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Posts tagged ‘Musicals’

“Trying Something New, Working Together as Partners & Theatre for Young Audiences” In Conversation with Anthony Bastianon & Denise Oucharek on JAY & SHILO’S SIBLING REVELRY at the 2017 Toronto Fringe Kids Fest

Interview by Hallie Seline

It was such a pleasure to catch up with power-duo Anthony Bastianon and Denise Oucharek about their latest collaboration on Jay & Shilo’s Sibling Revelry at this year’s Fringe Kids Fest at the 2017 Toronto Fringe Festival. We spoke about the excitement of trying something new with the Fringe Kids Fest, the strength of working together as partners, when they get the chance, and the mantras they are currently living by in their careers.

HS: Tell me a bit about the show and how it came together.

Anthony Bastianon: Ali [Alisse Lee Goldenberg] approached me about a year ago to write a couple songs for a children’s show concept. I brought along lyricist Brett McCaig (with whom I’ve written several shows). We wrote a few things and she went away and did some more work on the idea, script and characters. Along came an opportunity to try out this show at this year’s Fringe Kids Fest and we fleshed out the script and added a few more songs. We have a delightful 35-minute show that focuses on siblings Jay and Shilo, who happen to live in a theatre full of magical characters. Ali had several ideas for this show, but we decided to go with the story of Tallulah, a fairy who has stage fright! It’s up to Jay and Shilo (with the help of the colourful narrator) to find a way to help Tallulah live out her dream and be a star on stage!

L-R: Joseph Zita, Justin Bott, Hailey Lewis, Jennifer Walls. Photo Credit: Msarookanian Photography

HS: Why were you drawn to work on a show for Fringe Kids?

AB: The Fringe Festival is a fantastic opportunity to try new things in an environment where the audience wants to see exactly that – new things on stage. The development process is always educational and having the opportunity to perform the show several times in a well supported festival is ideal. I’ve only ever written for the main Fringe festival. I’ve seen a couple of the Kids shows (I have a couple children of my own) and thought that it was the exact same excellent opportunity to try new material in front of an audience full of the perfect demographic.

Denise Oucharek: Children provide you with such honest feedback, they will REALLY let you know what is or isn’t working. I have been directing theatre with and for youth for almost 3 decades (I, ahem, clearly must have started when I was a newborn…) and I hold those experiences and productions near and dear to my heart.

L-R: Justin Bott, Joseph Zita, Jennifer Walls, Hailey Lewis. Photo Credit: Msarookanian Photography

HS: Tell me a bit about working together as partners.

AB: No comment… Kidding! We actually don’t get to work together too often. I’m usually off music directing shows and Denise is usually off performing in shows and it’s rare that our two schedules actually coordinate to do a show together (where, simultaneously, the MD position is open and there is a role for Denise). However, we’ve done a lot of work together teaching and working with children through our theatre company, Theatre Atoms (formerly The Mississauga Youth Theatre). This is something we’ve been doing for over – ahem – 25 years. I think we make a good team and it would be great if we had more opportunities to work together with Denise as the director.

DO: I love working with Anthony, as he mentioned, it does not happen that often. After all these years, we can usually anticipate the needs of the other and save time. We have a rhythm together when we work which I enjoy. There is always lots of laughter and knowing how the other works and what they require… it saves time in rehearsals!

HS: Why do you think festivals like The Fringe are important for both artists and patrons?

DO: The Fringe is key for the development of new works and offers a wide range of material and genres to the public at an unbelievably affordable price. There are always opportunities for artist and patron to mingle before and after performances, as well as at the Fringe tent, providing ample opportunity for feedback, networking and fruitful discussion.

L-R: Joseph Zita, Hailey Lewis, Jennifer Walls. Photo Credit: Msarookanian Photography

HS: What are you hoping young audiences experience during your show?

AB: First and foremost, I always hope that children love the theatre experience and want to come back to the theatre to see other shows. Developing an audience is always on our mind. For our show, Jay & Shilo, I hope that kids get the sense that being creative and using your imagination is as awesome and normal as going swimming or reading a book!

DO: I want kids to be fully engaged in our story as it unfolds. I want them to feel empathy for the characters and I hope that they laugh, laugh, laugh!

HS: Dare I ask… What’s your favourite musical?

AB: Favourite score is “Candide” by Bernstein. There a few shows I could see again and again, like West Side Story, Joseph, Fiddler On The Roof.

DO: Sorry, can’t do it. For me, musicals are like potato chips, I can’t have just one.

HS: Best advice you have ever received/current mantra you live by?

AB: Regarding my career and the music theatre industry, I would say that hard work and preparation are the cornerstone of any success that I may be fortunate enough to enjoy.

DO: Don’t be so busy running toward your next goal that you forget to look back and thank those who helped you reach your last one.

HS: What other shows are on your must-see list this Fringe?

AB: Unfortunately, Denise and I are actually on one of those rare opportunities to work together as we will be out-of-town during the Fringe Festival and will be missing the shows (aside from the opening of Jay & Shilo). But I think Derrick Chua always provides a superb list of “must-sees”.

Jay & Shilo’s Sibling Revelry

Who:
Company: Triplets Theatrical
Playwright/Creators: Alisse Lee Goldenberg, Anthony Bastianon, Brett McCaig
Director: Denise Oucharek
Music Director: Anthony Bastion
Cast: Justin Bott, Hailey Lewis, Jennifer Walls, Joseph Zita
Producers: Brian Goldenberg, Jeff Jones

What:
Imagine if the creatures from NARNIA found themselves in THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA… Sibling Revelry is a fun, musical romp for the whole family revolving around siblings Jay and Shilo; two kids who live in a theatre populated by magical and musical creatures. Drawing on their creativity, the brother and sister duo use their strengths to help their friend Tallulah the fairy find her bravery and take centre stage. (Ages 3-12)

Where:
GEORGE IGNATIEFF THEATRE
15 Devonshire Pl
Toronto

When:
14th July – 10:00am
16th July – 1:30pm

Tickets:
fringetoronto.com

A Chat with Barbara Johnston & Byron Laviolette on “Maddie’s Karaoke Birthday Party” at the 2017 Toronto Fringe

Interview by Hallie Seline

If there is a dream collaboration in the Fringe not to miss, it’s the Fringe queens of new musicals – Barbara Johnston and Suzy Wilde (Summerland, The Fence) teaming up with interactive-theatre maven Byron Laviolette (Morro and Jasp) with Maddie’s Karaoke Birthday Party. We spoke with Barb and Byron about collaborating together, the excitement of trying something new in the Fringe, and how we all need a little more fun in our lives.

HS: Tell me a bit about the show and where the idea for this show came from?

Byron Laviolette: Brian Goldenberg, our producer, approached me with the idea that maybe we could find a way to take the best of current musical theatre (ie. Suzy Wilde and Barbara Johnston) and meld it with the interactive experience stuff I have been doing with Morro and Jasp. I was instantly intrigued. I’m not much of a musical guy, but had some experience with them working at Hart House on Rocky Horror and Reefer Madness, so I said yes.

HS: You have a stellar team involved. Can you speak a bit about working with each other?

Barbara Johnston: It was kind of a unique experience because the songs were written before the rest of the show. We had a song guide and character outlines to draw from, but essentially we had to build songs without knowing exact plot details – which was a challenging but really fun experience. The script was built in rehearsal with Byron and the actors, so Suzy and I didn’t even know the show until we saw it all starting to come together a couple of days ago.

Both of us are big fans of Morro and Jasp, so when we found out that Byron was on the project we were really excited to see where he was going to take this really cool concept. Suzy and I have worked together our entire lives and are constantly collaborating on projects (we’re also involved in True North Mixtape at Fringe this year) so us working together is “old hat” – in the best way possible! We have a short-hand with one another – we can read each others minds, so it makes working together heaven. It has been extremely exciting to write pop/karaoke songs for a cast of powerhouse singers who have all been so great with working with a short timeline and with our last-minute changes. Byron is an excellent collaborator – giving us lots of room to be part of the creative process and has done such great work with the actors, essentially building this show from the ground up. We have had a blast.

L-R: Jeigh Madjus, Tess Barao, Erica Peck, Kelly Holiff, Shane Hollon, Joseph Zita Photo Credit: Alex Nirta

BL: It’s been an interesting ride. There are a lot of differences in process between improv comedians, interactive performers and musical theatre actors. There are a lot of similarities too, but making sure that all processes are being honoured while trying to form a new methodology is challenging. I’m really happy with where we’ve landed though, and a lot of that credit goes to Suzy and Barb for giving us such stellar songs to work with.

HS: Why were you drawn to create this show for the Fringe? What is it about the show that makes it the perfect fit for the Fringe environment?

BJ: The concept of a site-specific Karaoke show was Brian Goldenberg’s idea, and it is a great one!

BL: I’ve done the Fringe now for something like 10 years and I was excited to try something new in the place where I believe new things have the best chance to soar and be seen. In different environments – like Morro and Jasp in Stupefaction at Crow’s – the opportunities to risk have very different stakes attached to them.

L-R: Kelly Holiff, Erica Peck, Jeigh Madjus, Tess Barao Photo Credit: Alex Nirta

HS: What do you hope audiences walk away with?

BJ: Hopefully with our tunes stuck in their head and maybe a slight hangover the next day.

BL: The tunes WILL be stuck in their heads. They are certainly stuck in mine. Like most of the work I am involved in, I hope that people have fun. We all need more fun in our lives. And meaning and feels and all that too, but I want to help build a space where people can feel invited in, involved in ways that doesn’t suck, and inspired to go out and share that sense of joy and wonder with the world around them. Keep the party going, you know?

HS: 100%! Love that. What is your go-to Karaoke song?

BJ: Mine changes, but either Sunday Morning (No Doubt) or Man! I Feel Like a Woman (Shania Twain). Suzy’s is always Sweet Child of Mine.

BL: I’m not much of a singer, but probably something from Disney. . .

HS: Where is your go-to Karaoke spot in Toronto?

BJ: Well I actually won 3rd place in a giant Karaoke contest 10 years ago during Pride lead by Foofer – the greatest Karaoke host in the city. She used to host at Crews and Tangos every Wednesday night and my friends and I would go religiously because there were always GREAT singers in the crowd. Now she has a night at WAYLA bar in Leslieville that we like to go to.

HS: Best advice you have ever received /current mantra you are living by?

BJ: When working in collaborations: The best idea wins.

BL: Yes, 100% Best idea wins. Also, find the balance in your work/life. This show is the third creation process I’ve been involved in since March (including Morro and Jasp and Pearle Harbour’s Chautauqua) and you have to keep perspective as the dreams (and nightmares) swirl around you.

HS: Describe the show in 5-10 words:

BJ: Tony and Tina’s Wedding meets Company in a Teenage Dream.

BL: A Musical Mockumentary about the plight of the North American Millennial in the Modern Age.

HS: What other show(s) are on your must-see list this Fringe?

BJ: True North Mixtape (We’re in that one, but if we were not we would want to see it!)
Wild/Walled, Lipstique (both dance shows with some great dancers/choreographers).
Jay and Shilo’s Sibling Revelry!

All of them. ALL OF THEM!! Go risk. Go discover. Go play.

Maddie’s Karaoke Birthday Party

Who:
Company: Charcoal Sketch Productions
Playwright/Creator: Barbara Johnston, Suzy Wilde, and Byron Laviolette
Director: Byron Laviolette
Cast: Tess Barao, Kelly Holiff, Shane Hollon, Jeigh Madjus, Erica Peck, Joseph Zita
Producer: Brian Goldenberg, Jeff Jones

What:
It’s Maddie’s 25th birthday party but something’s not right – the guest of honour hasn’t shown up yet! Join five of Maddie’s best friends as they try to sort out where the birthday girl is at while they fight to keep the party’s spirits high (and struggle to keep their own dark secrets hidden). This intimate, interactive story unfolds over a series of hilarious and heart-breaking Karaoke-style songs in a party environment where the audience are fellow guests.

Where:
THE MONARCH TAVERN
12 Clinton Street, Toronto

When:
6th July – 8:15pm
7th July – 7:00pm
8th July – 6:30pm
9th July – 6:00pm
11th July – 8:00pm
12th July – 8:45pm
13th July – 8:15pm
14th July – 7:00pm
15th July – 7:00pm
16th July – 6:00pm

Tickets:
fringetoronto.com

Connect:
t: @maddiesparty
f: /MaddiesParty

“Embracing Embarrassment, Renouncing Shame & Starring in Your Own Musical” In Conversation with Katherine Cullen & Britta Johnson on STUPIDHEAD! A Musical Comedy

Interview by Hallie Seline

Knowing that Stupidhead! A Musical Comedy was returning to the stage after loving it at the Summerworks Festival, I was excited to sit down with funny ladies Katherine Cullen and Britta Johnson to chat all about it. We appropriately met in the Theatre Passe Muraille greenroom and spoke about how the piece has developed for this first professional production with TPM, Katherine’s inspiration to communicate her experience with dyslexia through her dream of being in a musical, and finding freedom in renouncing shame and owning where you’re at, epic life fails and all.

Hallie Seline: Tell me about the show and how it has developed from workshop to festival to first professional production.

Katherine Cullen: Stupidhead! is a sort of musical/standup comedy style/storytelling show about me growing up with dyslexia. I had this idea a couple of years ago and I started to write, let’s call them proto-songs when I was alone and bored and unemployed. And then videofag gave me the opportunity to do a workshop presentation of it, about three years ago now. So I went to Britta (Johnson), maybe a week before the workshop, (laughing) not even… and asked if she would help me with the song aspect of it – to help me add accompaniment. When we did that first workshop of it, we were exploring different ideas and forms.

When it came time to do the Summerworks Festival version, we really decided to make it more of a musical. The theme around that version was much more like… birthday party, piñata, musical, which is still very different from what it has grown to now.

Britta Johnson: The story of it now is that we’re trying to make Katherine’s dream of being in a musical come true so, you know, it has lighting, full songs and all of that. But I also think in the process of continuing to write and develop the songs, because that’s all I can speak to, we’ve tried to keep the essence of those early ones from the workshop in the fold of its current form. Where it isn’t necessarily about a perfect polished song, it’s about how to honestly step into each one, as herself and what song serves this character.

Photo of Katherine Cullen and Britta Johnson by Michael Cooper.

KC: Yeah, this character, me, has no musical training and doesn’t know anything about singing, or pitch, or what makes a good song, or… anything. Anything I’ve picked up over the last few years has literally been because of working with Britta and forcing myself by saying, “I need to learn to hit that note!” So we put those parameters out there from the beginning and it allows the space to really fuck up and not hit the note, and know that it’s still going to be okay. I feel like I’m allowed to not be this polished musical theatre singer because that’s part of the conceit.

BJ: Yeah! I feel like part of the conceit is to joyfully and whole-heartedly step into doing something that you don’t feel you’re good at. That’s really important in this show.

HS: Which is so wonderful because we so rarely or just don’t do that. So often we feel like we have to wait to be perfect before we show it or do it.

KC: Exactly. I feel like this show has a kid-like mentality of being like “I don’t know? That looks fun! I will do that in front of people,” you know what I mean? It’s trying to get back to that place where you don’t second-guess yourself and you don’t self-edit and there isn’t that sort of judgmental voice being like “Oh, no. No. No. That’s ridiculous. Don’t do that.” It’s more like “That sounds like a great idea! I will try it.” (laughing) You know?

BJ: As someone who gets to watch it over and over again, it really looks like Katherine as a kid playing pretend in her room. The songs go everywhere from a full three-and-a-half-minute-long, emotional, perfectly rhymed song, to what I picture as her as a kid looking in the mirror and playing pretend. There’s room for all of it.

KC: Yeah, it’s like if this show had a spirit animal right now it’s that little girl in that viral video who wobbles into the room for her birthday party. She’s just having a hippity-hoppity day. Because, why not?

I mean, there are darker themes that are in the show that are being probed now in a way that we didn’t really probe when we were at Summerworks. One of the songs expresses how you need darkness to have light and I think I’m exploring a child-like freedom of expression but also those kind of adult things in the world or in our lives that make us feel like we can’t or that beat us down, make us feel like we’re losers or “less than”. I think that there is a real conversation that the show is trying to have between those two and trying to kind of make peace with it.

And part of having a hippity-hoppity day is saying “I don’t need those chains. I don’t need to think of myself as a bad loser. I can just be a person because we’re all just people and we’re all fine here, so why not just have a jazzy time?”

BJ: And that the imperfection isn’t something to overcome and get to the other side of. That’s why hearing you sing these songs is so moving. If it’s just something that you invite into the picture, and own, you can have a hippity-hoppity day with the dark parts and the light parts and the parts where you fail and the parts where you make an ass of yourself and it’s still just as hippity-hoppity! (they laugh)

Photo of Katherine Cullen and Britta Johnson by Michael Cooper.

HS: Amazing. You mentioned from the beginning you were writing songs for this and you have also said that you have never been in a musical. So what was the idea behind making this piece of yours a musical?

KC: One thing that I do really like about musicals is that there’s this element that you get to express something extra or express something that you can’t satisfy just in dialogue. There’s this component to the expression that is sort of special or heightened and that isn’t in the realistic way that we express ourselves on a day-to-day basis. I feel that there is something also about dyslexia that has that. My experience with it and how I experience the world has been so sort of topsey turvey and that has been very difficult for me to explain to people. To me, it just makes sense that then to be able to communicate that experience that I would need to burst into song.

Photo of Katherine Cullen by Michael Cooper.

HS: What is something that you hope the audience takes away or experiences while they are here?

KC: I think this play is so much about, you know, just not feeling alone in the parts of yourself that you feel don’t totally fit in. So I hope it speaks to people from that perspective, that they feel like their humanity is seen, you know? And that it’s cool to laugh at the shit that you do that’s silly as opposed to being ashamed of it.

I think the show is really about renouncing shame, in a lot of ways.

BJ: I just feel that if the audience has half as much fun as I have sitting at the piano, laughing and crying along with Katherine, I think that we will have done our job.

Photo of Katherine Cullen by Michael Cooper.

Rapid Fire Question Round:

Favourite Food:
KC: Probably sushi.
BJ: Burritos, no question.

Favourite Musical:
KC: Jesus Christ Superstar
BJ: West Side Story.

Where do you get inspiration?
KC: Hmm… I think usually when I watch something really funny and it just makes me feel like there’s a lot of possibility in the world, when I see something super funny.

BJ: Probably the people around me. Watching people I love and respect… or don’t, you know (laughs) struggle with the same stuff I do.

KC: Watching people I hate…

BJ: Watching people I hate and delighting in their failure (laughing)

HS: That inspires me!

KC: Don’t edit that…

BJ: That’s the end of the interview. “Britta Johnson, who kind of glommed on to the interview, talks a lot about the people she hates…” (laughing)

The Best Advice You’ve Ever Gotten or That You’re Currently Living By:
KC: My dad always says “Have faith in the future” and I don’t totally know what that means but I kind of like it. Have faith in the future. Why not?

BJ: I don’t know… There’s never going to be a moment where you’re like, “Now I’ve got it”, so don’t wait for that moment. You’re still doing it even if that “moment” doesn’t come.

KC: Yeah, you’re always doing the best with what you’ve got at any given moment.

BJ: Also I think my sister once told me that my hair always looks better than I think it does… which has also really helped me lately… (laughing)

Describe Stupidhead! in 5-10 words… together:
KC: … It’s a… fun,
KC & BJ: hippity-hoppity day
BJ: that embraces the honest struggle of simply…
KC & BJ: beeeing aaa..llliiv?—huuuman!

HS: Brilliant. Thank you!

 STUPIDHEAD! A Musical Comedy

Who:
A Theatre Passe Muraille Production
Written & Performed by Katherine Cullen and Britta Johnson
Original Music by Britta Johnson
Original Lyrics by Britta Johnson and Katherine Cullen
Directed & Dramaturged by Aaron Willis
Additional Dramaturgy by Andy McKim
Set & Costume Design by Anahita Dehbonehie
Lighting Design by Jennifer Lennon
Associate Producer: Colin Doyle

What:
Stupidhead! is a comedy musical about having dyslexia. It’s also about how being a human is really embarrassing… like all of the time. The winner of Best New Performance Text at the 2015 SummerWorks Festival, Stupidhead! returns to Theatre Passe Muraille’s Mainspace with brand new material and brand new songs.

In Stupidhead! performer/playwright Katherine Cullen shares true stories about her dyslexia, the way she interacts with the world, and the way the world interacts with her. Cullen’s script – directed by the Dora nominated Aaron Willis and accompanied by lyricist/musician Britta Johnson’s original songs – makes for a show that is painfully funny, brutally honest, and totally relatable for anyone who feels like they do things a bit different.

Where:
Theatre Passe Muraille Mainspace
16 Ryerson Ave.
Toronto ON.

When:
March 16 – April 2, 2017

Tickets:
passemuraille.ca/stupidhead/

Connect:
w: passemuraille.ca/stupidhead/
t: #StupidheadTO
@KatinkaCullen
@johnsonbritta
fb: StupidheadMusical
TheatrePasseMuraille

 

Artist Profile: Peter Fernandes, Actor

Interview by Hallie Seline

It was a complete joy to connect with the wonderful and uber-talented young actor Peter Fernandes and chat about acting and what he is currently working on. We discussed what drew him to acting as a kid, how Passing Strange has impacted him both as an artist and as a young black man, and about how now, more than ever, it is extremely valuable for an audience to touch base with their relationship and their biases towards music and art. You can catch Peter rocking out on the stage in the Toronto premiere of Passing Strange at the Opera House from now to February 5th.

Hallie Seline: First things first – what drew you to acting?

Peter Fernandes: My parents had me and my siblings start singing for community events at a very young age, so performing was always an important part of growing up. For theatre specifically, I had just moved to Edmonton and auditioned for the grade 6 production of The Wizard of Oz. I was so nervous at the audition that I got cast as the Cowardly Lion. There was a scene where I had to faint and on the first night we performed, when I fainted I heard the audience laugh. I said to myself “Yeah, I want to do that again.” So from then on I kept looking for opportunities in the community or through theatre school programs to perform.

HS: And now here we are, performing at the Opera House! Tell me a bit about your current show Passing Strange.

PF: Passing Strange is a semi-autobiographic musical created by Stew and Heidi Rodewald. Through a range of Rock, Punk Rock, Gospel and Blues, it follows a black youth through Los Angeles, Amsterdam and Berlin during the 70s on his journey to find “the real”. It looks at his relationship to music, his identity, blackness and family. It’s also about someone looking back at their choices and reflecting on how they became the person they are today.

rpm-aus-o-passing-strange-2017-1131

Peter Fernandes, Sabryn Rock, Divine Brown, Beau Dixon, Jahlen Barnes, Vanessa Sears, David Lopez. Racheal McCaig Photography.

HS: Why is it your favourite musical at the moment?

PF: I remember seeing it on Broadway and being immediately blown away by it. I hadn’t seen anything like it and the music made everyone in that theatre jump up and rock out, which was also an unfamiliar sight. Both as an artist and a young black man, I found myself finally being able to relate to a piece in a way that I hadn’t before. Youth’s journey made me reflect on my own relationship to family, and my identity, and then, to top it all off, it had exhilarating music – it was a real rock show.

rpm-aus-o-passing-strange-2017-1132

Divine Brown, Sabryn Rock, Peter Fernades, Beau Dixon, Vanessa Sears, David Lopez, Jahlen Barnes. Racheal McCaig Photography.

It’s also one of those musicals that I have revisited often: First on Broadway, then multiple times through the soundtrack, the filmed version and now finally being involved in the Canadian premiere. Each time it has had a profound effect on me. Your relationship with this piece will change each time you see it. The way you connect to this musical grows as you grow and reflect on the stupid or profound choices you made as a teenager.

rpm-aus-o-passing-strange-2017-1025

Sabryn Rock, Jahlen Barnes, Peter Fernandes, David Lopez, Beau Dixon. Racheal McCaig Photography.

HS: What has surprised you the most about the show that you’ve discovered while working on it?

PF: Naively, I thought I knew this show inside and out – that I knew everything at the core of the show. But the entire cast discovers new things the more we delve into the piece and the more we give time to the words, thoughts and ideas that Stew and Heidi have infused into the music.

There’s an incredible section in the show that continues to move me. The Narrator describes someone’s words “washing over [you] like a Bach Fugue … you know how when the music goes right over your head and straight into that part of you which is most beautiful.” That’s what happens to you in this musical. Despite having seen the original and listening to the soundtrack over and over again, this still happens to me. Sure you’ll be able to come back to it later with more understanding, and you’ll be affected differently, but some things will still only exist in this indescribable place for you.

Because of the stellar cast and creative team behind this production, every rehearsal gives you the opportunity to hear something new and that’s the best kind of surprise you can ask for when you’re working on a show.

rpm-aus-o-passing-strange-2017-1077

Sabryn Rock, Peter Fernandes, Vanessa Sears, David Lopez, Jahlen Barnes. Racheal McCaig Photography.

HS: Why do you think Passing Strange is important for audiences right now?

PF: It is incredibly important to give opportunities to underrepresented communities on the stage, and this show provides the unique chance to explore a black story and black storytelling in a way that audiences have not seen before. It breaks down a lot of the barriers and biases that have been created about our identities and about the way people create.

Now, more that ever, it is extremely valuable for an audience to touch base with, not only their biases, but their relationship to music and art. Passing Strange gives you the chance to do that.

rpm-aus-o-passing-strange-2017-1013

Vanessa Sears, David Lopez, Divine Brown, Jahlen Barnes, Peter Fernandes, Sabryn Rock, Beau Dixon. Racheal McCaig Photography.

HS: If your audience could listen to one song or album before coming to see the show, what would it be?

PF: Album – “Woodstock: Music from the original soundtrack and more” (If you don’t have time to listen to it all before the show, I would focus on Jimi Hendrix)

Rapid Fire Question Round

Favourite spot in Toronto: Rooftop at Spadina and Bloor overlooking the Annex.

What are you listening to right now? The Two Dope Queens Podcast.

What is one song that you wish you wrote? “Sunday” from Sunday in the Park with George by Stephen Sondheim.

Who inspires you? My Parents.

Best advice you’ve ever gotten: On risk-taking: “The answer is always no if you never ask.”

Describe Passing Strange in 5 words: Music is a freight train OR Love is more than real.

Passing Strange

header_image

Who:
Co-Produced by Acting Up Stage Company & Obsidian Theatre Company

directed by: Philip Akin
music directed by: Bob Foster
choreographed by: Kimberley Rampersad
starring: Jahlen Barnes, Divine Brown, Beau Dixon, Peter Fernandes, David Lopez, Sabryn Rock, Vanessa Sears
set & lighting design: Steve Lucas
sound design: Peter McBoyle
costume designer: Joanna Yu
production manager: Adrien Whan
stage manager: Jessica Severin
apprentice stage manager: Jordan Guetter

What:
Passing Strange is a bold coming of age story told through sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. In the late 1970s, a black teen is driven from Los Angeles to Amsterdam and Berlin in search of himself and a place to call home.

Fusing punk rock, R&B and soul, and performed at Toronto’s preeminent music venue the Opera House, Passing Strange is unlike any musical you’ve seen before. Winner of the 2008 Tony Award for Best Book of a Musical and three Drama Desk Awards including Best Musical, don’t miss the show that has been universally applauded for its originality, authenticity, and powerful score.

Where:
The Opera House
735 Queen Street East
Toronto, Ontario
M4M 1H2

When: 
January 24-February 5, 2017

Tickets:
online: tickets.ticketwise.com
by phone: 1-888-324-6282

 

*Featured Image of Peter Fernandes by Nathan Kelly

In the Greenroom’s Next Stage Theatre Festival Favourites

We couldn’t think of a better way to start 2017 on a high note than with a jam-packed festival of new theatre, dance, music, storytelling and improv; watching artists take their work to the ‘next stage’; and, of course, some good beer tent times re-connecting to old friends and meeting new ones!

We wanted to share some of In the Greenroom’s Festival Favourites, with the hopes of inspiring you as you begin your final NSTF scheduling. We’ve chosen something different, something new, something bloody and something true… maybe.

Be sure to share your favourite festival moments!

Connect with us on:
twitter: @intheGreenRoom_
facebook: @ InTheGreenroom.ca
instagram: @inthegreenroom
#NSTFestivalFaves


Something Different: MANICPIXIEDREAMGIRLS

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Go to MANICPIXIEDREAMGIRLS if you want: something different… completely different!

It’s hard to find just one word to describe MANICPIXIEDREAMGIRLS. Wild, weird and wonderful, this show is bold, hilarious, absurd, athletic and completely fun! There’s nostalgia. There’s glitter. There’s incredible “wow-did-they-just-do-that” dancing, blow-up props, Garden State references, singalongs, and bags of milk! Yup, it’s a total trip and the more we think back on everything we experienced during MANICPIXIEDREAMGIRLS, the more we smile.

**We also recommend reading the program note on the work by choreographer Alyssa Martin either before or after for an even deeper appreciation of the piece.

What:
Join dance-theatre renegades Rock Bottom Movement for a hallucinatory romp through millennial nostalgia and classic indie film. Choreographer Alyssa Martin conjures a gleefully glitter-soaked pop-culture mashup featuring 90’s singer-songwriter karaoke and athletic dance breaks.

Where:
Factory Theatre Mainspace (125 Bathurst St.)

When:
January 11 at 06:45 PM
January 12 at 07:30 PM
January 14 at 09:00 PM
January 15 at 05:15 PM

Tickets:
fringetoronto.com


Something New: Songbuster, an improvised musical

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Go to Songbuster if you want: something new… every time!

Songbuster, an improvised musical is perfect if you’re looking for heart-wrenchingly hilarious ballads about _____ (You fill in the blank!) At this fully improvised musical, audience members get to choose the subject matter of the play! On opening we witnessed an entire saga about comicon that we won’t soon forget. We especially loved the improvised flamenco duet… Enough said!

What:
Fast paced, ridiculous and always entertaining, the cast creates an hour-long musical from suggestions provided by the audience. This dynamite cast has been seen in mainstage musicals and comedy clubs around the country and knows how to make you laugh one moment and break out your jazz hands the next.

Where:
Factory Theatre Studio (125 Bathurst St.)

When:
January 11 at 07:00 PM
January 12 at 05:30 PM
January 14 at 06:00 PM
January 15 at 01:45 PM

Tickets:
fringetoronto.com


Something Bloody: Blood Ties

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Go to Blood Ties if you want: something bloody…fun & musical!

Witty, charming and funny dialogue, plus beautiful songwriting with clear and engaging narrative sung throughout, Blood Ties is a bloody fun musical. Hats off to their thoughtful and clever costume design and a special shout-out to performer Jeremy Lapalme!

What:
Sheila’s uncle shoots himself in his bathroom on the eve of her wedding, and when her three best friends arrive in town to celebrate they are instead faced with the task of cleaning up the considerable mess left behind. This flagship musical show by Dora-nominated team Anika Johnson and Barbara Johnston has previously been a hit at SummerWorks, the Edinburgh Fringe, and on BBC America’s ‘Orphan Black.’ Based on true events.

Where:
Factory Theatre Mainspace (125 Bathurst St.)

When:
January 12 at 05:15 PM buy tickets
January 13 at 10:00 PM buy tickets
January 14 at 02:00 PM buy tickets
January 15 at 07:00 PM buy tickets

Tickets:
fringetoronto.com


Something True (or False… either way there’s Spam!): Two Truths And A Lie

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Go to Two Truths and a Lie if you want: something true… or false! Regardless, someone is going home with a can of SPAM after this truly feel-good, laugh-out-loud, intimate storytelling show, so how could you miss it?

Though filled with lies and liars, Two Truths and a Lie promises to be filled with hilarious laugh-out-loud moments for a truly feel-good time in a cozy venue. These three talented storytellers transport us to horrifying yet still somehow endearing moments in their lives, and whether you can figure out who the ultimate liar is or not, a can of Spam is up for grabs, so… who wouldn’t want that?!

What:
Each night of the festival, Graham Isador (Situational Anarchy), Helder Brum (Born with a Tale), and Rhiannon Archer (Life Records) will regale audiences with three unbelievable stories…one of which is completely made up. After the critical successes of their honest and funny solo shows, these veterans of Toronto’s storytelling scene are coming together to make you laugh while lying to your face.

Where:
Factory Theatre Antechamber (125 Bathurst St.)

When:
January 11 at 05:55 PM
January 12 at 08:40 PM
January 13 at 06:40 PM
January 14 at 05:40 PM
January 15 at 04:25 PM

Tickets:
fringetoronto.com


We hope this inspires you to kick off your weekend NSTFestival schedule planning and be sure to see something you wouldn’t normally! This list is just the beginning.

There’s 10 shows that have each been selected to offer something different. Be bold. See something on a whim! That’s what the festival spirit is all about. You never know what you might be surprised by.

Happy Closing, NSTF! We’ll cheers you in the beer tent!

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