Broadway actor and composer Jeff Blumenkrantz works with York Drama students
January 29, 2019
York Drama’s spring musical is one of the most well-attended events at York, packing the auditorium for four nights each year. But what everyone doesn’t know is that preparation for the show begins months beforehand. This past Wednesday and Thursday York Drama students had the opportunity to work with an original cast member of this year’s Spring Musical, “Bright Star”.
Jeff Blumenkrantz, who played Daryl in the Broadway production and the national tour, is an accomplished actor both on stage and on screen. Beyond “Bright Star”, he has starred in the original cast of “Into the Woods”, as well as popular TV shows such as “Law and Order” and “Will and Grace”.
The musical’s director Rebecca Marianetti was excited that her students had the opportunity to work with Blumenkrantz at the beginning of their rehearsal process. With only a handful of rehearsals beforehand, Blumenkrantz arrived to a blank slate.
“I think what’s cool and different is that we’re not prepared,” Marianetti said. “We don’t know what we need to know, and so just having a perspective on it before we really dig into the material is really exciting.”
Blumenkrantz was able to work with groups of students during the school day, as well as the whole cast after school in an open workshop. He gave his insight on all aspects of the production, from scenework to the musical numbers.
“I worked the two songs that I sing, one called Asheville and one called Always Will,” junior Maggie Wisnewski, who plays Margo, said. “For Asheville, he gave us some great insight on where the song came from and how it was almost cut from the show. He told us why it wasn’t and the importance of the song to the composers. He had a lot to say about character choices and how to make it the most honest performance based on the true story.”
The plot of “Bright Star” is based on real events, and this connection was very important to Blumenkrantz. For him, what makes this show special is its sincerity.
“It’s a rare animal in that, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but a lot of musical theater is very sarcastic and sent up, and this show is completely from the heart,” Blumenkrantz said. “It’s just sincere as all get up. I think that makes it really endearing, but also really challenging for you guys. Because it’s easy to make fun of something, but to play things for the actual truth of it is tricky. You get difficulty points for a show like “Bright Star”.”
In addition to working with the cast of “Bright Star”, Blumenkrantz spent time with the cast of the winter play, “Much Ado about Nothing”, and performers from the York Speech team. Speech team co-captain David Hansen had the opportunity to receive feedback on his Original Comedy and Humorous Interpretation performances, as well as his comedic role in the winter play.
“The coolest part was the fact that I’m getting to learn from a guy who has made it both as an actor and comedian, so he knows what it takes to succeed,” Hansen said. “He’s also a really kind and intelligent guy and seemed genuinely really excited to be here and help out.”
At the end of the week, York students were left with a wealth of input on both of their productions, and were reminded of how fortunate they are to be in a drama program that connects them to clinicians like Blumenkrantz.
“It is absolutely incredible that we have a program like this that can bring in professionals to work with us,” senior Erin Lee said. “This is an opportunity that a lot of schools do not have and I think it gives us [a] new perspective on things and deeper insight on how to be great actors.”