Musical theater history at the Playshop
Justin Duhon is passionate about musical theater, and he will share his enthusiasm by presenting a musical theater seminar on Sunday, Aug. 7, from 4 to 6, at The Wilton Playshop, 15 Lover’s Lane.
His presentation of Broadway history from 1927 to today will be punctuated with audience participation, trivia, and clips of musicals throughout the years. Tickets are $20 for adults, $15 for students.
Growing up in Atlanta, Ga., Duhon started listening to cast recordings as a child and knew very quickly “that’s what I wanted to be.”
Atlanta does not have a big theater scene, but Duhon took in the national tours of Broadway shows when they came to town and performed in children’s musicals.
“A lot of [my knowledge] is self-education and going to dance classes and voice lessons,” he told The Bulletin.
All that has led to him now being a sophomore at the Conservatory of Fine Arts at Webster University in St Louis, Mo., where he is training to be an actor.
“I’ve also trained to be a dancer and choreographer, done stage work from direction to choreography, just about everything in the musical theater realm,” he said.
Duhon made his way to Wilton through his friendship with Caitlyn Witty, a Wilton High School graduate who also attends Webster, whom he is visiting for the summer.
The seminar is something he developed in high school when the drama director was out for several months and “there was no good sub,” he said. So Duhon came up with a musical seminar. The kids in the class ranged from having a lot of musical experience to some never having seen a musical production before.
“I was surprised by the reaction,” Duhon said. “Everyone in the class agreed they had learned more there than in any other high school class.”
Asked about his musical theater preferences he said, “right now, my three favorites are, I’m on the Hamilton hype with everyone else. I also love Ragtime and Sunday in the Park with George.
“They’re all very different. Sunday in the Park with George is all about what I do as an artist in musical theater.” While it is technically about the creation of the famous painting by Georges Seurat, “the lyrics speak to anyone in art in any capacity,” he said. “It’s universal to artists.
“Ragtime has some of the most grand music in musical theater history, the most lush score and is about how America can be great.” Seeing it, he said, “is one of the most humbling experiences. The original cast is one of the best I’ve ever heard or seen.”
Hamilton, he said, “really speaks to why I’m proud to be an American, a human being, almost. It speaks to all of my morals I’ve ever had as a child and an adult.”
Asked about the future of musical theater Duhon said, it is “incredibly adaptable. It takes the shape of whatever you want it to, telling any story for any reason and using any music or visual aspects that help tell the story.
“When you see a revival of a show” — he used the revival of Pippin a few years ago — “even though it was 40 years old it was told in a way to make it relevant to a contemporary audience. To be successful is to be accessible for a contemporary audience and that’s why Hamilton is so successful,” with the music, and “a cast that looks like America today. Also, it’s the most important story that we could know or listen to in our nation’s history, our nation’s founding and what we stand for.”
Of his seminar, he said, “it’s great for all ages. … “I taught it to high school kids and I think that’s why it’s been as successful as it is. That’s one of the most stubborn age groups. I’ve worked to make it accessible to them. If a high school student can enjoy it, anyone can.”
For reservations, email firstname.lastname@example.org.