Naperville, IL

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Same Programming, New Name! Academy of the Arts is now Illinois Conservatory for the Arts

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impact musical theatre

Session 1: june 10–14 | Session 2: August 5–9

Like many actors Rob McClure may not know what his next big role will be but these days it doesn’t worry him.

“I’m lucky enough to have choices. I’m so used to scrambling, just saying yes to everything,” he said.  “I’m always thinking about tomorrow, but my representation thinks about next year.”

The two-time Tony nominee, who led the cast as Mrs. Doubtfire and has just finished an off-Broadway stint as Seymour in Little Shop of Horrors, stopped by to teach a masterclass in acting for our January Impact Musical Theater Camp.

“I know the value of an arts education because I when I was a kid, I didn’t realize people did this as a profession,” he said. “Whoever gave the grant for me to go to the Paper Mill Playhouse Conservatory in New Jersey, I owe them everything. I was doing Where’s Charlie in high school and was chosen by them as best actor. That got me a scholarship to Papermill where I also got a job in their box office. When the understudy for one of their shows dropped out, I was asked to step in. The play, I’m Not Rappaport, with Ben Vereen and Judd Hirsch, ended up transferring to Broadway with me in it. To think, I started out as the box office kid!”

McClure says that not coming from a family of theater people, he didn’t even see a community theater show until he was 15. He went straight from appearing in a high school production of Anything Goes, to being mesmerized by the horrors of Sweeney Todd, The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.

“I felt I had to be next to the audience to feel that discovery,” he said. “I’m still trying to get people to get that moment. A lot of times I get so caught up in a story you can lose the why. It’s 100 per cent about manipulating the audience.”

McClure says he spent six or seven years unsuccessfully trying out in New York before getting his big break. His ‘aha’ moment came when he realized he’d been wasting his time emulating performers he admired.

“It was only when I auditioned for Avenue Q that I did something unique, used my own instrument,” he said. “We had to present a comedic song. Other people did songs with funny words, but they just weren’t funny. I had a copy of DeLovely, not a comic song, by Cole Porter with me and at the last second decided to perform it as if I were Ernie and Cookie Monster. It gave me my first principal lead, it was the moment I stopped being Anthony Warlow, an Australian musical theater star who was my hero. With Avenue Q I realized who and what I am.

“When I was at school my teachers said it’s about being yourself, but I thought ‘I’m playing a character.’ You have to put yourself through a singular lens. I’m always trying to get the character inside out through my own life experiences.”

One of the first real characters McClure took on was the role of Charlie Chaplin in the musical Chaplin in 2012.

“I was always athletic, and early on I got a reputation as a person who will say yes to anything,” he said. “Even if I don’t know how to do it, I will figure it out. It was the kind of thinking Charlie Chaplin had. He wasn’t born to do the things he did. If I’m cast to do something I can’t do it lights a fire under me to deliver, for example walking the tightrope like I did in Chaplin. It makes me feel that I have to. It’s the best way to learn; trial by fire, sink or swim.”

They say that timing is everything. After highly acclaimed performances in Honeymoon in Vegas and Something Rotten, taking on the lead in a new musical version of Mrs. Doubtfire seemed like a sure-fire hit.

“When Covid hit it was the first night of our previews,” said McClure. “We closed down on the third preview. We tried to reopen but the vaccine mandate made it impossible for families because children couldn’t go. Then there were new surges and variants. It was the worst timing possible.”

Although the show did re-open after the shutdown, it only lasted a month.

“I will always feel Mrs. Doubtfire has unfinished business,” he said. “I saw it land in the hearts of people who needed to see it, for those people who needed it in the moment. I knew what it had to offer.”

The 40-year-old star says the role he’d most like to play, when he’s a little older, is Ebeneezer Scrooge.

“He’s the greatest character I could take on. I love roles where you start out as one character and become another.,” he said. “When I read a role, I try to think about the impact on the audience members, they are the viewer. I try to find moments that will make me gasp.”

When not treading the boards, you might see McClure show up on the big or small screen. He’s just finished filming a role in the final season of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. He’s also committed to educating young actors.

“I try to tell children you should really think of Broadway as a stop on your journey, not a destination,” he said. “Some of my favorite memories are from places like the La Jolla Playhouse in San Diego or the Edinburgh Fringe. It shouldn’t be Broadway or bust; not tied to 40 square blocks. Let your dreams take you where they may.”

session 1 • june 10–14, 2024

session 2 • August 5–9, 2024

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Tyler McKenzie / Dance

TYLER MCKENZIE has been a part of Hamilton since 2017. Other credits include – Broadway & National Tours: Matilda, Mamma Mia. He has a BFA in Musical Theatre from Western Carolina University and has served on many faculties and teaching staff around the country, including the Musical Theatre Faculty at Penn State University. IG: @tylrmckenzie

Melissa Foster / Voice

Melissa Foster is a Professor of Instruction in the Department of Theatre at Northwestern University, specifically teaching voice and topics in musical theatre such as Pop/Rock Vocal Style, and Pop Rock Musical Theatre. At Northwestern, she is the recipient of both the 2021 Galbut Outstanding Faculty Award and the 2022 Charles Deering McCormick Distinguished Professor of Instruction Award. She values her time inside the classroom just as much as she does outside, and simultaneously serves as 1 of 5 Faculty in Residence on Northwestern’s campus, mentoring students via their residential experience. When not at Northwestern, Melissa has been a Resident Vocal Consultant for LYRIC UNLIMITED (a division of the Lyric Opera of Chicago), and teaches for the CCM Vocal Pedagogy Institute at Shenandoah University. She has been guest faculty for Broadway Evolved, Artsbridge, Broadway Breakthru, IHSTA, ArtsLink and NATS. She has also taught countless masterclasses around the world. Highlights include: co-teaching a live-streamed, sold out masterclass with world renowned opera legend Renee Fleming and recent talks at schools and conferences in  San Diego, San Francisco, New York City, Ithaca, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Madison, South Bend, Goshen, Milwaukee, Detroit, Chicago, Birmingham, Palo Alto, Xi’an, Guangzhou and Hong Kong. Foster has consulted for the companies of numerous National Tours, including Miss Saigon, Fiddler on the Roof, and A Bronx Tale, and has recently enjoyed consulting for pop/rock projects like working with the NPR Tiny Desk series and for the multi-Grammy winning band Coldplay. Her book, “Don’t Sweat the Technique; A Performers Guide to Hip-Hop and Rap” (Rowman and Littlefield Publishers) was released in November 2023. Foster currently lives in Evanston, IL, with her husband Matt Boresi, their daughter Vivian, and their 2 adorable bunnies, Cinna and Rue.

Kara Lindsay / Acting

Broadway: Wicked (Glinda), Beautiful (Cynthia Weil), Newsies (Katherine Plumber) Original Cast/ Fathom Events Film. NYCity Center: Once Upon a Mattress (Winnifred Standby for Sutton Foster). National Tour: Wicked (Glinda), Little House on the Prairie (originated Laura). Paper Mill Playhouse: Newsies, Jolly Holiday, Little House…Prairie. Sacramento Music Circus: Singin in the Rain (Kathy Selden). NCT: Mary Poppins (Mary Poppins).Kansas City Starlight: Cinderella (Cinderella). Kansas City Rep: Cabaret (Sally Bowles). 5th Avenue: Lone Star Love (Miss Ann Page). Geva: A Christmas Carol(Belle). TV: Murphy Brown”ABC’s “Schoolhouse Rock! 50th Anniversary Singalong”ABC’s “The Disney Family Singalong: Volume II”, Tony Awards, Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. BFA Carnegie Mellon University. Huge thanks and LOVE to my friends, family, Stewart Talent/ Industry Entertainment. @karalindsay1

Brittainy Barattia / Casting

Brittainy joined the Gray Talent Group as an Associate Agent in July of 2015. She now heads up the Chicago tv/film/commercial/VO departments.  After earning degrees in Theatre Arts and Psychology from the University of Iowa, she began her career in theatre, working in the fields of fundraising and production and stage management. In tandem with her work in the field of performing arts, Brittainy worked in the aviation industry, during which time she learned that there truly is no place like sweet home Chicago. Brittainy is delighted to be part of the performing arts community and is thrilled to help showcase the amazing talents of the actors at Gray Talent Group.


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