By Joe Passero
The performances that the musical theater department have put on for so many years at Rider have thousands of audience members emotionally invested.
Lindsay Andrews, a senior musical theater major, wasn’t meant for the audience — the stage is where she’s always belonged. She had proven that by winning a Kennedy Center award in January for her performances and hard work. Without a sudden change in her education path, the opportunity never would have materialized.
Andrews was born in Buffalo, New York, where she currently resides with her family. Her brother first exposed her to the sounds of music.
“My brother was very involved
in music, so I grew up watching him in musicals and performing at choir concerts and playing instruments. That’s what made me pursue music,” Andrews said.
Her first opportunity to be part of the musical theater community came in third grade when she was cast in “A Christmas Carol.”
“My brother was in [his high school’s] musical and they needed children for the show, so my mom was like, ‘Hey, are you interested in doing this?’ And I was like, ‘Sure,’ and that was the start,” Andrews said. “I fell in love with it.”
From that moment on, musical theater was what Andrews dreamed of. No matter what sport or activity her parents signed her up for, it didn’t stick like theater did. From there, the focus shifted to finding roles for Andrews.
“I kept looking in the paper for auditions,” Susan Andrews, Lindsay’s mother, said. “Buffalo has a small theater community, so it became a family effort to help find roles and auditions.”
“My timeline was far less rigorous than other people who were in crazy programs and had coaches. That’s not how I did it,” Lindsay Andrews said. “I did various community and professional theaters that needed children, so I was a child actor in Buffalo.”
Once she got to middle school, Andrews continued to involve herself in theater both on a regional and community level. She continued to learn and improve her skills through middle school and, in high school, she also performed in her school’s shows.
Toward the end of her high school career, her attention shifted to finding musical theater programs for college.
“I auditioned for a bunch of schools,” Andrews said. “I actually didn’t get in anywhere, and I was devastated. So I decided to try music education, and I got into Baldwin Wallace [University] for music education.”
Andrews spent her freshman and sophomore years at Baldwin Wallace in Cleveland, but she never felt the sense of satisfaction as a music education major as she had as a musical theater performer.
“I would see the musicals there and the people in the program,” Andrews said. “I wanted to be in their program so badly, and I auditioned again because I realized that music education really didn’t fulfill me as much as I knew theater would. So, the summer after my sophomore year at college,
I auditioned for ‘All Shook Up’ back home at a regional theater, and I got cast as the lead female, Natalie, and that summer, I had every intention of going back to Baldwin Wallace, but when I got cast as the lead, I realized that I could do this for a living.”
Andrews’ confidence gave her another push to look for musical theater programs that would accept her, and she did not return to Baldwin Wallace for what would have been the start of her junior year. Instead, she stayed home for the fall semester and prepared for a second round of musical theater program auditions. She applied to many of the same schools she had as a senior in high school, however, there was one school she didn’t apply to then that she did apply to in her second go around — Rider.
“I’d never heard of Rider before,” Andrews said. “I had a friend who had gone to Baldwin Wallace and then transferred to Rider, so I sought out Rider.”
On Jan. 12, 2017, Andrews auditioned at Rider in front of
many of the musical theater faculty members, including School of Fine and Performing Arts Associate Dean Ivan Fuller.
“I hadn’t planned on coming [to Rider] that semester, I thought I would just come back in the fall. But Dean Fuller was like, ‘Hey, would it be crazy toaskyoutocomein10daystoour school?’ And this was my first time in New Jersey. I just said, ‘I’m going to do it.’”
The time between the audition to the start of the spring semester was not long enough for Andrew’s parents to request off from their jobs. She made the eight-hour drive by herself in her red Honda to Rider for move-in on Jan. 21, 2017 and started classes just ten days after her audition and acceptance to the program, as a second-semester sophomore.
“My voice teacher, Kate Johnson, very quickly became not only my professor, but a mentor to me,” Andrews said. “If I ever found an audition, she would help me find material for it and she would really help me hone in on the material.”
Andrews began seeking roles and has since been in a number of performances at Rider, including “Bonnie and Clyde” as Stella, “Disenchanted” as Sleeping Beauty and, most importantly, “The Theory of Relativity” as Caroline.
For a few years now, Rider had invited adjudicators from the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. These adjudicators travel across the country to find the best acts and nominate them for awards and invite them to perform at the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festivals (KCACTF) first on regional levels, and then onto a national level if they make the cut. One of those adjudicators was in the theater during “The Theory of Relativity.”
For her performance in the show, Andrews was nominated for the Musical Theater Intensive award for region 2 of the KCACTF, which encompassed New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, Washington, D.C., Ohio and the southwest region of New York.
“‘Theory of Relativity’ was last February, and I officially found out [about my nomination for the award] three or four months later,” Andrews said.
Rider covered expenses for Andrews to go to Montclair State University in Montclair, New Jersey this past January, where the region 2 awards were presented from Jan. 15 to 19.
“Luckily, I was going in with material I had sung in ‘Theory of Relativity,’ so preparation didn’t require that much, but then you have to take that song from a production and hone it into a different type of performance, and that’s what the preparation went into,” Andrews said.
She sang “Me and Ricky,” in front of the judges at Montclair. The Musical Theater Intensive award originally started with 60 nominees. That group of 60 was narrowed down to 20 before the last day of the regional festival, and in the end, Andrews came out on top.
“There was a final ceremony, and that’s when they announced the award winners. It was incredibly exciting, and I was surrounded by so many people from Rider, so I had plenty of support,” Andrews said. “It was an amazing feeling.”
Two award winners were chosen in the Musical Theater Intensive award category, and each received a monetary prize. Andrews was one of those winners, but it was the other award recipient that was invited to perform at the national competition.
“We are extremely proud of her,” said Susan Andrews. “Musical theater doesn’t come easy, and she’s going for it. We’re really proud of her and her talent, because if you aren’t in it 100 percent, you won’t succeed.”
Now, with just a fraction of a semester left before she graduates, Andrews looks to what the future holds — and that’s a lot of uncertainty. While she plans to stay close to Rider for a year, she said that is subject to change in a moments notice should she land a role elsewhere.
During the final weeks of her college career, though, Andrews will be busy. She will be directing the “Me Too Monologues” and she will be auditioning for parts in New York City. Starting on Feb. 27 at 7:30 p.m., the campus community can also catch Andrews in Rider musical theater’s newest production, “Assassins.”
Published in the 2/27/19 edition.