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).
Calling all musical theatre fans! This is a showdown you won’t want to miss. Everyone’s favourite battle royale with jazz hands is here once again. Show Tune Showdown takes place on April 13 at Meridian Centrepointe Theatre. Three musical theatre groups will go head-to-head in front of a set of Ottawa celebrity judges, in an effort to come out on top.
We chatted with Bob LeDrew, host extraordinaire, about what this years showdown has in store. This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Apt613: How and when did Show Tune Showdown start?
Bob LeDrew: The Show Tune Showdown (STS) started in 2005, when Rob Bowman was president of Tone Cluster, a local LGBTQ choir. He wanted a fundraising event that was uniquely theirs, and started to put together the idea of theatre ‘teams’ performing show tunes. [H]e got in touch with me and said “[W]ould you like to host it and write it?” And we did the first one a few months later.
How has Show Tune Showdown changed over the years?
There’s always been some tweaking of the format and the content over the years… we also added a mandatory audience round as part of the showdowns.
We’ve changed venues a couple of times. We started out in Bronson Centre, then moved to Ottawa Little Theatre, and for the last several years we’ve been at Meridian Theatres at Centrepointe. We loved Ottawa Little Theatre, but we were selling out very quickly there, and we felt we needed a bigger space.
Another change that I’m really proud of is that Rob Bowman copyrighted the concept and licences it to other LGBTQ groups. There have been Show Tune Showdowns in Calgary, New York City, Minneapolis, and I got to go and host one at the 2012 GALA Festival in Denver in front of about 6,000 people. It has been amazing to watch the concept that sprang to life here in Ottawa take off around the continent.
We also added a mandatory audience round as part of the showdowns.
Can you tell us a bit more about what the proceeds from ticket sales are going to support?
The show is a fundraiser for Tone Cluster. One of the things I love about Tone Cluster is that they are not only dedicated and talented singers who come together to make music, they also have a serious social justice component. In the past, the choir has used proceeds of STS to do things like an outreach tour to rural communities, to commission new choral work, and to help its members get to national and international choral festivals.
One of the things I love about Tone Cluster is that they are not only dedicated and talented singers who come together to make music, they also have a serious social justice component.
How are teams and companies selected for the showdown?
We always invite the reigning STS champion back, so that’s one team taken care of. And by this point in time, we’ve worked with most of the companies in the city that do musical theatre. So early on in the process, our producer… starts to reach out to theatre companies to see if they’re interested in participating in the next one. Then it’s up to the companies to get in their entry form, and we usually take the first two to come in.
Who are we going to see in the judges seat this year?
The judges this year are going to be great. We have (in alphabetical order): Robyn Bresnahan, the host of Ottawa Morning on CBC; returning judge Kellylee Evans, the Juno-winning singer; and Kitchissippi councillor Jeff Leiper. We always try for a panel that mixes up media, musical knowledge, and city life.
Explain how the audience gets involved during the show?
This is one of my favorite parts of the show. So let’s start at the beginning: each team brings songs that they’ve rehearsed and prepared. Every song in that round gets scored out of 10 by the judges for a maximum score of 30. But after every round, we do a showdown. The showdowns work like this:
All the teams come on stage. I read out clues to a mystery show tune (if the mystery tune was “Hello, Dolly!”, I might say “This tune is what someone would say when they met a surrealist painter named Salvador” as a clue), and if a team guesses it correctly, someone from that team performs it. We give them music—and a few props—to help out. If a team guesses incorrectly, we take the clues out to the audience, and if someone from the audience guesses it, THEY come down to join me on stage and belt out the tune. The judges score a showdown song out of five, so a maximum of 15 points… the audience member [then] chooses which team to award their points to.
The first showdown round after intermission is dedicated to an audience member, so you’re guaranteed to see someone from the audience get up at least once.
The first showdown round after intermission is dedicated to an audience member, so you’re guaranteed to see someone from the audience get up at least once. The thing I love about that is the element of surprise. It’s a bit like the videos you see of TV shows where someone comes onstage and just blossoms. I am a big believer that the line between a “professional” and an “amateur” should be a lot more permeable. There are a lot of people out there who can sing extremely well.
What can people who are coming out for the first time expect?
You’d think I’d have a better answer after all these years, but still, the most frequent comment I get is “I had no idea the performances would be so GOOD.” If you haven’t been, then you’re going to have an evening that is a lot of fun mixed up with some truly talented singing and performing. The closest I can come to it is a mix of “Name That Tune”, the Tonys, and “America’s Got Talent.”
We have two tickets to the event on April 13. To enter to win, send an email with “Showdown” in the subject header to firstname.lastname@example.org. Contest closes April 12 at 11:59pm. We will select a winner by random draw.
Show Tune Showdown runs at Meridian Theatres at Centrepointe on Saturday, April 13 at 8pm. Tickets are $34.75. The show runs about three hours with an intermission.