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Posts tagged ‘Second City’

“Mixing Sketch Comedy, Disney and Broadway, THE ADVENTURES OF TOM SHADOW Will Take You Down the Rabbit Hole, With a Little Help from These Hilarious Friends” In Conversation with Creator/Performer Christian Smith

Interview by Hallie Seline

After hearing the buzz about its first short run last spring, it was a pleasure to chat with creator/performer Christian Smith about the return of The Adventures of Tom Shadow, this time at the Factory Studio Theatre. We spoke about where the idea for the show came from, how this impressive group of performers came together to create it and then we delved deep into some childhood nostalgia… as you do.

Don’t miss your chance to catch The Adventures of Tom Shadow, on stage from October 11th to 22nd.

HS: Tell me a little bit about the show The Adventures of Tom Shadow.

CS: Think Disney for Adults. We’re combining the traditions of a sketch comedy show under the guise of a musical. It’s funny, but we’ve added a hefty dose of heart.

HS: Where did the idea for the show come from?

CS: One of our cast mates, Mark [Little], used to be in a sketch troupe and he had come up with a premise a while back called Tom Shadow. I won’t spoil what that sketch was about (that would spoil our show too!) but when we were meeting to discuss the show we wanted to create, that idea sort of stuck. It has evolved a lot from the original premise but, at its core, we take you down a rabbit hole in The Adventures of Tom Shadow the same way Mark originally intended with his premise. You’ll see what I mean.

HS: Can you speak to me a bit about how it was created?

CS: All five cast members (Kevin Vidal, Natalie Metcalfe, Lisa Gilroy, Mark Little & Myself) all started coming up with a story. We then broke the show down into beats, went away and wrote our own separate scenes and brought it to the group so we can then re-work the scenes as a group. Once we knew where we wanted the story to go, there was a lot of improvising through muddy parts of the script on its feet, then subsequent re-writes. It was a ton of work. Luckily all of us are improvisers and writers so we just had to find a way to meld our individual styles to suit the creation of the show.

HS: Amazing! And it’s also a musical?! Tell me a bit about the music in the show.

CS: Lisa, Natalie and Mark are exceptional song writers. We just started writing music that was both funny to us and told the story. We took a lot of inspiration from Disney and Broadway musicals, breaking down why they were so successful. We brought on a musical director (originally Nicola Dempsey, now Jordan Armstrong) and they’ve created the original music. Both M.Ds are the absolute best and crucial to the success of the show.

HS: Talk to me about the people involved: How did you come together? Have you worked together before? What has it been like working with this group?

CS: We all wanted to work with each other so we just met for coffee and decided we were going to put up a show! What came out of it was a surprise to us!

All of us have worked together in some capacity except for our director Peter Stevens. Peter is a writer/performer in the sketch comedy troupe Elephant Empire and his work is soooo very good. We all agreed he’d be the director to steer this ship and we couldn’t be happier. The cast members have all worked together before in many capacities. Natalie, Lisa, Kevin and myself have worked with Second City, as well as our M.D. Jordan Armstrong and our Lighting Designer, Meg Maguire.

We knew our Stage Manager/Sound Engineer through the Toronto comedy scene, Bad Dog Theatre Company and his group Sex T-Rex. This industry feels small sometimes, where everyone can seem to get a chance to work together. This group of people also so happen to be some of my best friends.

HS: If you could be any character from a children’s story, who would it be and why?

CS: Great question. What constitutes children’s story? I love Simba from The Lion King because he’s mischievous and can SING SO WELL! If we’re thinking younger… Sam from Green Eggs & Ham.

Rapid Fire Question Round

Favourite movie growing up: Independence Day

Favourite childhood snack: Dill Pickle Chips

If you could choose one song that represents your childhood or yourself as a kid, what would it be? Ugh. Tough. Simpsons Theme Song? A lotta theme songs. Doug. Rugrats! For sure theme songs.

What advice would you give yourself as a kid before, as you mention for Tom Shadow, “real life comes flooding in”? Read more.

If you could have an adventure anywhere (real or made up), where would it be and what would you do? Oh man. Tokyo or the deep woods. I want to have an extended adventure (live in Japan) or try to fend for myself in the woods. That last adventure is a pipe dream. I’ll have to get better at… many things.

Describe the show in 5-10 words: We’ll make you laugh a lot and maybe cry maybe

The Adventures of Tom Shadow

Presented by Theatre Lab
Written and Performed by Lisa Gilroy, Mark Little, Natalie Metcalfe, Christian Smith, and Kevin Vidal
Directed by Peter Stevens
Music Direction by Jordan Armstrong
Sound Design / Stage Management by Seann Murray
Lighting Design by Meg Maguire

Written and performed by Toronto’s top comedians, The Adventures of Tom Shadow is a hysterically-funny yet heart-wrenching comedic musical that follows the whimsical character Tom Shadow as he travels through the magical Cloud Kingdom! But what begins as a typical children’s story is immediately derailed as real life comes flooding in to destroy the magic. Think Peter Pan meets Taken…but with music!

Factory, Studio Theatre
125 Bathurst Street, Toronto, ON

October 11–22, 2017

In the spirit of accessible theatre, Theatre Lab will be offering tickets at three price-points to allow patrons to pick the price that fits their budget: $23, $33, $43 + HST. Patrons are encouraged to pay what they can afford. All tickets are General Admission.

t: @TheaterLab
fb: /TheatreLab

Fringe Preview: People Suck – An Irreverent Exploration of Human Suckiness – Presented by Nutmeg Creations at the 2015 Toronto Fringe

by Bailey Green

Megan Phillips had an epiphany. She was being a complete jerk to the people she loved — she had no idea why. She sat in a hipster coffee shop in Toronto during the 2014 Fringe when it hit her. After “journaling-out” some ideas, she got in contact with Peter Cavell. Megan calls Pete, “a brilliant composer” and knew he was the right person to bring this idea to life. When Megan told Pete the title, it sealed the deal — People Suck, an irreverent exploration of human suckiness.

They were intrigued by the concept of creating a song cycle based around a theme, as opposed to a musical with a linear arc or central character. People Suck plays with musical genres and unique characters, injected with a healthy dose of comedy. “Pete and I had very similar ideas of comedy,” says Megan, “but we also knew that in order to give that comedy depth, we had to explore the emotional layers behind the songs.”

Pete and Megan have known each other for almost 15 years, they attended Western together, and also come from similar backgrounds of working with Second City and sketch/improv work. Pete, writer and co-music director, is a current musical director at Second City. Megan, writer and cast member, heads an all-girl sketch comedy troupe called STRAPLESS COMEDY (who you may have seen at Fringe last year!).

They wrote People Suck on and off into the winter of 2014, while Megan lived in Vancouver and Pete lived in Toronto. But when they were pulled for the Fringe, they began writing multiple times a week over the phone. “Skype is not our friend,” they say. They kept track of lyrics in Google docs to coordinate progress, but couldn’t resist chasing each other’s cursors around the screen. “Our biggest challenge was time and distance,” Megan remembers. With the time difference, there was a narrow window where they could work. “I would get home after work, put my son to bed, and have only a few hours to write with Megan,” Pete says. In May, Megan moved to Toronto and the pair began to work on production. “Pete’s like a ‘real’ person… I mean he has a job and family and 2 year old, and Adriana [Pete’s wife] has been so amazing and supportive of Pete and this project,” Megan says. “She’s the best!” Pete agrees.

After both knowing him for years, their director Kerry Griffin (current director of Second City mainstage) was the first person they thought of to bring on to the project. As for cast, they needed to find actors with a comedic background who also had strong vocal chops. They chose: Ashley Comeau (Second City mainstage) and Connor Thompson (Second City) who are “a real life couple” adds Megan; Allison Price (Second City) who “coincidentally, we grew up as kids together,” says Pete, “and went to the same piano teacher”; as well as Arthur Wright, who went to university at the same time as Pete and Megan, who they also herald is a “phenomenal singer and actor.” Pete and Megan have been deeply appreciative of the hive-mind-like comedic writer atmosphere that has brought their piece to a new level.

They also credit their producer Victoria Laberge for her excellent work. Laberge, a native Montrealler very involved with theatre and FRINGE Montreal, has allowed Pete and Megan to focus on the creativity while Vic handles deadlines, press releases and “so many emails,” Megan says.

Their co-music director Jordan Armstrong, also a music director at Second City, brings a level of fresh musical improvisation and a bevy of skill with instruments to the table. Jordan plays clarinet, flute saxophone, percussion and piano (to name a few.) “So maybe she’ll grab her sax and I’ll grab my guitar, to we’ll fill out the musical texture a little more,” Pete says.

As for what they’re most excited for with the Fringe:

Megan: “Just doing the show for an audience! This show is so special and I feel so lucky to have had Pete as a partner and then the cast and everyone else who’s been involved. It’s our gorgeous little baby and now we’re get to show the baby to the world.”

Pete: “Getting this out there. We’ve been living with it for so long. Watching it now, the actors are all doing their thing and it’s made us step back and realize – wow, that was ours and now it’s this massive thing that can actually stand on it’s own.”

As for a teaser or preview? Megan graciously sings me a preview of their opener, in a Tim Hortons. The featured character is Miss Talbot, a teacher, who tells her class to settle down for the day’s lesson — that everyone has a special talent they bring (“In the potluck of life we can’t all bring the casserole,” Megan sings) but there’s always someone who plays a specific role.

“Suppose you lend your favourite dolly to Delilah,

Cause you were taught it’s nice and kind and good to share,

But then she keeps it for five years, and when it you get it back,

It smells like pee and it’s missing all it’s hair,

Then Delilah is an asshole.”


People Suck

Presented by Nutmeg Creations as part of the 2015 Toronto Fringe Festivalunnamed

By: Megan Phillips and Peter Cavell

Company: Nutmeg Creations

Company origin: Vancouver, British Columbia

Director: Kerry Griffin

Cast: Ashley Comeau, Megan Phillips, Allie Price, Connor Thompson, Arthur Wright

Creative team: Musical Direction by Jordan Armstrong and Peter Cavell. Produced by Victoria Laberge.

Warnings: Sexual Content, Mature Language

Where: Randolph Theatre


July 01 at 08:15 PM
July 04 at 10:30 PM
July 06 at 12:45 PM
July 07 at 06:45 PM
July 08 at 10:30 PM
July 09 at 05:15 PM
July 11 at 11:00 PM

Connect with them: @PplSuckMusical

Connect with us: @intheGreenRoom_ & @_BaileyGreen


Fringe Preview: “Ups. Downs. Keyboard. Dance. Millennials.” And more of what to expect in REGICIDE, a sketch comedy show at the 2015 TO Fringe

Interview by Shaina Silver-Baird

SSB: Can you tell us what “Regicide” means and how it affects this piece? 

Christian Smith: Yeah! Technically It means “Killing a King”. We aren’t trying to say anything by the name apart from we really loved when the Simpsons referenced it and we all thought it was a fun name. Naming a sketch comedy troupe is hard and silly. The concept of “Regicide” influenced the poster design and thus influenced some of the scenes we’ve created. We had a great designer to work with, Raul Delgado, and he created the poster. We took some of those themes and incorporated them into the show.

SSB: Regicide is not your standard play. What was the process for creating this show? 

CS: Well, writing sketch comedy can be hard because there are so many ways to create it. Everyone in the group came from a different background and have had different experiences, so we kind of all started writing on our own to begin with. I prefer to collaborate, but in this particular process I had to focus much more on my writing and it actually helped me get to the core of the idea quicker. As you know, Fringe approaches quickly once you hear you’ve gotten a lottery spot! There are also enormous benefits to pitching the idea in a room before that and to having the other creators brainstorm on it. In this case, we all had to shift the way we work and it was exciting.

It was a great learning experience as it is our first revue as the group “Regicide“. We brought in Kerry Griffin (current Second City mainstage director) to direct the show after we had a ton of material to show him and then he shaped it.

SSB: What’s it like working with Kerry Griffin? 

CS: Kerry is a great director and great guy. He doesn’t come in with any pre-conceived notions of the show or what he wants to see from the group. He reads the room, sees where our strengths lie and goes from there. He really allowed us to find our voices and then you can see him start to put a show together. He has great instincts and such an amazing sense of humour.

SSB: There are sooo many plays in the Fringe. What sets Regicide apart? 

CS: There are going to be so many good shows! Everyone has their preference in types of comedy and what they look for in a theatrical experience. If you’re looking for topical, creative, fun and (on occasion) thought provoking; then see our show. Personally, I like to use sketch comedy as a way to hold a mirror up to society and speak about concepts or topics that move/interest me. Sometimes we need to have a discourse about some things through the guise of a comedy show for us to know it’s okay to laugh about something. Or at the very least, have us start asking questions. I hope that makes sense. Sometimes comedy can tug at your heartstrings or punch you in the gut! That’s the kind of thing I’m interested in!

SSB: How was the team assembled? Did you know each other beforehand? 

CS: We all met in the Second City Conservatory program and here we are. We had some great people work with us. They run a great establishment there at the Second City.

SSB: Describe the show in 5 words.

CS: Ups. Downs. Keyboard. Dance. Millennials.

SSB: Who’s the one person you’d want to see this show? (Could be anyone alive, dead…)

CS: Well… since you said “could be anyone alive, dead….”, the ellipses made me think that I have to pick Tupac. No one knows either way if he’s alive or dead. I’d like the rumours to stop with us, here, at the Regicide show. He is now obligated to come see the show, one way or another. Gotcha Tupac!


regicide poster


Where: Helen Gardiner Phelan Playhouse, 79 St. George St., Toronto, Ontario


July 01 at 08:15 PM
July 04 at 07:30 PM
July 06 at 05:00 PM
July 07 at 03:00 PM
July 09 at 12:15 PM
July 10 at 09:15 PM
July 11 at 03:30 PM

Connect with them:

Christian Smith – Writer/Performer    @ChristianVSmith

Sam Roulston – Writer/Performer      @SamWRoulston

Emma Davey – Writer/Performer       @TheEmmaJames

Gina Phillips – Writer/Performer         @GinaPhillips

Carson Gale – Writer/Performer         @Carson_Gale

Pete DeCourcy – Writer/Performer     @PeteDeCourcy

Kerry Griffin – Director                        @Kerry_Griffin

Nicola Dempsey – Musical Director

Georgia Brown – Stage Manager

Raul Delgado – Poster Design

Connect with us:

Shaina Silver-Baird – Writer             @SSilverBaird

In the Greenroom                            @intheGreenRoom_