The Magical World of Kevin Hauge & The Children’s Musical Theater San Jose
Y ou have not fully lived until you have seen a musical performed at CMT San Jose. All who have, know this. And, yes, it’s true, the more shows, the merrier. And, what’s more, now celebrating its 47th year, CMT has been recognized and continues to be arguably the best youth musical theater in the country. How and why this is, is indeed very special.
It is no secret, one important reason is the brilliant Artistic Director, Kevin Hauge, who soon will be celebrating his 20th year at CMT. People wonder, people ask all the time, just how does he do it? There are so many musical performances, back-to-back, so many children, multiple casts even, with so many who have never even acted a day in their life (not officially anyway) or even been on a stage before (act, dance, sing, in such a big perfect production, are you kidding?) and with so little time to rehearse and prepare, just a few weeks to put it all together, from nothing to totally magnificent. And it becomes just that, the most wonderful show … every time. But how?
How does CMT do it? With this model, the youngest performers, ages 6 to 14, are placed in what is called “Rising Stars”. They perform upwards of five shows a year and many have racked up 30 theater credits by the time they age out to CMT’s next level, “Mainstage”. During Mainstage, these high school and college kids take on three shows a year from Ages 15 to 20. In addition, CMT also provides Silicon Valley with two “Marquee” productions a year, which this year also includes the very popular Mary Poppins. For the older productions, Kevin has a direct hand in choreographing and directing.
Even more impressive, since its founding in 1968, CMT casts everyone who auditions. If you have the guts to get in front of the artistic staff, you’re in. CMT never wants to turn anyone away for financial reasons, so scholarships are available. Even children with special needs, and performers where English is their second language, have been a part of these performances.
Raw numbers can also tell the story of CMT. Take, for example, its first Rising Stars production of this season, the Sound of Music. The title - which Kevin secures for each of the 10 productions - along with CMT’s reputation, have led to 250 children auditioning. In a first for CMT, it went from normally a two-cast production to four casts. It also added shows both in the evenings and for school-sponsored field trips. That’s a lot of von Trapps!
For Kevin, it was all about creating an enriching experience on stage, that a 60-person cast entails, compared to larger casts. And with more school shows, there would be twice as many opportunities for school children to experience a live performance.
Kevin would ask, “Can we continue to raise this bar, to meet the challenges of the community? I am so very pleased to have this job. The ultimate is this, where the kids can learn and grow. Getting in touch with what’s inside of them – that’s the real joy of this job. And turning it into something special. For each of them to find their niche, to find their direction, this is always something delightful.”
The families, the children, the audiences all love CMT. The shows are all fantastic productions. The children enter raw and exit as stars. The audiences jump out of their seats with such great appreciation and the children (yes, they seem bigger than life on stage, and yet they are indeed children) have established such great relationships and wonderful memories, not just for a moment, but for a lifetime. This is the magic that you will see, hear, experience … and enjoy here, like nowhere else. It is a very unique, special and magical place.
“One key lesson is, ‘Don’t underestimate the ability of children’. People cannot believe later on, following the show, when the actors are outside to greet the audience, that they are real children. The experience of rehearsals and performances brings out and stretches something from within as far as they can go. It gives them this, the confidence, of being successful and accomplishing something wonderful …
“The greatest thing here is the life-long relationships. I still see lots of families, even if their kids are grown, who keep coming back. And we now have children of children we had years ago who come … and we are not far off from our third generation.”
Kevin would share, “One of the greatest joys I have is being a father and the pride I have and what this experience is like. Watching the kids grow up through CMT is so very moving. We can’t take ownership for their accomplishments and growth, it’s theirs, but we certainly can and do appreciate the being in with them on the journey …
“There are six former CMT’ers who are currently on Broadway. Yes, but that number is always changing. It’s fun going to Broadway and seeing our kids. It was hard work on their part, the school work, the additional time and work that they put into getting there. We have been a part of that journey together. It is such a joy to be around … and indeed how very proud we all are. We are not a star machine. And, yes, we all take great pride in all, as many go on to become great teachers, or directors, or are usually busy in all walks of life. We are here to develop children for the joy and we take great pride in their growth and their lives. Indeed, here at CMT, we are so blessed and have so much to look forward to.”
Here’s to CMT … and Kevin Hauge … and everyone who helps to make this the very special place that it is. For children and parents and grandparents, alike … people of all ages… and many wonderful memories for the ages … Here’s to this special, joyful and exciting magic …… Enjoy!