Arts and Entertainment

Penn State grad Roberto Sinha reflects on his time with Broadway's 'Kinky Boots'

Karis Gallant and Connor Allston star in the nationally touring Broadway production of “Kinky Boots.” Credit: Matthew Murphy / Penn StateCreative Commons

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Since graduating from the Penn State School of Theatre in 2014, Roberto Sinha has toured with several Broadway productions, including “Kinky Boots,” working to inspire audiences through musical theater.

Shortly after receiving his master of fine arts degree in music directing at Penn State, Sinha was the musical director for the 2015 Penn State Centre Stage production of “Avenue Q.” From there, he went on to land jobs with several Broadway musicals, working as an orchestra pit musician, a musical supervisor and a musical director.

His Broadway history includes “Big Fish,” “Bullets Over Broadway,” “Violet” and “It Shoulda Been You.” More recently, he was involved with the national Broadway tours of “Elf,” “Cinderella” and “Kinky Boots.” Nowadays, he’s the musical director for the Philip National Tour of “Hamilton.”

Sinha’s history with Broadway gives him authority to share advice for auditioning actors on websites such as SaveMyAudition.com. “Be supportive and genuinely excited for someone booking work, even if you wanted it. … It’s a small world in this community, and that energy gets around and so does your name,” Sinha wrote.

In a recent Center for the Performing Arts at Penn State email interview, Sinha described how an early passion for music’s storytelling ability led to the pursuit of his career today and how his time at Penn State helped him to land success.

Sinha reflected on his time as musical supervisor with the “Kinky Boots” tour, which begins its two-day run at Eisenhower Auditorium on Tuesday, April 9. He shares the production’s universal message of love and acceptance with audiences across North America. He also talks about his early inspirations, his biggest takeaway from Penn State, his time touring with “Kinky Boots,” and his advice for this year’s musical theatre graduates.

Question: What inspired you to pursue work as a musical supervisor and musical director for Broadway and other theater productions?

Answer: I have always been passionate about music that communicates through text. Ever since high school, and throughout my undergrad, I did a lot of accompanying work for opera students. Initially, I began accompanying for the musical theatre department as a way to make a little extra money but soon fell in love with the repertoire. (Personally, I also enjoyed that we were performing songs in English, as opposed to the more traditional French, German and Italian!) As I got increasingly involved with the musical theatre department, and the more repertoire I was exposed to, I started to form my own opinions about how I thought music could help tell a story. In a broad sense, that principle is the underlying responsibility of what a musical director does, and eventually I decided that this was something I wanted to pursue as a career.

Q: How did your time at Penn State prepare you for your career? What was your biggest takeaway from your time studying at Penn State?

A: My MFA in music directing at Penn State was instrumental (no pun intended) in preparing me for my current career. I could easily list a dozen ways in which my musical skill set was shaped at Penn State, with the help of Dan Riddle, the brilliant head of the music directing program. That being said, the thing that I think about to this day isn’t specific to music-making — “Be the kind of person you would want to work with,” a variant of the Golden Rule. In the world of theater, we spend a lot of time with a small group of people. Rehearsal schedules are full of long hours, and in a theater we spend a lot of time in cramped, dark places working in close proximity with our colleagues. In addition to just being talented, people who do well in this business are hard-working, kind, pleasant, generous people. Treating people with respect and learning to balance being professional and fun in a work environment is crucial to success in this business.

Q: What did you enjoy most during your time as a musical supervisor for “Kinky Boots”?

A: “Kinky Boots” is such a universal story, with a message about acceptance and love. My time with “Kinky Boots” was spent traveling the world and helping to bring that beautiful message to people who otherwise wouldn’t have had the chance to see it in New York City. I feel fortunate to have been able to see hundreds of audiences leave the show feeling inspired and rejuvenated by an uplifting story told with music that left them dancing in the aisles!

Q: What advice do you have for this year’s graduating School of Theatre students?

A: We are all in this business because at some point or another we fell in love with the theater. For many of us, we can remember that specific moment and oftentimes, it was while seeing a show. Don’t forget that every performance, no matter where and when, is an opportunity to change someone’s life. It might not happen every time, but treat each chance you get with respect and care. You never know who’s watching, and it’s possible that something you do on that stage may inspire a lifelong passion for the arts in someone else!

Jessica Sensenig, a Penn State senior majoring in English and telecommunications and minoring in flute performance, is a marketing and communications intern at the Center for the Performing Arts.

Last Updated April 01, 2019

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