Freshman class performs “Curtain Up Arrival”

By Tristan E. M. Leach

Waiting excitedly in the wings of the stage, the first-year musical theater majors held their props. As the lights went down and the audience cheered, the feeling of anticipation ran through the theater. The piano began to play and in a rush of excitement the cast made their way to the stage. It was time for “Curtain Up: Arrival.”

On Feb. 17 and 18, the freshman class of the musical theater department presented a showcase of their best work. Directed by Louis F. Goldberg, an adjunct assistant professor, and choreographed by several current Rider students, the show featured powerful duets and electric dance performances that evoked joy and passion. 

The showcase is designed to give first-year students an opportunity on stage, and the most recent showing was the department’s third consecutive performance.

“We decided to offer our first-year students and our second-year students an opportunity to have a showcase of their own,” said Goldberg. “They would have some additional performing opportunities early in their careers.”

So far the themes of this showcase have been “Rebirth” in 2022, “Momentum” in 2023 and this year’s theme “Curtain Up: Arrival.” Each theme correlates to the class that got to put on the showcase.     “Rebirth” represented the end of the COVID-19 pandemic and the return of live performances. “Momentum” represented moving forward and allowing for the rebuilding of skills. 

“Curtain Up: Arrival” represented the returning to the type of normalcy that existed before COVID-19 and the first-year students arriving at a new chapter in their lives. This was evident in the song choices for this year’s performance. 

The opening number, “Just Arrived” from the musical Copacabana, featured the ensemble cast sporting Rider merch and using carry-on suitcases as props. Though the stage was jam packed, each performer made the number their own. From personal acting choices to exaggerated dance moves, there was no shortage of talent. 

Both acts of the show consisted of group numbers and featured song and dance with soloists being highlighted as their peers danced behind them. 

Lincoln Funderburk, a senior musical theater major, was an assistant choreographer for the show. Funderburk worked with two alumni, Catrina Contini ’21 and John Viggiano ’22, and other current musical theater majors to choreograph. Funderburk was the choreographer for the “Dreamgirls” number, “I Am Changing.”

Funderburk said, “I had my hands on, giving notes about ‘this leg here and this arm here,’ everything trickled out throughout.” 

Funderburk assisted in cleaning up other numbers that were also guest choreographed. This not only gave Funderburk an opportunity to collaborate with other dancers, but also allowed first-year students to learn from an upperclassman. 

As the show carried on, it was clear that the passion and excitement for this new chapter was overwhelming amongst the performers. Dancers whooped and cheered and singers smiled fondly at each other as their peers showed off their talents. 

Each student was given the opportunity to showcase their talents. Goldberg ensured that the student-dancers got to dance and the student-singers got to sing. It was important to Goldberg that every performer got their moment in the spotlight. 

To end the show, students performed “This is Me,” from the movie, “The Greatest Showman.” The inspirational song had the audience cheering, applauding and dancing in their seats. At the end of the song, the cast struck their final poses and applause filled the theater. Each student was given a chance to take an individual bow, a nod to the power of their performance. 

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