Harvard's musical theater club offers students the opportunity to perform in a much beloved art form that can explore politics, expose zeitgeists and inspire joy.
By Gareth Anderson '19
It is true; there are many opportunities to get involved with the arts at Harvard, but for those who are craving to belt a Broadway ballad or to rag-time it up in production of Guys and Dolls, musical theater opportunities on campus have been scarce. Until now. I had the chance to sit down with Caro Ribeiro ’18, president of the recently formed group Harvard College Musical Theater. We discussed musical theater on campus, her favorite show that she can’t get out of her head and the HCMT Miscast Cabaret Nov. 4 and 5 at Leverett House Library Theater. She also noted that the deadline for applications for spring HCMT productions is NOVEMBER 5.
The Harvard College Musical Theater group is a fairly new organization! When did you form?
We have been around for one year now. We were officially recognized at the end of last fall.
Who makes up the club?
We are all students. Our first board was a mixture of people who act and people who do administrative work, such as producers and financers. I direct. Our vice president is a music director. So we have a nice mix of people in leadership positions. Our membership is open to anyone who has been part of our productions, or is part of our cabarets.
What was your first show?
We did Gypsy, which I directed. That was last spring. I remember the energy that we had in the audience for the
Why did you choose to create this new group?
I wanted to do a production of Chicago in my sophomore spring and have it run in my junior fall. I ended up not getting the space for it, and I think a big reason why we couldn’t make it happen is because there is a lot of man-power required to put on a musical. There is also a lot of institutional knowledge behind putting on a show, both technically and creatively. I wanted to create an organization to really foster a community around creating musical theater around campus that could provide support when students want to do such a large production.
How do Harvard students get their musical up and running?
We accept applications each semester from students who want to put on a musical to get sponsorship from HCMT, and we then provide the institutional and planning knowledge behind running their musical.
Tell me about Miscast, that’s coming up this weekend.
Besides doing a full-scale production every semester, we’ve also dedicated resources to putting on a small-scale cabaret. Each cabaret has a theme. Last year our cabaret was during Valentine’s week, so the theme was love songs. This year, we are doing Miscast, which is a tradition in the Broadway community of singers performing songs they wouldn’t normally be singing.
How do people get involved with your cabarets?
It is important for me that our cabarets are open productions that anyone can join, as auditions usually take place in
Who plays the music for your shows?
Our productions are always put on by Harvard students. We’ve had full bands play for shows, and for Spring Awakening, we have a couple great student musical directors.
Speaking of Spring Awakening, what are HCMT’s plans for the spring?
We are currently accepting applications for musicals in the spring. When groups want to put up a show, they must apply for a performance space at Harvard. We want to streamline line it so that when groups apply for a space, they can say they have HCMT’s support. For the HCMT application, we ask directors to submit a 500-word vision of their show. Then, the board interviews potential applicants! The deadline for applications is November 5.
Harvard has a lot of theater groups. Where do you see the group in the grand scheme of Harvard theater?
I want HCMT to be the premier organization for sponsoring musicals. I also think musicals are great because they are ensembles, which give many people the opportunity to be involved. People love musicals.
Why are musicals so important to you?
There is a lot of talk in the theater community that we need to do shows that are political and that speak to our current times, and musicals do that. When you look at shows like Ragtime or even Hamilton, these are shows that can speak to the zeitgeist of what our country is going through. But, I also think that you can look at shows like Hello Dolly!, which is playing on Broadway right now, and have a moment of joy and escapism that is needed in times that are difficult.
What has been the response from students about HCMT?
The response has been great. A lot of students are craving the opportunity to do musicals, and that is why a lot of student-directed musicals are starting to go up on campus. It is really exciting to see so much energy around the art form.
What do you hope for in the future?
I hope that we can be in the position of having enough institutional knowledge and experience among the board members that we can support three fully functioning productions each semester.
Last question: What is your favorite musical right now?
Hamilton. The way it speaks to our generation is amazing. I don’t think anyone expected it to become a hit. It is a crazy idea: a rap musical about the Founding Fathers. It is just a brilliant show.
HCMT’s production of Spring Awakening closes Nov. 4. HCMT’s Miscast runs Nov. 4 and 5. To submit an application for the spring, click here and note that the deadline is Nov. 5.