A Life in Musical Theatre Explored in Lawrence University Convocation

Posted on: April 11th, 2007 by Rick Peterson

APPLETON, WIS. — A scholar and historian of American musical theatre shares insights from his distinguished career as an “insider” on the current and future state of the art form Tuesday, April 17 in a Lawrence University convocation.

Ted Chapin, president and executive director of The Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization, presents “A Life in the Musical Theatre…and the Lawrence Connection that Mattered” at 11:10 p.m. in the Lawrence Memorial Chapel. He also will conduct a question-and-answer session at 2 p.m. in Riverview Lounge of the Lawrence Memorial Union. Both events are free and open to the public.

Since 1981, Chapin has been affiliated with the New York City-based Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization. Founded by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein to protect a variety of entertainment copyrights, including those for such musical classics as “South Pacific” and “Oklahoma,” the organization has come to represent and promote the works of more than 100 songwriters and authors, including such luminaries as Jerome Kern, Andrew Lloyd Webber and W. Somerset Maugham, dozens of stage musicals and concert works and more than 3,000 songs.

As R & H president and executive director, Chapin oversees all the divisions within R & H, including Williamson Music, the Irving Berlin Music Company, R & H Theatricals and the R & H Concert Library.

Chapin’s influence on American musical theatre extends well beyond his affiliation with R & H. He a member of the Tony Award Administration Committee, serving as a Tony Awards nominator, and has been chair of the advisory committee of the “Encores! Great American Musicals in Concert” series at New York’s City Center since its inception, a series he helped create.

Lawrence played a role in launching Chapin’s career in theatre. As a first-year student at Lawrence in the late 1960s, Chapin participated in the last production of LU theatre professor Ted Cloak’s legendary career before his retirement.

Chapin went on to complete his bachelor’s degree at Connecticut College, where as a 20-year-old undergraduate, he landed a job as a production assistant on the set of the Stephen Sondheim Broadway musical smash “Follies.”

While working behind the scenes on “Follies,” Chapin kept a journal of his experiences. Thirty years later, Chapin used those firsthand observations on how a Broadway musical comes to life as the basis for the 2003 book “Everything Was Possible: The Birth of the Musical ‘Follies.'” In it, he chronicles agonizing casting decisions, tumultuous rehearsals and the thrill of an opening night on Broadway.

Early career highlights also include working as a production or directorial assistant on Leonard Bernstein’s “Mass” at the Kennedy Center, “Candide” at the Los Angeles and San Francisco Civic Light Operas, “The Rothchilds” in New York and serving as musical director for the National Theatre of the Deaf’s production of “Four Saints in Three Acts.”

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