As co-ordinator of Sheridan College’s musical theatre performance program, Greg Petersen has difficulty containing his pride in his students.

“We have them in every major production,” he says. “We’ve got students on Broadway, we’ve got them on the West End in London, we’ve got them at festivals here in Canada. I hate blowing my own horn, but it’s really a fine program.”

Petersen attributes the program’s success to several factors; one is the faculty. Instructors must have experience teaching and experience in the industry — the two are not necessarily identical, he says. “When you have experience in the industry, great, but you need to know how to mentor,” he says.

Another is the number of students who audition — the school receives more than 400 applicants each year. “We’ve had a casting agent for Disney’s theatrical division saying we’re one of the main three or four sources (of musical theatre performers) in North America,” says Petersen.

Also, while the program trains performers to be a “triple threat” — that is, students study singing, acting, and dance — students also study commercial performance, such as jazz, pop, or rock, and musical discipline, in which students learn theory.

Notable graduates include Chilina Kennedy, set to play Maria in this year’s Stratford Festival production of West Side Story; Michael Tarrio, who played Tommy Douglas in CBC’s TV movie The Tommy Douglas Story; and several members of DanCap’s current production of Jersey Boys (see story at right).

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