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The sounds of the jittery feet from musical theater students roared from Arizona State University's Music Building last week as students anxiously warmed up to take a tap Master Class from "Something Rotten!" ensemble member Lucy Anders.
“I think it’s important for musical theater students to at least be versed about any type of dance because that’s our business,” Anders said. “You tap. You do jazz. You do ballet. You need to be able to do just about everything in this business to work.”
Anders is a professional actress touring as part of the ensemble and understudy to Portia in "Something Rotten!" a comedic musical that played at ASU Gammage through Nov. 5. Anders was invited to teach a class for musical theater students through ASU Gammage’s Cultural Participation Program.
“One of the missions of ASU Gammage is 'Connecting Communities,' so this is a real tangible way that we can connect our ASU students with the broadway stars that come through town,” said Desiree Ong, cultural participation program manager. “It’s also a great opportunity for the visiting artist to meet and interact with our local population.”
Anders ran the class like her dance call when she auditioned for "Something Rotten!" She originally auditioned for the role of Portia, but when the casting directors decided she was too young for the role, they had her audition for the ensemble. Since "Something Rotten!" is a tap dance heavy musical, they had her come in with other performers for a dance-only audition to evaluate her abilities.
“I’ve never done anything else,” Anders said. “I honestly don’t really know what my other skills are besides performing. My parents did a lot of community theater. My uncle is a Broadway conductor. I’ve just grown up with it my entire life.”
The actress has been touring with the cast since January 2017. She taught the over 30 students that attended the class a 33-second dance combination. Then she split them into two groups to practice. Finally, the students were split into groups of three to audition for the actress and get feedback.
“Twenty of those students were first semester students in the musical theater training program, plus extra guests from the upper classmen and graduate program,” said Toby Yatso, musical theater program coordinator. “We opened it up to our entire musical theatre department which is several dozen students.”
After their class, Anders answered questions about what post-graduation life is like for a musical theatre major. Anders graduated from Baldwin Wallace University in 2015, so she had some insight into what the students were studying and what they would need to know after they graduate from Arizona State University.
“It allows them to see the next step,” Yatso said. “It allows them to see what commitment, persistence and diligence can get them and what that can provide for their future. This was remarkable to have someone so young still and fresh out of school working at such a professional level, it shows them it’s possible. It’s not out of reach, but also demonstrates the reality of how committed she had to be to her own skills, her own training and her own professionalism to make that happen for herself.”
Yatso says that having professionals in the musical theatre business helps his student gain a stronger picture of how they’ll use their skills after college. He says this is one of the bigger Master Classes he’s seen.
“We’re just very happy to be collaborating with ASU Gammage,” Yatso said. “It’s so nice to connect with what’s going on in the professional circuit and the touring roadhouse circuit. It’s just good to connect with that because it means networking and learning for our students.”