In the fledgling Singapore theatre scene, there are only so many schools and workshops available for budding artists to develop their skills and train. The demand for this far outstrips the supply, with a healthy amount of musical theatre performers and hopefuls looking to enter the industry, but not enough opportunities to prepare them for it.
Enter Sight Lines Entertainment, with their all new training programme – Steps to Broadway. While it may not be the be all and end all solution, it’s a step in the right direction towards providing an all-encompassing programme that integrates the skills of singing, dancing and acting into developing trainees into a true triple threat who knows how to sell themselves as professional theatremakers.
Produced by and managed by Sight Lines Entertainment artistic director Derrick Chew, in association with the 7/8 Musical Collective, Steps to Broadway will be led by three professional teachers, each one a trained practitioner each with their share of industry knowledge and experience and pedagogy. Namely, these are – Mina Kaye, who will teach both acting and singing; Joanne Ho, who will teach music, and Seong Hui Xuan, who specialises in dance. Speaking to all four of them, we found out more about the programme before it begins training its inaugural batch of students in January 2023.
“In the Singapore education system, we know we all grew up being told to study hard and do something practical. But somehow because of that, there’s a lot of people who have this desire to find an outlet to express themselves they may not have had in the past,” says Derrick. “So Steps to Broadway is there to fulfil that role, along with developing the next generation of talents, an all-encompassing programme that welcomes Singaporeans of all levels, who imagine themselves on Broadway, and taking the first steps towards that dream.”
“We had an hour-long IG live the other day, and it surprised us how many people showed up, all with a number of questions surrounding the programme, which shows a keen interest and hunger to learn,” says Mina, on the popularity and interest in the programme. “While some of them found out about this after watching my recent performances, there’s a really huge number of people interested in musical theatre, and the passion is all around in Singapore. That’s why this programme is important, because it gives them an option to explore and pursue it as an interest, and in future, perhaps even take it further than just a hobby.”
The programme is split into three distinct skill levels – The Broadway Players, led by Hui Xuan and Joanne, is intended for beginners who have an interest in musical theatre and would like to gain an insight into the origins, elements and skills required to perform in a musical, along with enthusiasts who would like to be equipped with the tools they need to perform in musical theatre through developing their acting, singing and dancing skills, with the opportunity to perform in a cabaret showcase.
Meanwhile, the intermediate level The Broadway Headliners will be led by all three teachers, and is aimed at people who already have some skill and experience in Musical Theatre, and aims to help them integrate their triple threat skillsets into a good performance. This would be particularly relevant to potential students who want to further develop their talents, and graduates from performing arts programmes who may want to prepare themselves more for professional productions.
Finally, the third and highest level of the programme, The Broadway Legends, is a specially customised Advanced Level coaching programme for performers who have performed in at least 1 stage production, tailor-made for each student’s specific requirements. Both the beginner and intermediate levels are a nine-month long programme, with 12 weeks per term, before culminating with a final, graduation showcase at the end of the year.
“The most unique thing about our programme is the integration aspect. While most programmes will see a single teacher focusing purely on a single skill, such as a voice or dance teacher, all three of us have experience across the three core skills of musical theatre, and will teach students how to be an effective all-rounder who can integrate all three skills together,” says Mina. “It’s about applying technique to performance, and when they graduate from the programme, I want them to know they will be equipped with the skills to go even further, regardless of what path they end up choosing.”
“There’s a strong hunger for musical theatre, not just to go professional but also for fun and enrichment. There will be students who maintain a day job but pursue it as a hobby, and they’ll have fun with it,” says Joanne. “And this sort of exposure to the arts is so useful, even say government schools, they don’t get the staff to train the students, but still outsource to professionals to teach drama clubs or choirs to ensure students get the training they need.”
In that sense, Steps to Broadway welcomes all potential students, and also intends to find unexpected, yet to be discovered talents lying dormant. “The job of an educator is to help people grow, and it’s a careful balancing act between criticism and praise,” says Hui Xuan. “With our programme, we want to feed their dreams, and give them practical advice and skills they can use to take those first steps towards a professional future. And what’s more, it’s quite manageable, and builds on what they learn, such as how in the beginner class, they work towards performing a song and dance number at the end of the first term, and a more complex one at the end of the second term. By the third term, they come together as a group to prepare for a more cabaret-style ensemble piece, and we’ll be there to guide and advise them throughout the year.”
“You definitely won’t be a master after just 9 months, because developing a skill takes time and effort, and is really to do with lifelong learning,” says Joanne. “We’re taking this time to build their confidence, give them stage experience, and also make sure to prepare them for the road ahead, such as making sure they don’t form certain bad habits, and to have that foundation they need to proceed on their journey. In fact, you’ll see a lot of Singaporeans who are very humble and tend to underestimate themselves, asking me if they should join a beginner class when they’re actually ready for intermediate.”
Because it is professionals conducting this course, students can look forward to including their training on their resume, which can act as proof for higher institutions to take them in, and prepare them for professional certifications, such as musical theatre exams, which the advanced level can prepare students for. “Realistically, we can’t expect the students to remain booked for shows throughout the year, but we do want to build this network and community they can rely on and work together with,” says Joanne. “Within the course, we do expect a range of ages, but regardless, they’re all working towards the same goal, and have the opportunity to learn from each other, to fail within a safe space, and if all goes well in future, might find themselves in the right place and right time to be in a production.”
“We do have plenty of plans in the pipeline, and even during the course itself, we’ll be bringing in industry players and helping them network,” says Derrick. “But ultimately, what we guarantee our students is that they will be equipped with the requisite skills to enter the industry, and learn to create content to build their own personal brand. And if and when the right role comes up, they’ll have enough knowledge and confidence to present themselves and their personal brand to put themselves out there, and learn how to become a performer.”
Find out more about Sight Lines Entertainment’s Steps To Broadway programme here
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