Meanwhile...Our Online Magazine

  December 21, 2020  

Meanwhile Issue #29

This is our last issue of the year — 29 altogether since we began publishing in April. Our goal then was to offer a forum of theatre news and ideas to entertain you while our theatres were closed. We hope we have accomplished this.

In this issue SnL bring you part two of their Holiday Extravaganza. We share with you a new full-length adaptation of A Christmas Carol from the co-director of Les Misérables; we offer you our new time travel tool that goes all the way back to 1963, when the Mirvish family purchased and restored the Royal Alex; and we have a wonderful new music video entitled “All I Want for Christmas is You … to Socially Distance”.

We wish you and yours the merriest of holidays and we hope the new year finds you in good health and spirits.

In many ways 2021 feels like a new beginning for all of us. With many vaccines for the pandemic, we are hopeful for the reopening of many parts of our society, including theatres. But until then, we must all continue to be vigilant and steadfast in keeping ourselves, our families, our neighbours and our fellow citizens safe and healthy.

Meanwhile will be taking January off, but we will return with renewed vigour, enthusiasm and fun on February 2, 2021.

To be continued ...

A Christmas CarolEstella Scrooge A Christmas Carol with a twistA Christmas Carol was published December 19, 1843. It was written in just six weeks, with the final pages completed only days before publication. Dickens wanted to capture the zeitgeist, when the traditions we associate with Christmas were being established, and to comment on the social ills — rampant greed and lack of empathy for the poor — that were tearing his society apart. A Christmas Carol has been with us ever since. It’s never been out of print and the adaptations for stage and film have been numerous. But there’s never been an adaptation as of the moment and as true to Dickens’ original intent as Estella Scrooge, a 21st century musical retelling by the Tony and Olivier-winning director John Caird and the Tony-nominated composer Paul Gordon.

Toronto theatregoers will remember Caird and Gordon’s brilliant musical adaptation of Jane Eyre, which premiered at the Royal Alex in 1996 and a few years later opened on Broadway. That was the first collaboration between these two artists. There have been many since. Estella Scrooge is their latest musical and we are proud to be sharing a filmed performance of it, starring 24 of Broadway’s brightest stars. It is available exclusively in Canada to Mirvish patrons through a special arrangement with Streaming Musicals, WitzEnd Productions, Michael Alden, David Bryant and Rubicon Theatre.

Estella Scrooge is set in our crazy modern world and takes place in New York and Pickwick, Ohio. The title character is the heartless, growth-driven (growth is the new euphemism for greed) young CEO of a financial corporation. Estella loves nothing more than foreclosing on a property. When she learns that a hotel in her hometown of Pickwick has defaulted on its mortgage, she decides to do the deed herself. She arrives Christmas eve and discovers the hotel has been turned into a refuge for the poor and it is run by her childhood sweetheart. But that doesn’t stop her from serving him with the foreclosure papers. A sudden snowstorm forces her to stay overnight. Like her ancestor Ebenezer, she is visited by three unexpected guests.

This tale of hope and redemption, seen through the lens of our times and interpreted by major theatre artists, may be the most appropriate way to usher in the holiday season as this tumultuous year comes to an end.

Visit for full performer bios and to learn more about the unique way this musical was captured on film.

Estella Scrooge is streaming online now. Enjoy it yourself. Give it as a gift. You can even make a virtual viewing party of it by inviting family and friends to watch it with you — all of you safely in your own homes. 

Mirvish subscribers can use code MIRVISH5OFF to save $5 off the price.

Streaming Musicals is based in the US and therefore prices are in US funds. Please bear that in mind when purchasing. Your credit card company will automatically make the conversion from US$ to CAD$ on your statement.

As Tiny Tim says: “God bless us, everyone!”

Check in from away yellow logo
Here it is: part two of the Holiday Extravaganza. Among the special guests are Louise Pitre and Joe Matheson, Fiona Reid, Seana McKenna, Hannah and Izzy Levinson and many more.

This episode demonstrates the resilience and creativity of our theatre artists. Robbed of their livelihood and their outlet for artistic expression they have had to find new ways to participate in society and to make life meaningful.

Two women set to film on the driveway between two houses

Two of the special guests on the Holiday Extravaganza are Melanie Doane, a Juno Award-winning singer/songwriter, music educator and actor, and Cara Hunter, who has been performing in musical theatre in Toronto since landing a role in the original Canadian production of Les Misérables, Both are very talented performers with a wealth of experience. They worked together on War Horse a few years ago and have remained friends ever since. When we asked them if they wanted to contribute something musical to the Holiday Extravaganza, they responded with an immediate YES. 

But how do you do this safely in these times of social distancing?

Because they don’t share a household, they could not perform indoors. So, two Sundays ago, they met in the driveway of Cara’s house. It was bitterly cold. They set up the camera and lights, they measured the two metres necessary to keep them both safe and they began to perform their rendition of Gordon Lightfoot’s beautiful “Song for a Winter’s Night.”

Soon the wind and cold took their toll on Melanie and Cara’s faces and hands. Melanie had to run into her car to warm up and Cara popped into her house. They tried again, and again, and again.

“We could only get in two takes each time before my teeth started chattering and Mel could no longer feel her fingers,” says Cara. It took almost three hours to get a recording they were happy with.

Despite the obstacles, Cara says, “It was fun and so nice to have something to work on.”

AFC Logo redAll the artists who participated in the Holiday Extravaganza volunteered their time. They ask that if it is within your means you consider making a donation to the AFC — formerly the Actors' Fund of Canada, which has been helping people who work in show business when they are in need, and in these times there is much need for assistance.

i would like to donate to the AFC

Reelin' in the yearsIt’s not the holiday season without children. And if the child happens to be an orphan with curly red hair and comes with an equally adorable dog named Sandy, all the more festive. So for this Reelin’ in the Years we take you back to 2018 when the musical Annie played at the Ed Mirvish Theatre. The production starred Downton Abbey’s Lesley Nicol as Miss Hannigan and the role of Annie was shared by Isobel Khan and Ruby Stokes. The video featured is one of the big numbers from early in the first act: “It’s a Hard-Knock Life.”

 The Annie show programme includes all the artists’ bios and other background material. Find out more!

Book, TV Series and Film Recommendations
We asked for your “stats” and your recommendations and you obliged us. Here’s three randomly selected submissions.

Allison Andreatta

 10 books
The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner. A touching novel about the power of a shared love of literature, this book inspired me to read more of Austen’s work!

 9 TV Series
Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist - This heartwarming and hilarious musical show drew me in from the first episode. It has the perfect amount of comedy and real moments. I fell in love with all the characters and music!

 73 Films
Ever After (1998) - It’s not new, but I watched it spontaneously one day and LOVED it! Gorgeous imagery and a compelling take on the classic Cinderella story.

Rhys Parker

 9 books
It's Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini. An honest and uplifting story of a teen dealing with depression — and it's soon to be a stage musical!

 16 TV Series
The End of the F***ing World (Netflix). Great dark comedy about two teen outsiders who run away from home.

 37 Films
David Byrne's American Utopia (Crave). Filmed on Broadway, it's a concert with a groundbreaking concept and touching messages — it's the perfect escape for 2020.

Mark Woodruff

 25 books
Lampedusa - The story of the last Prince of Lampedusa, the author of the Italian classic The Leopard.

 30 TV Series
Dark (Netflix) - A German series that plays with time travel, multiple dimensions and quantum physics.

20 Films
The Trial of the Chicago 7 (Netflix)

Patron's Corner

This was a regular feature in the first issues of Meanwhile in the spring. We revive it here to bring you a heartwarming story about attending Come From Away from Mark Novis, the Principal of St. Barnabas Catholic School in Scarborough:

“I am writing to you today to express my deepest gratitude and to express how important it was to me and my family that you were able to support us in accessing tickets to Come From Away for my mother, who was physically challenged at the time.

I know some time has passed since you were able to accommodate our request due to a missed performance. As we come to the same time two years later, I am reminded of your generosity and flexibility in giving this experience to my mother. My mother passed away last year in April of 2019, she was only 70 years old.

You were able to support her with tickets to this show just a month before her passing. I was able to take my mother who was suffering from kidney failure and a heart condition to this show.

You gave me a moment that I will never forget. This experience of such a touching show allowed us to share this time together in an environment which she loved and cherished.

My mother was a long time patron of Mirvish Productions. When I was a young boy she would take me out of school on my birthday for a meal at Ed’s Warehouse and then to a show. We even got to meet Ed Mirvish on one occasion. This tradition is one I will never forget, I will continue this tradition with my own daughter.

In her last few days on this earth, my mother was so happy to share with me one last show. I cannot express to you how grateful I am personally for this simple and kind gesture. It truly meant the world to me.

I spoke of this moment at her funeral. The hymn, “Make Me a Channel of Your Peace”*, which features prominently in Come From Away, resonated with both of us as it spoke to my mother’s condition and the promise of hope.

Thank you for your time, your understanding and your compassion. It is a testament to the professionalism and the standard of care and excellence you provide.”

* “Make Me a Channel of Your Peace" is also known as the "Prayer of St. Francis” and was first printed, anonymously, in 1912 by the French clerical magazine, La Clochette. In 1967 it was set to a chant-like melody by South African songwriter Sebastian Temple (Johann Sebastian von Tempelhoff, 1928–1997), who had become a third order Franciscan.

Mirvish Theatre Time Travel ToolWe thought about calling it a time-turner (in honour of Harry Potter), but we settled on the more traditional term of time travel.

What is our time travel tool? It’s an online programme that lists all the shows that have played in our theatres since the Mirvish family purchased, saved from demolition, and restored the Royal Alex. The first show after the restoration was Never Too Late, which opened on September 9, 1963.

Says David Mirvish, who was a teenager at the time, “I fondly remember that special night. It was the beginning of my family’s dedication to theatre in Toronto, a commitment that nothing will stop us from continuing. When the theatres reopen in September 2021, it will be 58 years of offering the best shows from across our country and around the world to Toronto audiences.”

Take a few moments and look through the list of thousands of shows. You can navigate by decade, and you can drill down to individual shows and find out the exact dates it played, in what venue and who was in it. You’ve probably seen some or many of the shows. The list may bring back memories of the magic and power of theatre.

This tool will remain online, so you can return to it every time you want to look up a show. We hope it brings you many hours of enjoyment.

All I want for ChristmasTo make your holiday season merrier and brighter, Chen Hascalovitz, a former Mirvish staff member, has created a delightful new video she entitled “All I Want for Christmas is You … to Socially Distance”. Yes, it is a parody of the famous song by Mariah Carey, but it is much more than that: it is also a guideline on how to enjoy the season whilst following the current COVID guidelines as spelled out by the Canadian government.

Chen is a multi-talented writer, composer, illustrator and animation artist who now lives and works in Ottawa. She has agreed to be a regular contributor to Meanwhile; you’ll see the comic strips she has created for us in the new year. Oh, yeah: she’s also at work on a new musical, which we hope to see on stage in the coming years.

In the meanwhile, enjoy her video. For reference (or if you want to sing along), here are the lyrics:

Oh I won’t ask for much this Christmas,
Just need y’all to stay at home. Wear a mask when Christmas shopping,
Six feet between the mistletoe!

Get your gifts from local shops,
Amazon doesn’t need a boost.
Hang out with your household only,
Stay under a single roof.

Cause I want you to stay put tonight,
Santa’s cancelled his only flight.
Make my dreams come true.
All I want for Christmas is you,
To stay put, oh babyyy!

I won’t ask for much this Christmas,
Or a lot for Chanukah,
If you can just keep your distance,
We could have a safe Kwanzaa.

Meet me online for Christmas Carols,
Let’s video chat on Christmas Day.
We could text on any app now,
But physically you gotta stay away!

Cause I don’t want you here tonight,
Holding on to me so tight.
What more can I do?
All I want for Christmas is you,
To socially distance, baby!

Woah, the numbers are going up, COVID everywhere!
And the sound of scientists crying fills the air.
The healthcare beds are filling,
I hear the politicians freaking!
Santa ain’t coming down your chimney tonight,
He listened to public health recommendations.

Oh I don’t want a lot for Christmas,
This is all I’m asking for.
Follow all the current guidelines,
Do your best to protect nonos.

I just want you to be safe,
Get these numbers down for goodness sake!
Make my wish come true,
All I want for Christmas is you.
To stay safe this holiday season!