The Woodsman

I just watched The Woodsman on Broadway HD and wow! It. Is. Stunning. If you get a chance to watch it, do. The Woodsman tells the origin story (or a version of the origin story) of the Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz. The staging in beautiful and the use of puppets incredible. It’s done so simply but also so intricately.

The set is quite simple and moved around by the actors. There is a single violin player on stage playing throughout while the performers provide other sound effects, for example clapping to indicate the sound of chopping wood and whistling for birdsong.

The lighting design is beautiful, with the added use of handheld flashlights throughout to great effect. They flashlights are used as an indication of magic and the simple act of shining them on a pair of sparkly shoes shows the power of the slippers. There is also a beautiful moment where flashlights are used as fireflies.

There is no dialogue in the piece, except at the beginning which sets up the story and the location, and one other particular moment. Even so everything, every emotion and thought, is conveyed so clearly through the actions, the sounds, both man-made and from the violin. Even through the puppets. Instrumental and vocal music help to set the scene and the mood and emotion.

Puppets are used in a variety of ways including for the Witch, the Woodsman (once he’s been turned to tin), a very intricate, multi-part tiger, and some very effective crows. Some of the puppets require only one person but some are multi-person use puppets. All are amazing to watch.

It’s great that there are filmed productions like this. Ones that show the variety of what theatre can be and do. I’m a sucker for the traditional musical but I also love to see different types of productions like this and I love that things like BroadwayHD are making these recordings available and more accessible. If you get a chance to watch this production, I would highly recommend it!

 

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Great Theatre Is Great

I recently returned from a very theatre-filled trip to New York City and wanted to take a moment to share some of my thoughts and experiences from the shows I saw. I was travelling with a friend and we got to New York on a Tuesday morning and left on the Friday. In that time we saw 4 shows (and Stars in the Alley). So all in all a great trip.

*Disclaimer: I loved every show on this trip so the following is just going to be a lot about why I loved them. It’s hard to accurately express all of my thoughts about these shows in a cohesive way so please forgive me if I repeat myself, I just really love these shows!*

Tuesday Night (May 30th): The Little Foxes

First up was Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes. This was my first time seeing a play on Broadway (I’d only been to see musicals on past NYC trips). I was not familiar with the play going into it but was very excited. This production stars Laura Linney and Cynthia Nixon and on top of that, they alternate their roles. We saw it with Laura playing Regina and Cynthia playing Birdie (the roles for which they received their respective Tony nominations this year). Both women were excellent in the roles we saw them play. The rest of the cast too were so good! I would also love to see it again though with the women in the alternate roles because they both brought so much to their characters as I saw it and the characters are so distinct that it’s hard to picture them portrayed differently (I have heard that their portrayals are very different). There are actually some clips online of Laura and Cynthia each playing Birdie in the same scene and it’s interesting even in that short clip to see the variations. I do wonder too how the other actors’/characters’ performances change with each role switch (obviously the script and staging would be the same but there would be other nuances that would change/differ).

The set was beautiful too. It was one of those sets of a beautiful interior of a house that doesn’t change physically, aside from doors opening to reveal other rooms but then combined with some excellent lighting design there were some really beautiful moments. At the beginning of Act 2 there was one particular moment when the shutters were opened to let light into the house and the light shone in from the side looking just like sunlight streaming in through a window, it was beautiful.

Then to top it off we had an excellent stage door experience. All of the cast members who came out were incredibly nice and we even got pictures with Laura Linney (probably the most famous person with whom I’ve gotten a photo!)

Wednesday Matinee (May 31st): Bandstand

I went to TKTS to get a ticket for the Wednesday matinee and ended up with a 2nd row, centre orchestra seat for Bandstand. I absolutely loved this show! It’s one of my new favourites! It had been a dream of mine to see Laura Osnes live in a show and that dream was fulfilled on this trip. Her performances as Julia Trojan was beautiful in every way. I watched Grease You’re the One That I Want seeing saw Laura win that and have pretty much been following her career ever since. Now I can finally say I’ve seen her in person, and then meeting her at the stage door was the icing on the cake! I am also a big fan of Corey Cott (who I also saw as Jack Kelly in Newsies) and was so happy to see him in a show again (and from a lot closer this time as I was in the back row of the mezzanine when I saw Newsies!). 

As was the case with most of the shows this trip I didn’t really know much about Bandstand beforehand but I loved every moment of it! The whole cast was amazing- principals and ensemble alike. All of the guys in the Donny Nova Band (Alex Bender, Joe Carroll, Brandon J. Ellis, James Nathan Hopkins & Geoff Packard) gave incredible performances. They brought it all, including playing their own instruments. And Corey and Laura- I don’t even really know what to say! The performance of the song “Welcome Home” in Act 2 is one of those performances I won’t forget. Laura’s vocals combined with the song itself (the music and lyrics), the performance from the band, the staging, it made for a powerful and beautiful moment.

I loved the set too and I really liked the contrast between the main set of the club with set pieces (chairs/table/piano/etc.) moving off and on for different locations and the flashier, “modern,” look of the New York City sets in Act 2. Of course I had forgotten until afterwards that David Korins is the set designer for Bandstand (some of his other shows being Hamilton, Dear Evan Hansen, and War Paint, to name a few), and I was already a fan of his work, so I’m not surprised I liked this set!

The costumes too were beautiful. I would love to wear any of Julia’s outfits! (Also, is it in Laura’s contract that she get a cool costume change in her shows?!)

I was so excited to see them perform on the Tonys this year despite not being nominated for Best Musical! And Andy Blankenbuehler won the Tony for Best Choreography!! Now I just have to wait for the cast recording to be released later this month!

Wednesday Night (May 31st): Anastasia

I grew up loving the movie Anastasia (the cartoon from the 90’s) and in fact, still love that (not Disney) movie. It was actually this show around which our New York trip was planned.

I knew going  in to it that there were changes in the musical from how things happen in the movie (for example, Rasputin is not the bad guy). Even with the changes I really really enjoyed this show. There is something great about hearing/seeing some of your favourite songs from childhood (ie “Journey to the Past,” “Once Upon a December”) live onstage. I will admit though I do wish “In the Dark of the Night” could still be included in the stage production- that song would be amazing live! I was happy to hear though that some of the music from that particular song was used in a couple of different places in the musical. (It almost made up for it being cut). I can also see why the various changes were made, it does make it all a bit more realistic and all of the changes worked in the show.

The design of the show was beautiful. The costumes were stunning (the blue dress!) and the set was beautiful with extremely well-executed uses of projections. “Once Upon a Decemeber” was particularly great for this, as well as the scene where Anya, Dmitry, and Vlad are on the train. So cool!

The casting for Anastasia was very well done. Christy Altomare and Derek Klena were excellent as Anastasia and Dmitry, respectively. Seriously, these characters are in good hands with these two! And they are both incredibly nice in person!

This show had a lot to live up to in my books and I am so happy to say I was not disappointed!

Thursday Night (June 1st): Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812

I have never seen or experienced anything like this show before. It was amazing. I knew that it was based on a very specific section of War and Peace but I have never read the book. I had also only heard a couple of the songs beforehand. Once I knew I was seeing the show I decided to hold off listening to the full cast album.

It’s hard to really explain Great Comet, it’s just such a different show, in basically every way- the design, the staging, the style of the music, it’s so unique, but I loved it for that! I’ve been listening to the cast album on repeat lately and I just keep loving it more and more. I do wonder though how I would feel about it if I hadn’t seen the show first (or at all) because it is so different. As it is though I absolutely love it! (How many times can I say it?!)

The cast. Oh that cast (and band). Amazing. There were so many unique voices too. It’s not you’re typical “musical theatre-y” sounding cast. And there are so many of them! Principals, ensemble, roving musicians, non-roving musicians and whatever other combinations of roles. Denee Benton (I was actually at BroadwayCon when they announced the casting of Denee as Natasha), Brittain Ashford, and Lucas Steele, to name a few, were amazing. And yes, Josh Groban is great!!! A few times I tried to count everyone when it looked like they were all on stage but I don’t think I ever counted them all! It was so impressive to see them all scattered around and/or grouped together in the space. There was always so much to look at between the actors and musicians and the design elements, and that’s just in the places we could see from our seats in the rear mezzanine! (Who knows what we missed happening on the orchestra level!)

All of the design elements came together to create an incredibly visually stunning piece of theatre but it was the set and the lighting design that really stood out to me. If you are not already aware, the set for The Great Comet is everywhere in the theatre. Audience members are also sitting on the stage and in pockets of space throughout the “stage,” with paths moving through the seating on both the orchestra and mezzanine levels, with staircases on either side going from the orchestra to the mezzanine. The performers use all of this playable space and the layout lends itself well to making it a very immersive and interactive experience. If you want to know just how interactive it can be consider that we were sitting in the very last row of the mezzanine (not on an aisle) and during a song in Act 2 one of the performers who was moving along the aisle, saw that I was holding a wine cup and reached over with her cup to “cheers” with me with! (It definitely made the $14 wine more worth it! That, and the souvenir cup!)

The lighting design too was gorgeous. There were multiple, beautiful chandeliers hanging from the ceiling as well as numerous single hanging lightbulbs that could be controlled individually both in terms of brightness and height. These lights created some really beautiful effects. On top of that there were also little tables scattered throughout the audience, each table having a light on it, which were also cued in with the rest of the lighting cues, turning on and off, getting brighter and dimmer, throughout the show. I was not surprised at all to see the Scenic Design and Lighting Design Tonys go to Great Comet last night (to Mimi Lien and Bradley King, respectively)!

At times it’s a bit of a weird show, but in a good way and it’s such an experience. Now I just need to see it again from the orchestra and the stage seating!

Trips like this, filled with great shows (and great stage door experiences!), just make me so happy. It was a nice change for me not knowing a lot about all of the shows I was seeing beforehand. It was also exciting because it is a goal of mine to see a show at every Broadway theatre and because of this trip I’ve added 4 more theatres to the list, bringing me up to 11! I can’t wait to go back to NYC and add more theatres to the list!

Theatre & Happiness

As you can tell from the very fact that I have a theatre blog, theatre makes me very happy. Some of my favourite memories or life moments have taken place at the theatre both working on shows and sitting in the audience. Last night was one of those nights!

Last night I went to a screening of Newsies at Cineplex. It. Was. Amazing. As soon as it started and we saw Jeremy Jordan and Andrew Keenan-Bolger on stage and they were singing “Santa Fe (Prologue)” I was just so happy (as embarrassing as it is to admit, I even teared up a little bit, I was so happy). Sitting there in the dark movie theatre watching one of my favourite musicals (which was reaffirmed with this screening) on the big screen, it was the happiest I’d felt for a little while.

I think it’s one of the best feelings, the happiness that accompanies a great theatrical experience (including those theatrical experiences that are filmed). Yes, I’ve had some less-good experiences at the at the theatre but thankfully the really bad have been few and far between.

After a good theatrical experience energized and inspired, in a way. And then some times, like last night, you just need to be reminded of how much you love a show and why. It’s also why I love seeing shows multiple times or rewatching the filmed versions. Each time you get to re-live the excitement and happiness of the experience and sometimes notice new things and new reasons to love it even more.

It’s a form of escapism and last night I got to escape into the world of Newsies.  It’s true that not all great theatrical experiences are “happy” ones and the not happy ones can be just as great. But it is really fun to enjoy those happy moments.

So thank you Newsies for making me very, very happy!

____

A few quick thoughts on the Newsies movie:

  • I love that they brought back Jeremy Jordan, Kara Lindsay, Ben Fanhauser, Andrew Keenan-Bolger, Tommy Bracco and others, combining OBC with the touring cast
  • I love that they increased the size of the cast. The numbers were impressive enough and then they add in more cast members, wow!
  • Where were the girlsies?
  • “Once and For All” still gives me chills (if you’ve seen the show, you know which part I’m talking about)
  • Andrew Keenan-Bolger singing “Letter From the Refuge” was great!!
  • I just love this show so much and am hoping for DVD or digital release so I can watch it over and over again!!!

Live in the Comfort of Your Own Home

In the last year there have been two historic live stream events in the theatre world. Both out of NYC. The first was the Off-Broadway musical, Daddy Long Legs, back in December, which became the first ever Off-Broadway production to offer a live stream of a performance (with the bonus of being free of charge). Then on June 30th, the Broadway musical She Loves Me became the first Broadway show to offer a live stream, this time through Broadway HD (with a cost of $9.99 (American)). I was fortunate enough to catch both of these live streams and both experiences were amazing!

I didn’t really know anything about Daddy Long Legs before seeing the live stream. I was home with no plans and there was a live stream of an Off-Broadway musical, so I thought I might as well check it out! And I am so glad I did! I loved the show and the cast (Megan McGinnis and Adam Halpin, who are actually married in real life). Once the stream had ended, I just felt so happy. I got to experience a new musical live, right from my home. For this stream they were showing it a few different times for the benefit of different time zones and there was another showing right after the first finished. I ended up watching the first act again right then. (I was going to watch the whole thing again but it was getting late and I was tired so decided it was best to stop halfway through.) After seeing that live stream I bought the cast recording on iTunes and I even ended up buying the book of the same title on which the musical is based.

Similarly, I didn’t know much about She Loves Me going in to it, though, admittedly, I knew more about it than I did Daddy Long Legs. I had heard “Vanilla Ice Cream,” had seen some show clips and the Tony performance, and I learned from the Tonys that it was based on the same play on which You’ve Got Mail is based (also that You’ve Got Mail is based on a play). Of course I was also familiar with many of the cast members- and what a cast! Laura Benanti, Zachary Levi, Gavin Creel, Jane Krakowski, Andrew Kober and then the rest of the cast too. So many talented people in one show! Unlike Daddy Long Legs, the live stream of She Loves Me was not free, but I was more than willing to pay the $9.99 (American) for the opportunity to see the (first) live stream of a Broadway musical. It was worth every penny! And thankfully it worked out that I wasn’t working that night!

The She Loves Me stream was available to watch online for 10 days after the initial stream. It was originally only supposed to be 7 days but they extended its availability, which was alright by me! In that time (including the initial stream) I watched the show 3 times in full and also partially watched it a couple times. It was just so good! And again, it was one of those shows that left me feeling so happy! For me, that is honestly one of the best kinds of happy- the happiness that comes from falling in love with a new show, especially one that has a very feel-good way about it.

As someone who is not in NYC and can’t just go see these shows any time I’d like, I think these live streams, as well as other filmed production, offer a great opportunity both to give the shows more exposure and to give us, the distant Broadway fans, the chance to see these shows. After the Daddy Long Legs stream Producer Ken Davenport posted a link with the viewing statistics from the stream. After looking at that and from my own experiences, I don’t really see how you could look at these streams as anything but a good thing.

To be honest, I feel this way about pretty much all of the filmed productions that are available. I love the way they make theatre more accessible. There are the productions that are released on DVD (for example Rent, Billy Elliot, Into the Woods, etc.) and there are those shown in movie theatres (for example the National Theatre Live productions). I have gotten to see and experience a lot of shows that I would not have gotten to see otherwise because of these productions. I know and acknowledge that it’s not the same as seeing a show live, but for me at least, I still feel a similar excitement watching these productions to that which I feel when I’m at the theatre. In a lot of cases these filmed productions are the only chance that I’ll get to see the shows and for those that I have been fortunate enough to see live, if they are available on DVD or Broadway HD or anything like that, it gives me the chance to re-live those experiences. Now that they’ve started with these live streams, I think it really adds to the experience because you get the chance to watch the show live! The same time you are watching it on whatever screen or device you know it is happening right then onstage! I do hope it is something that will continue with other shows. That being said I know it can’t, and frankly shouldn’t, be something that every show does, but every so often, to offer a live Broadway or Off-Broadway show to the world, well, where’s the downside to that? I know in my case seeing these lives streams and filmed productions actually increases my desire to see the shows live in person. Unfortunately Daddy Long Legs and She Loves Me have both now closed (oh how I wish I could have seen both of them!), but if there is ever a production of either playing near me, because I had the opportunity to see and fall in love with them through their live streams, it is very likely that I would attend a performance if I could!

I do hope that the recordings of Daddy Long Legs and She Loves Me have a future. Broadway HD did indicate that She Loves Me would be back on the site after a time, so I really hope it will be (and soon!). There hasn’t been anything official said about the future of Daddy Long Legs but I’m still holding out hope that it will live on! A DVD release of both shows would be ideal! Until I’m given reason to believe otherwise I will continue to look forward to the day I can watch these recordings again (and, preferably, whenever I want)!

“It’s the Eye of the Tiger”

I want to take a moment to talk about Rocky. Yes, that Rocky, the musical based on the Sylvester Stallone movie.

I want to start off by stating right off the bat that I LOVED this show! And seeing it was one of the best experiences I’ve had at the theatre! I basically went in to this show blind. I had not yet seen the movie and I hadn’t really heard much about the musical. Why then did I see this particular show you might ask? Well, this was on my second trip to NYC (I was with my mom this time), in the summer of 2014. We weren’t sure what time we would get to the city, but had hoped to make it in time for a show (similar to the BroadwayCon trip this trip was Thursday-Monday). We did make it! So we went to TKTS to see what was available. We first tried for Mamma Mia (which I have yet to see live, but my mom had seen in Toronto) then Rock of Ages (which we had both seen in Toronto) but we didn’t really like the options for either of those. After looking at the board again and talking to one of the employees, we decided to give Rocky a try. It was the best decision of the whole trip (and it was a great trip all around)!

I think it actually worked out well for me not knowing the story going in to it. For instance I didn’t know if Rocky was going to win at the end or not. It was kind of refreshing and exciting to not know. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still exciting to see shows with which I am already familiar, but with this one, I liked not knowing.

The cast of Rocky was incredible. Andy Karl in the title role was amazing. Every part of his performance was excellent- singing, acting, physicality, all of it. Margo Seibert’s Adrian was wonderful and a perfect match for Karl’s Rocky. The fitness level of the entire cast was very impressive; it was very clearly a physically demanding show- the gym and training sequences, wow! It was also quite exciting for me to see Wallace Smith in the show too because I had actually seen him in Godspell on Broadway (Godspell having been my 2nd Broadway show). With Rocky just being my 3rd Broadway show it was my first experience actually seeing someone in two different Broadway musicals, and that was really cool for me! (If you haven’t yet figured it out, it’s little things like that that make me really happy!)

I also love the music in the show! Thank you Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty! My favourite numbers include “My Nose Ain’t Broken,” “Raining,” “Happiness,” and “Keep on Standing.”

Now, what I really want to tell you about from this show is the set! WOW (yes, a genuine, all-caps-deserving WOW!) I’d never seen anything like it before in my life! The whole show was filled with impressive set pieces including the pet shop with glowing fish tanks, the iconic stairs, the meat packing factory, and the use of screens really added to the effect, especially during the training sequences. But what really stood out above all else  was the boxing ring for the final fight between Rocky and Apollo Creed.

I was sitting in the balcony for this show so I was seeing all of this from above. It started with the boxing ring moving out to the front edge of the stage and then a certain section of the audience in the orchestra (I couldn’t see how many rows it was from my seat, and there was too much going on to bother looking too closely) moved up onto the stage to bleachers that had appeared behind the ring. The ring then moved out beyond the stage into/over the recently vacated seats. And suddenly it became theatre in the round! There was even a sort of jumbo-tron above the ring with video feed from the stage/ring. It was incredible! I was literally sitting on the edge of my seat! I couldn’t remember the last time I had felt that excited at the theatre, I was actually shaking with excitement. There was just something special about this show! Then they had the final boxing match. I don’t know exactly how long it was but I think it was quite similar to the movie (which I have since seen). It’s certainly an experience I won’t forget!

I was also really glad when I looked back and saw that Christopher Barreca won the 2014 Tony for Best Scenic Design for a Musical! Totally deserved, in my opinion!

As I mentioned before, I have since seen the move. Actually I’ve seen the first three Rocky movies now, and I do plan on watching the rest of them. As I was watching the movie it struck me how close the musical really was to it. I was quite impressed. It’s always hard when it comes to adaptations, you never really know how close they’ll be to the source material and sometimes the differences matter and sometimes they don’t. But boy was Rocky close!

I don’t know if Rocky will ever come back anywhere, but if it does, I would recommend it, whether or not you are familiar with the movie! I went in blind an it worked out wonderfully for me, and it has made me a fan of the movie too. It’s one of those shows, that has a bit of everything; it brings the spectacle but also brings the story, characters, and the music. For me, the spectacle of it all just added to the experience. I loved it from the beginning, way before the boxing ring moved into the orchestra (which also never even crossed my mind as something that could happen until it did). I think all the parts came together really well for Rocky, the technical and the story and character driven elements and moments. You’re rooting for Rocky and Adrian, and then Adrian gets her moment and stands up to Paulie. It’s great! And then you get the scenes like the training sequences and the boxing match that require a lot of technology but it all felt very much a part of the story. For me, it wasn’t just technology and spectacle for the sake of technology and spectacle. It was very much a part of the whole experience and I for one thought it was very well done.

It was actually closing weekend when we were there and there was a part of me that was tempted to see it a 2nd time that same trip. We didn’t, but if I ever get the chance I would see Rocky again in a heartbeat!

rocky

“‘Cause Everything is Rent”

(It’s another 2 blog posts week!)

Last week was the 20th anniversary of Rent opening on Broadway and I, like so many others, am a huge fan, so I thought I would take the chance to talk about this much-loved show and my experiences with it!

I first experienced Rent after the movie had already been out for a while. I think this was also quite near the beginning of my musical obsession. I remember renting the movie from Roger’s Video, when I was finding out more about musicals and Broadway and watching more movie musicals (something which I’m still always looking to do). I have since lost track of how many times I’ve seen the movie; it is one of my favourite movie musicals, if not my favourite. The “Filmed Live on Broadway” version has also gotten some wear on it. (I also LOVE that there is a “Filmed Live on Broadway” version!!!)

I have been fortunate enough to see Rent live twice, though, unfortunately, never on Broadway. I think the first time I saw it was in 2008 when it played at the Sony Centre in Toronto. (I had to look it up trying to find when it played there and I have to say it’s not really an easy show to google, particularly when you can rent space at the theatre!). The cast of this tour included Jed Resnick as Mark and Heinz Winckler as Roger. I absolutely loved seeing it live! I remember really like the set, with the “Christmas tree” and the use of the space. I’ll admit I did not “moo” with Maureen that time (I was too self-conscious).

The second time I saw the show was when “The Broadway Tour” starring Anthony Rapp and Adam Pascal came to the Canon/Ed Mirvish Theatre in Toronto in 2010. Getting to see those two in the roles they had originated, and played in the movie, was an incredible experience and it still makes me happy to think about it. It also still adds a level of excitement to listening to the  cast recordings, both OBC and movie. (And I did “moo” this time, albeit, quietly!)

I remember one particular moment that hit me the first time I saw Rent liveIt was during “Life Support” at the line “because reason says I should’ve died three years ago.” In the movie as Gordon is singing and you can hear another voice come in for that line, but I didn’t really understand why. Onstage, though, while Gordon is singing, it’s Roger who joins in for that line; you see him onstage join in. Suddenly that “random” voice in the movie made more sense and it made that line/scene hit even harder because I hadn’t been expecting it. It still gets me pretty much every time, that and the end of “Contact” with everyone saying, “It’s over,” and Collins’s final, “It’s over.”

I love both the movie and the live production and I do feel that, as far as movie adaptations go, Rent is pretty darn good, especially when it comes to casting! I do wish they had kept the second half of “Goodbye Love” in the movie though. At least it’s in the deleted scenes! I also really enjoy “Christmas Bells” in the musical, but I can understand why it’s excluded from the movie.

The more I’ve learned about Rent and Jonathan Larson, the more love and respect I have for it and him and everything the show and its writer have done. I still love learning new things about the show and everyone involved with it.

This show (especially the movie) introduced me to so many more excellent actors as well, such as Anthony Rapp. I even went on to read his book/autobiography Without You and saw his one-man show of the same title, based on the book, when it came to Toronto as part of the “Off-Mirvish” season a few years ago. I love how each new musical opens up this whole world of possibilities, even from the fan perspective, like inspiring you to look up other things the actors have done, other things the creative team have done, and opening your mind up to different styles of musical theatre or theatre in general.

In January of this year, I attended BroadwayCon (there will likely be a post coming up about this whole event in the near future) and there was a Rent anniversary panel, “10,514,880 Minutes: How Do You Measure 20 Years of Rent?”. The panel included Anthony Rapp (who also acted as moderator), Daphne Rubin-Vega, Wilson Jermaine Heredia, Rodney Hicks, Fredi Walker-Browne, Aiko Nakasone, Barnard Telsey, Marlies Yearby, James C. Nicola, Julie Larson McCollum, and Cynthia O’Neal. It was one of the highlights of the convention for me! And then Daphne called Jesse L. Martin via FaceTime and it was wonderful! Hearing all of those people talk about the show- their connections to it, how they became involved, sharing stories about the show and Jonathan- it was amazing! Rent has meant so much to so many people, those who have been involved with the show and it’s various incarnations over the years and the fans, for the 20 years now. It was so cool to be in a room with with people who were there from the beginning and filled with I don’t even know how many fans! I’m so glad I got to be there for that! It’s certainly an experience I won’t forget!

Rent really did make a huge impact on the industry. Hearing how the show and Jonathan Larson have influenced other successful shows and people in the industry, like Lin Manuel Miranda for instance, it shows the power that musicals and the theatre can, and do, have. Rent opened up so many more possibilities for the world of musical theatre and I think we can all be grateful for that!

Thank you Jonathan Larson.

No Day But Today!

Rent Stuff

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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