Meanwhile...Our Online Magazine
It's the 14th of July and the 14th edition of Meanwhile is here!
In honour of Bastille Day, we caught up with some of the original cast members from the first Toronto production of Les Misérables. In doing so we heard some fantastic stories and have compiled some of the most memorable moments to share with you.
This edition of Meanwhile also brings the long-awaited announcement of the Show Tune Idol winners.
Finally, though our world may be in ruff shape, we've got something that'll be sure to put a smile on your face. Go behind the scenes with the cast of Come From Away to meet their cute and cuddly canine friends PLUS learn about dogs on stage in our Did You Know feature!
This edition is really a treat - we hope you enjoy it.
AND THE WINNERS ARE...
The results are in and our three judges — casting director Stephanie Gorin and our favourite chat show hosts, Steffi D and Lisa H have announced the winners of Show Tune Idol.
In case you missed it, or want to have another look at the newly discovered talent, you can watch the full video submission of all the finalists here.
PLUS, check out another fantastic opportunity to showcase your singing and acting talent with casting director, Stephanie Gorin.
Sing Out! Help Out!
If you participated in Show Tune Idol, you may want to know about a new opportunity to showcase your singing and acting talent. Uber casting director Stephanie Gorin is hosting a musical workshop event to raise funds in support of AFCHelps.ca, Canada’s leading charity whose sole mission is to provide a lifeline to members of the entertainment industry who find themselves in dire circumstances.
Sing Out! Help Out! is a livestream workshop event that offers direct feedback to performers who submit a video of a musical theatre song. Your video will be reviewed and critiqued by a top panel of industry judges. The deadline is July 20th, 11:59 PM.
CHECK IN FROM AWAY
In this edition of Check In From Away, SnL check in with the company of Come From Away and their dogs!
By Antonio Tan
The Most Adorable Stars of the Mirvish Stage
In today’s issue of Meanwhile, we take a look at the most adorable stars of the Mirvish stage – dogs! Twelve loveable canines have graced our stages in the past decade.
When the national touring company of Legally Blonde The Musical played the Princess of Wales Theatre in 2010, a Chihuahua named Frankie played Bruiser, heroine Elle Woods’ handbag-sized pooch; and an English bulldog named Nellie played manicurist Paulette’s Rufus. They also had understudies: another Chihuahua named Lewis and another English bulldog named Roxie. The dogs were rescues, found and trained by renowned Broadway pup trainer Bill Berloni, who’s been providing dogs for the Great White Way since 1977.
What’s The Wizard of Oz without Dorothy’s terrier, Toto? In Andrew Lloyd Webber’s stage version, which had its own Canadian production at the Ed Mirvish Theatre in 2012, not one but three Norfolk terriers played Dorothy’s companion. Tilley (aged 9 at the time) was the main Toto while her brothers Neddy and Winny (both 6 at the time) were the understudies.
Peter Morgan’s The Audience (Royal Alexandra Theatre, 2017) is about the imagined meetings between Queen Elizabeth II and her prime ministers throughout her reign. The Queen is known for her love of corgis, and the play (which inspired the acclaimed Netflix series The Crown) has a very brief but memorable scene-stealing appearance from a pair of corgis named Butters and Hachi, who were found through a Toronto Facebook group for corgis.
In the final scene of the acclaimed National Theatre production of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, a puppy is given to the show’s protagonist, 15-year-old Christopher. For Toronto, our company management team had the challenge of finding puppies at the exact age when they’d normally be ready to be adopted (around eight weeks old), so they had to find Labrador and golden retriever breeders who would be having puppy litters at exactly the right time and would be willing to lend the puppies to the show for six weeks. In our run, we had two puppies in the six-week engagement. Merlin, a Labrador Retriever, was recruited for the first half of the run (before she outgrew the role), then Sammi, a golden retriever, finished out the final weeks, both collectively melting the audiences’ hearts.
And finally, perhaps the most famous stage pooch role of all-time is Sandy in Annie. The recent West End revival played the Ed Mirvish Theatre in 2018 and engaged a local wheaten terrier named Ella to play the stray that the red-haired orphan finds on the tough streets of New York City.
Check future Meanwhile issues for more theatre and showbiz DID YOU KNOW? trivia by Antonio Tan.
July 14 is Bastille Day; a time to both celebrate and reflect upon the milestone moment of the French Revolution. In honour of Bastille Day, we thought we'd look back on a musical milestone for theatre in Toronto, Les Misérables.
THE ORIGINAL CAST MEMBERS REMINISCE
We reached out to some of the original cast from the 1989 Toronto production of Les Misérables and asked them to share their memories of their time in the show. Watch the video and check out what they had to say!
Plus, Janelle Hutchison (Mme. Thenardier) shared some special memories of more than 3 decades ago!
WORKING WITH GRAEME CAMPBELL
I remember how thrilling it was to be cast as Mme. Thenardier, the Innkeeper’s Wife, in this extraordinary show about 9 months before rehearsals were scheduled to begin…and to be told that I would be playing opposite Graeme Campbell as the Innkeeper. I’d seen Graeme in several Stratford Festival productions through the years and was quite intimidated by the prospect of playing his wife. When we were introduced at a Meet-the-Company reception which Mirvish hosted, he could not have been more warm and graceful, even going so far as to tell me how much he’d loved me in productions he’d seen me in. For me, one of the best compliments fans waiting for us at the stage door after performances frequently gave us was asking if we really were husband and wife! Graeme was a strong, even fierce, actor. But always a generous and giving scene partner. I loved working with him.
And, yes, there is that mouse story…. Graeme had a rubber mouse loaned to him by Catherine Ellard, one of the Royal Alexandra ushers. I would see it often on his make-up table and, as I later discovered, it had made a few onstage appearances with him. This particular performance Graeme decided that it would be nice for the mouse to have a curtain call. And so when Graeme strode out for bow, unbeknownst to us, he had the mouse in his mouth. He took his bows with the audience none the wiser, and when he turned upstage to join us he slowly let the mouse out until it dangled, hanging by its tail, held between his teeth. I made the mistake of deciding to take it and was left with a lovely saliva coated rubber mouse in my hand for the rest of the curtain call. Clearly, the Shakespearean, most senior actor in the company was not above playing the prankster.
After more than 1,400 performances, I’d worked with 9 different Thenardiers – all talented and each bringing their own ‘special sauce’ to the role. But I’ll never forget the gift of working with Graeme.
We rehearsed the original production in an old Canadian Tire store on Dufferin north of Eglinton which had been specifically chosen because rehearsals demanded a space with enough square footage to actually build a platform with the stage’s turntable in it.
During our first week of rehearsals, quite intentionally, none of us saw a single piece of music. Because Les Mis was such a marathon, (in those days clocking in at 3 hrs and 12 minutes per performance), we began each rehearsal day with a music-blasting, 1-hour cardio physical warm-up, followed by a vocal warm-up with the musical director, and then a series of theatre games, many from Britain’s Royal Shakespeare Company.
I’d never had the opportunity to work in this way before, with the luxury of such a generous rehearsal period. What this meant was that by the time we were given the score to begin rehearsing the music, we had become a company, comfortable performing in front of one other, so supportive of each other and charged up knowing we were going to present this incredible show to Canadian audiences for the very first time.
THE SKYDOME CONCERT
Those of us in the original company were fortunate enough to perform a concert version of Les Mis at the Skydome, now Rogers Centre, for more than 58,000 people. Every ticket was $15 and all proceeds went to Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children. The cast was seated all across the specifically constructed stage, and each of us would make our way down to the microphones when it was time for our scenes.
A similar event had been produced in Sydney, Australia and the team who had a hand in producing that one was involved. It was such a special night. Videographers roaming the stage, their feed projected on the Jumbotron. Three orchestras – not only our 27-piece orchestra but for this extraordinary performance we were joined by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and the TSO Youth Orchestra – with the players seated behind the company and when the music began and that wall of sound came at us it was thrilling.
The event’s most remarkable moment was as the Police Inspector Javert sang “Stars” when the roof slowly retracted and on this clear, clear evening, the stars in the night sky were shining there for all of us to see.
PART 1 - By John Karastamatis
Last week we introduced a new six-part biweekly series called Ghosts of the Royal Alex. If you missed part 1, you can catch up by listening to the podcast or reading the story.
Read by David Mucci / Length: 18 minutes