May the Schwartz Be With You! (And also with you)

george masswohl and michelle langille

Last Monday night I had the great pleasure of entering Communist Russia, in the guise of Pravda Vodka House, for an evening celebrating the music of Grammy and Academy Award winning composer and lyricist Stephen Schwartz. The evening was produced by Michelle Langille as a fundraiser for Volition Co-op’s February production of The Shape of Things (with performances by Ali MacKay, Jason Matheson, Andrew Church, Michelle Langille and Dave Tompa).
The evening was hosted by Langille with George Masswohl, who raised the roof to nine incredible performers and saluting the musical theatre community of Toronto and the artists who are still searching for a new venue so our evenings of cabaret and of fostering the young performers in this city can shine once again. The night rekindled my pride in these artists and the dozens of others who live and work in this city and the bright future for theatre in our country that rests in their hands.
Vince Staltari began the evening with “Chanson” from Schwartz’s The Baker’s Wife which showed off his heavenly voice and finished with “Proud Lady” from the same show with even more gusto and effervescence. Brittany Bailey sang a lovely rendition of “I’m Not That Girl” from Wicked which was followed up with “Colors of the Wind” from the 1995 film Pocahontas, which especially showed off her perfect Disney Princess voice. Julia Juhas gave a lovely performance of “Stranger to the Rain” from Children of Eden. Michelle Langille sang “Lion Tamer,” one of my favourite Schwartz songs, from The Magic Show, with sweet poignancy and George Masswohl was astonishing with “Out There” from the 1996 Disney film The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
Matt Boden has a very unique performance quality to him, which is reminiscent of Barry Manilow meets Liza Minnelli. He is incredibly captivating to watch and his voice is incredibly powerful. He sang “Corner of the Sky” from Pippin and rocked out incredibly on a flying final note. Jason Gaignard was at belting perfection during his solo performance, but it was when Boden and Gaignard teamed up for a hilarious tap dance Vaudevillian “All For The Best” (from Godspell) that these two boys solidified their future of theatrical stardom. It was without a doubt the most hysterical performance of the evening.
Michael MacEachern sang the best rendition of “Lost in the Wilderness” that I have ever heard. His voice is absolutely breathtaking and he fills it with so much earnest emotion. Someone needs to cast him in a musical in Toronto and do it STAT. Kelly Holiff and Jeigh Madjus pulled out all the stops in their performance of “When You Believe” from The Prince of Egypt, which was roof raising to be sure and Jenni Burke sang a beautifully heartfelt song from the 2000 TV musical Geppetto which starred Drew Carey and Julia Louis-Dreyfus called “Since I Gave My Heart Away” which proved that Jenni Burke sings directly from her soul.
Amid all this talent and a whole plethora of incredibly powerful performances, it is a small wonder that one moment was able to stand out as being the “show stopper,” but indeed, when Jeigh Madjus sang “Defying Gravity” from Wicked, the room united in breathless wonder and sheer delight. If I never hear another rendition of that song again, I will be happy in the knowledge that I heard it performed by two incredible divas, Idina Menzel and Jeigh Madjus: the rest is silence!
The performers were as stellar as the (incredibly expensive, but utterly worth it) vodka at Pravda, a great little venue for cabarets of this sort. What else could be better for an evening of Schwartz?

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