Musical theatre camp Broadway at Baker marks milestone
Abby Cramer was busy studying lines Tuesday in Baker University’s Rice Auditorium with the pressure of having them memorized for Sunday’s performance of “The Pajama Game.”
The recent Shawnee Mission East graduate was confident she would get the lines down. She has, after all, done it seven times before.
This is Cramer’s eighth Broadway at Baker camp, a collaborative effort of Musical Theatre Kansas City and Baker University. It’s also her last Baker camp as she will be too old for the camp next summer.
But Cramer isn’t getting off the stage. She will start college next year at Oklahoma University as a musical theater major. She will arrive at Norman, Okla., with both academic and musical theater scholarships.
“Oh my gosh yes,” Cramer said when asked if the Broadway at Baker experience help her obtain the musical theater scholarship. “You learn so much here.”
Cramer is one of 53 campers who will perform “The Pajama Game” before a live audience at 2:30 p.m. Sunday at Rice Auditorium. The performance marks something of a milestone for the camp. It will the 50th musical performed at the Broadway at Baker camp since MTKC executive director Cary Danielson-Pandzik brought it to Baker 25 years ago.
Each July, MTKC brings about 100 talented junior high and high school students to Baker each for two camps. Campers audition for roles in a chosen musical on their Sunday arrival, rehearse lines, songs and dance steps under the tutelage of Danielson-Pandzik and the MTKC instructors for six 12-hour days and wrap up with a Sunday afternoon performance.
It’s a schedule that demands a lot of the campers. But then they aren’t typical young actors, Danielson-Pandzik said. The camp is essentially musical theater all-star camp for the most talented singers, dancers and actors in the region.
To showcase the talent, she looks for musicals with many parts and a lot of dances, Danielson-Pandzik said. “The Pajama Game,” a musical first staged in 1954 on Broadway, offers just that, she said.
Although it’s her last camp as an actor, Cramer hopes to return as an instructor. If she does, she will be following in the footsteps of Chase Ainsworth. As a teen growing up in Prairie Village, he, too, attended multiple MTKC camps on the Baldwin City campus. Now a junior at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas, studying theater, he is back as an scene blocking and acting coach. He said that although Broadway at Baker was called a camp it offered profession-level training to young campers.
“It prepares you for shows in the real world,” he said. “I’ve done equity-level shows. MTKC prepares you for that experience.”