Meanwhile...Our Online Magazine

  May 19, 2020  

Meanwhile Issue 7

Wow! We’ve been at this now for seven weeks. By this, we mean our online e-magazine — designed to provide you with some theatrical entertainment while our theatres are closed (and they’ve been closed almost 10 weeks). We’ve been making the most of this “pause” and having a lot of fun creating Meanwhile; we hope you, too, are enjoying it. 

In this issue: Steffi and Lisa (we think we should call them S’n’L from now on) check in with the three young actresses who shared the title role in Matilda The Musical in 2016. They were children four years ago; now they are teenagers. So S’n’L explore the theme,Revolting Children — Teenagers in Isolation.

We also have a new theatre trivia game, Emoji Challenge, with more prizes of $100 Mirvish Gift Cards for you to win. Also: the brilliant results of the Dress-Up To Win contest; our weekly Did You Know? column; and a look at theatregoing fashions of the past and the future.

Emoji challenge

Test your theatre skills with our emoji challenge for a chance to 🏆 win a $100 Mirvish Gift Card! What theatre show do the four emojis represent? Take the challenge today and see how many you can figure out. Good luck 🍀


Check In From Away Episode 3


Four years ago, three local young girls startled and delighted Toronto audiences in the title role in Matilda The Musical. Although the character herself is diminutive, the role is huge. For starters, Matilda is on stage almost the entire length of the show. How three nine-year-olds could have memorized the clever lines of playwright Dennis Kelly and the tongue-twisting lyrics of Tim Minchin, let alone perform a role that demanded physical stamina and some amazing gymnastics and illusions, was in itself a miracle, to reference the title of the miraculous opening number.

Hannah Levinson, Jaime MacLean and Jenna Weir are now bonafide teenagers. What has life been like for them in the intervening four years and how are they dealing with isolating at home? After all, teenage-hood is known for being more moody and terrible than the terrible twos. Check out the newest episode of Check In From Away.  

If you need a refresher on Matilda The Musical, here is a short video sizzler of scenes from the show.

Did You Know?

By Antonio Tan

In this issue’s edition of Check In From Away, hosts Steffi D and Lisa Humber look back at our Toronto production of Matilda The Musical from 2016.

Here are some fun facts about the show and its Toronto company:

  • Based on Roald Dahl’s beloved 1988 book, the Royal Shakespeare Company and Dodger Theatricals production of Matilda The Musical played the Ed Mirvish Theatre for six months from July 5, 2016 through January 7, 2017.
  • The production was an extended stop on the first national tour, and featured several Canadians in the lead roles, including Hannah Levinson, Jaime Maclean and Jenna Weir (who were just 9 and 10 years old at the time) alternating in the title role; Dan Chameroy as Miss Agatha Trunchbull, the child-hating headmistress and world champion hammer thrower; Degrassi High’s Paula Brancati as Miss Honey; and Brandon McGibbon (Once, Carmen Chia in our production of Mel Brooks’ The Producers) and Darcy Stewart as Matilda’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. Wormwood. After Toronto, most of them continued on with the national tour throughout the United States until it closed in June 2017.

  • The three young Matildas have continued their acting careers:

    • Hannah Levinson won a Toronto Theatre Critics Award for playing Young Alison in the Musical Stage/Mirvish co-production of Fun Home at the CAA Theatre. She also has several television credits, with featured turns in 11/22/63 (Hulu) and Designated Survivor (ABC). She voices the role of Emily in PBS’s Clifford the Big Red Dog and has a supporting role in the upcoming animated feature Fireheart. She also appears in the first season of Ghost Writer on Apple TV+.

    • Jaime Maclean performed as one of the spunky orphans in Annie at the Ed Mirvish Theatre in 2018, when we presented London’s West End production starring Lesley Nicol (Mrs. Patmore of Downton Abbey) as Miss Hannigan. She then starred in the Arts Club Theatre productions of Fun Home (also as Young Alison) and The Sound of Music, and The Hockey Sweater at the National Arts Centre.

    • Jenna Weir was also one of the orphans in Annie at the Ed Mirvish Theatre. She most recently made her Broadway debut as Young Elsa in Disney’s Frozen, and also has numerous TV movie credits for the Hallmark Channel.
  • Dan Chameroy got his start performing in the ensembles of Mirvish productions, first with Les Misérables in 1991 (where he met his wife) and then the original Canadian production of Miss Saigon in 1993. He then graduated to lead roles, playing Gaston to Kerry Butler’s Belle in Beauty and the Beast at the Princess of Wales Theatre in 1995 (for which he won a Dora Award), Plumbum in several seasons of Ross Petty’s holiday pantomimes, and starring at the Stratford Festival, where he most recently had memorable turns as Frank N’ Furter in The Rocky Horror Show and as Billy’s Dad in Billy Elliot.
  • The show featured music by Australian musician, comedian, actor and writer Tim Minchin, who is best known for his irreverent solo music career and for also writing the London and Broadway musical Groundhog Day. You may have seen him as Judas in the arena tour of Jesus Christ Superstar that was most recently streamed on YouTube as part of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Shows Must Go On pandemic fundraiser.

  • The show was directed by the Tony and Olivier Award-winning Matthew Warchus, the current Artistic Director of London’s Old Vic Theatre (which, as you should very well know, was once owned by Ed and David Mirvish, who restored the theatre to its former glory). Matthew has had an illustrious career ranging from such critically-acclaimed productions as Art, God of Carnage, Boeing Boeing, and The Norman Conquests to Ghost The Musical and Lord of the Rings at the Princess of Wales Theatre in 2006. His wife Lauren Ward (who originated the role of Miss Honey in the original productions of Matilda The Musical  in London and on Broadway) gave birth to one of their sons in Toronto while he was working on Lord of the Rings.

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

Dress Up To Win

You did it. You rummaged through your cupboards and with loads of ingenuity and imagination, you recreated images of famous characters and scenes from your favourite shows. We’ve chosen five winners. The first place winner is Ryan McGarvey, whose Alexander Hamilton is photographed on a Toronto rooftop with the rising sun behind him. Ryan titled his submission, Not Throwing Away My (Vaccination) ShotCongratulations to all our winners! Each receive a $100 Mirvish Gift Card.

Here is a look at all the submissions we received.

What People Wear To Watch Other People on Stage
By Erin Frey

For centuries, theatre-goers have been recognized as beacons of sartorial excellence. But let’s face it, Covid-19 has seriously decreased our standard of dress.  

Getting dressed in the morning (or late afternoon) now involves a sniff test. When I ask my kids if they remembered to change their underwear it is because I can’t be sure that I remembered to change my own.  

I’m beginning to worry that when we get out of this mess, I won’t remember how to fasten buttons let alone put together a stylish ensemble.  

But all hope is not lost! After all, fashion is cyclical, so we can look to audiences past to inspire the theatre look of the (hopefully near) future.

Audience Royal Alexandra In 1907, when the Royal Alexandra Theatre first threw open the doors –  who am I kidding, the Edwardians’ clothing did not allow throwing. When the doors of the Royal Alexandra Theatre first gently strained against their hinges there were strict rules about proper dress at the theatre.  

A lady would sport a high neck, light colours; a minimal train was acceptable, but hats were passé. The theatre was not the place for opulence, those shenanigans were left for going to the opera.  

One went to see a play, not to be seen. It would be the height of ill-breeding to draw attention away from the actors. And any woman would be mortified to be seen without kid gloves that coordinated with her dress.  

Gentlemen, too, had their gloves at the theatre, but they typically removed them along with their hats, which they could conveniently stow under their seats. Waistcoat and tie were de rigueur, but the style of jacket depended on your relationship to your viewing companion; if visiting the theatre with a man friend you could leave your cutaway or swallowtail jacket at home.  

After the First World War the rules of dress started to relax, a trend that would continue for the rest of the century. 

To be well-turned out in the 20s a woman should eschew her corset and any thought of not being noticed – beads, jewels, embroidery, feathers and appliqué were all welcome. For the first time comfort and ease of movement became necessary. Any flapper must be ready to dance at the drop of a hat. This wasn’t the same for the gents: a well-cut suit remained the fashion of choice for decades. 

In the 30s and 40s practicality took centre stage – or centre audience, as the case may be. Heavily influenced by stars of the screen like Marlene Dietrich and Katharine Hepburn, the truly memorable fashionista looked to simple silhouettes with a splash of androgyny.   

The 50s brought an increased focus on being ladylike. As such, the female form was highlighted with increased attention at the waist.  This decade was the last bastion of rigid fashion rules.  

Anne MirvishIn the 60s, musicals like Hair brought freedom from all societal constraints. Audience members even danced with cast members in a celebration of love and harmony. And the entire cast even went as far as disrobing on stage.  

Still, most theatregoers could not quite give up the custom of “dressing up” for a night out. They may have been more playful in their fashion choices, but most wouldn’t dare go out in blue jeans and tie-dyed t-shirts.  

This is the era that finally saw gentlemen embrace change:  men’s colour palette started to expand beyond blacks and browns!  

In the 80s and 90s formality really released the last of its grip on the closets of audiences. Neon-bright colours and distressed denim were the new formal.  

By the new millennium almost all rules had gone by the wayside. Comfort reigned supreme. I mean, you are sitting in the dark and no one is looking at you, so it only makes sense.    

That brings us to the precipice where we now stand. We don’t know how the future will look, but if I can pick up some pointers from the last century of fashion mavens, I suspect my next theatre outfit will require gloves like my Edwardian forebears. My inner flapper will be pleased with some eye-catching unique details. From the practical people of the mid-century, I will borrow the cinched waist. And I mustn’t forget the whimsy of the 60s and 70s, perhaps something fluorescent and a hoodie!  

Which brings us to the age of Covid-19. Now, my outfit has to fulfill multi purposes – it has to be fashionable, practical and provide safety.        

protective suitLuckily, Production Club is here for me! The LA based company has launched the Micrashell, a suit of clothing – well, maybe clothing is not the most accurate word; armour may be more fitting – that combines personal protective equipment (PPE) and fashion. It’s perfect for the purposes of socialising without the distance. 

Imagine a hermetically sealed suit that services all your needs with N95 filtration and all the must-haves of the last hundred years! Integrated gloves; geometric appliqués; a figure-flattering waistline; whimsical colours; a neon, empire waist fanny pack; and a hood – so I don’t have to learn how to style my overgrown hair.  

The pièce de résistance: a full-face shield so I can breathe and talk as moistly as I want.  

The designers at Production Club have thought of everything; the Micrashell is even optimized so I can have a drink at intermission. Although using the facilities may prove difficult and time-consuming.  

And fluorescing in the audience could be distracting and dangerous for the actors, who would be looking out into an audience of colourful Star Wars stormtroopers. 

And how do I wipe away my tears when I am moved by the performance? I suppose one must make sacrifices for fashion. At least the shoes are flats.

The Archives Logo
Let’s go back to the summer of 2012. A new show from London opened at the Royal Alex: Backbeat — The Birth of the Beatles. It told the story of the early years of what would become the world’s greatest rock’n’roll band. In 1960, The Beatles were so desperate for work that they took a gig performing 10 hours nightly in a seedy club in Hamburg, Germany. There, they met an art student who took the very first photos of them. That young woman, Astrid Kirchherr, died one week ago in Hamburg at 81. Read the NY Times obituary. 

Backbeat artworkAstrid’s influence on the Beatles is unmistakable. Her moody black-and-white photos captured the band’s early edge. She shot them against the bleak landscape of industrial Hamburg. She cut their hair and even made the band’s no-collar suits that became their trademark look in the early 60s.

Backbeat is a fascinating examination of how Europe’s youth attempted to reshape the broken post-war world their forefathers had left them. Taking elements of North American culture — blues, rock’n’roll — they created a new look and a new sound that combined the old and new worlds, and led the way to what would become the youth revolution of the 1960s.

Backbeat is also an excellent example of the connection between theatre in London and Toronto. Because of the Royal Alex’s history of bringing shows from the UK since 1907 and because of the Mirvish family’s ownership of the Old Vic in London, the road from London to Toronto and vice versa is a long and productive one. Every season there are productions from London that land in Toronto, offering a window into new work that is often not seen elsewhere in North America — enriching local audiences and inspiring local artists.

For that summer of 2012, Toronto audiences were immersed in the smoky, bohemian world of seedy nightclubs while listening to the formative music and lyrics of a beloved band.

Here are some videos from our vaults for you to enjoy of Backbeat:

Backbeat cast interviews
Backbeat Audience reactions