Wednesdays, April 19th - May 17th
6:30 PM - 8:30 PM


This course is specifically focused to offer you tools and techniques to bring grounded and honest action to your work as a singer in the musical theater. The process will offer you specific methods to explore and develop character, incorporate given circumstance, solidify intention, and to bring high stakes obstacles into your musical work with a strong focus on text and music analysis. There will also be attention to your musical choices- phrasing, dynamics and diction- to make sure they are enhancing and reinforcing your acting choices.


Each week, students will have one on one focus as well as observational learning from the other students during every class. The five week course will cover different genres of musical theater – Golden Age, Modern, Sondheim, Pop, Jukebox. This is not an audition class, but rather a work class. We will not discuss techniques for “getting the job.” We will, instead, focus on techniques to apply for the actual work, from rehearsal to performance. By the end of this course, you will have increased your confidence in performing musical material. You will know the questions to ask yourself, how to prepare, how to execute, and you will have specific feedback from the instructors and fellow students on your work.

The class instructors, director Jess McLeod and musical director Austin Cook, are currently collaborating together on a reimagined Marry Me A Little by Stephen Sondheim at Porchlight. They hope to offer you insight into their process as they reunite for this one of a kind class.

This class is a unique opportunity to work privately with these renowned, multi-award winning artists, two of the leading directors and music directors working on the scene today. In New York City, Austin serves as a vocal coach and accompanies for the prestigious NYU graduate acting program. He also accompanies for the largest casting agencies in NYC. He most recently played the casting auditions for new Broadway musicals, Frozen, Margaritaville, Mean Girls, War Paint and more. No one has a better pulse on both the New York and Chicago theater scene than Jess McLeod and Austin Cook. 


Each week, you will be asked to prepare 1 song to perform. The song chosen will be a collaboration of you, Jess McLeod and Austin Cook. The genres of song will differ week to week as chosen by the instructors.


Classes take place at the Porchlight Rehearsal Studio, 4200 W Diversey Ave. (Just west of Pulaski)
Parking available on the street or in the adjacent lot. By Public Trans, #76 bus pulls up right in front!





Acting in Song

Jess McLeod is a Chicago director whose local credits include Idris Goodwin’s How We Got On and The Wedding Singer (Haven Theatre); the educational touring production of P.J. Paparelli & Joshua Jaeger’s The Project(s) (ATC); Kumovi and For Your Art: portrait of a young blu artist (Chicago Voices/Lyric Unlimited), Lauren Yee’s in a word (Strawdog), Shawn Pfautsch’s Season on the Line (The House); Kevin Coval’s L-vis Live! (Victory Gardens); Venus (Steppenwolf Next Up!); Emily Schwartz’s Funeral Wedding: The Alvin Play (Strange Tree Group); Babes In Arms (Porchlight Revisits); Kin (Griffin); The Pajama Game, Fugitive Songs, Zanna, Don’t! (The Music Theatre Company). Director of Programming, The New York Musical Theatre Festival (2005-08); Teaching Artist, Storycatchers Theatre; 2017 Louder Than A Bomb Program Manager, Young Chicago Authors. M.F.A., Northwestern University. 2017 Goodman Theatre Michael Maggio Directing Fellow.  In development: Mill Girls (Samantha Beach & Diana Lawrence); Ellen Bond, Union Spy (Jenni Lamb, Blu Rhythm Collective).  



Acting in Song

Austin is excited to be back in Chicago after relocating to NYC last year! Cook is an award-winning music director, musician, actor and producer currently residing in Brooklyn, NY. Recent credits: Broadway War Paint (Piano), 1st/4th National Tour Million Dollar Quartet (Music Director/Music Supervisor), Sondheim on Sondheim (Music Director/Pianist)* Jeff Award Music Direction, Ain’t Misbehavin’ (Pianist)* Jeff Award Artistic Specialization, Putting It Together (MD/Pianist) Jeff Award Nominee, Some Enchanted Evening (music director/pianist)*Jeff Award Music Direction. Ring of Fire (Piano, Guitar, Dobro, Bass), Hank Williams: Lost Highway (Hoss), Chicago Theater credits include: Goodman Theater, Writers Theater, Mercury Theater, Theater at the Center, Porchlight Theatre, American Blues Theater, American Theater Company, Second City. Music Producer credits: Billy Woodward, John Michael Presney, Yuleberry’s and Friends.  Austin’s most recently produced album “The Beast in Me” won the Independent Music Award for Best Roots EP and is featured on PBS nationally in Sun Studio Sessions.


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