Goodbye tours: SE River Campus season lineup takes shape

Large scale student-lead shows like "Shrek: The Musical" and "The Three Musketeers" are set to become the norm as this year's season lineup takes shape at the Southeast River Campus.

Southeast Missouri State University discontinued its annual touring series this year due to budget constraints and lower-than-expected attendance. But the decision has made way for more local productions.

Rhonda Weller-Stilson, Southeast's dean of the College of Arts and Media, said emphasis was placed on trying to customize a package that would be welcomed by people who would love the "bigger, larger scale-type productions."

And that's where the musicals and the symphony come in.

The newly added Broadway and symphony package will feature "Heathers: The Musical," "Shrek: The Musical," "Poulenc's Gloria," and "Symphonic Pops with Symphonic Stars!"

"Heathers: The Musical" -- based on the movie -- will be performed in the Rust Flexible Theatre and will run multiple weekends, "which we don't normally get that luxury to do," Weller-Stilson said.

A multifaceted show in a smaller venue, it will have a more intimate experience than the family friendly "Shrek: The Musical" to be performed in Bedell, she said.

The two symphonies within the package -- "Poulenc's Gloria" and "Symphonic Pops with Symphonic Stars!" -- will resonate with the audience, Weller-Stilson said.

"Poulenc's Gloria" will feature "beautiful, seasonal" melodies and composers John Williams and Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Symphonic Pops with Symphonic Stars!" will include popular movie scores.

"We always choose our seasons based on our students' needs," she said, "and we also want to please the public, too."

Each show is chosen based on the male-to-female casting ratio, Weller-Stilson said.

"The Three Musketeers" is a male-heavy show in terms of casting, she said, so "Heather's: The Musical" was chosen, because of its female-heavy cast.

Fall for Dance, Spring into Dance and "The Wolves" also will be part of the season lineup.

Multiple concerts will be featured throughout the season including a performance by Grammy award-winning Cho-Liang Lin in "Gala Season Opener."

Sara Edgerton, director of Southeast Missouri University Orchestra and Applied Low Strings said Cho-Liang Lin is a very well known and well-established concert violinist and "has performed with basically all the major orchestras in the world."

"He's someone several members of our symphony board have known in the past," she said, "and they've kind of kept in touch with him as the River Campus was built and developed."

The Southeast Missouri Symphony, University Choir and Choral Union will combine -- as tradition -- to present Poulenc's "Gloria" in November and Brahms' "A German Requiem" in April, she said.

Edgerton described Poulenc's "Gloria" debuting in November as a "beautiful, 20th century work" full of orchestration and choral writing. Edgerton said she considers Brahms' "A German Requiem" to be one of the Top 10 choral works.

"I think we're ready for it," she said.

Second stage shows

Even with the absence of the touring series, student-lead shows have grown in number and in size, reflecting the growing number of student performers, Weller-Stilson said.

Performances within this year's series include "Ain't Misbehavin'," "Dance Project" and "The Last Days of Judas Iscariot."

Later in the year

The Big Band Christmas Jukebox -- where Southeast's music, theater and dance departments combine -- will return, Weller-Stilson said.

Last year's attendance reached nearly 700, she said, adding, "Which is more than what we've had sometimes for touring."

And in May, Weller-Stilson said the River Campus is set to host a new variety show featuring musical theater music and dance students: Celebrate the Arts.

Most series events will be held at 7:30 p.m. in the Donald C. Bedell Performance Hall.

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