adam brazier, louise pitre, dan chameroy
It appears that Christmas has arrived early for the Toronto musical theatre community with the announcement that a new artist-run company dedicated to producing large scale, professional musicals starring Canada’s own multitalented artists, will announce its inaugural season in 2011.
According to this somewhat vague article from The Toronto Star, the company will be structured similarly to Toronto’s very successful artist-run classical theatre, Soulpepper, and will include a core artistic base which includes such formidable Canadian musical theatre stars as Adam Brazier (Rocky Horror (Canadian Stage/ MTC), Mamma Mia (North American Premiere), Into the Woods & Women in White (Broadway), Louise Pitre (A Year With Frog and Toad (LKTYP), Toxic Avenger (Dancap), Mamma Mia (Toronto/Broadway) and Dan Chameroy (Beauty and the Beast, Ross Petty Pantomime, 9 seasons at Stratford). Rosie Shaw will serve as General Manager and other artists said to be involved are Tamara Bernier, Juan Chioran, Evan Buliung and Carly Street, all shining examples of Canadian musical theatre prowess.
This company, in my humble estimation, is exactly what Toronto needs right now, and truly is a dream come true for our city. Since founding TWISI in 2007, I have been advocating for the establishment of just this sort of company, one that is headed by artists whose intentions are to produce musical works of substance and artistic integrity with high production values and utilizing the myriad of talented artists that we are blessed to have here in Toronto. This company is also said to be dedicated to the development of Canadian written musical theatre, an overdue investment in our budding composers and lyricists who will further the development of Canada’s own, unique musical theatre identity and experience.
At a time when Broadway is struggling under the weight of massive commercialism, where producers passionate about telling stories, making dreams come true and truly believing in the combined power of music, skill, heart and faith are nearly all superseded by CEOs interested only in blockbusters and selling t-shirts, American musical theatre aficionados worry about the Broadway business completely alienating future Irving Berlins, Cole Porters, Stephen Sondheims, Frank Loessers, Alan Jay Lerners, Comden and Greens, Cy Colemans and Kander and Ebbs. How can the future of American musical theatre hope to thrive in a world of Jukeboxes and revivals? If ever the time was ripe for Canada to invest in its own musicals, for Canada to support its composers, lyricists and librettists, for Canada to encourage a musical theatre movement; that time is now. We have never had a Golden Age of musical theatre in this country, nor iconic Tin Pan Alley style musicians, but as I look at the young, incredibly talented musical theatre writers in Canada at this very moment, I believe, undoubtedly, with my entire heart, that this is our time. These composers, if given even half the chance, will not only burst out onto the freshly established musical theatre scene, hopefully through the development of this new company, but will also be poised toward international renown. The sky is the limit for the future of Canadian musical theatre; we just need to shine the light on it and it will grow.
There was a time not too long ago when Canadian actors were flocking, mostly to New York, not necessarily because they had secured an artistic opportunity there, but because Toronto’s potential for offering its artists exciting and fulfilling prospects for employment, especially in musical theatre, were dwindling rapidly. Now it seems like Canadian actors are working in exciting and inspiring avenues in New York, as Carly Street is slated to begin her run in Brief Encounter on Broadway, Kate Hennig was recently in Billy Elliot on Broadway, Bob Martin’s newest musical Elf opens there November 14th and Mirvish’s Priscilla Queen of the Desert cast heads to Broadway in the new year, just to name a few, but, more importantly, it seems that for the first time in a very long time, it is exciting and electric and hopeful for actors to stay right here. This new company signifies a future, our future, and the prospect of it being exhilarating and wondrous and a moment in theatre history that we will all someday look back on with pride and gratitude.
It is clear that the artists involved in the creation of this company, Adam Brazier, Louise Pitre, Dan Chameroy, and everyone else who will become the backbone of this venture, believe in Canadian artists, they believe in their own power and ability to create an alternative, a balance, if you will, to incessant American tours and jukebox blockbusters. If Adam Brazier’s critically acclaimed production (with Birdland Theatre/Talk is Free) of Assassins is any indication of what is to come, these artists believe, as I do, that Toronto deserves the very best.
I am filled with hope and delight, and a heart filled with thanks and anticipation for 2011. I can’t wait to see what happens next.
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