BY TYLER COLLINS
Following Thanksgiving, Theatre Sheridan is offering its own delectable feast of new delights in MacDonald-Heaslip Hall.
Sheridan College’s Bachelor of Music Theatre program and the Canadian Music Theatre Project (CMTP) will present the 2017 CMTP Festival of New Musicals this weekend from Oct. 13-15. The performance showcase is one of the CMTP’s flagship events each year, presenting a staged reading of new Canadian musicals currently in development.
The festival features three or four staged performances each year at Trafalgar Campus. This year features excerpts from four new musicals, and a 45-minute selection of each will be performed for audiences this weekend as a dramatic reading.
Michael Rubinoff is the Associate Dean of Performing and Visual Arts and lead producer of the CMTP. He selects each show for development at Sheridan ahead of a public performance and hires the creative team for the four different musicals. But unlike his work with Theatre Sheridan, where work is chosen by committee, his chooses titles for workshopping at the college by himself.
“There’s a whole host of reasons I’ve chosen these [four shows],” says Rubinoff. “We’ve chosen material that works best with our current students. The fall CMTP is a capstone project for the fourth-year students – it’s also a course.”
Once the shows are selected, they are workshopped in closed rehearsals with current students in the Bachelor of Music Theatre Performance Program. After four weeks, the new material is staged with actors at music stands, reading sheet music and their lines with an accompanist.
“We have four great shows this year,” says Rubinoff. “There’s great material the public will get a chance to see.” He adds, however, that it’s about more than just showing off new material. “It’s also about developing our relationships with our partners in the CMTP, but also around the world.”
This year’s festival features four different musicals, with authors mixed from previous and new participants. The four shows are Bethune, Cocksure Lads, My Bonnie Lass! and Starlight Tours.
The 2017 festival lineup
Bethune tells the story of Norman Bethune, a Canadian who became a god-like figure in Maoist China in the 1930s. The show is co-written by Brian Hill and Neil Bertram, whose previous titles in the festival include The Adventures of Pinocchio, The Theory of Relativity and Senze Luce. Luce had its world premiere production at Theatre Sheridan in April.
Cocksure Lads is written by Murray Foster and Mark Ford, based on Foster’s 2014 of the same name. The story features Toronto kid Dusty in the 1960s – obsessed with music from the British Invasion, he names his band the Cocksure Lads after the real rockers in London, taking the city by storm.
My Bonnie Lass! is the most secretive of the new titles. Chronicling the life of Maggie, a working mother of three in Scotland, tragedy strikes at home and she must overcome a life-changing adversity. The book, music, and lyrics are by Matt Murray and multi-platinum selling Canadian singer Johnny Reid (who himself is of Scottish descent.)
Finally, Starlight Tours is the terrifying musical story of the true-life investigations of the Saskatchewan police from 1970-2000s, where officers would abduct and abandon First Nations people, driving them outside cities to nowhere in the dead of winter. The show features songs by Dora-nominated and Chalmers award-winning songwriter Leslie Arden, who’s previous musicals include The House of Martin Guerre and The Happy Prince.
“I’ve been producing new musicals for over 15 years, and I’m excited about all the new work that audiences finally get to see,” says Rubinoff. “It’s also great for our students involved. These relationships they’re building give them a real advantage in the world, because they know this talent and these professionals from working here.”
All four musicals will perform their 45-minute reading back-to-back at each of the three performances at Sheridan. Performances on Oct. 13 and 15 will be presented as one showcase, while Oct. 14 will show all four titles in two parts, with ticket holders seeing two performances – one in the afternoon and evening.
In the months following these performances, one of the four titles will be selected to be produced in a full-scale production with Theatre Sheridan in the 2018/19 season, as has been the tradition since 2013. (November’s upcoming production of Trap Door at Theatre Sheridan was featured in this showcase last fall, then titled Small Wonder.)
“We’re choosing shows that may have an opportunity to continue their development and have a future life,” hints Rubinoff. “But it’s fun overseeing these shows as they work their way through the creative process.”
To learn more about the festival’s productions and to buy tickets, visit Theatre Sheridan’s online box office.