University of Rochester

Stage is Set for Unique Final Exam

April 23, 2007

Kim Kowalke's musical theater workshop hardly resembles a typical class. Instead of writing papers or taking tests, the 19 students enrolled in this course will give a public performance of what they have learned. Their musical revue "City of Strangers," which serves as the students' final exam, will take place at 8 p.m. Friday, May 4, and Saturday, May 5, in lower Strong Auditorium on the University of Rochester's River Campus. The performances are free and open to the public.

"City of Strangers," the title of which is taken from a song by famed writer and composer Stephen Sondheim, will feature numbers from a variety of shows. Focusing on material composed in the last 20 years, the performance will feature the works of such celebrated composers as Jason Robert Brown, Sondheim, and Andrew Lloyd Webber.

The Musical Theater Workshop is led by Kowalke, who is the Richard S. Turner Professor in Humanities and a professor of musicology at the University's Eastman School of Music, and by instructor David Runzo, who is known in the Rochester area for his direction of musicals, including productions at Blackfriars Theatre and the Jewish Community Center.

The 19 students enrolled in the workshop were admitted through a formal audition. Since the beginning of the semester, students have attended class twice a week for six hours while also rehearsing and receiving extra coaching from Kowalke and Runzo on their own time. The group is divided into an advanced level, with five students, and a regular workshop.

This semester has been particularly demanding for Kowalke, who has also been working on a Broadway production while fulfilling his academic responsibilities. He's been traveling regularly to New York City, where he's a musical and historical consultant on the Broadway show LoveMusik. The production opens on May 3, the night before the first performance of "City of Strangers."

LoveMusik, directed by Hal Prince, is based on a book of letters that Kowalke edited about composer Kurt Weill and his wife Lotte Lenya. Kowalke will be in New York City for the opening performance of LoveMusik, but will fly to Rochester in time to see his students perform. While he is excited for both events, Kowalke says that his many commitments "have definitely made the past several months more hectic personally."

Several former students from his musical theater have gone on to successful Broadway careers, but Kowalke is especially excited for this group, proudly commenting, "This is the strongest group of students we've ever had."

For more information, contact the Department of Music at (585) 275-2828.