The Show That Changed My Life

I think it’s a common thing when you’re a theatre fan to have that one show, or perhaps shows, that lit the spark that ignited your passion for the theatre. The show that led you to where you are, whether working in the theatre or just a straight up fan (like me). For me that show was the Mirvish production of We Will Rock You in Toronto.

For those of you who don’t know We Will Rock You is a musical that originated in London that uses the music of Queen, with a book written by Ben Elton. It is set in a future where rock music has been eliminated and creativity and individuality are outlawed. A group of rebels (the Bohemians) are searching for the lost rock with the help of Galileo (“The Dreamer”) and Scaramouche. (It’s really not as ridiculous as it sounds!!) It’s a show full of references, both pop culture and classic rock. The promotional video for the Toronto production can still be found on YouTube (I watched it earlier today!). I can’t tell you how many times I watched that video and I can still quote it along with the clips!

As I mentioned in my “Theatre Facts About Me” post earlier this week, I have seen We Will Rock You six times. I saw the show for the first time in 2007 on a trip to Toronto with my parents. We were already planning a trip that included going to see the Titanic exhibit that was at the Science Centre then one night before the trip we were watching Canadian Idol- yes, we were a household that watched Canadian Idol- and there was a performance by Yvan Pedneault, who played Galileo in We Will Rock You. My parents had already seen and liked the show and after watching that episode of Canadian Idol we decided to add the show to our trip!

We Will Rock You was playing at the Canon Theatre, which is now the Ed Mirvish Theatre, and I had never seen anything like it before in my life! I left the theatre feeling so happy and excited! It was exhilarating! As soon as I left the theatre I wanted to see it again and I’m pretty sure I listened to the London cast recording on my discman when we got back to the hotel after the show. (Canadian Idol and a discman, things have really changed in 9 years!) Luckily I have an aunt and uncle who were also fans of the show and I got to see it a second time that same summer with them! As you can see I didn’t waste any time in developing my obsession with this show (and theatre in general)! We Will Rock You kept getting extended at the Canon Theatre and then ended up moving to the Panasonic Theatre, where I saw it another two times!

I went to school in England for my first year of university and after first semester exams and before flying home for Christmas I decided to take a solo day trip to London to see a couple of West End shows. At the top of my list? We Will Rock You of course! The show originated in London, so of course I had to see there when I had the chance! Again I loved it, though I think I preferred the Toronto version, but that could also be because I was so used to the Toronto production and it meant so much to me.

The last time I saw the show was in 2014 when the North American tour had a stop in Toronto at the Ed Mirvish Theatre. Again, of course I had to see it!  It was also cool because Erica Peck, who had been Scaramouche in the Toronto production played Oz in the tour. It was sort of a full circle moment because 7 years later I got to see the show at the same theatre at which I saw it for the first time and this was also the year I graduated from university as a Drama major.

Having seen it so many times it was fun to see how the references in the show changed over time and to see the differences between the Toronto and London productions. I am still kind of surprised that the show never made the transition to Broadway.

It’s really because of We Will Rock You that I became interested in the musical theatre/Broadway world. Seeing the show opened up this whole new, wonderful world for me and I’ve never looked back. I saw other shows because cast members from We Will Rock You were in them (The Boys in the Photograph, for example) and I became more aware of the theatre scene in Toronto and New York. Not only did my interest in seeing theatre grow from my We Will Rock You experience, my interest in learning about and eventually creating theatre grew from it too. In high school I had not been interested in taking Drama; I took it in grade 9 Drama because I had to as it was combined with visual art, which I did want to take. But then We Will Rock You happened and my interest piqued. My high school didn’t have a lot of options by way of theatrical productions but every other year it offered a music theatre class in which the class writes and performs a jukebox musical, a class which I took in grade 12. I then went on to study Drama at university where I got to fall even more in love with the theatre, this time with a focus on the production side of things!

I do wish I had known at the time about the phenomenon that is stagedoor-ing. I would see pictures online of fans with the cast but I didn’t know how they did it! After one performance my aunt did get to meet Yvan Pedneault (who played Galileo) as she was waiting for her ride. My parents and I had seen the show with her that night but we had already gone back to our hotel. She had tried to call my dad’s cell to get us to come back, but it was still off from seeing the show! I was so close! But she did get his autograph for me, which I still have in a frame! Actually, if I ever get the chance, I would still love to meet anyone from that cast!

Even if I never do meet them and even if they never see this I do want to thank Mirvish and the Toronto company of We Will Rock You for the world they introduced to me! To Yvan Pedneault, Erica Peck, Valerie Stanois, Sterling Jarvis, Alana Bridgewater, Evan Buliung, and the rest of the cast and crew, THANK YOU!
I probably wouldn’t be where I am today without them and this show!
(Also thank you to my parents and aunt and uncle for supporting/enabling my fanatacism, I am forever grateful!)

We Will Rock You introduced me to what the theatre can do and what it can be. It also proves that the theatre really can change lives! Seeing this show remains to this day one of my all time favourite theatrical memories and it will always hold a special place in my theatre-filled heart!

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Theatre Facts About Me

If you’re going to be taking the time to read this blog, I figure you deserve to know a little about me. Rather than just giving my basic biography, however, I thought I would keep with the theme of the blog and keep the facts theatre related. So without further ado, I give you Theatre Facts About Me!

  1. The first “big,” Broadway-style show I saw was We Will Rock You, in Toronto.
  2. I have seen We Will Rock You 6 times. I saw the Toronto run 4 times, twice at the Canon Theatre (which is now the Ed Mirvish Theatre) and twice after it moved to the Panasonic Theatre. I saw the show once at the Dominion Theatre in London and I saw the North American tour when it came to Toronto to the Ed Mirvish Theatre.
  3. My first Broadway show was How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying starring Darren Criss.
  4. I saw a West End show before I saw a Broadway show. I went to school in England for a year in 2010/2011 and my first trip to NYC was in 2012.
  5. I have now been to New York City a total of 3 times. I have seen 8 Broadway shows, 1 Off-Broadway show, 1 concert at 54 Below (before it was Feinstein’s/54 Below) and 1 BroadwayCon.
  6. My favourite Broadway theatre (at the moment) is the Wintergarden. I have seen two shows there that I’ve loved (Rocky and School of Rock) and I like the layout of the theatre, which I’ve gotten to experience from both from the balcony and the orchestra.
  7. I spell theatre with an “-re” every time. I know some people spell it “-er” and some differentiate between the art form and the building, but I stick with “-re”.
  8. I graduated as a Drama Major from Queen’s Univeristy.
  9. In the theatre (student and community) I have worked on various crews (set/carp., sound, props), as a sound designer, a set designer, assistant technical director, and assistant stage manager
  10. My favourite show that I’ve worked on was a production of Spring Awakening. It was a new adaptaion of the play by Anya Reiss and I was the Assistant Stage Manager.
  11. Not surprisingly, more than half of the songs on my iPod are showtunes.
  12. My top 5 most played songs on iTunes right now are: “Role of a Lifetime”- Bare the Album- Act 1; “By My Side”- Godspell (The New Broadway Cast Recording); “We Beseech Thee”- Godspell (The New Broadway Cast Recording); “All for the Best”- Godspell (The New Broadway Cast Recording); “Beautiful City”- Godpsell (The New Broadway Cast Recording)
  13. Smash is one of my favourite TV shows and I’m sad we only got 2 seasons of it.
  14. It makes me happy when shows/movies/etc. about the theatre show stage managers calling cues.
  15. My current dream job is working in a theatre bookstore.

Theatre Awards Shows (Part 1)

(Note: I’m calling this post Part 1 because there will likely be another post on the topic once the Tonys come around!)

I’ve got to say it, I LOVE theatre awards shows! Really, the Tonys are the only awards show (broadcast on Canadian television) that I really care about. That is unless there is a musical theatre connection on another awards sh0w. I’m thinking Hamilton on the Grammys and the Les Mis movie cast performing on the Oscars (Samantha Barks and Aaron Tveit were the best part of that performance!). As far as I can remember the first time I watched the Tony awards was in 2008. I can remember working on a final history assignment while watching the red carpet.

I was working a draft of this post while watching the YouTube stream of the Olivier Awards and loving it! I’m less familiar with the London theatre scene, though I do try to keep up with it to an extent. (Thank you Twitter and YouTube!)

Something I noticed with the Oliviers was the variety of awards. Beyond just recognizing the standard plays and musicals that we get with the Tonys (which is really the only thing I have to compare it to) there were categories for “entertainment & family,” opera, and dance. I did notice that the Oliviers still give out an award for Sound Design, something I am still extremely disappointed that the Tonys cut. Maybe I’m missing something in the reason for cutting that particular award but I also know that sound design is extremely important in the theatre and I strongly feel that it deserves to be recognized. It’s because of this that I’m not entirely on board the recent addition of the Tony award for teaching. What bugs me is the teachers themselves are not working on Broadway directly and an award has been added for them but the award recognizing the sound designers, who are on working Broadway, no longer exists. Don’t get me wrong, I understand and agree that teachers are very important in the theatre world and it’s a good thing to recognize that, on this or any level. Something about it just seems a little off to me…

What I really love about watching these awards shows is getting to cheer on the shows and performers love; watching the performances (probably my favourite part); getting introduced to shows you might not know about or experience otherwise, especially when your don’t live in New York City, or London in the case of  the Oliviers (the Tonys are what introduced me to In The Heights and Lin Manuel Miranda, for which I will be forever grateful); and watching the winners and seeing their excitement as they accept their awards, whether it’s someone who’s won before, someone who’s been nominated but never won, or someone winning on their first nomination!

One thing I thought was really cool with the Oliviers was that there was a sort of pre-show before the ceremony, that was also streamed on YouTube! There were performances from the shows nominated for the Audience Choice award, including Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserables, and Matilda (Jersey Boys was also nominated and I think they performed later on but I did not see that performance), among other performances. It was certainly a good way to get you in a theatre-y mood for watching the awards themselves, even with the few hour’s gap between the streams of the pre-show and the awards.

Michael Ball hosted the Oliviers this year and I thought he did quite a good job. He was no Neil Patirck Harris hosting the Tonys, but no one is, besides Neil Patick Harris, so it seems unfair to make any sort of comparison there! I was happy to see In the Heights and Kinky Boots pick up awards! And if we just change the “O” in EGOT to Olivier instead of Oscar Lin Manuel Miranda would now qualify! (Side not for future reference: where would a “P”- Pulitzer- fit in EGOT? PEGOT? EPGOT? EGOPT?) After hearing about the London revival of Gypsy I wasn’t surprised to see it pick up it’s share of awards as well* and seeing Judi Dench get her record-breaking 8th Olivier was quite cool!

When it comes down to it, I really do love these awards shows! They leave me feeling happy and excited about the theatre. I can’t wait for the Tonys this year! I would like to see the Tonys take a page out of the Oliviers’ book and offer some sort of streaming option, whether on YouTube or some other site- available internationally of course!- so those without cable can still watch!! Bring on June 12th!!

(*After watching the Oliviers I watched the recording of that production of Gypsy on BroadwayHD and I can see why it won! Imelda Staunton is great in it!)

Intro: The Broadway Lover’s Guide to Not Living Near Broadway

If you’re taking the time to read this blog 1) Thank you! and 2) You are probably a Broadway (or theatre in general) fan! (If you’re not, you might be in the wrong place, but by all means, continue reading! We might just make a Broadway fan of you yet!)

Now the thing about Broadway is that it is only physically located in one city, in one country, on the whole planet. While there are other theatre “hubs” around the world (London’s West End, for example) there is only 1 Broadway. And I’m sure there are a lot of you who, like me, don’t live in that one city or even that one country. Living in Ontario, Canada, I’m not actually that far from New York City but a lot of the time I feel as though it might as well be on the other side of the world. That being said, Broadway still plays a HUGE role in my life and I’ve decided to use this first post on my new blog to share with you, the readers (if there actually are any of you) a general idea of how this Broadway enthusiast stays enthusiastic away from the Great White Way. (I will likely go into more detail about some, if not all, of these things in future posts, so consider this a general list of sorts!)

  • The Internet/Social Media
    • This is a big one! I keep up with all the Broadway news by following Broadway.com, Broadwayworld.com, Playbill and more on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. A lot of my Twitter feed is taken up by various theatre artists, insiders, and specific show accounts. YouTube is also an important source for watching videos posted by the above mentioned sites, past Tony Awards performances, show clips, videos from Broadway events and concerts, etc.
  • Cast Recordings
    • I get most of my cast recordings from iTunes, buy CDs occasionally, and listen to them online (full albums &/or playlists) with Spotify, Accuradio, and 8Tracks. Cast recordings serve multiple purposes for me: they give me the chance to experience shows I have never, and may never see live; and they allow me to relive shows I have been fortunate enough to see. It will probably come as no surprise to hear that more than half my iPod is filled with showtunes (what else would you expect from someone writing a Broadway blog?!)
  • Books (both fiction and non-fiction)
    • I love reading and I love reading books about the theatre. Novels, coffee-table books, history-related books, biographies/autobiographies, etc., I’m interested in it all!
  • Movies & Filmed Productions
    • I love a good movie musical! I also love the number of professionaly filmed productions available now- whether on DVD, at the movie theatre (National Theatre Live I’m looking at you), on TV (the main programming I care about on PBS now, when I have cable that is). Similar to cast recordings they give me the chance to experience shows I may never see otherwise and let me re-experience shows with which I am already familiar
  • Local and Touring Theatre
    • this includes student, community, amateur, professional and touring productions. Due to budgetary restrictions I don’t get to see as much or as much variety of productions as I would like and lately my viewing is mainly focused on the programming offered by Mirvish (the big theatre company in Toronto that is responsible for bringing in the big touring productions as well producing Canadian productions of popular musicals, among other programming)
  • Podcasts
    • right now my podcast listening is mainly focused on the Theater People Podcast and The Ensemblist (both of which are amazing!) though I am always looking to expand my listening options!

Like I said, that’s a general idea of how I get my Broadway fix wherever I am, with or without internet (though it’s certainly a lot better with internet!!) and I look forward to sharing more of my thoughts on these and other things on this blog in the future!

Basically my main goal with this whole endeavour is to share and express my love for Broadway, and theatre in general, and to have fun and be creative in the process!

If you’re feeling up to it I would love to bring you on this Broadway-filled journey with me! Join me won’t you?! [insert “Magic to Do” reference here]