By Sue Botos
Fans of Broadway musicals will have the chance to discuss their favorite musicals, maybe even “West Side Story,” with former Plain Dealer music critic Don Rosenberg when Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) brings its Senior Scholars program to the West Side this month.
The 11-week course, titled “Musical Theater,” will meet weekly from March 19 to May 14 at the Don Umerley Civic Center from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. According to information provided by CWRU’s Laura and Alvin Siegal Lifelong Learning Program, which oversees Senior Scholars, the course will explore major works and figures of the genre, from George and Ira Gershwin, to Cole Porter, Stephen Sondheim, Jerome Kern, Rodgers and Hammerstein, and many more.
The format for the noncollege-credit series is lecture-style, like other Senior Scholars offerings, but the afternoon is informal and interactive. Participants are encouraged to ask questions and discuss topics related to the course. The class will examine the great songs, watch clips of performances and talk about the elements that go into making an outstanding musical – a uniquely American art form with roots in operetta and vaudeville.
CWRU has had the Senior Scholars program for more than 30 years, offering a variety of academic lectures taught by university faculty and local experts. The program outgrew its original location in the parlor of the Guilford House on the school’s main campus and has been meeting at the College Club in Cleveland Heights. Two years ago, the Laura and Alvin Siegal Lifelong Learning Program was established, and Senior Scholars was included.
While some West Siders have ventured across the Cuyahoga River to attend classes, Brian Amkraut, executive director of the Siegal Lifelong Learning Program, said it was time to bring the program west. Counter to the stereotype, he added, there are just as many people interested in the arts on this side of town as on the East Side.
“We want to connect Case with the community. We’re taking the university out to them,” Amkraut commented. “We haven’t done a good enough job reaching out to the West Side,” he stated during a phone interview.
Amkraut said that a pilot program, “The Origins of Christmas” taught by Joe Kelly, professor of religious studies at John Carroll University, debuted at Bain Park Cabin in Fairview Park last year for six weeks. While there was a good response, Amkraut sought out another venue, and settled on the Rocky River Civic Center.
“Our goal is to keep this going. We hope that this will be only the beginning of offerings we share with the community,” Amkraut said.
The “Musical Theater” class is open to all, not just seniors, and costs $90 for 11 weekly meetings. Participants can register at http://www.siegallifelonglearning.org/senior-scholars.html or call the professional staff at 216-368-2090.