Musical Theatre group grows from small beginnings

By Christina Prignano

During callbacks for the Great White Way’s latest offering, “Chicago,” the show’s director, middler business major Samantha Wong said choosing between finalists was easier than it may seem.

“When you’re casting a show it’s a very gut feeling,” she said. “You don’t look for a specific thing, it’s a matter of the presence of a person.”

But picking finalists is a new luxury for the student group.

Since its founding two years ago, the Great White Way, which specializes in musical theater, has expanded both its cast and its repertoire.

Dave Wright, president and co-founder of the organization said he started it as the first group dedicated solely to producing musicals at Northeastern.

“We created the group with the intention of doing musicals every semester,” said Wright, a senior psychology major.

The group started small, doing musical reviews with numbers from various popular shows like “Rent,” “Fiddler on the Roof” and “Phantom of the Opera” before expanding to its first full-length musical, “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.”

“That was on a smaller scale as was its follow up, ‘Little Shop of Horrors,'” Wright said.

Last April, the Great White Way expanded to employ full sound, lighting and a 14-piece orchestra for its presentation of “Into the Woods,” which sold out both performances.

This year, the group has grown even more. Although auditions for “Chicago” were scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m., many students arrived early and in large numbers. Some long time members were surprised at the turnout compared to previous years.

“Into the Woods” had a cast of about 20 students, and only about 25 auditioned, said sophomore chemical engineering major James Sims, music director for “Chicago” and “Into the Woods.”

“We barely had enough people to cast the show. This cast will probably be a little bit bigger than last year but we had about twice as many people show up for auditions,” Sims said.

Sophomore criminal justice major Jessica Merron said in the past, students mostly heard about the Great White Way through word of mouth.

But the most recent auditions proved to be very different.

“There were a lot more new faces than we expected to see,” she said. “It was pretty surprising, because usually roommates came with the people involved, that kind of thing.”

The increase in awareness could be partially due to the showcase the group put on at the recent “Huskies Gone Wild” variety event, largely aimed at students outside of the traditional theatre community.

The group also hopes a popular show like “Chicago” will help sell more seats once the show opens.

“It’s got name value,” Wright said. “I think people will come to appreciate something like that, when [in the past] we’ve done sort of smaller scale, lesser-known shows.”

Students auditioning also appreciated the choice of musical.

“I love Chicago, it’s really cool,” said Andrea Jamison, a freshman theatre and history major.

“I’m totally hoping to get anything,” she said. “If I got a lead, that’d be great, but just being in the chorus or one of the dancers would be awesome.”

Rehearsals began last Monday for the show, which will be performed Dec. 9 and 10 at 7:30 p.m. in the Curry Student Center Ballroom.

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