Let me just say that I am so incredibly excited and honored that this is the first show I get to write about on this blog. Here we go!
Major/Minor is a compilation of songs that "chronicles the typical college experience" (Kyle Buchanon, Co-Music Director), and they make it so much more relatable by adding little jokes about being a student at Rutgers. This show gets you cheesin' so hard, and then suddenly rips your poor little heart apart in the next second, and you have no time to figure out why because they're already onto the next scene. We, as an audience, go through college together with the cast, reliving the good times AND the bad ones. With hearty laughter, real tears, and those songs that make you wonder what the hell you're even doing with your life, Major/Minor is an "intense conglomerate of passion and friendship" (Emily Reineke, at my kitchen table where I'm typing this).
I am a person who is not easily moved by many things - literally [ask my roommates, it takes a lot for me to physically get myself out of my bed or off the couch or out the door...you get the picture]. I don't cry easily, whether they're happy tears or sad tears. However, this show tested me. It opens with a wonderful prologue that samples lines from the upcoming songs in the show, set in a college graduation, full with hats and tassles. Singing through "A Little More Homework" and "Take Me Back", the cast then brings us back to freshman year at RU, with the ever-charismatic and enthusiastic Freshman Orientation Leaders in a great Rutgers friendly version of "Hello" from The Book of Mormon. We then go through the woes of freshman year: crippling self-doubt within the first month of school ("Middle of a Moment") [don't lie, we all went through it], the terrifying experience of trying to navigate the bus system ("Welcome to Wonderland"), and trying to figure out how you're ever going to get along with your new roommate ("What is This Feeling?").
They even had my favorite part of any show: audience participation! In "Wall Lovin'", Tyler Conroy (Junior, Journalism and Media Studies with a sports specialization) is singing about his love for the girl next door who unfortunately has a boyfriend, according to all the fun noises he hears at night, when she unexpectedly knocks on his door asking for batteries (*wink wink*). Anyway, that girl is pulled from the audience and is serenaded by Tyler and his cute little trio of boys. To my obvious dismay, I was the chosen one at the dress rehearsal.
A fun part of the Back to School Revue is that freshmen are able to try out, even though they haven't even started school here yet. This year's brave newcomer is Katie Siegel, now an official Scarlet Knight, who plans on majoring in Journalism and Media Studies with a minor in Theatre. Here is what happened when I stole her away and put my phone up to her face to record our interaction - using my street name, obviously.
ban-Anna bread: How did you find out about the show and how was the transition into Rutgers as a freshman before even actually starting school?
Katie: I’m friends with Ajit, and he suggested that I audition for the show, and I did and I got in, which was really great and really exciting because I honestly didn’t think it would happen; it was all these talented college people including voice majors, but I got in and I was really excited!
ban-Anna bread: How was the experience? Is it what you expected it to be, were you scared? Give me some of your initial thoughts about the whole thing.
Katie: At first it was very intimidating, because at the first rehearsal I was sitting next to 3 vocal majors and I was like “ooOOOOkayyy..!!”. But after a while everyone was just really nice and welcoming and it became less intimidating and a lot of fun.
ban-Anna bread: Do you think you’ll be getting involved with more theatre at Rutgers now that you’ve done this?
Katie: It definitely encourages me more to do theatre because I kind of had the impression that Cabaret and LTC were very separated and I had to choose 1, but the show is a collaboration between the 2 and I got to meet people who do shows from both theatres and I’m like “Wow, I have so many options and so many awesome people wherever I go”.
Evidently, singing about dying your hair blue is a great experience. (not that I'm partial to people who dye their hair blue or anything......ha).
Another newcomer, Ryan Gaynor, is a new transfer from Rider University, majoring in Music Education (Voice). Performing a song about going out on a drive to nowhere and meeting a great guy, he is a fantastic new face to the Rutgers stage! He was very eager to talk about what a great experience the Revue was for him.
Ryan: Before the semester even began, I started with this show and it was such a postitive experience. Everyone here is really supportive, especially in the theatre community. There is no competition, it’s such a great vibe that goes on. I made a lot of great friends and even as classes have just started I definitely feel like I’m in the right place. Now, I’m even more happy about the fact that I transferred.
ban-Anna bread: How did you hear about the show?
Ryan: Actually, my best friend is in the show. Her name is Jillian Hanna. She told me about it saying that I should definitely audition for my first show at Rutgers, and it was kind of a last minute, on a whim, thing and I ended up getting into it and I was all about it! It was definitely a great experience, for sure.
ban-Anna bread: Do you plan on doing more with theatre at Rutgers after this show?
Ryan: Absolutely, yes! I think for the first semester I’m gonna take my time and ease into classes a little, but in the future I already have certain shows that are coming later on in the year that I’m super excited about.
Three cheers for Rutgers theatre! I know I'm not alone when I say that I'm excited for when these two come back onstage this year.
While running around with my phone in hand, voice memo app open and ready, I found myself talking to the choreographer, Allie Ambriano (Junior, Double Major Journalism and Media Studies, concentration in Sports Journalism and Theatre Arts). Being a person who really struggles with dancing, I was really interested in how the rehearsal process was for her.
Allie: Working with them was, not to sound cliché, such a blessing. They all came in on such different levels of dance. We have people who have never taken a dance class in their life and we have people who used to compete in dancing and everything in between. It's fun for me because I get to watch them kind of grow completely and it’s even better when they get to notice that they have made these changes and evolved into these dancers. It’s the best feeling when people come up to you and say, “Oh my god, I never thought I would get that turn; I’ve never done a pirouette, how did you teach me that?” So all of the stress, all of the late nights, it’s all worth it for that.
Funnily enough, when I talked to Emily Reineke (Junior, Music Education - Voice) she told me about how her favorite, most memorable moment of the Revue was when she realized she could actually do the dances.
Emily: I can’t dance to save my life; I suck. This is the first show where I don’t completely hate my dancing. I feel like the choreographer, Allie, took a lot of time out of her life to make sure I didn’t suck and I learned a lot about dance and dance terms, and I can stretch way more than before. It was super exciting for me to come in the first day and think I couldn’t do any of that, and then find out that I could, and she didn’t have to change it for me because I can keep up.
All of that hard work from Allie and the cast obviously paid off, because those group numbers were fantastic!
"Freedom" is a word that comes up over and over again throughout Major/Minor. Originally from "Remember This" sung by Megan Kalberer in the second act, the directors did a really great job of incorporating it into and in between other songs. When talking to the Co-Music Director Kyle Buchanon (Senior, Music Education - Trombone) about the process, he talked all about getting the music ready for what is essentially an original musical.
Kyle: It's always fun rehearsing but it's very challenging with the Revue because it's not like you buy the pit book from a company; we had to arrange a lot of the pit parts. The directors really wanted motifs, so we found places to insert them throughout the show to make it more cohesive. The other challenge is vocally; it's not like a standard show where Person A and B sing in certain spots, we had to figure all of that ourselves in terms of who sings the harmonies and whatnot. It's pretty much creating your own music and musical, which is fun and a big challenge, and also very rewarding.
Kyle was also a Co-Music Director of the 2014 Revue with Bernadette Burke, making this their last time being a part of this type of production at RU. Congratulations on two fantastic Revues!
Finally, I made my way around to the guys who made it all possible. Matthew Finnerty (Super Senior; Economics Major, Theatre Minor) and Ajit J. Mathews (Sophomore, Pre-Business Undecided) are the Co-Directors of Major/Minor. Inspired by last year's production of Unsung Chapters: the Back to School Musical Revue, Matt partnered with Ajit to create their own show that would "hit home more and have more of an impact on the audience." Here is a snippet of our conversation -
ban-Anna bread: What was the hardest part of this rehearsal process?
Matt: (Laughs) Because this project takes place over the summer, not everyone is on campus and they live all throughout new jersey. For the most part, people who do the revue tend to live locally. But even then, people decide to do it and they live 2 hours away. It’s getting everyone in one place that was difficult; we finally got the full cast together 2 weeks ago. Honestly, as much as we’ve been able to work on individual things in the last few weeks, this show finally came together in the last week or 2.
ban-Anna bread: What was your favorite part?
Ajit: Writing the show. It was just so, so new. As challenging and different as the rehearsal process was, I had never put together an entire show.
And there you have it, folks. Major/Minor "takes you back" through those awesome college experiences as a "20-something" and makes you feel SO MANY THINGS, especially for all of you graduating seniors out there. All of the laughter, the tears, the love and broken hearts, the (very) social gatherings, and all those times where you thought you couldn't do it but did it anyway - this show has it all. Congratulations to this cast on an outstanding sold-out production that rocked the audience's socks off!
You'll hear from me again when I talk about the next show: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, directed by Cody Beltis. The link to the facebook event is right here: https://www.facebook.com/events/420894971429279/