Author: Thomas Swayne

Out There – Willkommen to Germany

The lights dim. A very dark stage with a proscenium far upstage. Behind a banquet table, with actors milling in their black tie best. A man picks up a video camera and begins to speak into it. As he does, the images are projected against the curtain hanging from the proscenium. As the images start to roll, a hard rock underscore begins to build and as the actors begin to filter through the passage further downstage, the rock music becomes deafening.

My heart beats, I’m prepped for the world of this show. The rock overture grows and so does my anticipation, the adrenaline coursing through my veins.

And then suddenly a segue into a Bollywood soundscape. A woman in her wedding white begins to dance the dance of the seven veils, 21st century style. She bumps her hip and you almost expect the rest of the party to dive in.

Instead a man launches into Sein oder Nicht Sein. This isn’t musical theatre. It’s Hamlet directed by Thomas Ostermeier at the Shaubuehne in Berlin.

I am currently in Germany where I’m learning quickly that everything is music(al) theatre. Of the three shows I’ve seen so far, everyone has luscious, integral and affective soundscaping. Though the Germans are very into their re-appropriations of “classic” texts, a significant element in this redesign is the incorporation of music and technology. Hamlet contained no singing, but it certainly employed music often to enhance audience affect. When Hamlet’s ghost appears, a bizarre otherworldly soundscaping ensues. When Hamlet and Horatio temporarily break the fourth wall for a bit of vaudevillian repartee, the music accompanies it. Coming from a Toronto culture, where music is so secondary, this investment in music-theatre is so refreshing.

I also saw a show called Kill Your Darlings, or, the Streets of Berladelphia at the Volksbuhne a couple of days ago. While I understood very little of what they were saying, the movement and music made it a very affective piece of theatre. A piece about the distinction between individual and chorus, the play was essentially a monologue backed by a group of non-speaking gymnasts. Though music was employed more sparsely than in Hamlet, it was still often used to set the whimsical tone and engage the audience on a guttural level.

The Germans really seem to understand the power music can hold, drawing on the way in which we employ music in our North American musical theatre model. If music is so affective, wouldn’t it be great if it was also a prime consideration in our construction of Canadian “straight” theatre? 

Thomas Tony Tuesdays – Damn Yankees

There is nothing I love better than a crazy high energy dance number. So for this week’s performance, I choose the 1994 Broadway Revival of Damn Yankees. More

Stephen Sondheim Playlist (according to Kelly)

Kelly Cameron is a freelance journalist, theatre nerd, film geek and red headed snippet. She loves Canadian musical theatre and believes that we have some of the best of the best in the great city of Toronto. When not trumpeting our triple threats or singing showtunes, you can find her tending to her alter ego which involves dabbling in the financial sector.

Choosing my five favourite Sondheim songs was incredibly difficult, mainly because there are so many that I love for such varied and complex reasons. I think that’s what makes him my favourite composer – choosing a favourite has always been an impossible task. At any given moment I could easily rattle off five favourite Sondheim tunes and they would always be different, which is one of my greatest joys. So I present you my five favourite Sondheim songs—for right now… More

Thomas Tony Tuesdays – Caroline, or Change

In the world we live in today, a recorded Broadway performance is only a few mouse clicks away on YouTube. Prior to this, we only had one opportunity a year to get an inside look into the world of Broadway: The Tony Awards. That one special time of the year when people from around the world could experience Broadway theatre for the first (and sometimes only) time in their life. While the hardcore fans love to predict and guess the winners of the awards, many of us watch for one reason only: the performances! More