Acting Up Stage continues it’s 10th Year celebrations this month with a revival of what was arguably one of their most successful shows, the William Finn penned song cycle ELEGIES. The ninety minute show was first presented seven years ago and received critical raves, and is back on stage this month with much of its original cast intact (and one newcomer – Sheridan graduate Joel Gomez).
The show is a celebration of life and music and takes a unique look at the impact people make on the world through sung eulogies. ELEGIES celebrates all aspects of love, from friends of the writer, to his mother, dogs and even victims of the World Trade Centre collapse. Guaranteed to make you laugh and cry, the show also promises to fill you with joy.
Thom Allison was part of the original cast seven years ago, and is back to experience the beauty of Finn’s music once more. Interestingly, the first time I ever heard Thom sing live he was belting out one of my favourite tunes from ELEGIES – the heart wrenching ‘Infinite Joy’. It was at a benefit for The Harold Green Jewish Theatre Company, and I remember walking up to him afterwards with tears still in my eyes and telling him how much it meant to me.
Coming full circle, Thom now takes a few minutes to chat with me about returning to the show, growing up, love, life and (of course) joy:
Congratulations on the return of Elegies! First things first, how does it feel to be returning to the show after nearly 7 years?
It’s a bit surreal. Like visiting an old friend but both our lives have changed so much in the interim. But then wonderful to catch up on all that’s happened.
Have you found that growing up and having more time to mature has affected the way you approach this type of sensitive material?
You’d think I would learn to not push too much but I still want it to be so good I would find myself trying to run before I could walk in rehearsals. But what I do find as I get older is I’m less tentative to ask hard questions and I have better questions to ask of myself and of the material.
You have one newcomer in a group of people who all did this show together before, how did you go about integrating him into the cast and was it a difficult transition process?
First of all, Joel is a wonderful young person (like I’m a hundred) and performer so it was easy to welcome him in. Secondly, we all were so aware of not wanting to skip over anything in the process, we were really able to discover the show with him. He said he really appreciated that.
Could you explain what you consider a ‘song cycle’ to be and why it’s different from a traditional musical? Would people who generally only attend traditional musicals still be able to appreciate this?
A traditional musical has book scenes (just dialogue) that move a specific story along. A song cycle doesn’t have any book. It’s just songs that are linked thematically or emotionally but don’t necessarily tell a linear story. Each song is it’s own little play but all of the songs link together somehow. I think people who generally only attend traditional musicals have a lot to get out of a song cycle. Especially when it is being performed by the extraordinary group of singing storytellers I have the privilege to work with on this show. Song cycles have more punch. If traditional musicals are the large coffee, song cycles are the espresso.
hahaha “the feels”. I love that. It’s been interesting hearing audience members talk about their experience seeing the show. The show is made up of songs written about people who have passed on but it’s so celebratory of the lives of those people and every audience member brings his or her own experience with loss to the table. It’s inevitable that at least one of the songs is going to hit a chord and what people are finding is that they are surprised what the show brings up for them, but then delighted by how much lighter they feel after they are able to move through that emotion. And along the way, some may have a teary-er experience than others but it doesn’t make the release any less cathartic. I should mention there is actually a lot of comedy in the show which sometimes shocking and hilarious.
Jennifer Walls is hosting a special version of her popular “SINGular Sensation” following the April 9th performance of Elegies where she’s inviting people to come and perform a song that represents their life and legacy. If you could choose one song to represent you – what would it be and why?
Right now I’d say Harold Arlen’s LOSE THAT LONG FACE. I’ve always believed that we can choose joy no matter what the circumstance. And that doesn’t mean we should skim over bad feelings. I mean, face those feelings head on, breathe into them, really feel them and move on. Otherwise you’re wallowing and wasting your life when there is so much to go on for.
Finally, for those unfamiliar with William Finn or song cycles, what would you say to encourage them to see the show?
Give yourself the gift of this show. It has the potential to clean your soul . . . and make you giggle.
Acting Up Stage’s ELEGIES plays until April 13th at Daniel’s Spectrum. For more information or to purchase tickets please visit their official website: http://actingupstage.com/