Senior Showcase marks end of era for musical theater students

On the night of Feb. 28, the future of the American stage was at Oakland University.

The School of Music, Theatre and Dance (SMTD) hosted its Senior Showcase in the Varner Hall recital theater. Nine students took to the stage, each showing off their ability to sing, act, dance and fill the stage in a medley-like show.

“It’s been a journey, to say the least,” Sammy Borla said, reflecting on his time in SMTD. “I cannot talk about the growth everyone has had from day one until now. Everyone has grown up not only as performers, but as people as well.”

Seniors had to find solo pieces that played to their strengths, with some having to build solos out of spare parts.

“I had some teachers that were encouraging me to do a monologue because I like comedy and I wanted to be funny,” Grace Rosen said. “And then I found a song that is not done ever, most people probably do not know it, but I personally liked it, and it somehow fit perfectly with my monologue. It was like a theater miracle.”

Aside from showing off their stage skills, the showcase served as a dress rehearsal for an upcoming New York showcase. The “Survivors of Varner Hall,” as they have been dubbed, will perform twice with Western Michigan’s program for talent agents.

Luckily for the performers, the audience was won over. After having to hold in applause to simulate the agents’ discerning temperament, the recital hall ended the show with a standing ovation to send off the seniors to Manhattan.

“It was unbelievable,” President Ora Hirsch Pescovitz said. “I think our students are among the most gifted and talented students, and that’s in part because they come with natural gifts and talents, and then they get to Oakland. I think they are nurtured by our amazing faculty and they blossom while we’re here.”  

Despite the showcase having a feeling of finality, Rosen, Borla and rest of the “Survivors” are not quite done with OU. Borla will be performing in the upcoming SMTD production of The Who’s rock opera “Tommy,” while Rosen will be in “Southern Promises” in March, directed by Jordan Allyse Taylor. Both performers will be in the Nightclub Cabarets from April 4 -7 at Pontiac’s Flagstar Strand Theater.

Coming from a place of experience, Borla and Rosen had some advice to share with the upcoming and future SMTD students.

“It is definitely quite a journey,” Borla said. “Being a theater kid is not an easy thing to do. A lot of the stuff you do is rehearsal and such.”

Rosen provided tips to help theater students manage the demanding workload.

“We have class all day,” she said. “You have morning classes, you have dance classes and then the slot for rehearsal is from 7 to 11 p.m. You can spend most of your time here [Varner Hall]. I think a great piece of advice is to find something else… that can get you out of here and to take care of yourself.”