By Michael Gioia
17 May 2012
When Tony nominee Matthew Morrison was hired as glee club director Will Schuester at Ohio's McKinley High on the fictional musical series "Glee," Broadway-star-in-the-making Rachel Berry found herself in good hands. For the real-life Rachel Berrys of the Midwest, singer-actor Drew Lachey is Ohio's next Mr. Shu.
Lachey, who rose to fame with pop group 98 Degrees and starred in the Broadway productions of Rent andMonty Python's Spamalot, and wife Lea, who was seen on tour with The King and I, have partnered with the School for Creative and Performing Arts in Cincinnati to offer Lachey Arts, a two-week musical theatre intensive launching Aug. 6 in Ohio.
"You want to help the next generation of performers," Lachey told Playbill.com. "You want them to be capable and proficient when they go out into the world. This [camp] is something that you can't get in the Midwest. To have people who are successful at what they do and know exactly what it takes to make it [in the arts] steering the ship is a blessing for the Midwest."
The Lachey duo has teamed with a faculty of professionals that includesMerle Dandridge (Tarzan, Aida, Jesus Christ Superstar, Rent), co-founders of Exhale Dance Tribe Missy Lay Zimmer (Cats) and Andrew Hubbard (Footloose), Traci Swain ("Saturday Night Live"), Laurie Wyant-Zenni (director of the SCPA Children's Choir), Jay Goodlett (The Cincinnati Ballet Company), Brian Marcum (The Drowsy Chaperone, The Boy From Oz, Saturday Night Fever, 42nd Street) and Jennifer Marcum (Beauty and the Beast).
After a morning full of rotating classes, in which students will be separated by skill level, the aspiring performers will rehearse for a showcase—"strictly a training tool," said Lachey—that will be presented at summer's end. Steering away from theatre camps that focus their summer on a specific production, Lachey Arts will include a variety of material.
"We're going to do everything from Phantom, Les Miz and South Pacific toRent, Spring Awakening, In the Heights and Newsies—things that are currently running [and] in the pop-rock spectrum all the way down to the Golden Age," said Lachey, whose goal is to stay as true to the material as possible, even when facing racy titles such as the angst-ridden Spring Awakening—a piece that doesn't shy away from the use of four-letter words and deals with issues of rape and sexual identity.
The performer added, "We want to make sure everybody is featured [and] has that moment to shine and put themselves out there. It's one thing to be standing in the back row of a big chorus number and another thing to be front and center with the bright lights shining on you."
Lachey and faculty members will focus on an individual approach in classes that bring auditioning to the forefront. "Auditioning is an art in itself," said Lachey, and to prepare students, the camp will enact mock auditions with cold readings, gather songs for the performer's "book"—a collection of 16-bar audition pieces—and take headshots.
Growing up, Lachey commented, "everybody was so scared to be embarrassed. What we're trying to do is build a safe place where these kids can experiment and explore." He added that the camp "is a way for us to prepare them—give them a [fresh] perspective… The industry changes, so the way we teach has to change as well."
For more information and to enroll, visit LacheyArts.com.