Not everyone has heard about Bradley University. But some alumni are out there changing that, and sometimes they return to say thank you.
Eric Petersen, a Broadway singer, graduated from Bradley in 2003. He was a theater arts major, with an extraordinary career at Bradley, including a starring role as Jesus in “Jesus Christ Superstar.”
After graduating, he has played roles as the famous ogre in “Shrek: the Musical,” Buddy in the national tour of “Elf: The Musical,” and Dewey in “School of Rock” on Broadway, for which he learned to play the guitar in six weeks.
He has also been on television, with guest appearances in “The Big Bang Theory,” “Modern Family,” and “Law and Order: SVU,” among others. He played Kirstie Allen’s son Arlo Barth in “Kirstie” and starred in a New Orleans-based Popeye’s commercial.
“He still goes to New Orleans and people say … ‘you were on that commercial!’” said BJ Lawrence, associate dean of the Slane College of Communication and Fine Arts.
Lawrence nominated Petersen for the Bradley University Alumni Association Outstanding Young Graduate Award, which he won in 2017, and helped coordinate his return to Bradley.
“He gives back to his university and he’s happy to come back and perform,” Lawrence said. “He has a wonderful voice and … his voice gets better every time I hear him.”
She said her ten-year-old granddaughter is purportedly Petersen’s biggest fan. Lawrence hopes to convince Petersen to teach a class during the Hollywood semester.
Petersen will be singing a set with the Bradley Jazz Ensemble, 18-20 students run by professor Todd Kelly. The event will be opened up by the GROOVE Project, a group of students who focus on improvising jazz music.
Although previous concerts have focused more on classical Sinatra-style jazz, this weekend’s attendees will be treated to not only a selection of jazz, but also some Christmas music and show tunes, including three Broadway songs from Petersen’s best known roles, all in a row.
“I don’t know why I did that,” joked Petersen. “It’s like three of the hardest songs to sing.”
The set list includes “Who I’d Be” from Shrek, which Petersen says is his second favorite song.
There will be concerts tonight at 7:30 p.m. and on Saturday at 7:30 and 9:30 p.m., all at the Hartmann Center. Admission to the 7:30 concerts is $35 per attendee, but admission to the 9:30 concert on Saturday is discounted to $10 for Bradley students.
“I love being back at Bradley,” Petersen said. “I come back here whenever I can … I’m very proud.”