By Jessica Kelso
Elm Staff Writer
Marissa McGowan, Broadway and national performer for over 20 years, led a vocal recital at Washington College on Tuesday, Oct. 24, followed by a voice acting masterclass on Wednesday, Oct. 25.
Accompanied by pianist Andrew Stuart, McGowan performed a series of 17 songs “saluting some of the inspiring women of Broadway.”
Opening with “A Way Back to Then,” by Heidi Blickenstaff, she walked the audience through her journey of performing, bringing characters from various musicals to life.
According to McGowan, everyone has a specific memory where they first think “this is what I want to do.” For her, that moment happened in the sixth grade when she landed the lead role of Annie in her school’s production of “Annie.”
“I felt the audience’s energy, and I just knew that this is where I belonged,” she said. “That was the start of it all for me.”
From there, she introduced herself to community theater. Her first big lead was Adalaide in “Guys and Dolls,” a role she reprised in 2015. At fourteen, she noted, she performed Adalaide in an impression of the original Broadway character, but when reprising the role, she got to discover her own Adalaide.
“Ragtime” and “Kiss Me, Kate,” both original music productions, heavily inspired McGowan to pursue her Broadway career.
“It stayed with me for many many years,” she said.
Another inspiration she mentioned was the London cast recording of “Les Miserables.” She listened to the album as a child, and it was the first show she saw and was in on Broadway. McGowan noted that the one role she never got to play was Fantine, a young girl forced into prostitution after being abandoned by the father of her child.
McGowan’s personal hero is Angela Lansbury, most commonly known for voicing Mrs. Potts in “Beauty and the Beast.” She shared a personal anecdote of meeting Lansbury and having tea with the original Mrs. Potts.
The song that followed was ninth in her repertoire: “Mame: It’s Today,” from the hit musical “Mame,” starring the five-time Tony award winner.
Other women of Broadway she met and mentioned were Julie Andrews, Barbra Streisand, and Bernadette Peters.
McGowan performed “I Have Confidence” from “The Sound of Music,” referencing her nerves when meeting the star. But Andrews was “so lovely and kind and gracious” when they met, she said.
The singer closed with the song “Journey to the Past” from the Broadway adaptation of “Anastasia” before thanking the audience for sharing in her journey and leaving the stage. “That was amazing,” said freshman Jasmine Schaffer, a music and theatre double major.
The following day, McGowan led a public vocal masterclass for five students in the department: sophomore Stevie Lyle, junior Asia Elliott, freshman Jessica Kelso, freshman Sparrow Hall, and senior Grace Apostol.
Each student performed a short Broadway song and received criticism from McGowan. Members of the community were also invited to sit-in on the unique experience and ask questions about the life of a national Broadway performer.
She shared the challenges of her job, noting one instance where she was thrown onstage with only hours notice before the show.
On Broadway, performers are expected to know the show prior to rehearsals, she told the audience. They don’t take the time to teach individual parts. “Thank God I knew it,” she said.