Meanwhile...Our Online Magazine
Hello, again! We haven’t seen you since December. We took January off in solidarity with the stay-at-home order from our Public Health officials. But we couldn’t stay away from you any longer, so we are back to entertain you and feed your love of theatre. And speaking of love, our first issue of the year is all about the emotion that drives all of us, a theme that is often explored theatrically and in many different ways.
Steffi and Lisa are back with their second season of Check In From Away; they speak with guests who met and fell in love backstage. We have a poll to determine the best love song from a musical. Love bloomed in the lobby of the Ed Mirvish Theatre last December, and we have the story and photos to prove it. And Melanie Doane and Cara Hunter have returned to serenade you with a cover of “I Will Always Love You” and the sentiment is truly heartfelt.
Share this Meanwhile with someone you love!
Celebrating Black Theatre Artists
It’s Black History Month and we’re celebrating the Black theatre artists and plays that have graced our stages throughout the years. Each day during February on our social media channels, we are honouring an artist or group of artists or a production.
For instance, did you know that Paul Robeson, the brilliant actor, singer, producer and activist, performed the title role in Othello at the Royal Alex in September 1944? He was the first Black artist to play the role with a white supporting cast on Broadway and then toured North America in the production. Although he would play Toronto other times, mostly in concert, this was the only time he appeared in a play here. It was a magnificent time in the history of the Royal Alex.
Or, did you know that A Raisin in the Sun, the groundbreaking drama that is now considered among the best of the 20th century and which made an international star of playwright Lorraine Hansberry when she was just 29 years old, played at the Royal Alex in November and December 1960?
Or that Sarafina!, the South African musical by Mbongeni Ngema about the student uprising against apartheid in Soweto, had its Canadian premiere at the Royal Alex in September 1990? The creation of the musical was chronicled in the documentary film, Voices of Sarafina! A film adaptation of the musical was made in 1992 starring Whoopi Goldberg and Leleti Khumalo.
Check In From Away — Falling in Love Backstage
Steffi and Lisa (aka SnL) are back with a second season of their theatre-loving, heartwarming, pandemic-crushing talk show. Episode 1 is all about backstage romances, which SnL have named showmances. SnL’s guests — who are in Toronto, PEI, NYC and London — reveal how Cupid's arrow struck them while working in the theatre.
Don't forget to listen to our companion playlist on Spotify! Our guests share their favourite love songs.❤️
Melanie Doane & Cara Hunter Will Always Love You
Melanie Doane, the Juno Award-winning singer/songwriter, music educator and actor, and Cara Hunter, the actor and singer who has starred in many of Toronto’s big musicals, from Les Misérables to Joseph and the Technicolour Dreamcoat, have contributed a beautiful rendition of “I Will Always Love You” for this Valentine’s themed issue. Like they did with their cover of “Song for a Winter’s Night” for the Holiday Extravaganza in our December Meanwhile, they shot their video in the open air in Cara’s driveway, six feet apart and accompanying themselves on ukuleles. This time they each pinned a red heart to their touques. They are true troopers, as has often been said about performers who will endure almost anything to get on with the show — even bitter cold. They are also our wintertime troubadours.
Will You Be Mine? A Wedding Proposal at the Ed Mirvish Theatre
In November, we received this email:
"My name is Ben and I’m writing with an exceptional request. My long-time girlfriend, Kristi, and I are huge theatre fans. We've been dating for five years. The highlights of our relationship can be traced to shows at your theatres. They hold an incredible amount of sentimental value for us. I’d like to propose to Kristi, but we're both frontline healthcare workers. All my previous plans for proposing have been unfortunately foiled due to pandemic and our work requirements. In a few months, we will be celebrating our fifth anniversary. As your theatres are closed, do you think it may be possible for me to propose at one of them next month? Of course we will be adhering to all safety and health protocols. If you could help me out in any way, I'd really appreciate it. PS: I’d like this to be a surprise.”
Over the years we’ve received hundreds and hundreds of requests for proposals to take place in one of our theatres. The majority of the time we can’t oblige because our theatres are working spaces and the show, the audience, the artists and the staff have to come first. This request was one of the very few exceptions.
Dr. Ben was correct: our theatres have been shuttered since March 13, 2020 and will only reopen once we know that the world is safe and healthy again and our Public Health officials give us permission to do so. But how could we turn down a request from a frontline healthcare professional?
We contacted Dr. Ben and together we found a way to make his request a reality at the Ed Mirvish Theatre. Ben was responsible for finding a way to get his girlfriend to the venue. We would organize the lobby.
The theme of the proposal was Act Two. Of course, Act One consisted of all the shows that Ben and Kristi had attended during their courtship. We had tickets made up with that title. Only the two of them were in the lobby. Four high-top tables were set up. On each were mementos of significant dates for them — show programmes and menus from dinners they had had. In order to be able to include others in the engagement, Ben brought four iPads, one for each of the tables. On each iPad, different family members and friends were connected to the event via Zoom.
This very special proposal took less than an hour but we are sure it will be remembered by them the rest of their lives.
Congratulations Ben and Kristi. Thank you for being such loyal theatregoers. And thank you for continuing to serve all of us by being on the frontlines of this pandemic.
Best Love Song from a Musical
Help us choose the best love song from a stage musical and you could win a $100 Mirvish gift card. We’ve narrowed the list down to a dozen songs — because it reminds us of the gift with which Valentine’s Day is often celebrated: a dozen red roses. Choose your favourite and if it proves to be the most popular song in this poll, your name will be entered to win.
What are the dozen contenders? Here are some lyrics from the songs: “A single look and then I knew.” “Say you love me every waking moment.” “Somehow I’ve fallen under your spell.”
Deadline to enter is February 14th at 11:59 PM.
Come From Away Reopens in Melbourne
The Australian production of Come From Away is among the very first in English-language large-scale theatre to reopen during the pandemic. The show originally began in Australia with previews on July 3, 2019 and an official opening on July 20, 2019 at the Comedy Theatre in Melbourne. In March 2020, it and all other shows in Australia closed due to the pandemic.
After 11 months of extensive and successful lockdowns (during two waves of COVID-19) and with ongoing protocols working well, Victoria, the state of which Melbourne is the capital, announced it was safe to reopen theatres and other live performing arts venues.
Come From Away began preview performances on January 19, 2021 and officially opened on January 28, 2021. Audiences have been donning masks (one of the protocols in use) and joyously making their way to the Comedy Theatre. As has been the case with productions of Come From Away around the world, audiences in Melbourne give the show a standing ovation at each performance. But now they are not only cheering the artistry and talent of the show, but also the return of being able to enjoy theatre once again.
In its review of the reopened Come From Away, Melbourne’s The Age, provided context for the show and its place in the community. Critic Cameron Woodhead wrote:
“What better show to reopen Melbourne’s famed East End Theatre District than a return season of Come From Away? It is one of the few commercial musicals to celebrate the heroism of ordinary people; the immeasurable value of solidarity and goodwill, especially when disaster strikes.
“Melburnians know a thing or two about those. Indeed, live theatre would be impossible right now without them. So, although Come From Away is inspired by events two decades past, the story of a community pulling together in an international crisis reflects recent experience, investing it with immediate resonance.
“There is no musical quite like it. I’ve seen it four times now and am yet to be bored: there isn’t a dead moment.
“The actors seem refreshed by the pandemic-induced hiatus, as excited as the audience to be in a theatre once more.
“And COVID-safety measures don’t dampen spirits one bit. Masked audiences laugh, cheer and applaud Come From Away just as much as mask-free ones, and with the Comedy Theatre, the buzz is palpable.
“The entire ensemble has mastered, in performance, the very solidarity and interdependence that form the subject of the show. Seeing Gander’s remarkable response to 9/11 onstage, Melbourne audiences will reflect, rightly and with quiet pride, on the way we united in a similar vein to eliminate the second wave of COVID-19.”
In Toronto, we all look forward to the time when it will be safe for theatres to reopen here. Meanwhile, we salute Melbourne on this magnificent accomplishment.
NEW! Mirvish Merch Just in Time for Valentine’s Day
In December, we opened the Mirvish online merchandise shop. Offering novelty items for theatre lovers, the shop had masks, t-shirts and a coffee-table book. We’ve now added more items: vintage mugs from the Royal Alexandra and the Princess of Wales theatres; a coffee-table book published in 1993, commemorating the opening of the Princess of Wales Theatre and the Canadian premiere of Miss Saigon; and a rare CD recording of the world premiere production of the musical Jane Eyre, which played the Royal Alex in 1996-97.
If you love someone who loves theatre, show them with a gift from Mirvish.
Quick Change Comic Strip: I’ve Had the Time of My Life …
We are delighted to launch a new comic strip from Chen Hascalovitz, an artist, writer, composer and performer who made the parody music video “All I Want for Christmas is You… to Socially Distance” which we featured in the last Meanwhile of 2020. For her first comic — which Chen has called Quick Change and which will explore backstage life — she wonders how one would rehearse an iconic scene from one of the most popular of modern love stories, Dirty Dancing.