This month I want to talk about musicals at the University of York. For all you singery/dancery/actory types out there, York is the place to be, as the musicals scene is massive! There are a number of performance societies here, but only one devoted entirely to musicals, and it’s called Central Hall Musicals Society, or CHMS (Central Hall being that big spaceship-like building that you might have seen on campus if you’ve been at an open or interview day).
Every year CHMS puts on three small shows (one per term) in various locations on and off–campus, two showcases (one in autumn and one in summer term), and one big show (in spring term) in Central Hall (I suppose they have to live up to their name somehow!). I have been heavily involved with the society since starting at York, being the musicals nut that I am!
In my first year, I was in the ensemble of the big show, The Witches of Eastwick; played percussion in the small spring show, Songs for a New World; played keyboard in the band for the summer small show, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee; and performed the role of Pippin in a segment of the summer mini-musicals showcase. And so far this year, I have had a small role in the small autumn show, Dogfight; a featured ensemble role in the big show, Sweet Charity; and am set to musically direct the summer showcase! That may all sound like a lot, but it’s completely up to you how much you want to be involved with any society – I just happen to love musicals so audition for almost anything!
Of course, being in a show is one thing, but running a show is something completely different, and I’m sure many are interested in this side of things also. The great news is that there are opportunities for this too!
At university, anyone can put on a musical at any time or in any place as long as they have the will, but doing so through CHMS gives you the backing of a number of talented and experienced musicals veterans (not to mention, quite a bit of funding). The CHMS committee is fourteen-strong and whenever a new show is to be performed a select number of them form a panel.
Teams made up of a minimum of a director, producer and musical director (can also include a number of people in other roles – fundraiser, press and publicity manager, choreographer, assistant directors/producers, stage managers etc.) then submit a written pitch outlining the artistic version for their chosen show and reasons why they think it should be selected. The panel then consider all the pitches submitted and invite the best teams to a spoken pitch, at which the team members are given the opportunity to explain, in greater detail, the various parts of their pitch, and the panel put questions to them. Once this is done, the panel chooses the best team (and they often then audition to be in it!).
It may all seem very daunting and formalised, but the intention is to make the process fair, and give everyone an equal chance at being part the production team for a show. It is also designed to mimic, to a certain extent the hoops one may have to jump through in similar situations in the real world!
The bottom line is: York is literally dripping in musicals (well not, literally), so if it’s something you love and want to carry on doing I would strongly consider choosing to come here!