allows only 16 to 20 students into their program each year. This lucky bunch works closely with Elon’s top-notch faculty, including voice coach Kurt Robinson and program coordinator Catherine McNeela. Through internships and summer theatre programs across the country, Elon students get the chance to earn professional acting credits before graduating. Students can also choose to travel the globe and score an internship with the London Theatre. “What I love most about Elon’s music theatre program is that they want you to be wonderfully, uniquely you—nothing else. Elon has equipped me with incredible training and career skills, but I have thrived here the most because of the environment the faculty and students provide,” said senior JJ Niemann. “I am so thankful to have had this safe space and this loving family to help me grow over the past four years, where I’m free to be myself and free to make mistakes.”
3. University of Michigan
Any A Very Potter Musical fans in the house? How about Glee? UM-graduate Darren Criss may be UM’s most recognizable musical talent as both AVPM’s Harry Potter and Glee’s Blaine Anderson, but he certainly isn’t the only one. From Tony-nominated performer Gavin Creel to actor David Burtka, Wolverine musical theatre grads shine on and off stage. Students have to work their tail off to get here; out of 700 applicants, only around 23 get admitted into the program. That’s less than four percent, people. And getting in doesn’t alleviate all the stress just yet. Musical Theatre majors must pass an evaluation during their second year in order to take upperclassmen credits. But at the end of the day, the four years of dancing, acting and singing your heart out makes the stress worth it. Just look at 2011 graduate Desi Oakley. She appeared on Broadway in Wicked, Annie and Les Misérables all within only five years of graduating. They don’t call Wolverine musical theatre majors “triple threats” for nothin’.
2. Carnegie Mellon University
Academy Awards, Tony’s, Emmy’s, Carnegie Mellon grads have won them all. With an established four-year curriculum plan that builds year after year, CMU gets their students ready to hit the stage right after graduation. CMU also takes advantage of their location by offering a special partnership with the Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera and the national American Society of Composers and Publishers. This partnership gives students the opportunity to gain more experience in productions off-campus in order to boost their resume. Every year graduating seniors from all disciplines showcase their work in Pittsburgh, New York and Los Angeles. “Carnegie Mellon hasn’t just made me a better performer but also and most importantly, a better person. The program primarily focuses on the students as healthy artists, whose happiness and interest in things outside of theatre creates a more rich, honest and experienced performance on the stage,” said senior Nathan Salstone.
1. NYU Tisch School of the Arts
Where did Idina Menzel and Kristen Bell go to learn how to belt it out and build a snowman? Tisch School of the Arts, of course! Tisch offers over 150 chances for students to perform from student-directed work to departmental productions. Suffice it to say that the Frozen stars represent only the tip of Tisch’s extremely-talented iceberg. Graduate Dimitri Moïse made his Broadway debut in The Book of Mormon only hours after graduating. “Deciding to go to Tisch’s musical theatre program, the New Studio on Broadway, was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made,” said junior Ellie Handel. “When I was looking for ‘my perfect college,’ I knew I wanted to go somewhere where my uniqueness and individuality would be cultivated and celebrated, and that is exactly what New Studio and Tisch have done.” If your severe stage-fright overwhelms your passion for Musical Theatre, don’t worry. Stay behind the scenes with Tisch’s Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program. You’ll craft the words and music to the next Broadway hit while sitting safely out of the spotlight.
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