As you all get ready for Christmas, we’re getting ready for rehearsals to start on Once On This Island! A love story for all ages, this Ahrens and Flaherty musical tells the story of Ti Moune, a dark skinned peasant woman who must navigate the forces of love and death when she falls in love with the lighter skinned, upper-class man Daniel. Alana Hibbert, who might remember from our productions of Caroline, or Change and Parade, or who you might have had the great fortune of seeing as Sarah in Shaw’s production of Ragtime, returns to our stage as Erzulie, the goddess of love. Here’s what’s on the top of Alana’s showtune must have list:
What musical’s score will you always remember?
I was driving home the other day, listening to the CBC and a recording of West Side Story Highlights played by an orchestra conducted by Leonard Bernstein came on the radio. I hadn’t heard the score in a while and was once again struck by how every theme in that show is so intricate and nuanced, yet so completely hummable and memorable. The score encapsulates every detail of the story and immediately places me in the world of the play. It’s crazy to think that this score actually came out of somebody’s brain.
Who could forget our 2012, multi-Dora award winning production of Caroline, or Change? With an all-star cast, Caroline, or Change, wowed audiences and critics with its superb blend of semi-operatic musical composition courtesy of Jeanine Tesori, Tony Kushner’s cleverly constructed book and inspired direction from Robert McQueen. The centre of all the delightful, insightful action was of course superstar Arlene Duncan, who won the Dora award for her performance as Caroline. As she gets ready for the beginning of Once On This Island rehearsals, she takes a few moments to reminisce.
The production of Caroline or Change was my first time working with the Acting Up Stage Company and I look back on the experience very fondly. I was a little nervous about doing theatre as I had been lucky enough to have spent the past 8-10 years working in film and television but was eager to get back on the boards. This role musically & dramatically was a huge gift.
I treasure the generosity of musical director Reza Jacobs & the passion of director Robert McQueen and the fun of working with the delightfully talented cast of singer/actors: Neema Bickersteth, Mary Pitt, Nicholas Rice, Derrick Roberts, Cameron MacDuffee, Shawn Wright, Alana Hibbert, Londa Larmond, Sabryn Rock, Jewelle Blackman, Sterling Jarvis, & Michael Levinson. This picture brings back a bucket load of memories and a flood of emotions! It’s from the moment when there is a change in the relationship and shift in power between the characters of Caroline & Noah. It demonstrates how like when a pebble is dropped in a pool the ripple effect can be devastating & far reaching. The mutual respect, support & trust within the company allowed us all to feel free to take risks during rehearsals. I loved working with “wee Michael Levinson” who although he was only ten at the time was a passionate professional determined to be the best Noah he could be! While fighting with each other or working through challenging emotional material we both just felt delighted to work together. The relationship we developed onstage & off helped us both to grow as artists & brought a fresh spark to our performances.
Since Caroline or Change, some of the projects that have kept me busy are: (cartoon) “Bobo & Kipi”, (webseries): “But I’m Chris Jericho”, (comedy pilot) “Home Stuff” & (film) “The Fighting Man”. I’m looking forward to being part of the Acting Up Stage 10th Anniversary season production of Once on this Island!
After a two month hiatus, Thomas Tony Tuesdays is back!
To celebrate its triumphant return, I have decided to reach deep into the wonderful world of Tony performances and bring out one of the most fantastic holiday themed numbers ever performed.
What time is it? IT’S TURKEY LURKEY TIME! More
With UnCovered: Sting & The Police behind us (and a huge success at that!) we turn our attention to the rapidly approaching Once On This Island. A love story for all ages, this Ahrens and Flaherty musical tells the story of Ti Moune, a dark skinned peasant woman who must navigate the forces of love and death when she falls in love with the lighter skinned, upper-class man Daniel. Sabryn Rock, rising star of the Toronto theatre scene plays Andrea, Daniel’s fiancee. You may remember Sabryn from her riveting turn as Emmie in Caroline, or Change and today we have the great fortune to sit down with her and chat musical theatre!
What musical’s score and book will you always remember?
I have always loved the book and score of Into the Woods. It’s my favourite. The story and the music played a huge role in my transition into adulthood. I got to play the Witch in high school and it was one of the most eyeopening and challenging acting experiences I’ve ever had. There is so much depth in the music and lyrics that accompanies the characters’ individual journeys, the transformation they undergo and what the audience takes from witnessing and hearing it in a breaktaking manner. The score is the perfect balance of comedy, tragedy and a beautiful darkness and therefore makes it a killer acting and singing challenge to capture the layered effect I believe James Lapine and Stephen Sondheim were aiming for.
This week I was meeting with a director about a possible future project. We were exploring spaces in Toronto that might be appropriate and found that one of Toronto’s smaller theatre spaces actually had the right ‘feel’ for the show.
Though I liked it artistically, I had some administrative hesitations. Flipping through their season brochure and looking at what other (very small) companies are charging in that space, I thought “We’d have to drop our prices.”
This got me thinking. Why does Toronto have an ‘unofficial’ policy that the smaller the venue, the cheaper the tickets? More