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Fast Chat: The Ultimate Pandemic Performance

We ask a student leader to share her story.
By Alexander Satola


Read time: 3 minutes

Madison McBride is not just a senior in the Department of Musical Theatre (MT) program at U-M’s School of Music, Theatre & Dance, she is also now a director, producer, and fundraiser. In the summer of 2020, McBride stepped up to co-direct the first all-video production of the “Senior Entrance,” a show the senior class normally performs on stage at the beginning of the fall term to welcome first-year students and celebrate their last year at U-M. The 17-minute music video — filmed entirely outside at iconic campus locations — not only complied with COVID-19 restrictions, keeping the community safe, but also raised money for Black Lives Matter.

Michigan Alumnus gleaned the following in a conversation with McBride.

DURING HER FIRST YEAR at U-M, McBride was introduced to the MT tradition of the “Senior Entrance.” The show consists of parodies of the latest Broadway numbers tailored to the specific experiences of the school’s students and faculty. “It was the most incredible thing I had ever seen,” McBride recalls of the song-and-dance production. “I had never seen a professional theater show, so this was my real first introduction to real musical theater and what that community is like.”

MCBRIDE’S FAVORITE MOMENT at U-M happened her junior year, right before the pandemic started, when she was involved in a production called “Sonnets, Soliloquies, and Soul,” guest-directed by the African American musical theater actor Michael McElroy. “Those weeks he was here during his residency were transformative for my academic career and me as a person,” McBride says of her time working with the Grammy- and Tony-nominated actor. “I learned how to be confident, how to be unapologetic about my work, and how to walk into a space and embrace my entire identity, leaving nothing at the door. I also learned what professionalism means from the point of view of people of color, which I think is essential for all students to know.”

GROWING UP IN ATLANTA, McBride discovered her passion for music at an early age. She first picked up the violin in the third grade, working her way up to first chair in the high school orchestra, while also participating in theater. However, it was not until her senior year that she decided to pursue musical theater instead of orchestral music as a career. “I was thinking about what I have really enjoyed the past four years. What has been equally challenging and fulfilling for me? And I kept going back to my time in the theater,” remembers McBride.

AS CO-DIRECTOR OF THE “Senior Entrance,” McBride and her fellow director, MT senior Sam Faulkner, worked over the summer to film and produce the video alongside some 100 members of the MT community. McBride oversaw everything from scriptwriting to apparel, staging, and choreography. Because the participants could not meet together, coordinating the video required both artistic vision and logistical finesse. The result, she says, was well worth the effort. “It turned out better than anything we could have ever imagined,” she says. “I think that we were coming from a place of wanting to create something unique and personal to us, and I think we achieved just that.” In addition to raising funds for the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation via a GoFundMe page (nearly $4,000 to date) the students also organized to have the money accrued from the video’s YouTube ad revenue donated to organizations supporting people of color and the movement for racial justice.

AFTER GRADUATION, McBride plans to move to New York City to pursue her career as an actor. Her initial hope is to work on a national tour or with a Broadway company, but she also has aspirations of working in television and media. Overall, her dream is to create an original character. “That’s where I would want to be in five years,” McBride says, “using my creativity to the fullest extent and bringing life to a brand new role.”

Alexander Satola is a senior in LSA and a correspondent for The Statement, the magazine of The Michigan Daily.

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