“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.