Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Abominable Showman, January 8, 2012

(Courtesy: MCAM)

The Montreal Master Class
Musical theatre giants teach students in Montreal
by Richard Burnett

They don’t call Nick Kenkel “choreographer to the stars” for nothing. The Broadway veteran has worked with everybody from former Spice Girl Mel B to onetime teen idol Debbie Gibson, and assistant-choreographed the musical Legally Blonde on the Great White Way.

“Nick’s work is damn sexy!” says Mel B, whom Kenkel choreographed in the hit Vegas floorshow production PeepShow. “He really knows how to make the ladies look beautiful. I trusted him completely to make me look as good as possible.”

Masterclass à Montreal co-founders
Jack Latulippe and Elizabeth
Cordeau Rancourt (Photo courtesy MCAM)
But whether you’re just a regular student or a big star, Kenkel says he treats everybody the same way. 

“Some performers have a stronger sense of security and others know they need the work, but not all celebrities are as humble as I would like them to be,” Kenkel told me when he taught at the Masterclass à Montreal (MCAM) series for the MCAM’s 2010-2011 season.  

“I’ll work with singers who aren’t great movers, who aren’t comfortable with movement. And that’s fairly common among all students. When you start challenging them, many want to revert to their security blankets. But they need to experience something real, and my master class can make them feel better about themselves.”

The MCAM’s current 2011-2012 season includes master classes and workshops by 2009 Tony-Award-winning actress Alice Ripley (February 2012), renowned American actor Austin Miller (March 2012) and Quebec actress Michelle Labonté (April 2012), currently starring in Belles-Soeurs, René Richard Cyr’s musical adaptation of the Michel Tramblay play that will headline the Théâtre du Rond-Point in Paris this March.

Past master class teachers include Nick Kenkel, Cirque du Soleil Zumanity creator René Richard Cyr and Wicked Broadway composer Stephen Schwartz.

“I’m really happy with this season’s lineup,” says Jack Latulippe, who started the MCAM with fellow Montrealer Elizabeth Cordeau-Rancourt in 2009. “We attended a different master class [that] year and hated it. It was really badly organized. So we decided to start our own series, and through our own networking, friends and calling agents, we were able to put together this year’s stellar lineup.”

The formula seems to be working, and attracting a wide range of theatre students. Latulippe, however, points out applicants for master classes must meet a few minimum criteria. 

Nick Kenkel assistant-choreographed Wicked
on Broadway( Photo courtesy MCAM)
“We do have all ages, but mostly musical theatre performers, working actors and students who have just finished school. One class we had a 10-year-old girl from Ontario, and in another a 45-year-old woman. We believe in mixing different backgrounds since we learn a lot more watching others.”

Each master class has 12 participants. These classes also have an unlimited number of observers. “If [participating] applicants aren’t experienced enough, we’ll refer them to our new studio or theatre school, the MCAM Studio for the Performing Arts,” says Latulippe. 

As for Broadway veteran Nick Kenkel, he told me, “The master class can be difficult for some people, but I don’t want to dumb down what I’m doing. I’m used to triple-threat singers, actors and dancers. Sometimes people leave after the first day. I’m not mean to anybody, but they learn what it’s like to go to a real New York rehearsal or audition.”

Kenkel adds, “The MCAM is doing a great job offering master classes so students can network and get a glimpse of what the real thing is really like.”

For complete descriptions of all 2011-2012 season Masterclass à Montreal classes, surf to
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