Interview by Charlotte Cattell
I had heard of MUTE! The Musical by word of mouth before and now here it is as part of The Toronto Fringe Festival, spreading the word on bullying through song and dance to a brand new audience. I was also pleased to find out that many performers I know are part of this production, which in turn allowed me the wonderful opportunity to hear a bit about their process from a member of the cast, Holly Wyder, and from the show’s creator and director Alinka Angelova.
Charlotte: What is the basic premise of the show?
Holly: It’s primarily focused around the theme of anti-bullying in the form of a musical, which of course is in the title. This theme is raising awareness of the hardships that children may face when it comes down to the pressures placed upon them by society and their peers. But the show takes place at the best performing arts school in Canada and the story follows a girl who is new to this school. Everyone else has heard about how amazing her singing voice is and so the gossip begins. Just like at most theatre schools gossip is a huge part of what the students have to deal with. So there are high expectations from the other students to hear her voice. And into the story a tragic event causes this girl to become mute so she loses her will to sing. The bullies hound her for this and add to the pressure, trying to get her to prove herself and show that she can really sing. And there is a big competition at the end where the climax and excitement and empowerment really comes to the surface.
Charlotte: Would you say the characters are separated into groups to represent what school cliques are actually like?
Holly: Well, there are definitely bullies and non-bullies which are seen pretty clearly as the story unfolds. And there is the one popular girl who takes it a bit too far. But there is also a bit of a love story in there as well so there is something for everyone!
Charlotte: And who are you playing specifically?
Holly: My character is Mandy. She’s basically the preppy nerdy type of character. I personally have really liked it because she’s a smaller character. So, I’ve had a lot of opportunity to play with the role and kind of add things to the character that I have a lot of fun doing. Everyone has been very supportive and positive about each other’s creativity and what each person can bring to their respective roles.
Charlotte: And how do you feel about opening this week? Do you feel ready and excited?
Holly: Again everyone has been super positive and it’s so great because through the entire process everyone has also just been super enthusiastic about being there. Everyone wants to be there and bring this show together to deliver a message. And I think we are ready to start sending that message out to our audiences at Fringe.
After speaking with Holly I couldn’t get over how great it was to hear that a larger group of people were coming together so strongly and so passionately to orchestrate a show that has a really important message in this day and age. However, I thought, how did this show come to be what it is? Where do these messages of hope originate?
Alinka Angelova, the creator and head of this show and its process, was kind enough to answer some of questions!
Charlotte: What inspired you to write a show about bullying?
Alinka: There are a number of things that contributed to the making of MUTE. These are just a few of them: A little area of Phantom of the Opera with Christine coming out from being unknown and transforming into becoming the star of the grand show, Oprah Winfrey’s “Challenge Day” where they counselled and brought together the bullies and the Bullied.
Another contribution to MUTE was my Brazilian friend ‘Juliana’, an amazing dancer that I believe will be great one day. I named the main character after her.
Last but not least, when I was young, I had briefly experienced some bullying from one of my older brothers, Robert Chambers. The most amazing thing about that is, over the years he has helped me tremendously in composing music for my Musicals. We have partnered together to do many projects including MUTE.
Charlotte: And what lead you to make this show into a musical?
Alinka: I have always loved musicals. I especially LOVE musicals like MUTE such as, ‘Grease’, ‘Hairspray’, and ‘Little Shop Of Horrors’.
For some reason, no matter what I write, it always turns into music. Life without music for me would be like life without a heart.
Charlotte: How does the rehearsal process for the Fringe Festival differ from previous ones?
Alinka: I feel more pressured during this rehearsal process because this is first time I am taking MUTE into a professional atmosphere, so I want it to be the best it can be. I had to cut down a 3 hour show to 90 min, and we only rehearse once per week.
This time, I’m more at ease because I am working with a group that is more on a professional level. So they pick up choreography faster, they get into character easier, and they’re pretty dedicated.
Charlotte: And what are you aiming to achieve with the show at Fringe as opposed to when it was performed for schools?
Alinka: I am aiming to achieve sold out shows in hopes that someone who knows the business will see its potential and offer to invest in MUTE and take it further. I would also like to win “The best of the Fringe award”!
Charlotte: Lastly, where do you hope to take this show once you have completed Fringe? What are your future goals for this production?
Alinka: I would like to take this show on another School Tour starting with Toronto. Ultimately, whether sooner or later, I’m taking it to Broadway.
There are definitely some big goals for this show and with good reason! I would like to thank Holly and Alinka for taking the time to discuss with me a bit about the show and I wish everyone involved a happy run. And for the folks wandering around the Fringe, be sure to stop by and check out the toe tapping anti-bullying joys of MUTE! The Musical.
MUTE! The Musical.
Presented by Infinity Arts Productions as part of The Toronto Fringe.
Written By: Alinka Angelova
Director: Alinka Angelova
Choreographer: Teisha Smith-Guthrie
Cast: Bryna Weiss
Director: Alinka Angelova, Composer: Alinka Angelova and Robert Chambers, Choreographer:Teisha Smith-Guthrie, Backstage Manager: Veronica Chambers, Assistant Director: Jerome Chambers, Photographer: Leo Vicari
Where? The Randolph Theatre (736 Bathurst Street)
When? July 2-12
July 02 at 08:15 PM
July 04 at 03:30 PM
July 06 at 01:15 PM
July 07 at 08:15 PM
July 08 at 01:00 PM
July 11 at 05:15 PM
July 12 at 11:00 PM
Tickets: $10 at the door, OR you can order online: www.fringetoronto.com as part of the Toronto Fringe Festival