Jacks on Broadway: Center stage has become more flexible

Jacks on Broadway focuses on bringing the musical theater experience to students on campus. The program encourages students who have an interest in music and choreography to take to the stage — or Zoom call — and use their passions in front of an audience.

The club was founded in 2012 by three women who saw a lack of musical theater at NAU’s School of Music. NAU Lyric Theater director Eric Gibson decided he would put on a show to provoke the start of a club that would continue for years to come. He directed a three-women show that sparked the passion of musical repertoire over the years at NAU. Anne Anderson, senior and Jacks on Broadway president, said they became an official club through ASNAU in February 2012.

Once made official, the club started the audition process to gain members and select them for roles in musical numbers. 

The club has had to get creative with their performances and meetings because of the pandemic. To maintain safe distance and take precautions to stop the spread of the virus, Anderson said they changed their whole dynamic.

To continue the joy and passion of Jacks on Broadway, the club decided to take an innovative approach. Anderson said it produced their first virtual show in December 2020 and it was a huge success.

“Everyone just recorded the individual song they chose at their leisure,” Anderson said. “They sent the tapes in, we edited them ourselves, premiered it on YouTube and posted fliers everywhere.”

After the success of the first virtual showcase, the club will produce a second show for the spring  semester. However, Anderson said having a winning showcase has not been easy for the club as it has struggled to gain new members. 

“We are a relatively large club; we average about 30 members by the end of the audition process,” Anderson said. “However, we had about six to seven people audition this semester, so our club is smaller than it normally is because of COVID. Right now we’re sitting at 24, which is pretty good for COVID guidelines.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has also had a positive impact on the club. Anderson said it made rehearsals a lot more structured and improved the schedule flexibility with its members because they practiced on their own time.

Initially, the board members decided to hold in-person rehearsals while considering COVID-19 precautions. However, it posed to be more challenging because of the large number of members attending. According to the Jacks on Broadway constitution, members were required to be tested one week prior to attending rehearsal, though it was tough considering each member had a different schedule.

“We’ve done a really great job at adapting with Jacks on Broadway,” Anderson said. “Things are really different this year. Normally we have in-person rehearsals and produce full-time shows, but we’ve just had to manage. I think the hardest part for all our members right now is screen fatigue because everything is online now.”

No matter the obstacles this organization has faced, members still push themselves to adapt to new circumstances, especially those who have seen the club’s growth throughout the years.

Carly Durrer, senior and Jacks on Broadway stage director, said she has many fond memories with the organization. She joined the club when she was a freshman and became part of the board her sophomore year. She said she is extremely passionate about the direction the club is going and that is why she has kept herself motivated throughout all the hardships.

Durrer said COVID-19 may have been a blessing in disguise for this organization regarding giving members a chance to experience musical theater more.

“We usually had one big show at the end of the year, but now because of COVID we produced two shows and they are virtual so people can enjoy it from their homes,” Durrer said. “Our members have more opportunities to perform and it has given us [board members] a chance to connect with other people in another format.”

Durrer said the result of all their hard work is worth every second they spend rehearsing. She said the moment members hear all their voices intertwine in the final production is a moment of relief, gratitude and love all around.

“I will never forget the joy, passion and the love I felt in my heart the day we gave our acknowledgments for our most recent show,” Durrer said. “We were surprised by our cast members with roses that had words to describe the board member that it was going to. It was so special and rewarding and it showed how appreciative everyone was to be a part of this. It was inspirational.”

The kindness and relationships shown between the cast members even inspired others to audition for the upcoming semester. Sophomore Hillary Salazar said she has been interested in joining Jacks on Broadway for a long time, but because of COVID-19 she has had to dedicate herself to school and a full-time job.

Salazar said she has been interested in musical theater since her high school years. She has had a passion for Broadway that was piqued when she took part in a school production of “Into the Woods”, an adventure musical retelling a series of characters and plots from the Brothers Grimm fairy tales. 

“I’ve always had a passion for musical theater and I wanted an outlet for that, so Jacks on Broadway was a perfect fit for me,” Salazar said. “I wanted to be surrounded by people who had similar interests, even though it’s not something I would pursue professionally. I wanted to keep it as a pastime.”

For those who are interested in joining Jacks on Broadway for the upcoming semester, the organization can be reached through email or on social media. The club will have many challenges ahead, but the work ethic and relationship between the members will allow them to create entertaining content and continue to fulfill their passion center stage.