by Joseph Thor. @josephthormusic.
BOSTON - Dr. William Benderson, head of Musical Theatre at Massachusetts State College, boasted in a senior class zoom meeting about his knowledge of the current Broadway ecosystem. Throughout the meeting, Benderson struggled with his camera and microphone.
“I learned everything I needed to know about the New York theatre scene in 1960,” stated Benderson, who had to send us a letter instead of an email. “Times were better then. Rock and Roll was just hitting the stage for the first time, Sondheim was up and coming, and cocaine was way more accessible. Of course, I haven’t been back there since ‘65, but I can’t imagine much has changed since then."
Michael Rick, the program's star Bari-tenor, spoke highly of Dr. Benderson.
“Dr. Benderson is the most down-to-earth teacher in the country,” noted Rick while checking out the golden age Musical Theatre Singers Anthology. “Last week, he taught a whole seminar on gramophones and how they can further our careers. None of us had ever even considered that! He’s always ahead of the curve.”
Chrissa Weir, a senior who has never been cast, also expressed her feelings on how Benderson runs his program.
“Benderson is very thoughtful,” said Weir, removing Benderson from a breakout room. “He even directed an all male season to prepare us for the real world! This past season we did Red, Altar Boyz, and Forever Plaid. While it would have been nice to perform once before I graduated, I was allowed to work behind the scenes, and it was always a great experience. I tried asking what he thought about all female/nonbinary shows like Six or the new 1776 revival, but he told me to be interested in musicals, not numbers.”
Benderson also banned any of his students from listening to, commenting on, or seeing the Pulitzer Prize-winning musical A Strange Loop, because he “didn’t get it.” We tried to dig deeper into what that quote meant, but his wifi cut out.