The curtains opened last weekend to reveal a different kind of show on the stage of Butler University’s Eidson-Duckwall Recital Hall. Three students presented “A Little Night Music,” a musical.
Instead of a traditional or original play, the students collaborated to bring the musical to the recital hall stage.
This kind of production has not been tried at Butler for almost 10 years.
Because of the size of Butler and lack of a musical theatre program, Butler typically only does straight plays and not musicals.
“As a performance major, I really enjoy singing opera but I miss doing musicals,” said Alaina Bartkowiak, director of the production. “I noticed a lot of people felt the same way. Butler is not equipped for musicals.”
Bartkowiak, along with Harriet Steinke, the producer, and Nick Roman, the music director, started this project last summer. The vision grew until January, when the trio started receiving donations and help from different departments at Butler.
“We have help from so many departments that (the musical) has grown into this big legitimate musical. It’s exciting,” Bartkowiak said.
Professors from the music department to the theatre department all lent their support. The dean of the Jordan College of the Arts, Ronald Caltabiano, also supported the show.
“(The music and theatre professors) weren’t sure how it was going to go,” said sophomore theatre major Becca De Tar. “But Caltabiano was really supportive. He wants this kind of collaboration in JCA all the time.”
Because Butler does not typically do musicals, Bartkowiak knew it had to be student-generated. The production was completely student run and directed.
“We have people from eight or nine different majors,” Bartkowiak said. “It’s a collaboration between the music and the theatre departments. They are from all age ranges—we have a lot of freshmen up to seniors.”
The show gave music students and theatre students an opportunity to work with people that they do not normally work with during the school year.
“It wasn’t weird or anything,” De Tar said. “That is the world we are all going into. We aren’t going to work with just people we know. It was a great experience to learn from different people.”
The show ran from Feb. 27 through March 2. Even though musicals are rarely seen on a Butler stage, the reaction was favorable.
“I don’t know what I was expecting but it was a lot more entertaining than I thought it would be,” freshman Thomas Kennedy said. “It was a lot more exciting and also pretty funny. I thought it would be a little more dry.”
Because Butler stages are small and not equipped for musicals, the actors had to learn to speak in a way so people could understand them from the back of the audience. The costumes were rented because of generous donations by a number of people.
The set also had to be minimal because of the lack of space on stage. A grand piano, the only orchestration for the musical, took up about a third of the space, leaving little room for much of a set.
“Because the show was so rich in and of itself, it didn’t need a lot of space or flashy sets, so it was fine having a minimalist set,” Bartkowiak said.
Although musicals at Butler have been a flop in the past, this one could pave the way for more to come, De Tar said.
“I think it has made people realize it’s possible to do this grand production. It’s sparked a lot of ideas in people’s minds,” De Tar said. “It gave people an opportunity. For music majors, they could do something that wasn’t as classical. Theatre majors got to experiment with a different genre. It was a really good collaboration, and it brought a lot of different personality types together.”