Month: June 2015


The Wild Party wins at the Doras!

Once again, the Toronto theatre, dance, and opera community gathered to celebrate all the great work made over the past year at the annual Dora Mavor Moore Awards!

We had a whopping 8 nominations (!) in the Musical Theatre Division for our production of The Wild Party this past winter and were lucky enough to see two of our colleagues walk up on stage and give their thanks. Watch the speeches from actor Daren A. Herbert and choreography Stephanie Graham below! More


The Banks Prize: Where Are They Now?

The end of the theatre season hits when the summer arrives, which makes the warmer months a great time to reflect on past years. It’s also when summer festivals kick into high gear. And this summer is a happy example of how those two things can combine!

The Banks Prize is an annual prize awarded to two up-and-coming Canadian musical theatre performers, one man and one woman, who receive $1,000 and a year of mentorship and performance opportunities in the Acting Up Stage Company season. In its history, six talented performers have gone through the program and are now up to some pretty exciting career achievements. Find out where these Banks Prize winners are now!  More


A Year in Review

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by Mitchell Marcus

Most people celebrate New Year’s on January 1. But in the theatre world, for most companies, June 30 marks the end of a theatre season. As such, June tends to be our “December” – a chance for reflection and resolutions.

Looking back on 2014-2015 and thinking about the upcoming 2015-2016, here’s what stands out:

  1. Sometimes accidents are good. A year ago, we had completely different plans for 2014-2015 that did not include The Wild Party. We were still possibly going to return to the Daniels Spectrum for another year and we had a different musical in mind which ultimately fell through. Things could not have worked out better. We were delighted to return to the Berkeley Street Theatre where we spent 6 years from 2007-2012. And The Wild Party proved to be a triumph. A lucky turn of events indeed.
  2. We have a wonderfully adventurous audience. Ballad of the Burning Star was a slightly scary endeavour. I was so taken with the work because of its bold theatricality and innovative use of music. But I was nervous by its history of protests due to its polarizing subject matter. However, the Toronto run proved to be a real success with thoughtful conversations happening during pre and post-show chats and robust attendance.
  3. We love touring! In November we took our production of Do You Want What I Have Got? A Craigslist Cantata to the National Arts Centre in Ottawa. It was a delight to share our production with over 2500 attendees in our nation’s capital. We love showcasing Acting Up Stage beyond Toronto and we hope to receive more invitations in the future to bring our work across Canada.
  4. Toronto loves UnCovered. For me personally, this year’s UnCovered: Billy Joel & Elton John was our strongest edition yet of this annual signature event. I will never forget the power of Brent Carver’s “Rocket Man” or the immediate standing ovation that Jackie Richardson received for “New York State of Mind”. Of particular note, this year marked an expansion to a second performance of UnCovered and we were so delighted to sell both shows out!
  5. Our new musicals keep growing. By the end of this year we will have commission 6 original new musicals. We had a reading of one of them in New York this past year and have two readings this summer plus a workshop. As the momentum builds, I continue to be very excited by this new direction for Acting Up Stage Company, as we work with Canadian playwrights, composers and lyricists to bring their original works to life.

We have a very exciting 2015-2016 year planned. So far we’ve announced our November UnCovered concert as UnCovered: Simon & Garfunkel featuring the amazing catalogue of Paul Simon that he performed on his own and in collaboration with Art Garfunkel. As well, UnCovered will now be presented for three performances at the glorious Koerner Hall. What else do we have planned? We can’t reveal it yet, but here are some clues for two major events:

  • What musical won three Tony Awards in the first decade of the 21st century and has never been seen in Toronto? That musical will be onstage at the Berkeley Street Theatre Downstairs in February/March.
  • What major Toronto arts institution would serve as an inspiration for stories for new musicals while also being an unusual, but terrific, performance space? Look for a new partnership with that institution to bring new musicals to life next Spring.

Stay tuned for all of the exciting details!


Recapping Take The Stage

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By Victoria Barber

Our second annual Take the Stage event took place on May 31st at the Winchester Street Theatre. Five teams came together to raise funds for our musical productions, new musical development initiatives, community outreach activities, and to participate in a musical theatre competition extravaganza. Each team consisted of 10-15 passionate musical theatre performers from various backgrounds. We had three community theatre groups (Scarborough Musical Theatre, Etobicoke Musical Productions, and The R.A.T (Really Amateur Theatre) Pack), one school group (Sheridan Music Performance), and one team made of the general public.

When each team arrived they received a well-known musical theatre piece and 2 star studded theatre professionals:

  • Tara Litvack & Thom Allison  worked with Team Sheridan on ‘Being Alive’ from Company
  • Doug Price & David Lopez worked with Etobicoke Musical Productions on ‘Pinball Wizard’ from Tommy
  • Lily Ling & Michael Therriault worked with Scarborough Musical Theatre on  ‘For Now’ from Avenue Q
  • Mark Selby & Steve Ross worked with the R.A.T Pack on ‘Without Love’ from Hairspray
  • Noah MacDougall & Lisa Horner work with the Public Team on ‘What I Did For Love’ from A Chorus Line

And off they went! Each team had 4 hours to learn brand new material with complicated harmonies and intricate staging. The Winchester Street Theatre was buzzing with musical theatre excitement as each team worked with their trainers to master their given song in hope of winning the Spotlight Award.

After 4 hours of hard work, each team showcased their work to our judges (Daniel Birnbaum, Derrick Chua, and Carly Maga).  After much deliberation, Etobicoke Musical Productions won the Spotlight Award for the second year in a row, along with complimentary tickets to UnCovered: Simon and Garfunkel!  

With the help of our participants we raised over $10,000!

 In order to participate, each team had to raise a minimum of $2000 and each public team participant had to raise $120. This money was generally raised through small donations of $10-$50 from friends and family of the participants. The R.A.T Pack fundraised over $2300; winning them the Fundraising Award along with complimentary tickets to see Mirvish’s Titanic. 

After a fantastic day of performances, teams headed over to The Local Gest (a local restaurant on Parliament Street) for a celebratory drink with their trainers and teammates. 

Overall it was a wonderful day, filled with musical theatre, new friendships, and powerhouse performances. Take The Stage gives the Toronto theatre community a chance to connect with likeminded musical theatre enthusiasts and bridge the worlds of professional and amateur theatre.

We are so thrilled with this year’s success, thanks to all who participated!

 


An Interview with Susan Gilmour

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Interview by Carly Maga

You might remember that The Wild Party opened during the coldest week of this past winter – but everyone who caught the show knew that this was one hot cast. Now that awards season is upon us, we’ve had the great fortune to celebrate two Toronto Theatre Critics Awards and eight Dora Award nominations – all but three of them specifically honouring those talented performers.

Susan Gilmour, who captivated audiences as the powerful former prima donna Dolores Montoya, received a couple of special shout-outs; she won the 2015 TTCA for Best Supporting Actress in a Musical and received a Dora nomination for Outstanding Performance by a Female, Musical Theatre Division (alongside her cast-mate Cara Ricketts, who played Queenie), and shares the nomination for Outstanding Ensemble with her fellow 14 costars (Daren A. Herbert and Dan Chameroy also received individual nominations for their performances).

We asked Susan about her experience during The Wild Party and what it feels like to be acknowledged by the Toronto theatre community.  

 

Carly Maga: What did you love about playing the diva Dolores Montoya?

Susan Gilmour: Dolores was a wonderful challenge and stretch for me to play, in her huge aura, her physical stillness, her vocal range, and emotional journey. I love a juicy, fun, edgy role and I’m so thankful to Mitchell Marcus, Robert McQueen, and Bob Foster for giving me this opportunity to play Dolores!

CM: What was your favourite moment in the show?

SG: The show was FULL of favourite moments for me! I think if I had to choose only one, it would be the moment at the very end of the show when we are all standing together and Queenie (Cara Ricketts) is singing her final realization and walks through that door, full of light, and the door quietly closes leaving us in the dark…

CM: The whole ensemble is also being recognized at the Doras, what was it like working with this cast?

SG: It’s absolutely thrilling that our whole show and everyone involved in The Wild Party is being recognized! Robert McQueen, Mitchell Marcus, Bob Foster and Stephanie Graham picked our amazing cast beautifully. A better or more talented cast I cannot imagine. Right from day one we ALL clicked, bonded, and supported one another on that wonderful journey into The Wild Party every day.  Performing each show and telling our story with everyone was exciting and such a joy! This is truly an ensemble show and we were all equally in it and for each other. All for one and one for all!

CM: What do you remember most about the whole Wild Party experience?

SG: I will always remember our brilliant director Robert McQueen and his clear detailed vision and thoughtful exploration and direction every day of The Wild Party.

I will never forget the thrill of meeting the co-writer and composer of The Wild Party Michael John LaChuisa. And I will never forget and will always carry with me every moment shared with each of my fellow colleagues… every look, every note, every kiss, dance and innuendo, every note sung and story told together. I hold so much love and respect for them all. Congratulations everyone!

 

The Dora Mavor Moore Awards will be presented on Monday, June 22, 2015.