For people who love musical theatre in Toronto, there’s an exciting new venture kicking off this weekend designed to promote and engage our community of theatre geeks and our incredible triple threats! Musical Chairs Toronto is the brainchild of Esther Vallins and Kieren MacMillan and is designed to help spread the word about great Canadian musical works.
The concept is simple and fun – one Sunday a month they will take over Toronto’s Tranzac Club and have some of our best and brightest performers sing songs from Canadian works. This Sunday, Feb 9th they have a ‘coming out’ party where they will debut the concept to the city, and Esther spent a few minutes telling me about the project and her hopes for the future of musical theatre in Canada:
First off, tell us a little bit about Musical Chairs Toronto and what it will entail?
Musical Chairs Toronto (MCT) is a new company – dedicated the expansion of new Canadian Musical Theatre! Every second Sunday of the month we will stage new, Canadian works ‘in concert’. We have so many wonderful, talented composers in this business, and we want to not only celebrate them more, but we want to foster growth for the writers and performers alike!
Where did you get the idea and the inspiration come?
One night last year, Kieren and I chatted about how it was a shame that more new musical theatre readings weren’t happening in our great city. The ones we do have are fabulous, but we want to see even more. So we came together because we saw a need and it was something that we wished to see come to fruition. One of the best ways to inspire growth is through frequent workshopping, and seeking feedback from peers and mentors.
How did you come to work with Kieren?
I met Kieren in 2011 when I was at the Stirling Festival Theatre – we bonded over a bottle of Baco Noir and a huge love for all musicals. I’ve also always loved everything he’s ever composed – he, along with Jeremy Hutton, have written very successful Canadian musicals, such as ‘ Fairytale Ending ‘ (which is now getting international acclaim), and ‘Robin Hood: The Legendary Musical Comedy’ . When we came up with the idea for MCT, we knew it was without a doubt a project on which we would make a pretty swell team, considering our love for musical theatre, and our vision for the growth of the theatre community in Toronto!
What do you think of the current state of musical theatre in Toronto (whether Canadian or not)?
I know that there is so much amazing talent here amongst our fellow Canadian (and Torontonian) artists! I think that our Musical Theatre scene can and should be growing – and the way to make that happen is to shape it ourselves. After all, we’re the ones who dream every day of making this our profession! It’s amazing that in the past few years, many indie theatre companies have been popping up, and producing great musicals. It has been a joy to witness and I hope it will continue to grow.
I think we can all get out to see more theatre. I know as (sometimes starving) artists, our pockets are burning deeper and deeper holes, but if we want to convince people to invest in our theatre community, shouldn’t it start with us? Consider it as an investment into not only our personal future as artists, but the future of our industry as a whole.
What kinds of things do you think we can be doing to encourage more support of our wonderful Canadian musical theatre talents?
I think that creating this type of opportunity (a monthly reading series of new Canadian Musical Theatre works) is one way! In my opinion, the work never stops. A finished product is never a finished product. It is important for us to hold each other accountable, to challenge each other to strive for greatness, and to always keep working.
I just came back from New York, and saw a great show called ‘ A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder ‘. A friend of mine in the cast mentioned that this brand new musical (not based on a movie or a play?! Crazy talk!) was in workshops for TEN years before it made it to the Great White Way! A very long haul for a big reward – and to me, that is a fantastic example of continuing to pursue the work from every avenue possible. I think most importantly, our network thrives best when we all support each other. So get out to events like Crapshoot at TPM, or Jill Leger’s monthly open-mic cabaret, ‘Jill’s Living Room’, visit Flying Beaver Pubaret to see great Canadian entertainers…. and now, come out once a month to our event as well!
If you could make one wish for Toronto theatre and have it granted no questions asked, what would it be?
Only one?! I wish that a new theatre centre would open up, consisting of different spaces. There would be a “bar space” for cabarets (akin to Joe’s Pub in New York), and a 100-200 seat space for more indie musicals (perhaps, new Canadian musicals??!). And of course, for all of this to have proper arts funding! What can I say…. I dream big!
Finally, can you give any hints as to what will be coming up for Musical Chairs Toronto?
You’ll just have to come to our official launch of MCT this Sunday, Feb. 9th to find out!! 7pm at the Tranzac – $7.00 for Arts Workers and $15 General.