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From Musical Theatre Major to the Main Stage

Published: September 28, 2018

Bailee McQueen ’20 has watched The Phantom of the Opera, the 2004 movie version, more than 300 times.

 Musical theatre major
Bailee McQueen ’20, who starred in UT’s production of Guys and Dolls in the spring, said the professors at UT have helped shape who she is as a musician. Photo by Jason Canon


“That's not even hyperbole, that's just true,” said McQueen, of St. Petersburg. “I absolutely loved it, and I became obsessed with it. One year later my dad took me to see it on Broadway, because he thought it would get it out of my system, instead I decided that this is what I want to do for the rest of my life.”

McQueen is a musical theatre major who transferred to UT with the intention of Tampa being a temporary stop.

“I figured I’d come home, decompress, and after a semester I’m leaving. But I got here, and I fell in love. I couldn't leave,” she said. “I loved being back in Florida, and I love the teachers. Our director, Fino, has done a beautiful job with the program. Dr. (Rodney) Shores and Dr. (Ryan) Hebert are very, very incredible people who have really shaped who I am as a musician in recent years.”

Musical theatre major
“She's fearless in the rehearsal room and on stage, she has the ability to synthesize information and stage direction very quickly, and she can sing everything from Soprano 1 to Alto 2, which means she has a huge range in her singing voice,” said Paul “Fino” Finocchiaro, professor of theatre. “And she's a really fun person to have in the room when you're working.”

McQueen has been in numerous campus stage productions, last semester playing a leading role in Guys and Dolls. She’s a member of the Camerata Singers, an auditioned, select women’s ensemble, and the UT Chamber Singers, an auditioned, select soprano-alto-tenor-bass chorus, and is the flagship choral ensemble of UT. Both groups are musical ambassadors both on and off campus.

She practices several times a week with both groups, plus works on her sight singing to become a more intelligent musician and studies voice with adjunct faculty member Jenny Kim-Godfrey.

“A lot of times I'll go into an audition and they'll just go, ‘what key signature is this; what key are we in; what cadence is that.’”

Then there’s interactive acting classes to focus on monologues or specific scenes and performing them for the class to get feedback.

“Besides her contagious good spirit, enthusiasm and positive outlook, Bailee is one of the most dedicated and hard-working students I've ever had the opportunity to work with,” said Shores, director of the Camerata Singers and Women’s Glee Club. “Inquisitive, funny and brilliant, she always receives instruction and coaching with humility, willingness to change and eagerness to learn.”

Musical theatre major
McQueen performed with the Opera Tampa Singers in Trial by Jury at the Straz Center in August and will be in Puccini’s Madama Butterfly with the St. Petersburg Opera in June 2019.


Her willingness to learn has helped her expand her repertoire. Last winter, she got her feet wet with a small role in the St. Petersburg Opera Company’s holiday show and followed that up with their performance of Music Man this summer. She performed with the Opera Tampa Singers in Trial by Jury at the Straz Center in August and will be in Puccini’s Madama Butterfly with the St. Petersburg Opera in June 2019.

“As long as you get your foot in the door and as long as you impress people, you have to be willing to work hard,” noting that her fellow cast members tend to have advanced degrees in vocal performance and years of experience playing musical instruments.

“She's fearless in the rehearsal room and on stage, she has the ability to synthesize information and stage direction very quickly, and she can sing everything from Soprano 1 to Alto 2, which means she has a huge range in her singing voice,” said Paul “Fino” Finocchiaro, associate professor of theatre. “And she's a really fun person to have in the room when you're working.”

McQueen likes comedy and is considering a graduate degree in directing or something performance-related. Each year, the theatre department hosts a senior showcase where students in their final year of the program essentially audition for agents and performance companies like Norwegian Cruise Lines.

Musical theatre major
McQueen likes comedy and is considering a graduate degree in directing or something performance-related. She’s photographed here in UT’s production of Guys and Dolls. Photo by Jason Canon


“If I could get a gig on a cruise ship, they feed and house you and you can just put all of your money in the bank. If I could do that for a year, that would be awesome. After that hopefully I’d get an agent,” McQueen said. “It’s really tough to go straight to New York after college, because it’s tough to get a big break right away. So maybe I’ll try Boston or Chicago first. When you’re in musical theatre, it has to stay fluid, because you never know what’s being offered where.”

Finocchiaro said UT’s program is unique in that they encourage students to minor or double major in another subject so that when they leave UT, they have other marketable skills that meld with their theatre skills in some way.

“We also try as hard as we can to give the students the experience they would have in a conservatory,” he said. “We hold each and every student to a higher standard and our employment/casting record proves this to be true.”

Musical theatre major
McQueen is a member of UT’s Camerata Singers, an auditioned, select women’s ensemble, and the UT Chamber Singers, an auditioned, select soprano-alto-tenor-bass chorus.


McQueen just finished a role in Webb City with American Stage in St. Petersburg’s Palladium Theater. She’ll be in UT’s version of the comic opera Pirates of Penzance Nov. 15–18, then starts rehearsing for St. Petersburg Opera’s Seasonal Sparkle 2018.

“I have to be willing to put in a lot of extra work to keep up and that impresses people,” McQueen said. “I’ve done the work and now I’m getting roles. Of course, a lot of them are small at the professional level right now, but that's just how it is. You start at the bottom and work your way up.”




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