December 2015

“Let’s take it from the top…a 5, 6, 7, 8!”-

Author: Jane Stouffer

Broadway veteran Paul Canaan brings musical theater skills workshop to Hilton Head

Whether you’re an aspiring thespian or a seasoned veteran of the boards, if you dream of taking your talents to a Broadway stage, you’ll have an opportunity this January to learn musical theater skills from one of the best. Broadway veteran actor Paul Canaan is bringing his three-day master class workshop “Take it from the Top” to the Island with Don Hite Productions©, a company that firmly believes in the power of a pro guest artist in residence.

Canaan has been a Broadway staple for the past decade, most recently appearing for the past two and a half years as the Angel and Dance Captain in the Tony Award-winning musical Kinky Boots. His Broadway résumé is impressive, featuring such hit shows as Legally Blonde, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, La Cage Aux Follies, Thoroughly Modern Millie, and Miss Saigon. He was also a cast member of the national tour of Annie Get Your Gun, a performer in the Radio City Christmas Spectacular in New York; additionally, he has performed at Paper Mill Playhouse in Miss Saigon and Carousel, and at Ford’s Theatre in Hot Mikado.

Having been exposed to thousands of young theater lovers, Canaan got involved teaching theater arts, with Kids’ Night on Broadway, Camp Broadway and the National High School Musical Theater Awards. He also served as artistic director for the Broadway Dreams Foundation. In 2014, he founded Take It From The Top, with Laura Bell Bundy, to give students of all ages the opportunity to explore theater with mentoring Broadway professionals. Canaan is passionate about making performing arts education accessible to students everywhere—to inspire confidence and create a pathway for artists to achieve their highest potential. And he’s been crisscrossing the country ever since, holding camps and workshops.

“You never know where you’re going to find Broadway’s next generation of stars,” Canaan said, “so when my good friend Don Hite told me about the extraordinary talent he’s been working with here on Hilton Head, I was eager to come experience it for myself.”

In fact, Hite may have already sent the next Broadway star on his way—his student Trey Middleton was just cast in the first national tour of the Broadway show Matilda. Currently performing as the Swing, the 11-year-old Hilton Head Preparatory School student has the daunting task of covering the four roles of the young male leads. He follows in the footsteps of other Hilton Head Prep performers Meredith Inglesby (Disney’s Beauty and the Beast and The Little Mermaid on Broadway, national tour of Newsies the Musical) and Duncan Sheik (Tony Award winner for Spring Awakening).

Who will be next? That’s what Canaan is eager to find out.

Canaan will be joined on Hilton Head Island with his co-founder Laura Bell Bundy, the Tony-nominated star of Hairspray, Wicked and Legally Blonde. While Canaan and Bundy are realistic with their aspiring performers about what it takes to have a professional career in musical theater, they also know they’re here to have fun.

“Moving their bodies, singing and dancing in front of an audience, developing confidence in themselves—these are all valuable lessons learned,” Canaan said.

Canaan’s workshop will delve into the fundamentals of performing, with participants learning several dance numbers, getting the chance to sing for professional critique and doing acting scene work. “We push these actors, stretch their idea of what they’re capable of achieving and hopefully, make them fall even more in love with performing in live theater,” he said.

“Paul has worked on such a wide variety of shows and so generously shares what he has learned,” Hite said. “He asks a lot of his students, but his encouragement and ability to make hard work a whole lot of fun gets incredible results. There are few things as satisfying as seeing a young person blossom on stage, right before your eyes, surprising even themselves.”

“I’m encouraging, but also realistic with my students,” Canaan said. “A life in theater is very unpredictable and not for the faint-hearted. You have to be open to unexpected opportunities, ready to take risks, and confident enough in your own abilities to not let countless rejections stop you from pursuing your passion. Focus, work hard and put in the work—anything is possible.”

Canaan’s “Take it From the Top” workshop is open to performers of all ages and will be held January 15-17, Friday through Sunday, at Hilton Head Prep’s new Main Street Theatre. Registration is open now to all area students, and space is limited. The cost for the workshop is $145 or discounted to $95 if you were a cast member of Hite’s productions of 13, Music of the Night or Guys and Dolls. There will be a reunion of all casts this special weekend with Canaan. Contact Broadway Carolina Youth CentreStage at or call (843) 816-0754 to reserve your spot in this Broadway musical theater master class. 

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