Josh Langager is a Musical Theater major who graduated from the University of Washington this past fall. Not only did he tackle a MT major, but he also managed to major in both Music and Drama. We asked Josh to tell us a little about how he balanced the three majors, the opera, and life after UW.
Tell me a little about yourself, where did you grow up and what inspired your interest in musical theater?
Well, I started playing violin when I was 3 and piano when I was about 10, neither of which I really play anymore. But between taking music lessons and finding great music teachers in school during my earlier years in both Boston and Tokyo, I became passionate about music as a medium. I also loved to perform for people as a little kid. My earliest experience performing onstage happened when my parents signed me up for a benefit concert when I was 3. I was onstage with older kids who were probably also there because of their parents. I was a puppy dog onstage that the audience could “aww” at while the embarrassed older kids could JUST GET THROUGH THE DAMN THING. My parents made me watch a video of this several times growing up; I looked very confused on that stage but I also looked like I was having loads of fun. All this is to say, musical theatre was a progression in a string of interests that came my direction while growing up.
What was your musical theater experience prior to coming to UW?
I did a lot of musicals through elementary and middle school, as I’m sure many of us did growing up, but I also performed with Village Kidstage in high school. I got to focus a lot more on singing, art, song rep, and doing choir/solo and some ensemble work. Until my freshman year at the University of Washington I wasn’t sure I wanted to continue doing musical theatre until I wasn’t doing it at all as a Music major.
What was your most memorable experience with the Musical Theater Program?
I actually think the most memorable moments were in the MT dance classes because they were just so much fun, even though they were definitely exhausting at times.
What has been your greatest challenge during your time as a triple major in Musical Theater, Music, and Drama?
Other than just figuring out how to coordinate classes, the hardest thing is juggling everything at once. For example, my Sophomore year there were a few days where after taking classes all day I would go run and do yoga, run to Meany and perform Dr. Blind in Die Fledermaus, run to Hutch and perform Pippin, and then get home late to do homework, and get up the next morning and do it all over again. And I think finding the balance in being able to do everything for my majors while being happy and finding a life outside of school was something that I had to learn to do during my first few years.
What is the most valuable thing you’ve learned as a Musical Theater student?
Hmmmm. It’s hard to separate my MT education from my Drama and Music education because there’s some overlap, but I would have to say that the part of my education that has been most helpful is the skill to be able to juggle multiple things at once… and this is something that just Drama or just Music students don’t necessarily go through. As a Musical Theatre student, we’re students of multiple skills and art forms. Building skill doesn’t just go in one direction, but in all directions.
In addition to musical theater, I understand you also sing opera. How has performing in operas impacted you as a performer?
Well, the two forms are different. I think that the hyper-athletic and hyper-efficient use of singing in Opera has helped sustain me through long runs of musical theatre shows. While doing Adventure Musical Theater with 5th Avenue for 5 months, we had several hour-long shows every day in multiple locations. Without the knowledge I have on how to condition and care for my voice as a voice major, I think that show and many others would have taken a much greater toll on my voice physically.
Tell me about your experience studying musical theatre in New York! What did you learn and how did it change the way you look at musical theatre?
Yes! A few things. New York was a lot of fun. Being away from home made me realize what a rich musical theatre community there is in Seattle. Between Village and the 5th, Seattle has a lot of clout in our national MT world, especially in developing new works. I think it’s easy to take for granted the wealth of experiences and knowledge there is here, but being in New York made me realize that I’m not necessarily missing out on anything in the PNW. After that experience, the FOMO in New York is gone for me.
Also, Cynthia Erivo in Color Purple. Seriously. I have never seen any singular production break down an audience so furiously in a single note.
Do you have any plans after you graduate?
Yes and no. I’m planning on auditioning around the area more and to continue working on a few projects I have going on. I’m also going to take care of myself further, really consider what I want to do these next few years, and finally the find time to just practice a lot.
And Maple and Vine. Come see Maple and Vine at Jones Playhouse in January.
What impact do you hope to make in the Musical Theater world?
Hmm, I think I would like to help break down the boundaries of what we traditionally think of as “Musical Theater.”
What message do you have for future musical theater performers?
Do everything. See everything. Try everything. If you like it, keep doing it. If you hate it, stop it. Find happiness in what you’re doing right now.