Launch Pad

Brandon Antonio, Michael De Rose & Kelsey Verzotti. Photo by Dahlia Katz

Launch Pad

LAUNCH PAD is an innovative program that makes a strategic investment in leading Canadian musical theatre writers and collaborators. LAUNCH PAD is a new collaboration between The Musical Stage Company and commercial producers Yonge Street Theatricals.

Each year for two years, LAUNCH PAD will offer a 10-month residency in which musical theatre composers, lyricists and bookwriters navigate a full developmental process, shepherding 30-minute musicals from conception to production with guidance from skilled creative teams and internationally renowned mentors.


Program Partner
Program Sponsor
Leading Lights
William J.S. Boyle C.M.

Di Bartolomeo, Di Lorenzo-Graham Foundation

The Slaight Family Foundation

Lucy White

Launch Pad

LAUNCH PAD is an innovative program that makes a strategic investment in leading Canadian musical theatre writers and collaborators. LAUNCH PAD is a new collaboration between The Musical Stage Company and commercial producers Yonge Street Theatricals.

Each year for two years, LAUNCH PAD will offer a 10-month residency in which musical theatre composers, lyricists and bookwriters navigate a full developmental process, shepherding 30-minute musicals from conception to production with guidance from skilled creative teams and internationally renowned mentors.

2019-20 Cohort

The 2019-20 cohort includes: Fatuma Adar (bookwriter/lyricist), Chris Barillaro (music supervisor/ music director), Ben Elliott (composer/lyricist), Bob Foster (music supervisor/ music director), Sarah Garton Stanley (director/dramaturge), Richard Greenblatt (director/dramaturge), Mary Francis Moore (director/dramaturge), Rose Napoli (bookwriter), Nicky Phillips (music supervisor/ music director), Adam Sakiyama (composer/lyricist), Kat Sandler (bookwriter), and Suzy Wilde (composer/lyricist).

2018-19 Cohort

The 2018-19 cohort: Colleen Dauncey (composer), Ellen Denny (bookwriter), Tracey Flye (director), Steven Gallagher (bookwriter), Nick Green (bookwriter), Wayne Gwillim (music supervisor/ musical director), Shelley Hanson (music supervisor/ musical director), Ann Hodges (director), Anika Johnson (composer/lyricist), Barbara Johnston (composer/lyricist), Anton Lipovetsky (composer/lyricist), Akiva Romer-Segal (lyricist), Adam Sakiyama (music supervisor/ musical director), and Lezlie Wade (director). New York-based Music Supervisor Lynne Shankel and veteran dramaturge/director Robert McQueen join Launch Pad as Program Directors.

About the Artists

*2019-20 Launch Pad cohort

Fatuma Adar (bookwriter/lyricist)
Fatuma Adar is a writer and performer based in Toronto. In 2019 she was published in the anthology “Black Writers Matter” and her new musical “Dixon Road” had been shortlisted for Playwrights Guild of Canada’s Stage West Musical Award. Fatuma is an alumnus of the Bars Workshop NYC at The Public Theater.

Chris Barillaro (music supervisor/ music director)
Chris Barillaro is a Montreal-based musical director, pianist, orchestrator, actor, singer, and graduate of McGill University (B.A. in music and theatre). Over the past eleven years, Chris has had the honour of helping to develop many new musicals—in both of Canada’s official languages—as an MD/orchestrator, including: Sisters: The Belles Soeurs Musical; Demain matin, Montréal m’attend; Last Night at the Gayety; Schwartz’s: The Musical; Senza Luce; Belles-Soeurs: Théâtre Musical; and You Are Here. He’s also had the pleasure of performing at many beautiful theatres across the country, including: Place des Arts, NAC, Confederation Centre, Thousand Islands Playhouse, Globe Theatre, Segal Theatre, and Centaur Theatre. In 2019, Chris received a Dora Mavor Moore Award for outstanding music direction for Kiss of the Spider Woman.

Ben Elliot (composer/lyricist)
Ben is an actor, composer, sound designer, multi-instrumentalist and musical director in Vancouver, BC. Favourite credits include playing The Bellhop in the Canada wide tour of Chelsea Hotel: The Songs Of Leonard Cohen (Firehall), The Western Canadian tour of Matilda The Musical (Citadel/RMTC/Arts Club) where he appeared as Mr. Wormwood and for which he received a Winnipeg Theatre Award; and his role as Silvius and musical director in The Beatles version of As You Like It, which has appeared at Bard On The Beach, RMTC and The Citadel. He is Jessie and Sterling award nominee for his work on the show. He is also set to musical direct As You Like It again at Chicago Shakespeare and Milwaukee Repertory Theatre. Ben has co-written two musicals with Anton Lipovetsky; The Park (Studio 58) and The Best Laid Plans (Touchtone). Ben is a graduate of Bishop’s University and Studio 58.

Sarah Garton Stanley (director/dramaturge)
Director, dramaturg and conversationalist, Sarah Garton Stanley is originally from Montreal, now lives in Kingston. She is the Associate Artistic Director of English Theatre at the National Arts Centre, and leader for The Cycle(s). Sarah was the founding Artistic Director for SpiderWebShow and is now its Executive Producer, she is also a former Artistic Director of Buddies in Bad Times Theatre. During her award-winning career, Sarah has worked across Canada and overseas. Most recent directing credits include Fun Home (RMTC) Sexual Misconduct of the Middle Classes (Tarragon)The Big House (TOFringe) Unsafe (Canadian Stage); Out The Window (Luminato/Theatre Centre); Kill Me Now (Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre production in collaboration with NAC English Theatre); Bunny (Stratford Festival); Helen Lawrence (Canadian Stage, Brooklyn Academy of Music, Munich Kammerspiele and elsewhere) and We Keep Coming Back (Jewish Culture Fest, Krakow, Poland and Ashkenaz Festival, Toronto). Sarah received the 2016 Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas’ Elliot Hayes Award, the 2017 Manitoba Theatre Award for best direction for Kill Me Now and the 2018 Honorary Member Award for Canadian Association for Theatre Research. Sarah has loved co-curating with Chantal Bilodeau the Green Rooms as part of the Final Cycle focusing on Climate.

Richard Greenblatt (director/dramaturge)
Richard Greenblatt is an actor, director, writer and musician who has been a professional theatre artist for the last 45 years. Trained at RADA in London, England, he has directed well over 140 productions for theatres across the country, the vast majority being original and/or Canadian works. He has co-written and performed in numerous plays, including 2 Pianos 4 Hands, Sibs, and Athabasca. He was won several Dora and Chalmers Awards for his work.

Mary Francis Moore (director/dramaturge)
Mary Francis Moore is a writer, actor, director and independent theatre producer. Mary Francis was nominated for the Dora Award for Outstanding Direction of Maja Ardal’s You Fancy Yourself, which has toured across Canada, the United Kingdom and was named one of the hits of the 2009 Edinburgh Fringe. She is also the director of Ardal’s critically acclaimed sequel The Cure For Everything, which headlined The California International Theatre Festival in Los Ange- les. She recently directed of the world premiere of One Thing Leads To Another at Young People’s Theatre.

Rose Napoli (bookwriter)
Rose is a Toronto based actor and writer. She is the author of six plays, including ‘Lo (or Dear Mr. Wells)’ which was nominated for a Dora Award for Outstanding New Play. She is currently a resident at the Canadian Film Centre in the Bell Media Prime Time TV Writing Program, where she is creating an original series, ‘Mary IV’, about grief, love, and talking ancestors.

Nicky Phillips (music supervisor/ music director)
Nicky Phillips is a composer, lyricist and musical director. She is a member of the BMI Advanced Musical Theatre Workshop where she was awarded the Jean Banks Award for outstanding achievement in Musical Theatre. Her work has been showcased at Lincoln Center, 54 Below and Don’t Tell Mama. She has participated in the Johnny Mercer Songwriters Project, the Goodspeed Writers Colony, the ASCAP Stephen Schwartz Workshop and Musical Stage’s Noteworthy. Selected musicals include: The Curious Journey (Interlochen Center for the Arts, CMTP), The Last Party (Toronto Fringe) and In Flanders Fields (Smile Theatre, Lunchbox Theatre, Betty Mitchell nomination). She has also been a composer and MD at Theatre New Brunswick, Alberta Theatre Projects, Theatre Direct and the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre.

Adam Sakiyama (composer/lyricist)
Adam Sakiyama is a lyricist, composer, and musical director in Toronto, ON. His projects include Next to Normal, Launch Pad: Reprint, Dr. Silver (The Musical Stage Company), Dixon Road (The Lucky Ones Collective), The Preposterous Predicament of Polly Peel, (Toronto Fringe Festival ), TOP GUN! (Lower Ossington Theatre), He has composed for productions at the National Ballet of Canada, Guild Festival Theatre, Annex Children’s Theatre, and Toronto and Hamilton Fringe Festivals. Adam is a songwriter for Super Simple Songs, one of the most watched educational channels on YouTube.

Kat Sandler (bookwriter)
Kat Sandler is a playwright, director, screenwriter and Artistic Director of Theatre Brouhaha in Toronto. She has staged seventeen of her original plays in the last eight years, including Yaga (Tarragon Theatre), and the simultaneous double bill of The Party and The Candidate this past April, where the same cast raced back and forth between spaces at the Citadel Theatre. Her play, Mustard (Tarragon Theatre) won the Dora Award for Best New Play, and Bang Bang (Factory Theatre) was nominated for the same award. She was the recipient of NOW Magazine’s Audience Choice Awards for Best Director and Best Playwright, the SummerWorks Spotlight Award. Kat is a graduate of Queen’s University.

Suzy Wilde (composer/lyricist)
Hailing from Toronto, Wilde has written scores for the musicals (with Barbara Johnston) Be Kind, Rewind (Randolph Academy, Edge of the Sky Theatre) and Maddie’s Karaoke Birthday Party (Charcoal Sketch Productions), Crack of Doom (Bravo Academy, Yellow Door Theatre), and (with Anika Johnson and Barbara Johnston) Summerland (Edge of the Sky Theatre, Toronto Fringe). Wilde has composed and arranged for Sheridan College, Musicata Hamilton’s Voices, Regent Park’s “The Journey” project and The Musical Stage Company’s Make Me a Song and Noteworthy, The Guelph Youth Choir and The Wexford Gleeks.

2018-19 Cohort

Colleen Dauncey and Akiva Romer Segal (Composer and Lyricist)
Colleen Dauncey (Music) and Akiva Romer-Segal (Lyrics) have written the scores to Bremen Rock City, Going Under, Rumspringa Break! and Prom Queen (2016 New Musical Award – Playwrights Guild of Canada)Their work has been featured in the NAMT Festival of New Musicals, Cutting-Edge Composers (54 Below, NYC), Blame Canada (International), and Touch Me: Songs for a (dis)Connected Age (Theatre Calgary, Betty Mitchell nominations). They are alumni of the Johnny Mercer Songwriters Project (Chicago), the Johnny Mercer Writers Colony at Goodspeed Musicals (Connecticut), Sheridan College’s Canadian Music Theatre Project, The Musical Stage Company’s NoteWorthy, and Theatre 20’s Composium.

Ellen Denny (Bookwriter)

Ellen is a writer and performer with two plays in development. Wonder – a historical drama about Harriet Brooks, Canada’s first female nuclear physicist – is being workshopped in February 2019. Pleasureville, a contemporary comedy about a city gal opening a small town sex shop, will premiere in fall 2019. As an actor, Ellen has appeared on stages across Canada. Her portrayal of Alice in Life After (Musical Stage/ Canadian Stage/Yonge Street Theatricals) earned her a Dora nomination and a passion for new musical development. She is thrilled to participate in both NoteWorthy and Launch Pad this season with Musical Stage.

Tracey Flye (Director)

Tracey is one of Canada’s busiest and most respected directors and choreographers with credits that span over 180 productions internationally. Selected credits include: We Will Rock You (Toronto, South Africa, Asia, US National/Broadway tour), ONCE (The Grand Theatre/RMTC), Million Dollar Quartet (Charlottetown Festival), West Side Story (Rainbow Stage), Evita (Vancouver Opera), Buyer & CellarVenus in Fur (ATP), CabaretBilly ElliotJane Eyre, The Penelopiad, The 39 Steps (RMTC), Kiss Me Kate and Evita for the Stratford Festival. Tracey continues her 17-year association with Ross Petty Productions and their Annual Toronto tradition of the Christmas Panto.

Steven Gallagher (Bookwriter)

Steven is a writer, actor and director based in Toronto. His award-winning play, Stealing Sam, made its American premiere in 2014 where it won Best Drama at the United Solo Festival in New York. Pollyanna, written with Linda Barnett, was shortlisted for Playwrights Guild of Canada best new musical. Drama 101, written with Kevin Wong, premiered in Toronto in June 2017. His musical, The Last Party, written with Nicky Phillips, premiered at the Toronto Fringe in 2018. He is the recipient of a 2013 Harold Award.

Nick Green (Bookwriter)

Nick is a Dora and Sterling Award-winning playwright. Recent credits include In Real Life (book and co-lyrics, CMTP); Dinner with the Duchess (Next Stage 2019); Body Politic (Buddies in Bad Times/lemonTree; Dora award – Outstanding New Play); and Poof! The Musical (book and lyrics, Capitol Theatre; Sterling Award nomination – Outstanding New Work).

Wayne Gwillim (Music Supervisor/Musical Director)

Wayne Gwillim works as a conductor, keyboardist, programmer, copyist, and arranger. Credits include Mirvish Productions, Teatro Proscenium, Stratford Festival, Shaw Festival, Charlottetown Festival, Disney Cruise Lines, The Musical Stage Company. Originally from Saskatchewan, Wayne is a graduate of University of Toronto’s Faculty of Music.

Shelley Hanson (Music Supervisor/ Musical Director)

Widely respected as a music director, conductor, keyboardist, and aspiring sous-chef. Favourite credits: Grey Gardens (The Musical Stage Company), Phantom of the Opera, Sunset Boulevard (Livent), National Ballet of Canada, Chantal Kreviazuk In Concert. Also: BakkhaiCrazy For You, Fiddler On The Roof (Stratford). U.S. national tours: The Lion KingRentShow Boat, Ragtime (Chicago).

Ann Hodges (Director)

Ann directed Grey Gardens for The Musical Stage Company (2016). She directs plays, musicals and operas across Canada including at The Citadel Theatre, Charlottetown Festival, Blyth Festival, Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre, Great Canadian Theatre Company, Rainbow Stage, Sheridan, Prairie Theatre Exchange, and Vancouver Opera.  Ann has a passion for developing new works and is thrilled to be part of LAUNCH PAD.

Anika Johnson & Barbara Johnston (Composers/Lyricists)

Johnson and Johnston (no relation) are a Dora Award-winning team of writer/director/performers who collaborate in many ways, most recently on Dr. Silver: A Celebration of Life which Anika wrote (with her sister Britta) and Barb developed from its origin as choreographer and assistant director. Shared writing credits include Blood TiesSummerland, and One Small Step; Anika and Barb can also be seen together on stage in Toronto and internationally as Sporty and Ginger in Wannabe: The Spice Girls Tribute Band.

Anton Lipovetsky (Composer/Lyricist)

Anton is a composer and performer based in Vancouver. His composition credits include Elbow Room Cafe (ZeeZee), Best Laid Plans (Touchstone/Patrick Street), cool beans (Solo Collective), Broken Sex Doll (Virtual Stage/Jessie Award) and FLOP! (Delinquent). He is a graduate of the Stratford Birmingham Conservatory and Studio 58.

Adam Sakiyama (Music Supervisor / Musical Director)

For The Musical Stage Company: Dr. Silver: A Celebration of Life (Accompanist/Conductor/Apprentice Musical Director). Select theatre credits: Music Director – Polly Peel (Toronto Fringe); Clouds Over TO! (Guild Festival Theatre); Composer – In Between (National Ballet of Canada); Exterminating Angel (Alysa Pires Dance Projects); Quench (Axon Interactive); Robin Hood (Annex Children’s Theatre). Additional credits: Lead Producer & Arranger for Super Simple Songs, one of the most watched educational YouTube channels.

Lezlie Wade (Director)

Six seasons at the Stratford Festival where she recently directed An Ideal Husband and H.M.S. Pinafore. Two seasons at the Shaw Festival directing The Twelve Pound Look and The Yalta Game (Director’s Project). Other directing credits include: Elegies and A Man of No Importance– The Musical Stage Company, Dream A Little Dream – The Grand Theatre.

Winter 2020 Performance

The composers, lyricists and bookwriters that comprise the second edition of LAUNCH PAD will work in teams to create original one-act musicals inspired by the short stories of acclaimed Canadian authors and take their musicals through a full developmental process over the next 10 months. The triptych of new works will debut in winter 2020.

In the 10 months leading up to the production, participants will navigate all of the complex milestones of a full musical developmental process, including multiple workshops and rehearsal, incorporating over 20 artist-collaborators including directors, musical directors, arrangers, copyists, actors, and musicians. As part of the program, internationally recognized producers and presenters will be invited to attend the final production followed by feedback and networking sessions with participating artists. The final pieces will be recorded and disseminated globally via podcast.

Ticket information for the winter 2020 production will be announced in fall 2020.


FANGIRL (Launch Pad 2019)

Written by Anika Johnson (music & lyrics), Barbara Johnston (music & lyrics) and Nick Green (book), with performances by Brandon Antonio, Michael De Rose, Kaylee Harwood & Kelsey Verzotti.

WHAT GOES UP (Launch Pad 2019)

Written by Colleen Dauncey (music), Akiva Romer-Segal (lyrics) and Ellen Denny (book), with performances by Brandon Antonio, Michael De Rose, Kaylee Harwood & Kelsey Verzotti.

CYGNUS (Launch Pad 2019)

Written by Anton Lipovetsky (music & lyrics) and Steven Gallagher (book), with performances by Brandon Antonio & Michael De Rose.