Month: April 2014

Tony Tuesdays – Big: The Musical

This week’s Tony performance is Big: The Musical, one of Broadway’s most notorious flops.


Big was based on the hit 1988 Tom Hanks film of the same name and was expected to be a huge hit in the 1995/1996 Broadway season. Featuring direction by Mike Ockrent, music by David Shire, lyrics by Richard Maltby, Jr., and choreography by Susan Stroman, the show’s critical response was greatly divided. The production opened on April 28, 1996 and, although it was nominated for 5 Tony Awards (Best Actress, Supporting Actor, Book, Score, and Choreography), it failed to win any and close on October 13, 1996. The production is regarded as one of Broadway’s largest money-losers.

In a rare twist of fate, Big was drastically revised, re-written and re-scored and sent out on a tour in 1998. The touring production, directed by Eric D. Shaeffer, received high praise and is considered to have been a success.

The Tony performance of the number “Fun” re-creates an iconic scene from the movie: Josh Baskin, a teenager who’s been turned into an adult after making a wish at a carnival arcade game, charms MacMillan, the head of a toy company, and they dance on a giant piano in FAO Schwartz.

Producing Notes – A 5, 6, 7, 8!

I hope that all Toronto musical theatre fans have Tuesday, April 29 blocked off in their calendars. That evening, from 8:30PM-11:30PM at the Drake Underground (1150 Queen Street West) we are co-hosting – along with Theatre20 and Angelwalk TheatreAnd 5, 6, 7, 8: A Musical Theatre Dance Party.

Over the last few years, whenever I have gone to New York, I have tried to make sure that I was in town on a Monday night so I could go to “Musical Mondays” at Splash Bar. DJ John Bantay would curate an impressive video party of showtunes – clips from the Tony Awards, talk show clips, old movie musicals. Beyond getting to watch a fantastic archive of performances in a jam packed bar filled with shirtless bartenders, it was incredible to see the crowd dancing. And I mean DANCING. People who knew every step to “One” from A Chorus Line. A perfectly replicated “Dance At The Gym”. Trios who could perform the infamous “Turkey Lurkey Time” step by step. It was amazing. Splash Bar is no longer unfortunately. Musical Mondays has been sort of reinvented as “Monday Musicals” at XL Nightclub and the incredible DJ John Bantay has moved on.

When we were thinking up And 5, 6, 7, 8: A Musical Theatre Dance Party, we weren’t exactly attempting to replicate Musical Mondays in Toronto. But we were hoping that we could recreate some of its incredible energy and community building.

We decided to band together with Theatre20 and Angelwalk to put this event on to give musical theatre lovers in this city a chance to gather, meet and celebrate. We are always out in the market place fundraising, or selling tickets. What a refreshing joy to offer a fun night out (and who doesn’t need a little spring fun after THAT winter), without cover or ticket cost, and without any goal other than to see colleagues and audiences kick up their heels and enjoy some great music chosen by some pretty awesome guest DJs.

I hope to see you there. I promise you a dream ballet, a little Shipoopi and a fouette of a good time. 

Throwback Thursdays – Wayne Gwillim on John & Jen

As we bid adieu to Elegies: A Song Cycle, we share with you a final #tbt from the cast and creative team of this amazing show. Wayne Gwillim was an integral part of most of our earlier shows, including John & Jen, the second production we ever produced. Here are his memories of his time as music director on that show. 

john & jen (2006): Kyle Blair and Stephanie Roth


waynegwillim headshotI’m thinking this photo was taken during act two, judging by the tears on Stephanie’s face… such a heartbreaker! I fell in love with this show after seeing a production in Saskatchewan when I was a teenager. The show is a two-hander (which means there are only two actors involved), and is a vocal marathon – it’s almost entirely sung, with very little dialogue. I was always a little nervous about Steph’s final – and most difficult – song in the show (The Road Ends Here), but she always managed to knock it out of the park! I remember how she and Kyle filled the Walmer Centre Theatre with their incredible voices, and how my little fingers got a good workout at the keyboard – a challenging but immensely rewarding experience.


Throwback Thursdays – Sarah-Jeanne Hosie on Falsettos

This weekend is the closing weekend of Elegies: A Song Cycle, and we will be so sad to see this one go. So, as one last tribute to the amazing William Finn, today’s throwback is brought to your courtesy of Sara-Jeanne Hosie, or one of the “lesbians-from-next-door” from last year’s Falsettos. Like Elegies, Falsettos elegantly straddled the comic and the heartfelt, and featured some killer performers singing some incredible music. 


Sarah Gibbons, Sara-Jeanne Hosie in Falsettos (2013). Photography: Joanna Akyol
Sarah Gibbons, Sara-Jeanne Hosie in Falsettos (2013). Photography: Joanna Akyol
Sara-Jeanne HosieWhen I look at this photograph I am flooded with wonderful memories. The kind of memories that you hope to make in your theatre career. I see this photo of Dr. Charlotte and my wonderful love interest, Cordelia, and I am reminded firstly of what an inspiring, and safe rehearsal process we had. Robert, Reza, Tim, Mitchell and the whole Acting Up Stage Team welcomed their artists with open arms. It was a rehearsal process where we were invited to try anything, to fail, and to try something else… the BEST kind.
This photo brings back the first Skype call back I have ever experienced in my life… haha. Reza and Robert giving me direction through a computer monitor, so wonderfully bizarre and ultimately TOTALLY worth pushing my couch out of the way and hiring my friend Caitlin to play piano for:) This photo brings back the memory of playing a role that is only in the second act. This gifted me with being able to listen to act one, in awe, as my fellow cast mates threw their guts on the stage. This photo brings back the feeling that no singer ever takes a good photo when singing their heart out. Right? Yes. This photo brings back the unbelievable amount of crackers and food I consumed playing opposite a chef.
But mostly, this photo brings up the feeling that this piece, Falsettos, written by William Finn (who came to see it! side note-amazing), was and IS so important. Important to the people who have lost their loved ones to HIV. Important to the people brave enough to stand up and say who they are no matter what it costs them. Important to the children of gay parents in their journey of understanding and acceptance. And finally, important to those doctors who were there in the beginning, fighting to be heard by colleagues who didn’t care about the gay community. Those Doctors desperate to find answers and a cure for this mysterious disease. This is who I am in this picture, Dr.Charlotte, singing “Something Bad is Happening”. Truly honoured to have been given the chance to pay homage to those brave Doctors and to tell this story with such an amazing group of artists. 


Tony Tuesdays – Anything Goes

Everyone loves a good old fashioned toe-tapping showstopper… right?

Cole Porter’s Anything Goes has an incredible score full of memorable tunes, but nothing raises the roof quite like the titular tune, which also happens to be the Act 1 finale. A thin but entertaining plot filled with vaudevillian humour, zany disguises and romance all intertwine out on the ocean in this audience pleaser set on a cruise ship.

The show has had two critically lauded revivals, one in 1988 starring Patti LuPone and one in 2011 starring Sutton Foster; both beltresses played nightclub singer/evangelist Reno Sweeney. Check them out singing and tapping for their lives in these two terrific Tony performances: