The Torggler Summer Vocal Institute at Christopher Newport University has lined up some impressive artists — opera baritone Nathan Gunn, Broadway dynamo Patti Lupone, jazz singer Spider Saloff and the male a cappella group Straight No Chaser — who will perform in the coming weeks.
Less publicized is the first-rate faculty that will be giving workshops and master classes in opera and music theater to the 45 high school and college kids who come from Florida, Arizona, California and other parts of the country. They're in town for two weeks beginning Sunday, July 6.
Now in its second year, the institute is well on its way to building a national reputation in its field. Mark Reimer of the CNU music faculty says, "I don't think there's another program in the country that gives students this kind of one-on-one experience."
Here's a snapshot of some of the coaches coming to town:
Liz Caplan. She's been called the hottest vocal coach working on Broadway today. Caplan coached Neil Patrick Harris for his Tony Awards hosting duties and for his Tony-winning performance in "Hedwig and the Angry Inch." She's also the vocal supervisor of "Once," "The Book of Mormon" and "Rock of Ages" on Broadway and vocal consultant on "Wicked," "Motown the Musical" and "Disney's Aladdin."
Brent Wagner. Chair of the musical theatre department of the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre and Dance, Wagner has directed musicals and revues in New York and other places. He's collaborated with Sheldon Harnick on numerous projects, including a new opera at the O'Neill Theater Center. He has a reputation for training kids that end up on Broadway.
Heather Parcells. This Broadway performer grew up in Newport News and studied at Florida State University. Her first big job was in the touring company of "Chicago," and she has since played on Broadway in "A Chorus Line" and "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang."
Costanza Cuccaro. This lyric-coloratura soprano on the faculty at Indiana University Jacobs School of Music has enjoyed an international career at opera houses in New York, Toronto, Montreal, Berlin, Munich, and Vienna. She has taught master classes and made presentations at national conventions of the National Association of Teachers of Singing and the International Voice Teachers Conference.
Timothy Noble. This baritone and professor, also teaching at Indiana University, has worked at the world's great opera houses during a 50-year career. His students won the Metropolitan Opera Council Auditions at the district, regional, semi-final and grand finals levels, the Palm Beach Competition, the George London Competition and the Bel Canto Competition, to name a few.
Each of these teachers and coaches will be in town for up to a week. Students pay $2,000 for the institute, which exposes them to all aspects of music theater. Some of the areas of study include Acting for the Singer, Dance and Movement Techniques, Stage Combat, Vocal Health and Hygiene, Audition Techniques and Character Development.
The institute is made possible by a gift from George and Mary Torggler, longtime supporters of arts and education whose son attended CNU.
Tickets are still available for the Gunn (July 9), Lupone (July 12) and Saloff (July 16) concerts, which will take place in the Music and Theatre Hall, as well as Straight No Chaser performing July 19 in the Concert Hall, both located in the Ferguson Center for the Arts. Call 757-594-8752 or go online at fergusoncenter.org to get tickets.
Players' Peter Pan
The Williamsburg Players are calling themselves "high-flying" and "family-friendly" this summer with a production of "Peter Pan the Musical." Performances take place July 18-27 at the James-York Playhouse in Williamsburg.
The musical is based on J.M. Barrie's magical tale about the Darling children and Tinker Bell, who along with the Lost Boys, do battle with the sinister Captain Hook and his pirate crew. Broadway's Peter Pans have included Mary Martin, Sandy Duncan and Cathy Rigby.
The original 1954 musical featured music by Mark "Moose" Charlap and Jule Styne, with lyrics by Carolyn Leigh and Betty Comden and Adolph Green. The players are presenting a version adapted by British composer Piers Chater Robinson in the 1990s.
Peter Natale will direct the Williamsburg production with musical direction by Mike McCoy, choreography by Arianna Heck, set design by Steve Olson, costumes by Kelsey Stanford, lighting design by Mark Howell, and flying effects provided by Flying by Foy.
The cast of 35 alumni and newcomers includes Abigail Curran as Peter Pan, David Adams as Captain Hook, Lauren Vollette as Mrs. Darling, Stephen Maney as Smee, with Georgia Hester, TJ Riggs and Gabby Sturtz as the Darling children.
Show times are 7:30 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays and 2 p.m. Saturdays-Sunday. The playhouse is at 200 Hubbard Lane.
Tickets are $20 adults, $10 students and children, available online at williamsburgplayers.org or by calling the box office at 757-229-0431.
David Nicholson can be reached at 757-247-4794.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun