As a college audition coach, I love expanding my students’ college lists to include some university’s they might not know about. Most students come in with a list full of popular or ‘top’ schools. As these schools become more competitive to get into, it is important to have a diverse list. There are so many musical theatre programs across the country that are on the rise. With small class sizes and incredible faculty, these hidden gems offer individualized and competitive training. Here are the top 20 musical theatre programs that might not be on your list, but definitely should be!
Coastal Carolina’s Musical Theatre Program boasts five mainstage productions per year, in addition to student productions. The University also brings in a variety of guest artists for masterclasses and workshops every year. The department also offers a “Common Hour” which allows all theatre and musical theatre majors to meet once a week to discuss theatre issues. The training culminates in a Senior Showcase, which is presented in New York City.
Dean College offers a concentration in musical theatre combined with a broad foundation in the liberal arts. Students are able to audition for shows as early as their first semester. Dean College puts on a variety of productions per year ranging from classical plays to the avant-garde. They encourage students to pursue other areas of interest, and students are heavily involved in the production process. Furthermore, the program connects students with internships and presents a senior showcase in New York and Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival.
East Carolina University offers a BFA in Theatre Arts with a concentration in musical theatre. Starting their sophomore year, students begin a demanding four-semester studio performance technique practice. The University brings in professional directors to direct their mainstage productions. Students in the musical theatre concentration who are looking for more acting training can also audition for the Professional Actor Training concentration in the spring of their freshman year.
Howard University recently named alumna Phylicia Rashad as the new dean for the College of Fine Arts. It is the nation’s only musical theatre program at an HCBU. They offer a showcase for each class as well as a variety of mainstage and student productions. Their philosophy is that productions do not solely offer entertainment, but also a forum for ideas and discussion. The department also brings in a variety of guest artists throughout the year.
Illinois Wesleyan University offers students the opportunity to work with new and upcoming composers through their Music Theatre Workshop. Their Scene Study Workshop explores the works of a specific genre, culminating with a showcase performance. Students can begin auditioning for mainstage productions in their sophomore year, which includes two musicals. BFA Musical Theatre majors are required to take choir in their freshman year. The University also offers study abroad programs for MT majors.
Located in Bloomington, Indiana University’s Musical Theatre Program encourages students to audition for professional productions in and around Bloomington. They partner with Cardinal Stage Company, which offers equity points. Furthermore, the IU Summer Theatre season has further opportunities, including the New Musical Workshop. BFA students have the opportunity to work with New York casting directors and agent through on-campus masterclasses. Freshmen are paired with sophomore and junior musical theatre students in their ‘Sibling Program,’ to help ease the transition to university.
James Madison University’s Musical Theatre Program provides one-on-one mentorship and guidance. They boast five mainstage productions per year, and between five and eight productions in their Studio Theatre. Furthermore, the university produces staged reading of original student work. Musical Theatre students are exposed to all areas of theatre, dance and music and encouraged to participate in many ways. Students can also participate in study abroad and service programs.
Nazareth College consistently brings in professional directors to teach masterclasses and direct productions in the program. They have a partnership with the Finger Lakes Musical Theatre Festival, allowing students to get real world experience. Nazareth also hosts auditions for summer stock theaters. Furthermore, Musical Theatre students can train with professionals on the West End in London through a short-term study abroad program.
NYU Steinhardt offers a BM in Vocal Performance: Music Theatre. Their faculty are current working professionals from the New York area, and a variety of guest artists are brought in for masterclasses. Students also train in dance, and there are a variety of fully staged productions produced under the guidance of professionals from Broadway and other major regional theaters. Seniors perform in the Graduation Showcase in New York City: a revue featuring individual student work for industry professionals.
Ohio Northern University offers a variety of study abroad programs. Recent locations include Scotland, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and more. Their curriculum is enhanced by including masterclasses with recognized guest artists. Furthermore, they sponsor the International Play Festival, which commissions a new work by an international playwright. These professionals come on campus to work directly with students.
Otterbein University’s Musical Theatre Program shares acting training with the BFA Acting majors. They also offer courses on acting for TV/Film. Musical Theatre majors are required to audition for all mainstage productions, not just musicals. In their senior year, students complete a ten-week internship centered around a student’s interest, followed by a Senior Showcase produced in New York City for industry professionals. Majors looking for more dance training can also add an Integrated Dance Minor.
SUNY Cortland’s Musical Theatre Program has a variety of performance opportunities including workshops and reading of new musicals. The Musical Theatre major is the only major offered in the Performing Arts Department, allowing the curriculum to be tailored to each students’ individual needs. SUNY Cortland also hosts musical theatre industry showcases in New York City to highlight seniors’ work and prepare them for the professional world.
SUNY Fredonia’s Musical Theatre Program gives students many opportunities to explore their interests in theatre as a whole, including working in the scene and costume shops. Their Walter Gloor Mainstage Series includes five mainstage shows per year, which all students are able to audition for. SUNY Fredonia also brings in many guest artists in all areas of theatre for masterclasses and workshops.
The University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Musical Theatre Program partners with the Department of Music to provide specialized training. They produce at least four mainstage productions per year, in addition to studio and student productions. They offer a Musical Theatre Capstone course, which focuses on all the business aspects of theatre. Students are also prepared by participating in workshops and masterclasses with professional guest artists.
The University of Colorado at Boulder allows students to audition for mainstage productions as early as freshman year. There is also the CU Theatre Outreach tour, which produced socially0engaged programs, and the New Play Festival which features new work by current students. Students also have many internship opportunities while at school with organizations such as Colorado Shakespeare Festival, BDT Stages, and Denver Center Theatre Company.
The University of Hartford’s Musical Theatre Program is housed within The Hartt School, a performing arts conservatory for music, dance, and theatre. Located just two hours from both New York and Boston, students are exposed to bustling theatre communities while in school. Staring in their second year, students participate in mainstage performances and in their final year, students are in residence at Goodspeed Musicals working on a Festival of New Musicals. Students can also audition for Hartford Stage Company and earn equity points.
The University of Utah’s Musical Theatre Program has a working relationship with the Pioneer Theatre Company. Seniors are able to audition for an internship program. The program is committed to bringing in guest artists and other visiting professionals to complement their curriculum. They produce six mainstage productions each year, in addition to over 35 studio productions including New Play Workshops, student work, and other faculty-led shows.
Western Carolina University’s Musical Theatre Program is led by Broadway legend Terrence Mann. Their program combines intense training with a comprehensive liberal arts education. Students looking for more dance training can also add a minor in Dance. Seniors participate in a Senior Showcase for industry professionals.
Western Connecticut State University’s Musical Theatre Program has connections with the Edinburgh International Theatre Festival in Scotland and organizes opportunities for students to perform. Students can participate in a week-long New York residency to perform off-Broadway and meet with theatre professionals. During their final year, seniors participate in the Senior Showcase which includes auditioning for New York City directors and agents.
Western Michigan University’s Musical Theatre Program offers a two-year musical theatre performance workshop class that synthesizes training into marketable skills. All students are required to participate in university-sponsored productions and can also venture off-campus for other performance opportunities. Their training culminates in an opportunity to perform in the Senior Showcase for agents and casting directors in New York City.