Marcus, Jacobs and Farb: The Young & the Talented

First of all, I want to take a moment to publicly state how important I think Mitchell Marcus (Artistic Producer of Acting Up Stage) is to the Toronto theatre community. At a time when Canada’s most talented stars are flocking out of town because that’s where the work is, Marcus is creating exciting, dynamic, contemporary shows for our indigenous artists to work and play in. At a time when it seems like the only musical theatre Toronto has is sporadic, and so often American touring shows, Marcus provides the city with a little something sort of small and new, and professionally produced, with all-star Canadian casts that would rival any Broadway tour. When people are wondering how things in Canadian theatre are going to improve or when, Marcus has forged his own path built on optimism, faith, and his intelligence, determination and love for the theatre. Mitchell Marcus truly inspires me, and it is people like him who give me confidence that Canadian theatre will thrive and will grow, and this fills me with such pride. Not to mention that he’s remarkably, extraordinarily young, which means that the world is his oyster, he is bursting with the same potential as his young collaborators, and this makes the future- our future- look so bright and truly exciting.
Not only is Marcus offering Toronto Acting Up Stage’s production of A New Brain (playing at the Berkeley Street Theatre Downstairs until March 1st), but he’s also doing wonders for the promotion of young, musical theatre actors in the establishment of his Dark Nights Cabaret Series (Monday and Tuesday nights at 8:00pm) at the Berkeley. Last night I had the pleasure of attending the first of the Dark Nights Cabaret Series, Sara Farb’s Songs By People I Dig. I think everyone who is working to make Toronto as vibrant and lucrative a theatrical playground as New York City is, is hoping to be able to provide people like Sara Farb a reason to stay, or at least to go back and forth.
Sara Farb’s cabaret was a celebration of the songwriters who have had a significant impact on her life, which meant an evening of some of the most beautiful songs that are rarely sung. She began with the incomparable Reza Jacobs’ song “I Feel Gross” for which she burst with perfect lethargic angst and then mixed in a strong dose of impatient determination for Akiva Romer-Segal’s witty song (that he wrote especially for her!) “I Want it Now.” In between each song, she shot a huge, genuine grin at Jacobs, who was playing the piano with rock star, head-banging, hair-flopping flair, and frequently got the giggles, which were infectious. She spoke passionately about each of the artists whose work she admired, and I hope that in her bringing this music to an audience’s attention, there will be more opportunities to hear work by these incredible composers in the future. Paul Sportelli has a pop ballad called “Cinderella” that I predict singers will be rushing to record shortly.
The moment that Sara Farb blew the roof of the Berkeley Street Theatre was during her rendition of “I Once Knew” from Edges, which she co-produced with Gabi Epstein in the Fall of 2007. She is truly Toronto’s Belting Princess, her performance warrants a seatbelt, and she can pull her massive, beautiful, belting voice out of her back pocket and hit the audience with it out of nowhere. It’s amazing and flooring, and an incredible experience to share communal awe with a room full of people. Farb has one of the most natural voices I have ever heard. It looks like singing is easier for her than breathing, and that sort of effortless, exhibition of skill is breathtaking.
Songs By People I Dig also gave Sara Farb the opportunity to show off aspects of her voice that are heard less frequently than her signature belt. She sang Ben Folds’ “Fred Jones Part 2” and Paul Gordon’s “Painting My Portrait” with poignancy and sweetness, while for some songs her voice had a jazzier timbre. The highlight of the evening for me was hearing Farb and her special guest Will Holly sing Reza Jacobs’ song “Heart.” It was perfect. Holly, from New York, is about to embark on Disney Cruise Line. He is bursting with charm, and reminds me of a mixture between Andrew Keenan-Bolger and Peter Pan. “Heart,” from a musical Jacobs co-wrote with “some guys” in New York called Plastic is one of the most spirited and joyfully funny songs I have ever heard. I always wait in anticipation for the next rendition I hear.
Mitchell Marcus said of Sara Farb in his introduction to her show that she was, “so unbelievably talented, it’s clear, amazing things are going to happen for [her].” I know I’m not the only one who is waiting to see how and when her star is launched to astronomical heights. In the meantime, you can hear Sara Farb sing with a fabulous all-star cast for Sing Out, Louise! presented by Sharron Matthews. It is a fundraiser for Buddies in Bad Times Theatre Company, March 9th, 2009, 8:00pm. Tickets are $25.00. Call 416 975-8555. Check back here for more Sing Out, Louise! Information soon!

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