Sing and Tell it to the WORLD!

akiva romer-segal, colleen dauncey, dan abrahamson, nicky phillips
Too often I have been in situations where people have asked me what sort of theatre I focused on in school and when I reply, “Canadian theatre and musical theatre… and Canadian musical theatre,” they look at me, perplexed, and say, “Canadian musical theatre? Does that actually exist?” Often, upon reflection these people will follow up their initial reaction with, “Oh, yeah. Anne of Green Gables,” and, more recently, “Right, The Drowsy Chaperone,” and the odd theatre academic will follow up with “Billy Bishop Goes to War.” Yes, we know that Canadian musical theatre is not quite as predominant as American musical theatre or British musical theatre, but just because you have never heard of the slew of Canadian musicals that have been written, or of the Canadian writers who have written them, does not mean that they do not exist. Indeed, it does not even mean that they don’t have all the potential for success of Les Miserables or Fiddler on the Roof. It just means that they have not had the same opportunities for development and exposure as their compatriots to the South.
And yet, here in the midst of Toronto, there is a small- but mighty- special space called Scriptlab, which is dedicated to developing Canadian Musical Theatre, and twice a month, in a small room in a basement, it facilitates an evening showcasing the music of up-and-coming Canadian musical theatre composers and lyricists. I attended one such evening last night and I returned home inspired and filled with hope for the future of organic, vibrant, unique musicals to be created, cultivated and performed in this country, following valiantly in the lead of such shows as The Drowsy Chaperone and My Mother’s Lesbian Jewish Wiccan Wedding.
The evening was hosted by Tricia Lackey and Adam White who kept the tempo of the evening lively and also asked each of the composers/lyricists (Nicky Phillips, Akiva Romer-Segal and Colleen Dauncey, and Dan Abrahamson) a series of very intelligent questions about the process of writing, the inspiration behind both entire musicals and individual songs, and also about how each of them came to writing musicals in the first place. Lackey and White are strongly committed to promoting Canadian artists and their work, and it is incredibly encouraging to see the potential that they have created with Sing and Tell to bring these musicals into their much-deserved limelight.
The first composer to take to the piano was Nicky Phillips. Mark Allan and Jesse Martyn sang a song from her musical (written with Robert Gontier) In Flanders’ Fields which just toured with Smile Theatre, which had gorgeous music and was a lovely duet between two male friends in the trenches. It was her second song, sung by Allan, also written with Gontier, which brought the house down. It is from their musical called Central Park Tango: The Penguin Musical which is based on the true story of male penguins and mates, Roy and Silo, who were given an egg (baby Tango) by the zookeepers of Central Park Zoo after they kept trying to incubate rocks. The song Allan sang is called “A Family of my Own” and it is charming and sweet and beautiful. I cannot wait for this musical to be produced, I think it should be strongly encouraged for every child in this country to see a production of it because it has such a strong, beautiful message of acceptance and love told in an utterly endearing way. I am so excited and proud that this show exists and that it is Canadian! Kapow! Phillips is also working on a musical with lyricist Thomas Morgan Jones based on the life and work of Marie Tussaud (of wax museum fame) and Tracy Michailidis and George Masswohl sang a beautiful duet from this show entitled “All of Paris.” Firstly, Michailidis and Masswohl should sing duets together more often; their voices suit one another like magic, and this song is gorgeous. Phillips’ music has captured a distinctly Parisian flavor with a rich melodic quality. It sounds like it is going to be a beautiful show.
Secondly, Akiva Romer-Segal and Colleen Dauncey’s music was featured. Sara Farb sang “I Want It Now,” which debuted at her Cabaret Songs By People I Dig last February. Romer-Segal and Dauncey’s music does suit Farb’s voice especially well, and captures a distinct persona of the urban, independent, impatient female blazing wittily through a life fraught with obstacles that Farb plays with such panache. She also sang a very funny song about The Walk of Shame, which had a nice balance between acrid wit and charming heart. The lyrics of Romer-Segal and Dauncey’s songs are especially tight and continually clever, especially in the patter song that Cameron Carver performed (beautifully), which had an unexpectedly dark twist at the end. Gabi Epstein sang an ode to the subway which showed off the loveliness of her high register especially well.
Lastly, Dan Abrahamson came to the piano and Oliver Bailey and Linnea Currie-Roberts sang a deliciously self-conscious song called “The Perfect Brew” from his musical A Proper Cup of Coffee written with Daniel Falk which is a love duet teeming and filled to the brim with cheesy musical theatre goodness. Rachel Brittain then gave a wonderful performance of “Now It’s Personal” from the Abrahamson/Brittain/Falk musical Funny Business. The musical was described by Abrahamson as, “Nunsense meets The Office”, a tagline which, I think, pretty much sells itself. This song has a distinct pop music and contemporary musical theatre feel to it and I can see its immediate appeal to those who enjoy belting along to such cast albums as The Toxic Avenger and Legally Blonde. Finally, we were given a real treat with a performance of “Make Them See The Light”, from the Sheridan Hit Musical Tunnel Vision and its two original stars, Billy Lake and Jeigh Madjus, belting out a wonderfully fun gay torch song which ends up being all about the harmony on the last note and all about Jeigh Madjus’ falsetto. Incredible.
It can seem dejecting when one knows that so many incredibly talented artists live and work in Canada, and yet, the public still has heard of a scarce few Canadian musicals. However, with the help of Scriptlab and its Sing and Tells, it seems probable that within the next few years Toronto will see an explosion of new talent bursting on the national (and hopefully international) scene proving that from subway rides to gay penguins and proper cups of coffee, Canada has all your musical theatre needs, right here at home.

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