Laura and Samara spend their days as non-profit unicorns and fill every spare minute exploring the world of musical theatre as BFFs (that’s Broadway Friends Forever).
You might recall Orpheus Musical Theatre from their productions of such classics as Grease, Shrek and Mamma Mia—all put on at the recently renamed Meridian Theatres at Centrepointe—but did you know they’ve been providing Ottawans with musical theatre since 1906? Neither did we! We became fans of their productions after seeing those big name musicals, as well as lesser known, but equally fantastic, shows such as The Last Five Years and tick, tick…boom! So we were so thrilled when they announced their new season and wanted to find out more about how the team goes about choosing their shows and a bit more about the two shows still coming this spring in their current season.
We spoke to the Orpheus Musical Theatre’s Chair of the Show Selection Committee Andréa Black (AB); the directors of the remaining two shows this season: Michael Gareau (MG), stage director of Sister Act, and Réjean Dinelle-Mayer (RDM), stage director of Priscilla Queen of the Desert; as well as Director of Marketing, Andrea Kinsley (AK). The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Apt613: How do you go about choosing your shows each season?
AB: Orpheus has a Show Selection Committee that takes on the challenge of selecting shows through a process that takes about eight to ten months. This committee consists of Orpheus members who represent a variety of those involved in each production: performers, musicians, choreographers, designers and technical experts, etc. The process begins by creating a long “wish list” of shows that emanates from a combination of member and audience suggestions, as well as new titles that have become or may be coming available. The committee rates this large list based on a number of factors including membership involvement, audience appeal, financial feasibility, and past productions’ success. This larger list is then condensed to a shorter reading list, and after reading and analysing all of the possibilities, the committee presents a season proposal to the Board of Directors. This proposed season aims to be well-balanced, diverse, and exciting for our membership and audiences alike.
How do you balance cast sizing in your show choices? Some of the shows this season have some pretty small casts, like Falsettos and A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder—what does this mean for those Ottawa actors looking to audition?
AB: We definitely try to balance cast sizes, as well as things like genres of shows and musical styles when we select each season. Our season opener (previously at the Studio Theatre at Meridian Centrepointe Theatre, and this coming year at The Gladstone Theatre) is generally a production with a small cast, though this year’s Falsettos is larger than the previous few years. It is an “Off-Broadway” type selection intended as a more intimate show. The mainstage shows tend to vary in cast size, but generally one of those three tends to be smaller than the other two.
A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder is actually intended for a medium-sized cast, but a director may choose to have a larger ensemble than indicated, as the show allows for that kind of flexibility. Matilda and the soon-to-be-announced March show both call for larger casts, so there is some balance there.
Ultimately, we felt that this season provides something for everyone, from performers to directors and production personnel. While competition might be considered higher for the shows with smaller casts, the variety in the season as a whole will hopefully provide opportunities for a wide spectrum of performers looking to audition.
Tell us more about this show that can’t be announced until March 2019? What tidbits can you give for eager showgoers on what they are waiting for?
AB: Unfortunately, there is not much we can say… Our contract with the rights holders bars us from doing so and we don’t want to risk losing out on being able to produce this show. As mentioned above, the season is quite diverse, so you can bet it will be quite different from the rest of the season. It is incredibly exciting though—and we are confident showgoers will think so too when it is finally announced!!
Is there one show of the 2019/2020 set that you think audiences should not miss?
AB: With such a diverse season of exciting new shows for the Ottawa community theatre scene, none of these shows should be missed!!
If people are interested in all of these shows what deals should they be looking out for so they can make sure to see them all?
AK: The best deal for adults and seniors to see all three main stage shows is to buy a subscription. Subscriptions are available from June 21 to October 15, 2019. Subscribers also get a discount to see Falsettos at The Gladstone. The second best option if you want to see two of the three shows, is to buy a ‘Pick 2’. Pick 2 is available as of June 21. Prices for children and students are always lower.
What can audiences expect from the remaining two shows Orpheus has selected to put on in the current season?
MG: Our audiences can expect to have a ball when they see Sister Act as they relive the contagious fun and bountiful humour which are abundant in this story. Be forewarned however, that if they come waiting to sing along with the familiar pop songs they remember from the original movie version of Sister Act, redeployed into songs of faith, I’m sorry to say, that won’t be happening. Alas, none of the songs from the film are included in this extremely popular stage adaptation. Those standards have been replaced.
In their stead, audiences will hear a completely new score from composer Alan Menken (Little Shop of Horrors, Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast) and lyricist Glenn Slater. Their music is indeed rousing and has been shaking Broadway’s rafters since the show opened in 2006 and I’m sure the same will happen in our theatre as we relive the antics of Sister Mary Clarence and her sisters. We know you’re going to love it!
RDM: Priscilla Queen of the Desert is an uplifting adventure of three fabulous drag queens who travel across the Australian desert in search of fame, fortune, acceptance, love, happiness and much, much more. This disco-fueled show contains over 20 classic hits such as “I Will Survive”, “I Love the Nightlife”, and “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” and is filled with lots of bumps and curves along the way. So buckle your seat belts because this show is going to take you on a fun and touching romp the whole family will enjoy.
For more on Orpheus Musical Theatre and information on how to see the remaining shows this season, or ticketing information for next, please visit their website.