Today is a very special anniversary for musical theatre lovers in Toronto (and Canada) as Singular Sensation celebrates its fifth birthday. The open mic night is hosted every Monday evening at Statler’s in the Village, and serves as a place for people who love musical theatre to congregate, perform, swap stories and support each other as they navigate this special industry.
Singular Sensation is hosted by the incomparable Jennifer Walls, a tireless supporter of musical theatre within Toronto who aims to encourage young people to become more involved within the local scene (and provides them with a jumping off point). She’s accompanied by Donavon Lenabat and Jamie Bird, both of whom bring their unique talents and humour to each open mic night. Every Monday they are joined by a host of regulars as well as students from Toronto arts programs and artists from local productions – all of whom get the opportunity to perform in front of an enthusiastic crowd of theatre lovers.
For me, Singular Sensation will always hold a special place in my heart because it provided me with my first real exposure to the Toronto cabaret scene (and it’s insanely talented artists). My first open mic was when I had just begun writing for the Toronto contingent of BroadwayWorld and I was welcomed with open arms by a group of incredibly passionate people who wanted the chance to showcase their talents as well as help spread the word about the art of cabaret.
I began going regularly, and not only continued to meet inspiring people who helped point me towards stories, concerts and events that wouldn’t have otherwise been on my radar, but I also got to watch young musical theatre performers come into their own as they grew up on stage. I’ve witnessed many a nervous first performance, a birthday celebration and even a few tearful farewells. I had the chance to talk to some of them about their struggles within the industry, what types of things they would like to see covered more, and what their career goals were. And when I left BroadwayWorld and launched this website, they were some of the first people to express their support.
What makes Singular Sensation special is its desire to be inclusive of everyone – you don’t have to have a long resume of theatre credits or be a recognizable name to get time on their stage. You only have to love musical theatre and have a passion for seeing the scene within Toronto continue to grow and become the best that it can be. Heck, they even offered to let me sing on more than one occasion (I politely declined for the sake of all patrons on Church Street).
Toronto (and Canada) has an incredibly diverse and impressive roster of musical theatre performers – and sometimes not enough shows to provide them with the opportunity to shine. That’s exactly why supporting an endeavour like Singular Sensation is so important, because it allows these people a place to perform, while simultaneously fostering this sense of ‘family’ that many people within the Toronto community feel so fortunate to be a part of. We need to raise each other up, and cheering for someone when they take an open mic podium for the first time is the perfect way to do that.
If you don’t know what I mean when I say it is like a family, I will leave you with this personal story from my days at Statlers. When I was packing up to leave Toronto and take a job in Calgary, I went to Singular Sensation for what I thought was going to be any other open mic night. Instead, the organizers had solicited some of my favourite performers from the musical theatre scene to come out and give me a farewell send off. Ryan Graham Hinds (who is now an artist in residence at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre) wrote his own version of “When You’re Good to Mama” from CHICAGO just for me, Mark Cassius made me cry with a heartfelt rendition of “My Funny Valentine” and Jeni herself finally busted out a song from RENT because I had been asking for it for as long as I can remember.
It was a send off I will never forget, from a group of people who I admired long before I became a part of the business. They accepted me before I had made a name for myself, and took the time to say goodbye to me even though I wasn’t a performer like all of them.
In that same spirit of community and family I wanted to give them a Happy Birthday swan song, from all the way across country. As I sit at my desk in Calgary I find myself wishing I could be there to celebrate with them, but mostly I remain proud and inspired by the work that they continue to do every week. If you have never been, do yourself a favour and check them out. Support our local artists, show them some love, and if you’re really lucky, you might even get some Tsujiuchi riffing! Happy 5th Birthday Singular Sensation – love you always.
— SINGular Sensation (@Sing_Sensation) March 22, 2016
When and Where?
Singular Sensations 5th Birthday – Monday April 18th at 10PM
Statlers on Church
Confirmed special guests include Canadian theatre legend Charlotte Moore, Cabaret star Chris Tsujiuchi, Toronto composer Kevin Wong, Redheaded Coffee Shop Girl Rebecca Perry, fresh from Grey Gardens Kira Guloien, Erica Peck and cast members from Mirvish’s #KinkyBootsTO, Funny girl Gabi Epstein, Ryan G Hinds fresh off his residence at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre and more!