Elon actors reunite in nationally touring hit musical
In August 2007, Taylor Trensch '11 began his freshman year in Elon’s music theatre program. One of the first people he met was then-senior Matt Shingledecker '08, who became his mentor in the program. Little did either know that two years down the road, they’d meet each other again – this time as castmates in the first national tour of the Tony Award-winning musical “Spring Awakening.”
“It’s a rarity,” music theatre professor Cathy McNeela says of having two Elon students featured prominently in the playbill of such a high-profile show. “It’s a testament to our program that our students are doing great work. We used to be the best kept secret in music theatre. We’re not a secret anymore”
Shingledecker rose to campus fame playing the lead in Elon’s February 2008 production of “Phantom of the Opera” and joined the Broadway cast of “Spring Awakening” prior to graduating. He then continued with the show’s first national tour, which Trensch joined in July 2009. “Spring Awakening” focuses on the tumultuous discovery of sexuality among teenagers in late 19th century Germany; Shingledecker and Trench portray two of the teenagers, and Shingledecker serves as understudy for the male lead, Melchior.
Trensch, who is taking a leave of absence for the 2009-10 academic year to tour with the company, says having Shingledecker on the cast eased his transition from student to professional castmember.
“Jumping into a production that’s been up and running for a year, and being unfamiliar with everything, it’s great to have him there to ask questions,” Trensch says.
Trensch and Shingledecker both auditioned for the Broadway production in spring 2008, but only Shingledecker was selected the cast at that time. Shingledecker continued to stay in touch with Trensch, advising him to keep in contact with the casting directors.
“We took different paths, but we’re both here now,” Shingledecker says. “Taylor came on tour at a time when the cast was changing a lot and people were leaving. You miss those people a lot, but it’s nice to have someone you already know coming on.”
Both actors visited campus Sept. 7 and spoke to students in McNeela’s senior seminar class along with another music theatre alumnus, Nathan Moore ’02, who recently starred in a film shot in North Carolina. They shared their experiences and answered questions ranging from financial matters to what it’s like to have a legion of fans.
“A lot of people are interested in your life, and you have to make your life a lot more private than it used to be,” says Shingledecker, who adds he wisely took much of his contact information off of his Facebook profile before fans had a chance to overwhelm him.
For Trensch, who will return to Elon for the 2010-11 academic year, the experience has been the opportunity of a lifetime.
“It was such a rush,” he says of his debut performance Aug. 14 in Chicago. “It’s my first serious professional role, and I’ve never had more fun in my life.”
You can see Shingledecker and Tresnch in “Spring Awakening” in Charlotte in February 2010 and Durham in March 2010. For more information about the show, the link to the right.