Wayne Gwillim’s A Genius

By Greg Gibson

How does one begin to describe the entity that is Wayne Gwillim? Well, I hope my words will do the fellow justice, but it’s doubtful. The boy’s a genius – how does one begin to describe a genius?
I met Wayne back when I was new to Toronto (the first time) in 2001/2002. I think we met through mutual friends or the internet or something. I was just thrilled to meet someone as geeky about musical theatre as I was! After a few coffees and late-night breakfasts at “The Victory Café” on Bloor St., I knew I had a kindred spirit in Mr. Gwillim.
I don’t think Wayne had branched into musical direction full force yet… At the time he was doing some church gigs (as a vocalist and accompanist), playing for auditions, and had done a bit of musical direction (and acting) for the Bluewater Summer Playhouse – but had definitely been bitten by the bug. I don’t know if he knew that he was headed towards making the transition from performer/vocalist to musical director… But I think it’s safe to speak for everyone when I say – “Wayne, we’re glad you did!”
Wayne has a Bachelor of Music from the University of Toronto where he focused on voice studies. Besides having a lovely voice (which we don’t get to hear enough of, but pops out from time to time), he’s a killer pianist – as anyone who’s ever had him as an accompanist can attest to! Anyone who walks into an audition and sees Wayne behind the piano admittedly breathes a sigh of relief… There’s nothing you can’t throw at him. (Truth be told, he’s probably played everything in the musical theatre repertoire a bunch of times anyway!)
Over the years, Wayne and I stayed in touch (barely) – despite the fact that I moved out of the city and travelled around as a musical director myself for several years. As we each built up our resumes, our paths crossed again through mutual friends. I quickly discovered he’d earned the respect and admiration of the Toronto musical theatre community as a whole, and was quickly becoming Toronto’s “It Boy” when it came to musical direction. Most notably on the Toronto theatre scene, Wayne’s musical direction with “Acting Up Stage Company” on their productions of tick, tick… BOOM!, john & jen, and Elegies: A Song Cycle have earned him rave reviews both from the media and his peers. You can be assured that if you see a production that Wayne has musical directed, that it will be sharp, clean, and melodically rapturous.
Wayne has also made his mark with the prominent theatre schools in the area – Sheridan, Randolph, George Brown… As well, Wayne brilliantly conducted Talk Is Free Theatre’s concert presentation of Stephen Sondheim’s Anyone Can Whistle at the Diesel Playhouse last year. He spent most of 2008 at the Shaw Festival as the Intern Musical Director and made such an impression that he was asked to be involved in the 2009 Shaw Festival season. Sadly, he had to turn that offer down… because he’s going to be joining the Toronto production of The Sound of Music as Assistant Conductor very soon! (To the Shaw Festival fans, don’t fret… his work can be heard as Associate Orchestrator for their production of Sunday In The Park With George!)
I could go on and on about how talented this boy is, and how much I adore and respect him – as I’m sure we all could. I think the best way to find out more about Wayne is to see for yourself… Go see “A New Brain” before March 1 – and come to “Sing Out, Louise!” to see his brilliant accompaniment.
(On a personal note – I’d like to thank Wayne for subbing for me on several rehearsals during Talk Is Free Theatre’s recent production of Kiss of the Spider Woman, where at the last minute, he was asked to be prepared to play a run of Act Two – and did so brilliantly! Oh, and thanks for teaching me how to program the synthesizer in 45 seconds. You’re such a smart-ass sometimes.) Come see Wayne play live at: SING OUT, LOUISE!: Monday, March 9th, 8pm. $25.00. Buddies in Bad Times.

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