Meanwhile...Our Online Magazine

  May 12, 2020  

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Issue #6

Welcome to our largest issue yet!

The response to Meanwhile has been great so we’ve added more for you to read, view, listen to and enjoy.

This week's edition has something for everyone including Name That (Show) Tune, the second installment of Check In From Away, a sneak peek at our Dress-Up-To-Win entries, a new section called, "Did You Know?" which features tidbits of little-known facts brought to you by the encyclopedic minds of Mirvish employees, an exclusive 115-song playlist, and much more.

We look forward to the time we can all return to the theatre, take our seat and see the curtain rise. In the meanwhile, be well, stay safe and stay strong.

Meanwhile is a weekly e-magazine about theatre-going, the performing arts and all its offshoots sent weekly while the Mirvish Theatres are closed.


CHECK IN FROM AWAY

This week's Check In From Away has hosts Steffi D and Lisa Humber talking cooking and quarantine with the Toronto cast of Dear Evan Hansen.

Check In From Away Episode 2

Miss the first episode? Catch up here


NAME THAT(SHOW)TUNE AND WIN!

Participate in our Name That (Show) Tune challenge and you could win a $100 Mirvish Gift Card. No purchase necessary to participate! Take the challenge today by listening to the short clips online and submitting your answers. 

PLAY NOW!


DON'T MISS A BEAT

Man sits in oversized red chair in front of a theatre

And speaking of show tunes, there’s a Mirvish employee whose knowledge of musical theatre is remarkable. 

Richard McDonald has worked in the Mirvish subscription department for a decade. In that time many subscribers have come to know him well enough to call him a friend, even though they may have never actually met him in person. But he is that friendly and knowledgable voice at the other end of the line who they can rely on to help them choose seats and learn more about upcoming shows. 

When he isn’t at his desk in front of his computer monitor or on the phone, he can be seen in the hallways of the office wearing headphones because he fills every moment when he isn’t working listening to music. 

Richard’s love and knowledge of musical theatre is fathomless. We’ve asked him to share a playlist of songs appropriate to what we are all going through right now. He has obliged and has named his playlist on Spotify of 115 show tunes, "Cheerful Little Earful — Happy Broadway Songs”. 

And happy they are. From two covers of the title song to selections from cast recordings of everything from Kiss Me Kate to Gypsy, Anything Goes, Oliver, 42nd Street, Applause and many, many more. 

Richard came to his love of the arts honestly. It began in the 1950s when he was taken to an amateur show in a church basement in his native Regina when he was only knee high.  Because he was the oldest grandchild in his large extended family — both his great grandparents, whom he knew because they lived to a very ripe old age, came to Canada from Scotland in 1882 and were among the early settlers of their province — he was lucky to have lots of aunts and uncles and cousins to take him to plays, concerts, movies and other events. He even remembers seeing the Oberammergau Passion Play when it came on tour to Regina. 

He didn’t see his first professional Broadway production until 1970, when the touring company of Fiddler on the Roof came to the newly built Saskatchewan Centre for the Arts. 

“I was always the odd, bookish boy,” says Richard. “From an early age I loved the arts. I would go to the art gallery, theatres, cinemas. When I was eight I’d see six movies on a Saturday by seeing two double bills at three different cinemas. Back then that would include a newsreel and cartoons before each movie. Heck, I even remember when they would give out dinnerware to entice you to go. I didn’t need the dinnerware. The movies were enough of an enticement.” 

By 1978 he had finished university and Regina just didn’t have enough “amusements,” as he describes them, for him. He moved to Toronto with friends. 

The first show he saw in Toronto was A Chorus Line at the Royal Alex. That same year he made his first visit to New York. 

“The first Broadway play I ever saw was, well, it’s not a classic title — The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas at the 46th Street Theatre (now called the Richard Rodgers). It had just opened and had great choreography by Tommy Tune.” 

He has great memories of his many trips to New York, which were very often because he always had friends living there and had a place to stay while indulging his habit for theatre. He also travelled to many other places for shows: London, Paris, Los Angeles. 

“I saw one of my all-time favourite shows in New York — The Life and Times of Nicholas Nickleby. It was in 1981 at the Plymouth Theatre (now named the Gerald Schoenfeld). It had a limited run, had gotten great reviews and was sold out. But I managed to get a single seat. The show lived up to its hype. Amazing.” 

But his all-time favourite show in a lifetime of theatregoing is the National Theatre’s 1993 production of Carousel, which he saw in London. 

“Magnificent,” he says. “The six-minute opening scene which has no dialogue, just music and movement, culminates in a true coup de theatre when the carousel is suddenly created out of bits and pieces and spins before your eyes. It brought me to tears each time I saw it.” (Here’s a link to a pirated video filmed by an audience member. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VUVqEwsXnZ0 It’s a little out of focus for a few seconds, but it shows you what Richard is talking about.) 

His other all-time favourites are Peter Brook’s nine-hour production of The Mahabharata at Bouffes du Nord in Paris in 1985, the National Theatre’s Follies in London in 2017, and Girl From The North Country in Toronto in 2019. 

As for movies, ask him what his favourite film is and before you can finish the question he will answer, 1964’s A Hard Day’s Night, directed by Richard Lester and starring the Beatles. 

“I saw it at Regina’s Broadway Theatre on the day it came out. I saw it six times. I went to the very first showing and then I stayed and watched it again and again until the place closed down for the night. I loved that it was an homage to the French New Wave, that it was made by a genius and that the songs were among the greatest ever written. I own VHS, Laser Disc and DVD copies of it.” 

When Richard is talking to subscribers his enthusiasm for theatre is obvious. 

“Truly, live theatre is always rewarding. I’ve only walked out of two shows in my life. And even those two I didn’t regret attending. In fact, I have more regrets about not attending shows than seeing them. 

“I would have loved to see the original Follies in 1971. Another show I wish I had seen is Arthur Miller’s After The Fall, which was his play about his life with Marilyn Monroe. I remember reading about it Life magazine in the sixties and thinking how much I would have liked to see it. 

“All theatre is valuable. I don’t care if it’s a play with one person or 100. It doesn’t matter if it’s in a tiny space or in a magnificent venue. Just having actors tell us a story in real time creates a kind of magic. 

“Many people call and they want to talk about what seats in the theatre they should choose. Honestly, it doesn’t matter where you sit. What matters is what’s on stage. I’ve sat in the very last row, on the extreme side with a partially obstructed view. But if the show grabs me, I’m completely carried away by it. 

“I can’t think of many other activities that can create what theatre can and does create. That’s why I miss it so much during these times.

“But I know the theatres will reopen when it’s safe for them to do so. I have hope that it will happen soon.” 

Finally, here’s a note that’s just arrived in the subscription general inbox from a patron:
 
"I wanted to take this opportunity to extend my extreme thanks for the service I received this afternoon from your employee Richard. Like many of your customers the tickets we purchased to Hamilton and Les Miz were cancelled and we were faced with the decision with what to do moving forward. My husband and I didn’t want to take any money away from your organization in these trying times, but I couldn’t quite talk him into shelling out more money for performances next year in the meantime, so we reached the decision that we would purchase a subscription for next year in order to see many of your fine shows and then throw our hats back into the ring when the other shows returned and try to get tickets again. 
 
"Richard was kind, patient, funny, engaging and immensely helpful – we’ve never had a subscription before and he explained all the benefits and ins and outs. He is a credit to your organization and team and you can be sure that for all future orders I will be requesting Richard by name to assist!
 
"Thank you so much and the best to all of you."

In the meanwhile, listen to Richard’s playlist of cheerful Broadway songs and get happy.

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DRESS UP TO WIN UPDATE!

There are 3 days left to get your entries in, but we thought we'd share some of the submissions to date, both to serve as inspiration and because they are incredible! It's not too late for you to participate. Fill out the form below the gallery and submit your entry by May 15. 

I want to participate in Dress Up To Win!

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Did You Know?

DID YOU KNOW?

by Antonio Tan 

Wicked Ist National Tour

DID YOU KNOW that before skyrocketing to fame with American Idol and becoming the eyeliner-laden lead vocalist of the rock band Queen, Adam Lambert performed in two engagements of the smash hit musical Wicked at the Ed Mirvish Theatre (then known as the Canon Theatre)?

I came across this little nugget doing something that some of you may also be doing during this pandemic — reviewing and reorganizing my Mirvish show programme collection. There’s gold in them there programmes — information about artists who are now famous but we got to see when they were just starting out.

In this instance, I came across my old Wicked programme from 2005, when the show began its first North American tour at the Canon Theatre (now the Ed Mirvish). That original production was laden with young talent destined for greatness. 

Adam Lambert was a member of the ensemble and also an understudy for the male romantic lead, Fiyero. Also in that original production were future Tony Award winners Stephanie J. Block as Elphaba and Kendra Kassebaum (who would return to a Mirvish stage with the pre-Broadway run of Come From Away at the Royal Alexandra Theatre in 2016) as Glinda.

A year later, Wicked returned, this time starring Shoshana Bean (now a bonafide Broadway star and recording artist) as Elphaba and Megan Hilty (TV's "Smash") as Glinda.

So if you still have your old Wicked programme from 2005 or 2006, check to see if a small piece of paper falls out. It may say "At this performance, the role of Fiyero will be played by Adam Lambert" on it. You can honestly say, I knew him when.

Check future Meanwhile issues for more theatre and showbiz DID YOU KNOW? trivia by Antonio Tan.


PATRON'S CORNER

Lena Horne & Barbra StreisandThank you to everyone who continues to submit their theatre stories.

Here's one we thought we'd highlight this week:

On July 2, 1981 I attended a performance on Broadway of Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music. Just as the lights were dimming, I turned to the back of the theatre (the house seats were empty, so I figured someone was coming in). There, in profile, back-lit, frizzy hair and accompanied by 3 others....Barbra Streisand. Major fan here.....as in FANatical! They made their way down and Barbra sat 6 rows in front of me, to the right. I had an unobstructed view of her left profile, which any fan knows is her best. Poor Lena....I barely knew she was there for the first act.

At intermission, against all that I knew to be kosher, I spoke to Barbra, we shook hands (my idea, not hers) and cemented a memory that will stay with me forever. And thanks to Google, I've even found a picture on line of her and Lena backstage that evening. Lena was stunning in Act 2, by the way, but Act 1 was all Babs!

- Keith Perrott

Do you have a theatre story or memory that you want to share with the world? Share it with us and you could be included in the next edition!

SEND US YOUR STORY


IN THE NEWS

Emma Donoghue

The Guardian, Mon 11 May 2020 
By Rory Carroll

Emma Donoghue: the lockdown lessons she learned from writing Room

The author of Room — the bestselling novel and Oscar-winning film of confinement, which she adapted into a stage play that was to have its premiere at the Grand Theatre in London ON, on March 13, 2020, on the same day all the theatres were shut down before coming to the CAA Theatre to the Off-Mirvish season—talks to the Guardian about how her story has gained new resonance during coronavirus. Coincidentally her newest novel is is set during the 1918 flu pandemic.

As the author of Room, a story about a mother and child held captive for years in a garden shed, Emma Donoghue mapped the mental toll of extreme confinement long before coronavirus lockdowns.

Her character Ma endured boredom, frustration, anguish and worse – yet somehow created a rich, nurturing environment for her son.

The story, a bestselling novel that became an Oscar-winning film, has found new resonance in the era of lockdowns, enclosure and home schooling.

Published in 2010, Room was shortlisted for the Booker prize, sold millions of copies and was made into a 2015 film that won multiple awards, including an Oscar for its star, Brie Larson. Partly inspired by the Josef Fritzl case in Austria, it tells the story of a predator who abducts and imprisons a young woman in a converted shed. Repeatedly raped, she gives birth to a child, Jack, who grows up knowing only the room.

Reviewers praised the book and film for transforming a grim subject into a compelling depiction of resilience, with Ma creating a routine of physical exercise, games, chores, personal hygiene, education, storytelling and rationed TV that keeps her and Jack healthy and sane.

Quarantines to control Covid-19 hardly compare with the pair’s plight but have nevertheless forced families around the world to devise new routines.

Donoghue, who grew up in Ireland and lives in Canada with her partner and two teenage children, said the restrictions were toughest on the poor and those with young children.

“It’s made me so grateful that our kids are not small. Because when you’re in lockdown with a small child it’s the most intense. You can run through all your tricks and it’s still only 9am. Children cycle through interests and moods so quickly – it can seem like months and it’s not even lunchtime.”

One lesson from writing Room was that a family unable to leave home needed to find a daily rhythm, she said. “The rules are not set by social interaction any more. You should do certain things at set times – it can give a lovely sense of rhythm and ritual to your day, otherwise you might feel you’re living in a weird delirium. Routine creates a type of hammock you can rest in.”

Another tip: give your fellow lockdowners, be they children or adults, space to grow and change. “Some people at the outset maybe enjoyed cocooning together but three weeks later one wants to go for a walk on their own listening to music. Being flexible is important.”

Donoghue said she felt privileged being able to enjoy outdoor walks and order food online, unlike Ma or many real families mired in poverty. “There are lots of situations that keep people in a room counting the cans.”

The pandemic forced the cancellation of Room’s North American theatrical debut – Donoghue has adapted it for the stage – but injected unexpected currency to her new novel.

The Pull of the Stars, to be published in July, is about a nurse, a doctor and a volunteer helper who care for patients in a Dublin maternity hospital during the 1918 flu pandemic, which killed tens of millions.

Donoghue started it in 2018 and finished last October, months before the Covid-19 outbreak. “I’d no idea what was coming. I didn’t realise this would be a big deal until March. As soon as I realised that a pandemic was happening I was a bit sheepish that people might think I threw this novel together in a few weeks to capitalise.”

The sense of a modern urban plague drew her to the story. “This was people going to work on the tram trying to not cough on each other.”

Admirable healthcare workers doing their job was not a bland storyline when random death surrounded them, said Donoghue. “My characters can afford to joke and be good to each other because the next moment they could be choking on their own sputum.”

Fictional accounts of apocalypse tended to overdo the panic and people behaving badly, said Donoghue. “Of course there is bad behaviour but in times of extreme danger people’s natural goodness does show.”

Coronavirus was forcing people apart but social subtleties and good manners endured, she said. “Here we may cross the road to avoid each other but we still do a nod and a bow.”

Mirvish Productions intends to produce Room in a future Off-Mirvish season. To hear one of the songs from Room performed in rehearsal, click here.

You can pre-order The Pull of the Stars from Indigo here.

AND FINALLY...

Guthrie Theater: A Message From Artistic Director Joseph Haj

Enjoy this heartfelt video about the future of theater and why nothing can replace the centuries-old tradition of gathering together.

Artistic Director Joseph Haj