2,265 1,350 37MB
Pages 326 Page size 252 x 315 pts Year 2011
MUSICAL THEATRE A History This page intentionally left blank MUSICAL THEATRE A History John Kenrick 2008 The Cont
7,846 1,423 5MB Read more
is the only complete course in approaching a role in a musical. The musical theatre performer must be a master of man
4,203 198 2MB Read more
BROADWAY BABIES This page intentionally left blank Broadway Babies THE PEOPLE WHO MADE THE AMERICAN MUSICAL ETHAN M
1,904 842 14MB Read more
Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter, http://www.processtext.com/abclit.html Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter, htt
336 17 3MB Read more
This page intentionally left blank
broadwaynorth The Dream of a Canadian Musical Theatre
NATURAL HERITAGE BOOKS TORONTO
Copyright © 2006 Mel Atkey All rights reserved. No portion of this book, with the exception of brief extracts for the purpose of literary or scholarly review, may be reproduced in any form without the permission of the publisher. Published by Natural Heritage/Natural History Inc. P.O. Box 95, Station O,Toronto, Ontario M4A 2M8 www. naturalheritagebooks. com Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication Atkey, Mel, 1958Broadway north : the dream of a Canadian musical theatre / Mel Atkey ; [foreword by Elaine Campbell]. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 1-897045-08-5 1. Musicals—Canada—History and criticism. I. Campbell, Elaine II. Title. ML1713.5.A873 2006
Cover and text design by Neil Thorne Edited by Jane Gibson Printed and bound in Canada by Hignell Book Printing of Winnipeg
Natural Heritage/Natural History Inc. acknowledges the financial support of the Canada Council for the Arts and the Ontario Arts Council for our publishing program. We acknowledge the support of the Government of Ontario through the Ontario Media Development Corporations Ontario Book Initiative. We also acknowledge the financial support of the Government of Canada through the Book Publishing Industry Development Program (BPIDP) and the Association for the Export of Canadian Books.
Norman Campbell and Elaine Campbell at home. Photo by Robert Swerdlow. Courtesy of Elaine Campbell
This book is dedicated to my friend and mentor Norman Campbell, 1924-2004.
CREDITS FOR COVER Visits Front Cover Playbills of Canadian Musicals: Anne of Green Gables, Napoleon and Billy Bishop Goes to War. All courtesy of the author.
Back Cover Tom Kneebone and Dinah Christie. Photo by Beverley Rockett. Courtesy of Dinah Christie. David Warrack and Michael Danso. Photo by Jim Marshall. Courtesy of the Scottish Studies Foundation. From left to right: Lindsey Frazier, Matt Carroll, Janet MacEwen, Kristen Peace, Joey Kitson, Terry Hatty, Julain Molnar, Sophie Hunter (in back) and Sweeney MacArthur in the 2006 Charlottetown Festivals production of CANADA ROCKS!: The Hits Musical Revue. Photo by Louise Vessey. Courtesy of the Confederation Centre of the Arts.
IBBIE OF CHUMS Credits for Cover Visuals Acknowledgements Foreword by Elaine Campbell Overture: "... Of Canada, Limited"
vi ix xiii 1
ACT ONE 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24
In the Beginning Dumbells and Uptown Girls Filling the Cultural Vacuum "Will You Dance With Me?" Putting the Audience on Stage "Rain or No Rain": Theatre Under The Stars and Rainbow Stage On the "Crest" of a New Canadian Theatre "The Glory of the Modern Age" "Merry Madness" "Lovely, Juicy, Silly Fun" The Fur Flies A Chilly Northern Breeze: Cabaret and Revue in Toronto the Good Humbug Industrial Strength "The Epitome of Show-Dance Professionalism" "Something Truly Wonderful" "The Toast of Their Home Town" Vancouver: "The Things That You Yet Will Do" "Learn the Rules, Then Break Them" "A Lot of Heart": Charlottetown After Anne A "Radiophonic" Musical "Try, Try, Aim for the Sky" "I Could Change the World" The Killer Hero: Billy Bishop Goes to War
29 39 44 48 53 59 64 68 71 74 78 83 93 97 100 104 116 120 129 142 150 155 162 167
ACT TWO 25 26 27
Entr'acte: "Are We Having Fun Yet?" Broadway Bound—and Gagged "The Virtuosity of Opera with the Vitality of Broadway"
175 178 188
28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36
A Canadian in New York Nice Tries and Missed Opportunities "Sunday in the Park with Emily" "Minding the Store": Theatre as a Business Defying Gravity: The Unmaking of The Grand Finale The "Canadian Imperative" Breaking Into Song: The Primal Scream of the Civilized Set "With Glowing Hearts, We See Thee Rise": The Canadian Musical Identity Achieving Immortality: The Original Cast Recording
192 196 198 202 210 219 233 240 247
Finale: "Anything Worth Doing Is Worth Doing Badly" Postscript Appendix A: Canadian Musicals on Record Appendix B: Principal Interviews
250 256 259 270
Notes Bibliography Index About the Author
271 283 285 311
flCKNOWlEDGEMENTS " "he research for this book originally was begun in 1984, but insufficient funding led to work being suspended a few months. I returned to it in 2003. This does not claim to be an exhaustive history, for the "history" of the Canadian musical has yet to happen. Rather, it is the history of a dream, written with the same mindset with which I approach the musical theatre itself, with interludes where ideas are allowed to take flight and the characters to burst into song. I would like to acknowledge the research assistance of Sid Adilman, Rob Asseltine and The Association of Canadian Librettists, Composers and Lyricists, Bruce Bell, Eugene Benson, Ian Bradley, The British Library, Roy Cameron, The Charlottetown Festival, Barbara Charters, Bruce Dow (Mussoc), Suzanne Dubeau (York University Archives), Cleone Duncan, James Doohan, Michael Doucet, Philip Eckman, Gino Emprey, Robert Farnon, Alan Forrest, Christine Foster, Robert Goulet, Paul Illidge, John Lahr, Phoebe Larmore (agent for Margaret Atwood), David Y. H. Lui, Michele Melady (CBC Reference Library), Mirvish Productions, Peter Mann, Joe Marchi, Tedde Moore, Ruth Morawetz, Kate Macneil, National Archives of Canada, Wendy Newman (Vancouver East Cultural Centre), Jack Raymond, Dean Regan, Kelly Rgbinson, Warren Seaman, Cecilia Smith (Theatre Under the Stars), Sam Sniderman, Jerry Stovin, Ross Stuart, The Theatre Museum (London), Vincent de Tourdonnet, Martin Truax (Rogers Cable 10, Vancouver), and Jonathan Ward. For interviews and/or correspondence^! would like to thank Bob Allen, Leslie Arden, Sue Asttey, MkRael Biwtre^Jim Betts* l%£iMh and Elaine Campbell, Ian Campbell* Breiit Carr^ Dolores Gillian, Sesan Cluff, Phyllis Cohen, Chiles Cohens, DtVilt Curie? D»ce Collection Danse, Victor and Lori Davie^ D« Michad Dto^^in gracie Rnley, Rick Fox, Bill Freedman, John Gray,MM|pmi Gi^dbfii Aim Q&fettel, Michael Gutwillig, Don Harron, Keviii Slicks, Jeff Hysldp^Rayiiabnd Je^el^ Cliff Jones, Voigt Kempson, Tairf j^neeboiiet BtMAe Lra4/Galt MicDermot, Grace Macdotiald, Sir Camer0£ M^cldMosh, Step]ht$£ MaeNefll Richard Maltby Jf*, Mteeen Milgram Forrest^ Joey Mfflf*v BUI Milercl, John Mills-Cockell> Mavor Moore, Richard Mortis^ B$6y Morse, Ann Mortifee, Jane Mortifeet Marek Norman, Richard Otizounian, Greg Peterson (Sheridan College), Hugh Picket, Shel Piercy, Timothy Porteous, Meryl Robertson, Patrick Rose, John Russell, Andrew Sabiston,
Stephen Schwartz, Reid Shelton, Marlene Smith, Vinetta Strombergs, Nelles Van Loon, Moira Walley, David Warrack, Simon Webb and Betty Jane Wylie. For assistance with visuals, much appreciation goes to: Randy Alldread (Mirvish Productions), John Arpin, Kate Harris, Ted Harris, Jim Betts, Elaine Campbell, Tom Carson (Smile Theatre Company), Ellen Charendoff (Stratford Festival of Canada Archives), Dinah Christie, Dane Clark (Noble Caplon Abrams), Suzanne Dubeau (York University Archives), Bernadette Hardaker (Theatre Orangeville), David Hunter (Scottish Studies Foundation), Ray Jessel, Cliff Jones, Scott Klein, Russell Lazar (Honest Ed s), Blanche Lund, Anna MacDonald (Confederation Centre of the Arts), Doreen Malone and Debbie Roza-Mercier (Neptune Theatre), Joan Marcus, Jane Parkinson (Paul D. Fleck Library in The Banff Centre), Louise Pitre, Gordon Pirn (Ontario Heritage Trust), Robert Ragsdale, Keith Sherman, Marlene Smith, Wayne Townsend (Dufferin County Museum 6c Archives), David Warrack Productions, Robert Warren, Larry Westlake (St. Lawrence Centre For the Arts) and Mairi Welman (Playhouse Theatre Company). I am much indebted to my parents, Ken and Marion Atkey, and to my sisters, Bev and Marilyn, and my brother-in-law, Bill Beese, for their ongoing encouragement of my work. And finally, I would like to thank Jane Gibson and Barry Penhale of Natural Heritage Books for their continuing support. Except where otherwise noted, personal quotations are taken from interviews and correspondence with the author as listed in the appendix. When quoting theatrical reviews, the full citation has been given where available, but often, when quoting indirectly from publicity materials, dates are not given (and sadly, many archival clippings are undated). Every effort has been made to obtain permission from all the copyright holders of material included in this book, but in some cases this has not been possible. The author, therefore, wishes to thank those copyright holders who are included without acknowledgement and apologizes for any errors or omissions and would be grateful to be notified of any corrections that should be incorporated in the next edition. Unless indicated otherwise in the text, opinions expressed are those of the author. Mel Atkey, 2006
The trouble with Canadians is they spend half their time convincing the Americans they're not British; the other half convincing the British they're not American, which leaves them no time to be themselves. —From My Fur Lady (1957); book by Timothy Porteous, Erik Wang and Donald MacSween, lyrics by Timothy Porteous, music by James Domville, Harry Garber and Gait MacDermot, additional songs by Roy Wolvin. / always did think I could sing Till Trillium came homefrom the College She told me, "You cant do a thing That needs any musical knowledge"... I studied the tonic-sol-fa Joined a choir and the new Philharmonic "Sing in tune!" cried my love, "or Papa Must speedily give me a tonic —From Ptarmigan; or, A Canadian Carnival (1895); words by J.N. Mcllwraith, music by J.E.P Aldous.
This page intentionally left blank
FOREWORD couldn't have been more thrilled when Mel Atkey suggested to publisher Barry Penhale that I write a foreword to his Broadway North: The Dream of a Canadian Musical Theatre since the book is dedicated to my late husband, Norman Campbell. I found Mel's "opus" to be most engrossing and I couldnt stop reading. There is such a wealth of facts, told in a very engaging manner. The style is easy to read and the comments often hilarious. I appreciated seeing the work in progress and recognize that a prodigious amount of work was needed to unearth all these details. As Norman said in a letter to author Mel Atkey in 1997, "Nobody knows more than you do about musical theatre!" Fifty years ago, Norman as composer, Don Harron as book writer and lyricist and I as lyricist turned the novel Anne of Green Gables into a musical for CBC Television. In those hectic days of early television in Toronto, writing a musical was only a part of what Norman did as a TV director and producer. An hour and a half to fill? Norman decided that a musical based on Lucy Maud Montgomery's famous book (it was Don Harron's suggestion) would fill the time slot. In 1965, the now-expanded for stage, directed and choreographed by Alan Lund, the Artistic Director of the Charlottetown Festival, Anne of Green Gables, the Musical hit the stage of the one-thousand-seat Confederation Centre of the Arts, where it remained on stage playing to sold-out houses and standing ovations from millions of theatre goers for 41 continuous years. A Japanese-language translation 1ms been extremely successful in Tokyo and the major cities of Japanfi>rover twenty years* A year in London's West End in 1969 and uncountable numbers of stock apd amateur productions across Canada, the USA and the Commonwealth have proved its staying power. You might say that the Canadian Musical is not just a dreafri—it is a reality
Elaine Campbell, 2006
This page intentionally left blank
IVERIURE: If ClU. ilMIIED" couple of decades ago, I stood on the stage of Toronto's 1913 Winter Garden Theatre, before its restoration had begun. The musty smell of the ancient vaudeville scenery that had stood disused for more than sixty years easily set my senses tap dancing. This was a place made for a smile and a song. But, truth be told, not for our songs. It was built for a far off, imported world. In those days, "Toronto the Good" was but one stop on the North American vaudeville circuit. The Winter Garden's stage was designed for receiving shows, not for creating them. "There is no Canadian Drama," declared playwright Jessie Edgar Middleton in Canada and Its Provinces, a multi-volume work published in 1913. "It is merely a branch of the American Theatre, and, let it be said, a most profitable one."1 Around the same time, an article in Canadian Magazine said, "Canada is the only nation in the world whose stage is entirely controlled by aliens. She is the only nation whose sons and daughters are compelled to go to a foreign capital for permission to act in their own language on the boards of their own theatres. The only road to applause of a Toronto theatre audience is byway of Broadway."2 Even now, people will say—Canadian musical theatre—isn't that an oxymoron? Aren't musicals American? Hewers of wood, drawers of water aren't supposed to sing and dance, or have ideas above their station. Yet, when I began my career as a musical theatre writer, I was startled to realize how many of my heroes—that is, those who had influenced me—were Canadian. For me, these included Patrick Rose, Marek Norman* Richard Ouzounian, Ann Mortifee and, above afl^ Norman Campbefl?iatoposer of the perennial hit^lnne of^mn^Ga^M^ti^the world di and^oe tomorrow." The result is that, since the 197B&the*mw®&theatre has toievelop^lalong very different lines ff*>m ^fjmmc.^ AldioUgh it borrow from p6p and rock, it is rare^^lap^tf C^^^lBi'97i 0imd^ musicdly as if it had been;"%ritten l^^'A^^'-^m^^ yet it ran fer mtay yeaf^ aiicf & often revived. There is also snobfcery within musical Aeattt—especially in the rivalry between the "Andrew Lloyd Webber* and ^Stephen Sondheim" camps. Musicals have developed a very fussy following who demand well-crafted
lyrics and complex harmonies, usually absent in pop music. Thus, the musical is caught in a limbo between what is considered to be "commercial" and "art." Of course, it's understandable that some theatre professionals who are not "triple threats"—i.e., singing, dancing actors—would show disdain for that which they cannot themselves do. Then again, there is "reverse" snobbery. In Canada, some people deem a show that packs a 100-seat fringe venue to be "populist," but one that sells out a 3,200-seat opera house might be labelled "elitist." In fact, I believe that we need both "lowbrow" and "highbrow" theatre, a balance between the commercial and the subsidized, mainstream and "alternate," musical and non-musical. One cant prosper without the other. With this snobbery comes a lack of interest in the development of new works. This is a universal problem. In London, where I currently live, a writer for the Sunday Times, in a profile of director Trevor Nunn, declared that "the only thing worse than a musical is a new musical."7 Granted, there's nothing worse than a badly written musical, but despite the efforts of London's Mercury Musical Developments (of which I am a member), the now defunct Bridewell Theatre, Greenwich Theatre's Musical Futures and others—there are no major well-funded producing organizations dedicated to developing new musical theatre in Britain. So one can imagine how desperate the situation is in Canada where, except for an emasculated Charlottetown Festival and some recent developments at CanStage and ScriptLab, there is even less. Only in the United States are they taken seriously. Yet, if the musical—the poster child of the modern theatre—were to die, surely the "straight" theatre would follow closely behind (and vice versa). Does it not make sense for Canadian theatre to try to harness this most popular and powerful form? When I was beginning my career, musicals, as far as the official theatrical establishment was concerned, were "bourgeois," and the only useful purpose they served was as a means of wiping out deficits. Director Michael Bawtree maintains that a musical's "generating force, is and always has been, commercial."8 Often, when regional theatres deigned to do a musical as their end of season blowout, they would apologize for their indiscretion by casting non-singers and non-dancers and using tinny sounding orchestras that lacked several vital instruments. The snobbery is further underscored (to use a musical term) by the fact that the 1989 Oxford Companion to Canadian Theatre has no entries for Marlene Smith (then Canada's most successful commercial producer), Norman Campbell, Patrick Rose or composer, producer and musical director David Warrack. I found it to be particularly telling when that same volume mentioned Alan Lund's choreography of "Brecht's" Rise and Fall of the
City ofMahagonny at the Stratford Festival. Surely there would have been nothing to choreograph had it not been for Kurt WeilTs music—or is that, even in an opera, incidental? (If an opera company does Sweeney Todd, it is "by Stephen Sondheim." If a "legit" theatre does it, it's "by Hugh Wheeler." Only when a musical theatre company does it do both get equal billing.) So, it would appear that we have to contend with both snobbery and nationalism. It would be absurd to dismiss the cinema as an art form just because for every one Seventh Veil there are a hundred Porky s. And while cinema may "belong" to Hollywood, there are also Kurosawa, Truffaut, Fellini, etc. Surely the same principle applies to musicals. How relevant is the musical to Canada's culture? Author John Lahr says that the American musical "celebrates two things: abundance and vindictive triumph."9 Is this true in the same way in Canada? The triumphal aspect, perhaps. Anne of Green Gables celebrates a young girl's victory over the conservatism of her elders. Paper Wheat and Ten Lost Years are about people holding onto their dignity, if not exactly triumphing, through poverty. On the surface, Billy Bishop Goes to War celebrates the triumph of a military hero keeping himself alive, but it proved to be far too ironic for the conventional Broadway mentality. (Lahr goes on to say that "social comment is as unwelcome to most Broadway producers as syphilis is to a whore.") And it goes without saying that Ten Lost Years does not celebrate abundance. Canadians have never been comfortable with the kind of flag-waving triumphalism that all this implies. Our national anthem sings of "glowing hearts" but not at the thought of "bombs bursting in air." We view our southern neighbour witib a mixture of admiration and fear. But what American musicals do exude—and this is something to be emitted—is a terrific sense of confidence* Just as a person with a low self^ffiigi'tends to be unattractive, so it goes with nations and cultures* It's one of life's vicious circles. What are the conditions that nurture the musical theatre's development? What is a "great" culture? American lyricist Alan, Jay Lerner says that "a civilization should beyjudeged die intelligence ithas d^eloped evedp and the way it is used> the Compassion it is capable of and the priority it receives, a nfever-encftog effdtt t& close the rift between rich and poort the responsibility of IBM for his neighbour and the magnitude of the art it produces/110 How does Canada measure up? WeVe had a reputation as a peacekeeper and a Nobel Peace Prize-winning prime minister. A much admired accommodation of multiple cultures—we coined the term "multiculturalism.^ A tradition of welfare. We discovered insulin.
The books of Margaret Atwood and Michael Ondaatje and the songs of Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell are celebrated throughout the world. Yet the world doesn't notice us. Why? Note that Lerner said "should," not "is." Of course, the word "great" can mean "powerful" rather than "good." Perhaps the truth is that "great" civilizations—such as Rome—violently imposed their will on others and produced extravagant works of art on the backs of the poor. Just as a laser beam only becomes visible by adding impurities to it, so goes civilization. Cities like New York and London, noted for their urban decay, are celebrated. Toronto and Zurich, noted for their cleanliness, efficiency and low crime, are not. Professor Peter Hall of the Bartlett School of Architecture and Planning of University College, London, writes, "Look at creative cities at their zenith: Plato's Athens, Michelangelo's Florence, Shakespeare's London, Mozart's Vienna. All were economic leaders, places in frenzied transition, magnets for talented people seeking fame and fortune."11 When a British TV series selected the "twenty best cities in the world," some of their choices suggested that a surfeit of filth, grinding poverty and stratospheric crime, along with ready availability of all manner of illicit vices were requisite. The Devil gets the best tunes, or so the saying goes. A writer in London's Daily Telegraph put it this way, "Canada is the perpetual wallflower that stands on the edge of the hall, waiting for someone to come and ask her for a dance. A fire breaks out, she risks life and limb to rescue her fellow dance-goers, and suffers serious injuries. But when the hall is repaired and the dancing resumes, there is Canada, the wallflower still, while those she once helped glamorously cavort across the floor, blithely neglecting her yet again."12 Perhaps we need to become more annoying. Small wonder that my father used to keep a sampler on his office wall that said, "Rudeness is our only hope." So, when I said I was going to write a book about Canadian musical theatre, my colleagues in the U.K. wondered if it would be a companion piece to that modest volume called Two Thousand Years of German Humour (or, I retorted, the even slimmer Best of British Haute Cuisine). A London newspaper sneered about that rarity, a famous Canadian. They hadn't heard of Bryanadams-celinedion-michaeljfox-jimcarreydanayckroyd-mikemyers-williamshatner-christopherplummershaniatwain-alanismorissette. Fifty years ago, the British took more interest in us, but have since fixed their gaze on the Australians. To them, we are indistinguishable from the Americans. So what is our response? To import culture in a misguided quest to become "world class"? Author Richard Gwynn writes, "Here [North America]... two nations have evolved that are utterly alike in almost all of their externals,
and yet are utterly unalike in their political cultures so that they are as distinct from each other as are the Germans from the French."13 John Gray, author of Billy Bishop Goes to Wary explains, "We live in a northern climate versus a temperate climate, which means that survival here is a value. It entails all sorts of attitudes toward nature. Americans look on nature as something to be beaten, because it can be in a temperate climate. Canadians living in an intemperate climate know that nature cannot be beaten. You get a whole philosophical difference out of that. Americans think confrontationally ideologically because they fought a revolution on the basis of an idea. Canadians think consensually in terms of finding ways of living together because that's what our history was. We have kept the British tradition. Americans think of things in terms of black and white, good and evil, whereas Canadians don't. So the whole thesis/antithesis notion of drama, which comprises conflict in American drama, doesn't have a great basis for existing in Canada." And, without the struggle between black and white, good and evil, what do we have to hang our mythology on? Would the "rules" learned from studying Broadway musicals apply in Canada? We Canadians, on the other hand, believe a few myths about ourselves. We are fond of saying that we won our independence "without a shot fired," ignoring the MacKenzie and Kiel rebellions. We see ourselves as pacifist peacekeepers, even though some Somalis may beg to differ. And we didn t shoot our Indians—anyone who has read my bqpk When We Both Got to Heaven knows we found a more cost-effective way to relieve them of their land. We equate Broadway theatre with the urbane and sophisticated, but most Americans actually live in the rural "heartland," while most Canadians live in towns and cities. The cultural implications of this are enormous* What does a political hkt$ry lesson have to do with a fclx^'libout Canadian musicals? Everything* Ourcultui$'reflect? -wJio^e are and how we think, and politicals it 6% part df that Becap^ Ae Americans fought a revolution (in effect^ continuation of the J||if^h Civil War between Oliver Cromwell anJ' Ian and Sylvia Tpoii^J0ai Mitdiell and Neil Young, it's not like our incredible wealth, good fortune and political stability/^! llvmg abroad gphres Hie a sensg of how outsiders perceive us—(andfihietruth is, they usually dorft). To New Yorkers^ the world M dlwfed into two parts—New Yo$k and "out of town^It cm be so—dare I say it?—parochial that when Ray Jes~ sel was brought in to work on Richard Rodgers* J;fem#M#£r M&m&> one Gotham wag said that his only previous credit had been Baker Street, in spite of a decade with Spring Thaw. Books on musical theatre will cite a show's Broadway or London opening as its date of birth—even if it had
been first performed somewhere else twenty years earlier. Thus, Arthur Jackson's The Best Musicals dates Anne of Green Gables from 1969 instead of 1965, and the Internet Theatre Database proclaims the touring cast of Anne that visited New York City Center in 1972 to be the "original Broadway cast."Jack Raymond's Show Music on Record dates Billy Bishop Goes to War from 1980, rather than 1978. Theatrical contracts are structured in such a way as to preserve New York's hegemony: Broadway producers usually reserve Canadian rights as an appendage to the American market. When Alberta Theatre Projects obtained the Canadian rights to Tomfoolery ahead of the Americans, they were still prevented by the show's eventual New York producers from playing our largest city on the grounds that Toronto was part of the American territory, national sovereignty notwithstanding. (One of the actors told me—off the record—that they could have challenged it legally, but it would have opened "a whole can of worms.") In fact, since the days of vaudeville, American producers, theatre owners, cartels and even trade unions have used strong-arm tactics to ensure that Canada does not threaten their economic and cultural monopolies. If we don't start waving our own flag, somebody else will plant theirs—I remember when the Eaton's Santa Claus Parade was shown on American TV, under the banner of the "All American Thanksgiving Day Parade." The only accurate word in that title was the last one. In Canada, where regional theatres are the "establishment" and commercial theatre is the maverick intruder, Billy Bishop Goes to War is known as a musical that triumphed across the country. But in New York, the commercial theatre is Darwinism in action. A musical doesn't officially exist until it has opened on or off-Broadway. Billy Bishop, although highly regarded in some circles, is known only for its all-too-brief run at the Morosco. Rockabye Hamlet is a show that went "ker-thud-ker-thudsplat." And as far as they're concerned, Duddy didn't even get out of the starting gate. It goes without saying that Ten Lost Years, a folk musical about the Great Depression, doesn't appear on their radar at all. The belief is that if a show is any good, it will go to Broadway—regardless of whether or not it is suited to the jaded New York audience. To the New Yorker, Billy Bishop's Broadway failure was Canada's failure, but when The Producers and Hairspray closed early in Toronto, it was blamed on the town, rather than on the show. But New York's position as arbiter of world taste took a serious bashing when their "megahit" musical Rent arrived in London. The Telegraph said, "How much cloy can you buy?" Even Salman Rushdie issued his ownfatwah—"I thought it was a bit dodgy." It limped along for a few months, closing at an enormous loss.
One could argue it was an "out-of-town" show that failed on transfer, but Old Nick, my advocate friend, will never see it that way. It would be a mistake to assume that the shows that went to New York were the best shows, or conversely, that the best shows went to New York. Rockabye Hamlet went, House of Martin Guerre didn't. Is it because of international arrogance toward Canada that our works are so readily dismissed? Or is it a sign of our vaunted inferiority complex that we cling to mediocrity just because it has our name on it? Or do we skirt the edges of success, lacking the gung-ho mentality to fix the problem and try again? Are we so negative that we automatically answer everything with "no"? Is it a conspiracy—or the lack of one? Of course, Canadians shouldn't care whether New Yorkers have ever heard of a show called Ten Lost Years, any more than the British care what Americans thought of Pickwick or Salad Days. It wasn't written for them and doesn't beg their approval. But, as Eric Nicol says, "It is the ambition of every Canadian playwright to have his play run on Broadway for more than one night."26 (And he knew what he was talking about: his 1965 Vancouver hit Like Father, Like Fun actually managed three performances at the Brooks Atkinson in 1967 under the nondescript—and legally imposed—new title A Minor Adjustment.} New York is seen as the place where serious money can be made, and so it remains the Mecca. Theatres like Edmontons Citadel have set themselves up as pre-Broadway tryouts, and their former chief benefactor, |he late Joseph "Broadway Joe" Shoctor lined up Jule Styne's Pieces of Eighty Mordecai Richler's Duddy (based on his novel The Apprenticeship ofDuddy Kravitz) with music by Americans Jerry Lieber and Mike Stotter, and Charles Strouse's Flowers for Algernon in search of that elusive kit Many in Canada resented public funds being expended on new show$ by foreign writers, a view exacerbated by the feet that they all tanke4*:?Hd% do you think the Duddy people are going to raise money in Cattada to do another musical again?" stili J&fafi Gfay; *It*s just not Fair to put all those resources to work on one show And it*s not necessary/ But what are Canadian writefe t0 do? Not rimchf iefcorfing to Peter Stone's advice, except get a gt^fn card, or sit back arid wait £b|jdb,e bus and truck companies to can%j^ town. If they chose the ktfer, wMt they would see on i^e^^r;seetf ;l^dW and remote—whether cheerm||r< for the ^patri^^^^'fe^uticw in which they were the eHem^ c^lebmt^ ing the right to pacfc a pistol and thanking the almighty that they don't have universal Medicare* The efforts to create a distinctly Canadian musical theatre are littered with many carcasses. For every Anne of Green Gables there is a Duddy,
and for every Billy Bishop Goes to War there is a Rockabye Hamlet. Sometimes, producers seemed to be looking for their "Springtime for Hitler"—with the wrong director, the wrong script and the wrong star, what could possibly go right? Those who don t learn from Rockabye Hamlet are doomed to keep reprising it. Lehman Engel, the late Broadway conductor who for many years held workshops for writers and composers in Toronto (as well as New York, Los Angeles and Nashville), urged his students to study and dissect what had gone before them. He cited West Side Story and Gypsy, but the same principles hold true for those who want to look closer to home. "Writers and composers in other countries have made serious attempts to rival the creative spirits of the American musical theatre," Lehman wrote. "There seems to be no reason why they should not succeed."27 Though it may have been built for imported Vaudeville, the Winter Garden has now been restored with a mandate to encourage original Canadian musical theatre. (Such shows get a break in the rent.) That mandate has been difficult to fulfill. How may we rise to the challenge? In fact, Canadians do need to study the great American (and British) musicals, but with a discerning eye. We are not the same. But what indigenous examples are there for Canadians to follow? Does Canada have a strong musical theatre tradition? Not yet. Does it have a firm foundation upon which a unique tradition could be built? I believe it does. Why is it important? As the late George Ryga, author of The Ecstasy of Rita Joe said, "As a dramatist, I wish... that some continuity might have been maintained to enrich and deepen the field in which we work."28 If I had grown up in New York, it would at least have been possible for me to see all of the major Broadway productions of the past four decades—they would all have been within a few blocks of each other. In Canada, without some kind of unlimited travel pass, this is not possible. However, I did manage to see my fair share of them—from Anne of Green Gables in Charlottetown to The Wonder of it All in Victoria, from Heyy Marilyn! in Edmonton to Durante in Toronto and Napoleon in London's West End. Instead of Rodgers and Hammerstein, I looked at Campbell and Harron. In addition to Kander and Ebb, I examined the work of Jessel and Grudeff. Rather than spin Lerner and Loewe on the turntable on more time, I learned about Claman and Morris. The writers, composers, producers, directors, choreographers, performers, even the bricks and mortar that have helped Canadians to sing and dance for the past four hundred years. Four hundred? Read on.
in u HUE yin
This page intentionally left blank
1.INTREBEGINNING id you know that North America's first European-style theatrical performance1 took place in Canada? That the Rockettes kick-line was conceived in Toronto? No, of course not. That would be very unJ Canadian. Much of the world still thinks of Canada as a wilderness. And, right up until the middle of the 19th century, they would largely have been right. When a survey by William M. Mercer in 2001 declared Vancouver to be the best city (along with Zurich) in which to live, the London papers were apoplectic with scorn. (Other surveys between 2002 and 2005 have also rated Vancouver top.) "There is really no comparison," wrote the Evening Standard. "On the one hand there is London—a city rich in history and the birthplace of Charles Dickens, the home of parliamentary democracy, setting for some of the greatest theatres, restaurants and art galleries. .. On the other hand, there is Vancouver—a city just over 100 years old, which, apart from having mountains and water, is chiefly famous for giving the world Bryan Adams, Pamela Anderson, Michael J. Fox and the Vancouver Island marmot."2 (The writer evidently didn't have enough "A Levels" to know that Vancouver is not on Vancouver Island.) New York and London are the cultural centres of gravity and as si|ch they draw attribution away from other places. Our defining moment as a nation was the construction of a transcontinental railway. In many ways, building a transcontinental culture would be an even greater challenge. In Canada, go back more than sixty years and virtually all homegrown theatre was amateur. Which—Just like ttk$ building of a railwa^^rough the wilderness—makes the tA^BeUge a$tthat piuch more ^^^^*Just as the Canadian Pacific Railway had Sir Wil^m Copi^^%& Hbine, we had Dora Mavor Mocri^, t&e pavis Bwtfeeri widxpu^n like them.
When Samuel de Champlaiff$^ h h ( n o w a m n a p o l i s n o v a s ontia turned to the habitation at Po^jRo^ ter exploring the coast of ^N^Jkmce-oii !%¥embet 14* I606;;'tl^ were f , d e r e s s i n b greeted by "Neptti&e*b^^i a;fl8ifc^^ beatirice toured her -naftftfe"land again in 1925. She worked frequently with Ni&ll CoWard^l^th * London and New York, butm^^^&m iudieifees wlft i^iijember her as Mrs. Meers in Thoroughly Modign f^Kffu^ Qfierof h^^^p^fomi^icts, in Marie Dressier was born l^lfc}^ic Koerber ikaerber urg Ofltar22 io, on November 9, 1863. J%^ overweght child, she developed her comic instincts as a defeo&-4p(c^^ism, although as the daughterterof
a music teach^'sjbe originally traied for an operatie career, and her Russell-typepearatic operatierodies. parodie earlf '^rforiBW^S" ixicfiidbi AnAnnaRussell -A :; star on Broadway (mm 1B92,> $& was subject of iipdtl publM^ The Toronto ^r/^remarfced that*while she is primary Cpufveyor of mirth, she has also serious ambitions, and though itfe-not generally known, a most thoroughly trained musician familiar with every detail of her art."23
Dressier toured her^// Star Gambol, playing London's Grand Theatre in 1913, a "combination of drama, comedy, music, dancing and burlesque, all held together by a slightly connected libretto, in which the four muses, represented by pretty girls, describe what each of her favourite players will offer."24 As Toronto's show business potential became more evident, its theatres became more sophisticated. The Royal Alexandra Theatre, designed and built by architect John Lyle for owner Cawther Mullock in 1907, was the first theatre in North America to be built with a cantilevered balcony, meaning that there were no pillars to obstruct sightlines. However, it was not a part of any of the major circuits that dominated the business. It was primarily a "legit" house, playing drama and musicals, and while it was used occasionally for prestige film showings, it never succumbed to the movies. The Princess Theatre, built in 1889 on the south side of King Street West between York and Simcoe (near the site of today's Roy Thomson Hall), was the Royal Alex's main legit rival. It boasted a larger stage, and was for a while the more successful theatre. It was the scene of Mary Pickford's first stage performance in The Silver King. But the Princess, like the nearby Regent and Grand Opera House, didn't survive the onset of sound movies. All were gone by 1930, leaving only the Royal Alex. Even in those early days, there were people who were concerned about Canada's cultural domination by the United States. The British Canadian Theatrical Organisation Society was formed in 1912 to encourage tours by British companies, although serious interest in indigenous Canadian work was still a long way off. Playwright Herman Voeden wrote, "American syndicates exercising a controlling interest in our commercial theatres... American play-broking firms control and supply nine-tenths of the plays read by the Canadian public and acted by our professional and little theatre groups... It is the most powerful factor in the Americanization of the Canadian mind."25
The Royal Alexandra Theatre on King Street in Toronto, photo taken m\9\\. Courtesy of Mirvish Productions.
2.DUMBELLS AND UPTOWN GIRLS ver the next century, Canada was exposed to musicals and vaudeville acts from both the United States and Britain, as well as operetta from continental Europe. (English director Albert de Courville J brought his revue Hullo, Canada to the Grand in London in 1921.) It is important to note here that American musicals, until the 1920s, were mostly imitations of the British and Austrian forms. (The same loud voices that now insist that we must follow New York's lead, then led the charge for London and Vienna.) All of these converged, and although the American product dominated Canadian stages, British musicals were a greater influence on Canadians than they were on Americans. Most of Canada's surviving pre-war theatres were originally designed for vaudeville, which did not require deep stages or wing space. Canadian film director Norman Jewison, in his memoirs, recalls going to what was then Canada's largest theatre and one of North America's "Big Four" vaudeville houses, Shea's Hippodrome (located on the site of the present city hall) in Toronto in 1936. "From the second the lights went down and the giant Werlitzer rose from the orchestra pit," he writes, "I was spellbound. While Quentin McLean at the organ played 'Deep Purple,' the curtains flickered with purple lights. It was magical. You could .idmost hear the audience sigh with delight. Then the curtains parted and the dog act came on. There was always one dog who wouldn't do what he was told, and he was the one who stole my heart. Then a booming voice announced the headliner: 'Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr. Red Skelton.' One of the highlights of Red*s act was his impersonation of a woman struggling to get out of her girdle. It was done behind a lit screen and when he was through, everyone was convulsed with Ipightei Willy Wes and McGinty rounded out die bill that day* As my father and I left the theatre, I knew I wanted to be in show business whem I grew up***1 The first Canadian musicd-cdftoedy act to make a serious impression abroad came out of the trencfiifof the Rrst World War, The Canadian Army Third Division Conceit Party hardly sounds like somethiiig that would set Broadway ia4 the wfest End alight—at least without the aid of incendiary dwices—but it did. The Dumbells (thtj took their name from the division's insignia) were the creation of Captain Mert Plunkett, a YMCA social director turned morale officer at Vimy Ridge* He put together a troupe of ten, including a pianist and a female impersonator. While playing on the
front lines, they sometimes had to double as stretcher-bearers. Often the men they entertained in the afternoon would be dead that evening. Their act combined sketches, popular songs like "These Wild, Wild Women are Making a Wild Man out of Me" and some original tunes composed by Plunkett and pianist Jack Ayre. Here is one of their exchanges: Throughout the 1920s audiences didn't tire of The Dumbells' impudent, sentimental and irreverent humour. They always went crazy when the two female impersonators came on stage. Ross Hamilton, as Marjorie, is third from the left, seated in the centre row, while Al Murray, as Marie, is seated second from the left. Seated between the men in drag is Captain M.W. Plunkett. His brother, ballad singer Al Plunkett, stands on the far left in the back row. Seated, front centre, is Sergeant Charter, while E. Redpath is on the far right, centre row. Photo taken in 1918, National Archives PA-5734. Courtesy of Natural Heritage Books, Let's Go To The Grand (p.60) £y Sheila M.F.Johnston.
"I remember my last leave—the Captain comes up to me and he says, 'Boys, I have good news, at five o'clock in the morning we go over the top/1 say, 'Captain, can I speak to you a minute?' He says, 'What do you want?' I says, 'I want a furlong.' He says, 'You mean a furlough.'I says, 'No! I want a furlong. I want to go fiir and stay long.'"2 In the autumn of 1918, while on leave in London, Plunkett booked the troupe into the Victoria Palace theatre. They were such a hit that the London Coliseum booked them for a four-week engagement, sharing the bill with Diaghlev's Ballet Russe. Back in Canada after the war, Plunkett regrouped3 and made a deal with Ambrose J. Small (who would soon vanish mysteriously in what is assumed to be a murder4) to tour his Canadian circuit, opening at London's Grand Theatre. Plunkett expanded the show, adding musical numbers, and raised an additional $12,000 from family sources. He then shared the takings, 50-50, at one point playing forty-four consecutive one-night stands. Within two years, they were on Broadway with Biff! Eing! Bang! The New York Telegraph wrote, "No American soldier show seen in New York has Biff. Bing! Bangfs shape and vigor, nor its talent... if this be treason, make the most of it." Their material was intensely patriotic, including such numbers as "Canada for Canadians" and "Goodbye Broadway, Hello Montreal." The Dumbells lasted as long as vaudeville did, succumbing to sound movies in 1932, but their legend lives on. Some of them regrouped at the beginning of the Second World War to perform Chin Up, which then inspired the Army, Navy and Air Force shows. Jack Ayre got work as a
PP IANIST IN A DANCE STUDIO IN tOROTO IN THE 1940S,WHERE HE MET YOUNG CHOREOGRAPHER aLAN lUND,FUTURE ARTISTIC DIRECTOR OF THE cHARLOTTETOWN fESTIVAL.iN 1977, lUND,S lEFEND OF THE dUMBELLS RECRATED THEIR MOST MEMOERABLE ROUTINES,FOR WHICH HE DESERVES great credit. While many artists have been touted as "Canadian" if they were born during an airport stopover in Goose Bay while en route from Honolulu to Paris, there are many others who actually established their early careers on home soil. Actor, playwright and lyricist Gene Lockhart was a native of London, Ontario, and as a young man grew up watching Marks Brothers shows at the Grand. He began to tour Ontario's circuits—often on the same bill as Beatrice Lillie, with whom he shared the same comedy teacher, Harry W. Rich. In 1916, he wanted to strike out on his own by putting together Pierrot Players to tour Ontario's vaudeville and Chautauqua circuits.5 He turned to his boyhood friend Ernest Seitz to write music for the handful of original songs, including one erfled "The World is Waiting for the Sunrise." Seitz was the son of THE PRESIDERT OF the^Underwrodis^^^fiter Company A promising^U^^^I^^^^B A CONCERT PIANIST HAD O Wer. been
beeninterrupted interrupted by by the theFirst Fist World World Wer.Initially Intiially working under Conthe the pseudonym of Raymond Roberts-lest his colleagues at the Royal l himofcolleagues pseudonym of Raymond Roberts-lest his colleagues at the Royal=-lest Con-pseudonym Raymond Rot^^ at the Royal Con Conservatory of Music should disappnove -Seitz wrote the soongs then foras Booadgot about them. Meanwhile, Lockhat was pursuging a career asj|||l'0adway actor actorand andas a playwright and would would return to grand in1919asasaa way headlines A decade later he was back again in his Intimatal Revue including a number intriguingly titled "Criminal Tendencies of Concert Artists" in which suggested ways of disposing of prima donnas. He would later achieve mccess toHottjnro^i i^J^Me^^^Street (as the judge) and Carousel (as the Star Keeper), Hi£ daughter was the actress June Lockhart of Lassie and Lost in Space.
Sheet music, "I Know Where the Flies Go"(1921),"Flippity, Floppety Flappers" (1923) and "K-K-K Kiss Me Again" (1923), made popular by The Dumbells, a Canadian First World War entertainment troupe that went on to great success in New York and London. Courtesy of John Arpin.
Shown is the sheet music for the Canadian National Exhibition grandstand show of 1953. A popular annual attraction for many years, the shows owed much of their success to the creative genius of Jack Arthur and Howard Cable Courtesy of John Arpin.
Pierrot Players was a modest success, and the music was published by Chappel Harms. Although not written as a foxtrot, "The World is Waiting for the Sunrise" became popular in that form with various dance bands. Over the years it has been recorded by artists as diverse as Benny Goodman, Les Paul and Mary Ford, and most recently Canadian opera singer Ben Heppner. It could be argued that it is the most popular Canadian show tune of all time. (Even Laurel and Hardy had a go at it.) While some might assume that Broadway pizzazz was imported from New York, it was not always the case. You may be surprised to learn that the extravaganzas of Radio City Music Hall had their origin in Toronto. In 1923, a Russian emigre named Leon Leonidoff set up his Russian Ballet School of Dancing in the old Massey6 mansion at Jarvis and Wellesley. He was soon joined by his American dance partner, Florence Rogge. In between giving classes, they toured the Famous Players Theatres circuit as dancers. In 1924, they travelled to Winnipeg and Regina, recruiting local dancers for their revues. Jack Arthur, a Scottish-born violinist who had, at the age of seven, been part of Sir Harry Lauder's music hall act, came to Canada when he was thirteen years old, studying at the Royal Conservatory of Music on a scholarship. Then he toured the American vaudeville and minstrel circuits before becoming the musical director of Loewe's Winter Garden Theatre. In 1926, after moving on to the bigger stage of Loewe's Uptown (a theatre which stood on Yonge south of Bloor until it collapsed during demolition on December 8, 2003), Arthur hired Leonidoff to stage two shows a day, six days a week with nine "Uptown Girls." A new show was mounted every week to accompany the silent movie fare. At the Uptown, Leonidoff and Arthur pioneered the idea of a chorus line made up of girls of the same height, finishing with a precision kick line. Leonidoff was in demand in other Canadian cities. "It was not like anything we'd ever seen before," said choreographer and dance teacher Grace Macdonald, who danced in Leonidoff's annual Christmas pantomimes at Winnipeg's Capitol Theatre. Leonidoff had become an agent for New York producer Samuel Rothafel. While scouting for acts, he discovered a troupe of sixteen
dancers in St. Louis called the American Rockets, to whom he taught the routines he had originated at the Uptown. In 1930, Leonidoff and Arthur were invited to take over the shows at New York's 6,200-seat Roxy Theatre. Arthur decided to stay in Toronto, but Leonidoff—with Florence Rogge in tow—accepted, bringing the Rockets with him, renaming them the Roxyettes. Three years later, he and Rogge moved the Roxyettes to the new Radio City Music Hall, where they were again renamed this time the Rockettes.7 He remained there until his retirement in 1974, only returning to Toronto to stage the summer spectaculars at the CNE Grandstand from 1948 to 1951. But back in 1927, Al Jolsons voice crackled out the words, "You aint seen nothin yet!," and for many years after, people could say, "we aint seen nothin since." It was the beginning of the end of vaudeville and the birth of live professional theatre in Canada.
3. flLLINK THE CULTURAL VACNM he silence was, as the cliche says, deafening. It is difficult now to imagine, but there was a time in the early 1930s when professional theatre in Canada was virtually extinct, or at least, as the English theatrical producer Maurice Colbourne said, following a 1939 tour, "Moribund. Frankly, I do not see how the patient is going to survive."1 Even foreign touring companies were thin on the ground. Some theatres, like London's Grand, played a mixed season of cinema, vaudeville and live road shows (including Ethel Barrymore in a stage adaptation of The Whiteoaks ofjalna—an American company doing a Canadian play). High calibre amateur theatre was the only native theatre that survived. In 1919, the Massey Foundation gave Hart House to the University of Toronto. In the basement was a small playhouse that was not under the university's control, but was run by the Player's Club.2 This was to become one of Canada's most important training grounds. (Among its alumni was a descendant of its benefactors, Raymond Massey.) Johnnie Wayne and Frank Shuster performed there with the University College Follies. In 1932, Governor General Lord Bessborough established the Dominion Drama Festival as an annual competition for amateur theatre groups, thus nurturing the careers of many actors, including Frances Hyland and Paul Soles. Many of Canada's regional theatres, including the Vancouver Playhouse and London's Grand, evolved out of amateur companies. The only paying work for actors and playwrights came courtesy of the new medium of radio. CFRB had established itself in Toronto in 1927 and the Canadian National Railway set up the first network in the Chateau Laurier Hotel in Ottawa; its primary purpose was to provide entertainment for the passengers aboard their trains. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) was formally established in 1936 (the government having acquired the former CNR network four years earlier) in response to an attempt by the U.S. regulators to pre-empt every frequency in North America for the exclusive use of American broadcasters. With radio came the variety show—a sort of vaudeville substitute. From 1937, for twenty-two years, up to two million Canadians tuned in to CBC Radio every weekday at one o'clock or thereabouts. They would hear a rapping at the door. "Who's there?" "It's The Happy Gang!" "Well, come
on in!" Led by that "slap-happy chappy, the Happy Gang s THIS TOBCftSTO STAR "WEEKLY, 8ATUKDAY, MABOB 35, 3930 own pappy" Bert Pearl, the show was so folksy, it even began ~ &W$A* Ml^^Slm Board ofCaiiadjk made a documentary ofM^lf^N^^on on Tmr^ and a British film was niade of the showl witMfi a'-vjtey JNwic deamatized flamewotJ^ by director Alfred Trwewfor !^^sh Natinal Films, switdbtog to coloiir^:For;tl^^GoMmand Performance fitt&b»Hie sh0w induded several pj^nal songs, including its hit "YouH Get Used to It" with lyrics by Fictor Gordon and music by Freddie Grant and sung by John Pratt (and later covered by Grade Reids):
A photograph of Blanche Harris and Alan Lund for Meet the Navy, 1943, the year they joined the navy. Courtesy of Blanche Lund.
It's wonderful It's marvellous You'll get to like it more in every way You've got to get used to it And you'll get used to it Provided that you live to see the day3
A photo of Blanche and Alan Lund during a production in London's West End in 1947. This was their first show after they were out of the navy, and Blanche s first show after recovering from polio. Courtesy of Blanche Lund.
John Pratt, a veteran of Montreal Repertory Theatre and its Tin Hat Revue, went on to appear in a couple of revues—There Goes Yesterday and One for the Road. He produced entertainment for Expo 67, before turning to politics and serving as mayor of Dorval, Quebec. Alan Lund recreated the show, Meet the Navy, at the Charlottetown Festival in 1980. Blanche Lund had suffered from an attack of polio in the mid-1940s, which sidelined her for a year, nearly ending her dancing career. When she recovered, she and Alan found themselves sharing a bill with English comedian Sid Field at the Prince of Wales Theatre in London. They then played another Royal Command Performance at the Victoria Palace, and appeared with "ukulele king" George Formby at the London Palladium in October 1953. (Until recently, their picture was still hanging in that theatre's foyer.) The Daily Telegraph said that "Alan and Blanche Lund were smooth," while the Daily Express described their dancing as "the freshest thing." Also on the bill was future Cats choreographer Gillian Lynne. For five years Alan and Blanche toured throughout Europe and North America, becoming known as Canada's answer to Marge and Gower Champion (an association that would become ironic, as will later become evident). When CBC Television went on the air in 1952, TV Variety was born. "A walk past the halls was like a stroll down Tin Pan Alley or down the streets of a film studio like MGM," as Norman Campbell, who directed the very first broadcast, told Knowlton Nash. "You'd hear opera in one hall, jazz in another and a poorly tuned piano plunking out pop music for the dancers of variety shows in yet another hall."4 Alan and Blanche Lund were the first artists to sign a contract with the fledgling CBC Television service. Even then, they had already appeared in the United States on Ed Sullivan's Toast of the Town. "We only got that contract because we'd proven ourselves in the United States and Great Britain and on the continent. Therefore, if they said we must be good, then Canada says 'you must be good.' If we had stayed here, we
would have been just as good, but we would never have been invited to perform on television every second week and choreograph the show." One of their very first shows was The Big Revue, directed by Norman Jewison, written by Frank Peppiatt and John Aylesworth and featuring Dave Broadfoot, Jane Mallett and Don Harron. "Live TV is an amazing adrenaline rush/'Jewison wrote in his autobiography. "We were all under the tutelage of a screaming intense producer-director, Don Hudson. Sets collapsed. Cameramen fainted. Actors threw up. But when it worked, the high was incredible."5 Another was Floor Show in 1953, hosted by a very young Monte Hall and set in a nightclub, featuring the country's top dance bands. "When we were on television," says Blanche, "[Alan] would stand in front of the cast, get the music and he would just stand there for maybe five minutes... I knew that he didn't have anything in his mind when he went in. He'd listen to the music, then say 'play it again/Then all of a sudden he'd start to work, and before you knew it, he would have everybody in place—pattern and dance steps—and everything just came to him as he worked, ifeiild, 'I became good at it because on television ever^^reek there wi$ about five dance routines for the chdf&$ and then every other wtefck w®d have our number to do,' and then he staged the singers, and h% said 'everything had to come to you as you were goingbecause there wa^ljo time/If you worked at home, you would n&ipr get %&y sleep. Barbel Hamjjlon said 'He was the best people mo?eir I ever inet/^ / They were also askedbyJack *AHhstf| to work on die h%e CNE Gri&d~ stand Show m If 52. TJie-Cantdettes were, with 74 dancfts* Ae fepgfcst precision kick line in the world* According to Blanche, Arthur ^decided that he'd have Florence Rogge, Celia Franca [founder of the National Ballet of Canada] and Alan and me and Midge Arthur [Jacks wife, under whom Blanche had studied when she was younger] all do choreography,
Blanche and Alan Lund during their debut in New York at the Hotel Pierre in 1949. Courtesy of Blanche Lund.
and then if one of us goofed and didn't do a good job, he felt the others would probably bring the show through and it wouldn't be too noticeable." Franca staged A Midsummer Nights' Dream, while Midge Arthur staged the finale, Toronto, I960. Blanche and Alan's act included dancers Anna Wilmot, Loraine Thomson, Babs Christie, Lloyd Malenfont, Bob van Norman and Bill Yule. Jack Arthur also wrote original music for the show (his first of many), which was published by BMI Canada. It was an enormous production on the world's largest moveable stage. "We had four hundred young dancers from dance schools audition for us... The Grandstand Show was the most beautiful show with the biggest productions, like something you never see today."The stage was 210 metres long and 15 metres high, and the bleachers seated 23,500. "We had five layers on the stage, and steps on either side, and steps down the middle. Conductor Howard Cable was set in the middle of the stage and the steps led down from him, and in front of the stage we had a swimming pool, which was for Marilyn Bell [the first woman to swim across Lake Ontario]." As many as 1,500 people would be on stage at once. All of this work prepared Alan and Blanche for their next phase— choreographing and staging musicals for the Stratford Festival, Spring Thaw and eventually the Charlottetown Festival.
5. P« THE NUKE on STAGE
rofessional theatre in Canada all but disappeared during the Great p Depression, and it might have stayed that way, had it not been for the persistence of people like Dora Mavor Moore. I think of Dora as Canada's answer to Lillian Baylis, the dour English teetotaller who ran the Old Vic and Sadler's Wells. (In fact, today s Royal National Theatre, English National Opera and Royal Ballet all owe their existence to her.) The similarities were not entirely incidental, for at one point, Dora was an Old Vic player, the first Canadian to graduate from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. Her cousin was the noted playwright James Bridie. In the early 1900s, she had acted on Broadway and was a leading lady in Sir Philip Ben Geet's classical touring company. After marrying Reverend Frank Moore in 1916, she found herself back in London as the wife of an army chaplain. Ben Geet had become manager of the Old Vic, and she replaced his indisposed Viola in Twelfth Night. She returned to Toronto after the war to raise a family. By 1929, the combination of a Depression plus the arrival of sound movies had killed off professional theatre, leaving only the resolutely amateur offerings of Hart House and the Dominion Drama Festival. Even the American touring companies stopped coming. The only p§id work an actor could do was on radio. From these ashes a phoenix arose. Following the Second World War, Canada began to discover its own nationhood and to realize that it wasn't a British colony anymote; A movement was afoot to,adpjpt a new flag. We became Canadian citizens* a0t British subjects* A ^^fl^Commission, headed by Vincen^^^f es^^ill^led to Ae^i^^^^ffiient of the Canada Council (Of course, there wehe philistines who resitted of the Canada Council (Of course, there wehe philistines who resitted this move, including some MPs who equated supporting the arts with encouraging homosexuality In the English-speaking theare, this nationalistic moyement was embodied by Dora Mavor Mocii^ New Play Societiy.(The Dora Awards to are named in herllttp^.) And her son,(James) Mavor Moore,was to take it even further,if quite by accident."started writing while I was still in my teen,"he says. "I was waiting plays and music, and I started act-
ing for radio profe^S^%:^^l^^ Jbtifri^^... I wrote a lot of songs for the U.C. Follies at the UMv&rsity of^OTOfld^m J^finny Wayne— Lou Weingarten as he was then—an4fi^iik^teter? so Fd done quite a number of show songs." (The U.C. Follies, like Vancouver's Mussoc and
Town Tonics—the "Gibson Girl" number. Jane Mallett teamed up with Frederic Manning in 1934 to create the revue Town Tonics, which was performed at Hart House for close to ten years. Jane herself would augment the cash flow each year, as needed, to keep it going. Courtesy of the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts.
McGilTs Red and White Revue was a farm team for writers and performers, including Shuster's sometime son-in-law Lome Michaels and actor Donald Sutherland.) As a university student, young Mavor had lived in a rooming house kept by Pat Rafferty, a veteran of the Dumbells. And he had been impressed by the Montreal revues created by Gratien Gelinas, Les Fridolinades. "For the first time, audiences were seeing one of their own on stage," writes critic Michel Vais. "The costumes, the frankness of the language and the situations reflected the reality of French Canada, which unconscious modesty—ascribed by some to an inferiority complex, by others simply to good taste—had never before permitted in 1 the theatre." In 1950, Gelinas brought his humour to English-speaking audiences when Ti-Coq opened at the Royal Alexandra Theatre in Toronto. Once again, there was a link in the continuity chain. "Gelinas deserves the credit for insisting that Canadian theatre had to start putting its audience on stage," Mavor told me. So, when a stage adaptation of the Hugh MacLennan novel Two Solitudes failed to materialize, Moore quickly cobbled together a revue based around a sketch by Tommy Tweed (1907-71), an actor and writer with Spring Thaw, about labour relations in a department store with the working title It'll Never Get Well If You Picket. He knew it needed a catchier title. CBC director Andrew Allan suggested Spring Thaw, "for the time in Canada when the snow melts and exposes the old galoshes and Christmas trees and iron bedsteads of winter."2 The cast included veteran Jane Mallett, who was already a seasoned revue artiste, having performed her one woman Town Tonics at Hart House (and for whom the St. Lawrence Centre's Jane Mallett Theatre is named),3 Peter Mews (from The Army Show) and Don Harron as the young romantic hero. Like Les Fridolinades, Mavor Moore wanted to put the audience on stage, "to make it so Canadian in subject matter and personality that it would inevitably give the audience something they could not get from an American show or a British show." William Littler writes, "The congeniality of the revues format to the Canadian scene is readily understandable, given the habit of self-deprecation that Canadians evidently develop during the early stages of their toilet training."4 John Gray adds, "If you cant see something unique to your own area where you live in a theatre, what's the point of going?"
The first Spring Thaw opened at a theatre in the Royal Ontario Museum on April 1,1948, for a run of three nights. Rose Macdonald of the Telegram wrote: "The New Play Society, which has turned its hand to most kinds of play-acting from Charley's Aunt to Strindberg, is at this present doing a variety show and being hilariously entertaining about it... Mavor Moore, who wrote several of the songs... explained at the beginning that there was a thread running through the revue, though he admitted it might take a magnifying glass to see it... The cast had a grand time—and gave the audience the same, poking fun at today's radio newscasters, yesterday's movies in which Don Harron played with equal aplomb golden-curled Mary Pickford, the hero and the villain. Young Harron turned up finally as the rear of Laura Secord's famous cow!"5 (Laura Secord was a hero of the War of 1812 who warned the British that the Americans were coming. A friend and I once joked about opening a Laura Secord chocolate shop opposite Paul Revere's house in Boston, just to see if anyone got the joke.) To the chagrin of Dora, who regarded this diversion from serious theatre with deep suspicion, Spring Thaw caught on and would become North America's longest running annual professional satirical revue. "Everybody loved to see Spring Thaw" says choreographer Blanche Lund, "because it was political and it was well written. * . [The Americans] couldn't spoof their government the way we could." Over the next quarter century, its contributors would include author Pierre Berton, Lister Sinclair, comedian Dp|tfe Broadfeot6 (Air Farce is Spring Tbaw\ direct €Kffspring)|lkan Efeni^k (who went on to create the TV show Ta%t), i^tx^posftC ^lido Agostini ("a superb painter 0f musical portraits llid landscapes"7), film director Ndtipan Jewison Itnd songfvfiters Raymond Jessel and Marian Grudeff (wkose musical Baker Street would later be staged oil Broadway: by Htrold Prince). AIAou^h they never appeared in Sfnng 33few> Wayne and Shuster contributed sketches* \ "I'd never seen Spring Thaw before/* says Marian (Sradeff. "One New Year's Eve I was at a party... and I played some tunes I'd heard... I didn't realize that Mavor Moore was there. I didn't know who he was. A
New Play Society's Spring Thaw, 1951 (1-r): Andrew McMillan, Vern Chapman, Connie Vernon, Lou Jacobi, Jane Mallett, Patsy O'Day, Pegi Braun, Peter Mews. Photos courtesy of the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts.
Jane Mallett in her later years.
month or so later he called me up and asked would I be interested in doing Spring Thaw" At that time their rehearsal pianist had to be replaced because he was non-union. "My teacher and my parents told me that it was a very bad move. I would ruin my career as a concert pianist. I said, 'If I become the greatest pianist in the world, they're going to forget that I did Spring Thaw. And if I don't, then I could use the money.'"The first year that Grudeffwas musical director, "Norman Jewison was one of the cast, and he was terrific... He used to break everybody up." Then she met composer Raymond Jessel. "We did a number called 'Roll on Mozart,'" says Jessel, "which was essentially a potted version of Cossi Fan Tutti done on roller-skates, which Alan Lund choreographed. It was rather marvellous—Barbara Hamilton rolled on one skate. Everything became moveable, and eventually the furniture started to roll on. It ended in a hockey match. We did a snowshoe ballet. We did a Wagnerian opera takeoff. We did a parody of Oklahoma! called Manitoba?' with a song called 'Everything's Up to Date in Kapuskasing.'" Another was called "Every Time It Rains, It Rains Dust Storms in Moose Jaw." One year they wrote the whole show, a comical history of Canada, with Don Harron. "We wrote all the songs and he wrote the book." Even author Pierre Berton was drafted to write comedy lyrics to Jessel's music. "When they moved Woodbine [racetrack], we wrote a song called 'Give a Toast to Good Old Woodbine' as a male quartet." Mavor had seen Dave Broadfoot when he auditioned for the CBC. He sent him to meet Dora. "Dora was not a woman who easily took 'no' for an answer," says Broadfoot in his autobiography. "Her phone rang while I was in her office. It was a worried bank manager. Dora's handling of him was quite remarkable—she demonstrated a deep understanding of psychology as well as nerves of steel. If the bank manager could not say 'no' to her, then neither could I."8 Another Canadian comedy legend to appear with Spring Thaw was Anna Russell, an operatic soprano who had turned to comedy after an injury—being hit in the face by a hockey stick (how Canadian can you get?)—had damaged her voice. For her Spring Thaw debut, she lectured on how to play the bagpipes—knowledge gained by looking it up in the Encyclopaedia Britannica. According to Broadfoot, "She placed the various parts of the instrument on the table as she spoke, seemingly unaware that, from the audience's point of view, the loosely assembled bagpipe parts looked exactly like king-sized genitalia."9 Another feature of hers was the "potted Met," an operatic spoof. At the same time, the real Met—New York's Metropolitan Opera—were playing Maple Leaf Gardens. On their day off, they all came to see Spring Thaw. "They
thought Totted Met'was absolutely hilarious/'writes Russell in her autobiography. It was the beginning of her international career. Although it never became a television series, Spring Thaw was adapted in the mid-1950s as a one-off TV special. But, more often, "the fact is it was plundered rather than adapted as Spring Thaw" explains Mayor, "largely due to two factors. As producer, I bought only stage rights to the material, so the writers/composers were free to sell their numbers elsewhere, which they did—to |pdip? TV and stage in Canada, Ldftdon, NY and LA, especially Laug6 In^l waajlrobably naiw> bil|J^i%hose shoestring days we just tb^^^t'4l>Oil|^3rtmg the show and on the same Monday morning you'd start rehearsing the next show. It'd be mostly the same
chorus, with different leads. Most of the chorus people would be working all day, stop for supper and then do an entirely different show at night. Then, on the Saturday night, they'd stop the show at midnight and everybody would have a big meal. Then they would start to run through the tech with costumes, music, props and scenery. We'd get through about six o'clock in the morning. We'd have Sunday off, and then we'd start the show Monday night." "For fifteen years, I was their press agent," explained Hugh Pickett, "but I did everything. Everybody did. You'd stay up twenty-four hours because you loved what you were doing. Those kids were getting paid practically nothing at the beginning of the thing. It was something that brought people together." In Vancouver, if it rained before intermission, they had to offer refunds, but often the audience stayed anyway. Even Bing Crosby sat in the front row with a blanket over himself in the pouring rain.3 The Maikin Bowl was rent-free, but TUTS had to pay for the lawn in front of it, which had to be completely re-seeded at the end of each season. For four seasons TUTS also remounted two shows a year in Victoria. "It was a madhouse," recalls Pickett. "You'd take the midnight boat out ... and go right to work ... The first year, it was in [Beacon Hill] Park. The opening night, the scenery all blew down." Then, in 1950, they did Chu Chin Chow in an indoor arena in Victoria. But even then, they were at the mercy of the weather. "The roof leaked. There was a terrific rainstorm, and all the music was getting wet. They had to quit." Aida Broadbent, their primary choreographer, had made her dancing debut on the stage of Vancouver's Capitol Theatre at the age of fourteen. She moved to Los Angeles, where from 1940 she choreographed a number of films, including Sis Hopkins with Bob Crosby, Susan Hayward and Judy Canova, and FourJacks anda Jill'with Ray Bolger, June Havoc, Desi Arnaz and Eddie Foy Jr. A sometime associate of Leon Leonidoff, she choreographed for Radio City Music Hall and the CNE Grandstand Show. She staged a Broadway revival of The Red Mill in 1945 that ran for 531 performances. She also staged musicals for the Los Angeles Civic Light Opera, from which she would "borrow" the costume plots for TUTS. "She was very pragmatic," says Dolores Claman. "A lot of people said there's nothing really new about what she's doing. There wasn't, but she got every show on. She was the one that held the whole thing together." Until the Malkin Bowl was damaged by fire in the early 1980s, its backstage walls were covered with the autographs of all who had worked there, including Robert Goulet. "Bob Goulet did a stand-up singing job in a television show that Aida and I saw in her hotel room,"
remembers Hugh Pickett. "She said, 'Who is that? My God, he certainly can sing, and he's gorgeous looking. I wonder if he can act?' We made enquiries, and found out he was free in the summer. We brought him out. His first salary was $300 a week." They cast him in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes with Loraine McAllister and Fran Gregory in 1956, but soon discovered he needed work. Claman remembers thinking, "He's got a good voice, but is he wooden!" "Bob was not an actor," says Pickett. "He was taught to act here by Jimmy Johnston and Aida Broadbent." They helped him to overcome the severe stage fright he had suffered since childhood. "Aida and I went to see him in New York in Camelot. There was a gang of people in the dressing room, and he said, 'This is the lady who made it possible.'" (Of Goulet's work in Spring Thaw, comedian Dave Broadfoot says, "What impressed me most working with him was his professionalism—he was always willing, no matter how late it was, to keep on rehearsing until he felt we had got it right."4) In 1952, TUTS produced their first—and only—original Canadian musical, and there is a plaque on a tree near the Malkin Bowl commemorating the fact. The book for Timber!!! was by Doug Nixon, then the BC regional program director for the CBC, and journalist David Savage. The music was by Vancouver~b0m Dolores Claman, who had recently scored a ballet, La Revefantasque^ for La jMUet Concert in B^J^al. Claman, who studied dfwggi ^pderj^iy*ri^ht WillkiiM^^^^Iille (brother of filmmaker Cecil B»and'&j^^ OF CHOREOGRAPHER aGNED)AT at UCLA, before winning'a^ia^ SCHOLARSHIP TO jULLLIAARED, HAD DECIDEDaA couple of years before that sh^wat^^ TO SHE WRITING A MUSICAL. She had already had one popular soni "dRAMERS PLASE lISTEN" RECORRDED BY Anita Ellis, the Montreal-boftfsp^ OF wEST sIDE sTORY'S lARRY ^t kERT (and (AND namesake for the character 1^|^ta".).TUTS producerr Bill BmSl^gham J
The program cover for Timber!!y Vancouver, 1952. Courtesy of Cecilia Smith.
introduced he* to Savage tod 1^^ n,
who had alretdy writtea a libretto
for ah \inpro4i|?ei dpcfetta dbcmt the Cmboo jroM-rtoh (before the idea had been pre-empted by PmnfY&mrfflfagon)*Ikey shtft^ltheir stoiy line from gold prospectors to loggers, and work was sloWfy underway. The collaborators seldom met—Oilman was living and studying in New York, while Nixon was doing an internship at the BBC in London,
but they eventually finished their story about Dan Dawson (played by bass-baritone Don Garrard, who later sang with Sadlers Wells Opera and at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden), a logger coming into Vancouver for the weekend with a wad of cash. He falls in love with Margery Manson (played by Jacquie Smith), the daughter of a disapproving timber baron. Timber!! featured three ballets choreographed by Aida Broadbent: "Birk's Corner," "Stanley Park" and "Hoe Down."The music was arranged by Neil Chotem of Montreal. The local media backed the show enthusiastically, although according to Vancouver Sun critic Stanley Bligh,".. .the story and text were weak. There seemed to be little point in the dialogue and the comedy was too obvious."5 It enjoyed the highest first night attendance in TUTS' thirteen-year history. The rest of the week was a sell out, until Friday, when it was struck by the scourge of TUTS—rain. "But so many people kept telling us that they wanted to see the show that evening, rain or no rain," said producer Bill Buckingham, "that we decided to go ahead anyway. About 600 persons sat and shivered, protecting their heads with oiled butcher paper, which we supplied to them—and the cast put on the best show of their lives."6 Unfortunately, on Saturday the rain pelted down all afternoon, and the show was cancelled—only to have the weather break right at what should have been curtain time. CBC Radio broadcast a ninety-minute version of the show on July 2. Doug Nixon, their program director, told the Women's Canadian Club, "we cannot have creation unless the audience is there to be created for... I deplore the attitude of Canadians who will go to New York and see 17 shows in 15 days—ANY show—and never know that they can see better at home."7 "And an excellent show it was," said Mavor Moore. "A fine score. I still remember some of the tunes from it." According to Hugh Pickett, "The dialogue was corny, but the music was good—that was the saving grace." Grace Macdonald was less generous. "That was a terrible show! .. .One of the worst things I've ever seen. Some of the musical lines were nice, but you never went out humming anything.. .The people here did not know what a musical was really like. It's all very well to put a story together and put little songs to it and say here's where a dance goes, but it doesn't always work if you haven't got people with a sense of what a musical is." In fact, Claman herself has no illusions about the show. When I asked to hear some of the score, she declined, preferring to play me her later Mr. Scrooge. She attributes Timber-//'s success to the fact that the local press came on board. TUTS would like to have revived it, but Claman insisted "only if they take the Mickey out of it." Less than a year later, she made
her London debut with two songs—"Dumb Animals" and "Call Me Doctor"—for the 1954 Laurier Lister revue Airs on a Shoestring at the Royal Court Theatre. TUTS folded after the 1963 season, a victim of Vancouver's unreliable weather. In 1969, it was revived as a semi-professional venture. In 1955, Winnipeg began a similar operation in a 3,000-seat bandshell in Kildonan Park, led for many years by Bert Pearl's nephew, bandleader Jack Shapira, sometimes described as the "Buddha of Bombast" or the "Custodian of Chutzpah." Their first musical was Brigadoon. Winnipeg-born Len Cariou made his professional debut there in 1959 in Damn Yankees. At first, they imported stars such as Julie Wilson and Jack Carter from the United States, but, according to Nathan Cohen, "the production standards were abysmal,"8 and they accumulated a deficit of $96,000. Then Shapira, host of the TV series The House That Jack Built, stepped in. They replaced imported stars with less expensive Canadian talent and semi-professionals. Jan Rube of the Canadian Opera Company starred in The King and I, and Catherine McKinnon made her book musical debut as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz (she had already appeared in Spring Thaw). They overcame the weather problems that had plagued TUTS by building a triodetic dome over the seating area in 1970 at a cost of $200,000. To date, Rainbow Stage's only Canadian musical has been Anne of Green Gables in 1989 at the indoor Pantages Theatre. (The resurrected semi-pro TUTS also produced Anne in 20Q3») The Winnipeg Free Press put Rainbow Stage's success down to "its decision to stick with family entertainment* Both words are significant. No one need wonder if the show in Kildonan Park will be acceptable The Winnipeg Free Press put Rainbow Stage's success down to "its bored or provoked rather than simply entertained/'9
Anne of Green Gables was only the second Canadian-written musical to be staged at the Marion Malkin Memorial Bowl, Vancouver, in 1952. The first was Timber!! Courtesy of Roger Smith.
I. IN THEIREST" or H NEW CHIN tat onald and Murray Davis came from a wealthy Newmarket family who had made their fortune in the leather business. (Their father EJ. Davis ran Davis Leather Company. According to Paul Illidge, author J of The Glass Cage, a history of the Crest Theatre, their ancestor James Davis, for whom Davisville Avenue is named, helped William Lyon Mackenzie to escape after the 1837 rebellion.) Donald, who was born in 1928, and Murray, who was four years older, both attended University of Toronto. In 1948, fresh out of university (and the theatre program at Hart House), they established the Straw Hat Players in the resort area of the Muskoka Lakes, where their family had a summer home. When Bill Freedman, a theatre producer whose father owned an Ottawa-based chain of cinemas, was in London on his honeymoon with his new wife Toby Robbins in 1952, Donald was working at the Glasgow Citizens Theatre. He came down to meet them in their hotel room at the Savoy. "Donald and I went and had a quiet chat," Freedman remembers. "We ended up sitting on the edge of the bathtub. He said he wanted a theatre in Toronto. I called Nat Taylor, who was a Famous Players partner with a whole bunch of theatres. He said, 'Well, we have a theatre that has a little stage. In 1953, through their company Murray and Donald Davis Ltd., they raised $50,000 by a public share issue to take a lease on what had been the Belsize Cinema on Mount Pleasant Road. Their intention was to establish a company there with a mandate to "provide repertory theatre in Toronto comparable with the best of British repertory companies" and to "contribute to the cultural life of Canada by providing opportunities for the development of Canadian artistic directors, playwrights, designers, managers and technicians." The Belsize, which had opened in 1922 at a cost of $160,000, was designed by Murray Brown, a Toronto architect who had studied at the Royal Academy and had also designed Capitol Theatres in Port Hope, Saskatoon and Halifax. The Toronto Star praised its "fine arcade entrance lined with Venetian mirrors. The winding stairway is beautifully balustraded. The mezzanine is richly furnished with handwrought electroliers, friezes of'Carmen the Spanish dancer adorn the walls on either side."1 The name, which originally was connected to Belsize Road, was changed by Famous Players in 1950 when the theatre was renovated.
64 H NORTH
When the Crest opened as a live theatre in 1954, it was immediately picketed by the Musicians Union who claimed that, because originally it had been built as a vaudeville house, it was obligatory to hire a minimum of seven musicians per show, musical or not. For the first three years, the Davises continued to present their summer season in Muskoka, while spending the rest of the year at the Crest. Pretty soon it became clear that this theatre was not viable as a commercial enterprise: it continuously lost money. One reason cited was the short runs, but perhaps Toronto just couldn't financially sustain a commercial—i.e. not subsidized—professional theatre at that time, and in 1957 the Crest Theatre Foundation, a not-for-profit organization, was incorporated. The Crest was the launching pad for many careers. In 1961, the late James Doohan, who would later become famous as "Scotty" on Star Trek, played Kent in King Lear with Mavor Moore not only directing but playing Lear. "I thought that was one of the greatest there could possibly be of King Lear "he said. Doohan remembers the Crest as "a lovely place to play in." He had appeared there previously in a Canadian play called Bright Sun at Midnight. The auditorium, which seated 842, was a shoebox. Freedman describes it as "an old-fashioned kind of presentation house... They extended the stage. They didn't have proper wing space, they didn't have fly space, but they made do.'Tts location was out of the way: Still, they charged ahead, opening 45 weeks a year, presenting some 140 plays between 1954 and 1966. One, a production of J.B. Priestly's The Glass Cage (a play written especially for the Davises) even transferred to the Piccadilly Theatre in London's West End for a brief tuo. Some of the others were musicals, such as Barry Morse's production of Sa/adDays, which playedfcjfae'Crest before going to New York. - > , Some of the other musicals we*e cyea or^^al* In:Jmmf^1^59, they put together a revue cafled:^!SNI^ myfamilyammaappaannanpappaorbabyitsmeeeand original songs by various writmind^kathickwedssathyaksksksksdsdasddsAppelbaum. In 1961 and 1962, it a&ft playedple ^^^-^in^'^^.Mn Scrppge, with a book and lyrics by Ricia^t^ orriskakarthickwesdssathyasfsdfsdsdfsdf iffljfiic (anm was pressed into service. Harry Garber and Jisz piilfist Gait Ma£Deffhot, w|p would eventually strike it rich with Hair on Brotdw&fJ wrote tdditiohat%>ngs, and Roy Wolvm* who had written the ori^nal revue Qngfor the ffauh ccfhtribtited a awilpfe of numbers, including ^We Hate Each Other.*1 The show opened on February 7,19S7? at Moyse Hall in JVfcGilTs Arts Building. Clayton Sinclair of The Gazette called it "a sprightly reflection on Canadian life,*'2 The initial seven shows sold out and four more performances were added.
Detail from the album cover of the original cast recording of My Fur Lady, McGill Recording Service, 1957. Courtesy of Timothy Porteous.
It was so successful that Domville, Porteous, Macdonald, Wang and MacSween formed a company, Quince Productions, to professionally remount the show. Through its secretary, Lome Gales, they approached the Graduate Society for financial backing. The president, D.W. Ambridge, proposed to the members, "I want an expression of opinion, but I don't want a decision!"The members turned it down. But despite this, Gale arranged for the society to underwrite the show anyway, to the tune of $4,000, in exchange for an undefined percentage of the profits. When the show reopened on May 23 at Moyse Hall, the original company of 120 had been whittled down to about forty and augmented by professionals, including Frank Blanch, Bill Solly and Douglas Chamberlain. Each was paid a salary of $30 a week (later increased to forty). Then, on June 7, there was a federal election, the results of which were relayed to the audience through the character of the Governor General, dictating to his secretary. The ruling Liberals under Louis St. Laurent were defeated by John Diefenbaker's Tories. This necessitated a lyric change. At the end of act one, instead of singing, "Uncle Lou, Uncle Lou, tell us what to do," they sang "Honest John, Honest John, tell us right from wrong." Gavin Scott of The Gazette described it as a "banquet which roasts Canadian foibles and merrily fries our public figures to a beautiful brown."3 The original twelve performances soon swelled into forty-two, and money began coming in from the sales of the original cast recording—made on June 12 by McGill Recording Service. (An earlier, rarer recording had been made of the all-student cast.) Bolstered by this success, they took the show to Stratford, Ontario, where they opened on June 29 at the Avon Theatre, then still a cinema. (With the screen still in situ, they found a way to use it as a cyclorama.) To the cast s astonishment, they received a standing ovation. Herbert Whittaker wrote in the Globe and Mail, "Why is My Fur Lady so special among college shows? It is hard to say at first, for much of the time it is very like any other college show—in its suggestion of freshness, improvisation, of energy rather than professional skill... It has a sharpness of approach, a refusal to imitate other musicals, a point of view which is constantly bright and witty."4 Even London's The Times wrote, "Judging from such straws in the wind as Gratien Gelinas's foundation of an all-Canadian theatre in Montreal and the preoccupation of McGill University's dazzling revue My Fur Lady with Canadian culture, it seems there is a widespread desire in Canada to break away from theatrical subservience to Broadway and London."5 After forty performances as a fringe event at Stratford—the Festivals first Canadian play—they received an offer to open the Royal Alexandra
Theatre s fiftieth season in Toronto. Their three-week, sold-out run broke all box office records. "It did take some remarkable PR to turn My Fur Lady into a hit," says Gait MacDermot, "but the writers were pretty brilliant at that. Also, the subject matter garnered a lot of interest. The [Quebec Quiet] Revolution was about to begin." In Ottawa, they played before the real Governor General, Vincent Massey Although urged by their sponsors to omit all references to His Excellency, (virtually impossible, as the plot revolved around on him) the show went ahead as written. Afterward, Massey—who had his own brief encounter with show business a decade earlier when he made a cameo in the classic Powell and Pressburger film Forty-Ninth Parallel, starring his brother Raymond—told the actor who played him, "I learned a great deal about how to do the job." My Fur Lady crossed Canada from Charlottetown to Victoria, playing 402 performances in 82 towns, taking its final bow as part of Gordon Hilker's Vancouver Festival on August 3,1958. It had been seen by over 400,000 people and returned a profit of over $900,000 to its five producers (plus $4,000 to the Graduate Society). Some of this was reinvested in a less successful follow-up revue, Jubilee, directed by Macdonald and starring Dave Broadfoot, while some, in Porteous' words, "paid for a year in Europe and the beginnings of a retirement savings plan." The show also enjoyed some international exposure. The New York Times said it was a "phenomenon" that "ruffled the damp feathers of the Canadian theatrical season."6 Variety called it a "zingy romp." Even in Moscow, Isvestia said the satire was "very bold." It was also written up in Time and Newsweek and in papers as far away as Australia. The script took many swipes at the Canadian cultural burc|pd^cy— ironic when you consider htare where JV&ttfct^^s tc^buy the puffed sleeves for Ann^ffe^liai *emo^e0, %&d it %is a dramatic scene, a comedy scene, a lot of ftm witii t!te*girl behifld ;ttoe counter in Blair's store. But it was all in (fial^ii^aad lAa^ht w.flbdbd a song* In fact, every scene in a musical djAXGiM fO^feaw^:^>iig,'te'it So Jpon and I wrote'General Store/*
To coiuddCjf^i^tiie GeAteii^xyeai^e Composers* Au&ors and. Publishers Association of Canada and the Canacikti,^$0c^tioii^f Broadcasters released an album of rather dbee§y easy listening amngements of songs from Anne and other Canadian musicals. For this particular occasion, Elaine Campbell adapted tibe lyrics to 'Wondrin,' removing specific references to red hair (and slates cracked over heads).
Then, in 1969, expatriate Canadian Bill Freedman, who had seen the show during its 1967 tour, tookdnne to London. "Everybody told me not to do it," he said at the time. "They said no one wants to see a sentimental kid's classic on stage."7 Freedman, who had another play called Hadrian the Seventh running at the same time, now says, "I could have bought a couple of Picassos instead of putting it on." Instead, he has a painting of the Anne set hanging in his Covent Garden office. "The man who was putting up all the money fled about two weeks before it went into rehearsal and I ended up spending a lot of money on that particular masterpiece." Although this would be Alan Lund's first time as a director in the West End, there were many people around who still remembered him from his Palladium days. (A few years later, he returned to stage Great Expectations, starring John Mills, with music by Cyril Ornadel, the composer of Pickwick, and lyrics by the late Hal Shaper. Shaper's Jane Eyre had played at Charlottetown. Great Expectations opened at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre in Guildford, then toured the UK and Canada.) Norman and Elaine Campbell took their three sons and two daughters with them to London, where Norman was also producing a TV series for Liberace. "Bill Freedman didn't want the critics to know that it was a Canadian show in any way," says Norman. "He just wanted them to come in and judge it as what they saw on the stage." Mame was about to open there starring Ginger Rodgers, and it had songs called "Open a New Window" and "Bosom Buddies."Anne had "Open the Window" and "Bosom Friends." Something had to give. "Freedman said, 'What a coincidence that is,'"remembers Campbell. "I said/Coincidence-schmincidence!'We wrote ours nine years before!" "Open the Window" was simply retitled "Learn Everything," but "Bosom Friends" had to go. Norman mentioned this problem to Liberace, and the next day found that a piano had been delivered to his flat. Ultimately, they noticed how often L. M. Montgomery used the phrase "kindred spirits" in her novel. So "Kindred Spirits" it became. Only three members of the Charlottetown company were used in the London production—Barbara Hamilton, Susan Anderson (as Diana) and Australian-born Robert Ainslie as Gilbert. Matthew was played by American actor Hiram "Chubby" Sherman, a veteran of Orson Welles'Mercury Theatre who had, earlier in his career, appeared in the revolutionary Marc Blitzstein opera The Cradle Will Rock. Anne was played by English actress Polly James, who had played in Haifa Sixpence on Broadway. Freedman wanted a new up-tempo number to replace Matthew's version of "The Words" (Manila's reprise stayed in.) "We knew that Hiram
Sherman... didn't want to do 'The Words.'We wrote this new song, 'When I Say My Say'... In Canada, people always preferred to sing 'The Words'... but this song, 'When I Say My Say' was a strong song and a funny song. He could talk to the cows and chickens, and they would pay attention to him, so it showed his chicken-hearted attitude. But I don't think he sang it terribly well." Unlike "Kindred Spirits," this song was never interpolated into the Charlottetown version, although it is included as an appendix to the published score. Norman and Elaine also wrote another new song in London, "When the Heartbreak is Over" for Anne to sing after Matthew's death, but it wasn't used. It eventually surfaced in another show, The Wonder Of It All. Anne opened on April 16, 1969, at the New (later Albery) Theatre to largely enthusiastic notices. The Illustrated London News found it "quietly likeable," while Punch promised it would "keep audiences happily smiling through their tears for months to come." Queen wrote, "The harmless ditties which accompany the translation of the story are exactly in the right key to guarantee it the kind of sugary success achieved by The Sound of Music "while the Sunday Times said, "This musical has the bounding happiness of youth... You cannot guess until you have seen Anne of Green Gables how exciting a quality innocence can be." Putting it all in perspective, Harold ftdbson wrote in the Sunday Time$> "Perhaps because »little had been expected of it, the discovery that what it had to give was considerable provoked an enthusiasm somewhat in excess of its deserts/* Barbara Hamilton was relishing it* She told the St&i*$ Harry J. Pollock, "You're constantly playing before your peers* so you do y0ur best every performance* Michael Redgrave will pop in to see the sfadw. Or Noel Coward* The other night Hubert Humphrey and his party were here. The place was surrounded Police. American Secret Service men— the whole schticL"8 CBS recorded a cast album, produced by Norman Newell, a respected songwriter in his own right; he had worked with Lund at the Palladium twenty years earlier. In the next room at Abbey Road Studios, four guys
Anne opened at the New Theatre in London on April 16,1969 to predominantly positive reviews. Courtesy of Elaine Campbell.
Grade Rnley was a Prince Edward Island girl of eighteen when she began her theatrical career at the Confederation Centre Theatre in 1966. Two years later she was awarded the coveted role of Anne Shirley and played the role from 1968 to 1985. The first Anne was Jamie Ray, from 1965 to 1967. Gracie is the only PE Islander to have played Anne to this day. Photo by Malak, Ottawa. Courtesy of the Confederation Centre of the Arts.
from Liverpool were working on a song about a cephalopod mollusc with an interest in horticulture. Anne concluded its London run on January 17, 1970, having completed 319 performances. Although Plays and Players magazine voted it the year's best musical, "It never caught on with adult audiences," Freedman says. "We used to sell out in the summer, half-term and Saturday matinees. They considered it to be a children's show. I was very unsophisticated in 1969.1 should have toured it. I would not have done it today without two stars." Barbara Kelly and Bernard Braden, a married couple from Vancouver who had become stars in Britain, were offered the roles at the time, but turned them down. Duncan Weldon and Paul Elliot enquired about mounting a provincial tour, but nothing came of it. Later that year, the Charlottetown Festival production was presented in English for 23 performances at Expo 70 in Osaka, Japan, starring Gracie Rnley as Anne, Peter Mews as Mathew and Barbara Hamilton as Marilla. Gracie remembers the experience, "Mathew and I were in front of the scrim, and we knew behind us they had all of maybe sixty seconds to bring on the house and get it set up for the new scene... We heard a tremendous crash behind us, and we wondered what in the world had happened. Of course, we ignored it and carried on... The scrim went up, and everything seemed normal... Peter Mews and I looked at each other with a sense of relief that everything seemed to be in one piece. Barbara came down the stairs on cue, and began doing very strange things with her head and eyes... We still didn't clue in... The crash we heard was Annes dresser falling down onto the stage. The crew had hurriedly replaced it, but one of the Japanese stagehands was stuck up in the bedroom... Barbara was in hysterics, because when he realized there was no escaping, he tried first of all to get under the bed [which was] actually only about two by three feet... He pulled a drawer out of the dresser and placed a foot into the bottom drawer thinking he just might be able to hide there... The audience didn't know any of this was going on. This was behind the gable of the bedroom set... He finally suspended himself down the back of the set."
At Christmas \97\yAnne made a two week stop at New York's City Center as a part of a regional tour. Walter Kerr (whose abortive attempts to hire Don Harron two decades earlier had presaged the show) wrote in the New York Times, "As staged, the show's deliberate simplicity seemed to me synthetic and a bit pushy, its pig-tailed heroine seemed constantly on the verge of turning herself into Donald Duck in her eagerness to be recognized as a pint-sized force of nature, and its jokes—what might have been good enough if anyone had shushed them a little—kept spelling themselves out in the capital letters that belong on children's play-blocks, and should be swept right back under the Christmas tree." One wonders if ke knew that he bore partial responsibility for the show's emstenee, Qti^tf reviews wer^l&a^^^itive. In the same paper, Clive bARMES,T HAS & folksy ait: TO IT,AND is unpretentious, undemandiii^^t^ri^|^fe^M charm." Richard watts \5fetts in the Post found it "surprisingly disarming and likeable." tdeclared News whistle." ToUnitedit "clean Press bInternational.it as was a u
Anne of Green Gables was an enormous success in Tokyo in 1980, and was revived in 1995 and 2002. Anne Shirley's "home" in Prince Edward Island is a major tourist destination for many Japanese visitors. Courtesy of Elaine Campbell
cha ch yml mlyly charming." "warmly
A Japanese language production was presented by the Shiki Theatre Company to great succes in Tokyo in 1980,and was revived in 199995 and 2002.Don Hrron says," Anne of green Gables iis Japan's national story For some reason ,they've adopted that island,those people,that story." According to Norman Camphell," There was no strangeness Everyone thought we should r£act to a Japanese j^l w^^igB^^^ails, but it was perfectly natural." He added, *The casf WES' (6Jmlmty all of them being good musicians and having great schooling in theatrical arts."
The Tapestry Music Theatre production of Anne of Green Gables was staged at the Elgin Theatre in 1991. Shown here in March 1991 are (1-r): Gordon Pinsent, Don Harron, Norman Campbell and Barbara Hamilton. Photo by Fred Phipps. Courtesy of Elaine Campbell.
A Swedish production also appeared in Gothenburg. It was even adapted by Jacques Lemay (who would later become artistic director at Charlottetown) for the Royal Winnipeg Ballet in 1989, orchestrated by Robert Farnon. "There is some overlap," Campbell explains. "I used'Wondrin and 'Humble Pie' and 'Great Workers for the Cause.'Then I wrote a lot of new material. Anne breaks out into dance when she meets Matthew, so there's a joyous waltz on a new Anne theme for the ballet." In 1991, a commercial production was presented in Toronto by Tapestry Music Theatre, directed by Lund and starring Barbara Hamilton as Marilla, Gordon Pinsent as Mathew and newcomer Jessica-Snow Wilson as Anne. Wilson, who had played a small part in my musical Shikara when it was presented on radio three years previously, was nominated for a Dora Mavor Moore award. She would later play Eponine in Les Miserables on Broadway In the mid-1990s, a group of American producers wanted to take the show on a regional U.S. tour, but insisted on some changes. At one point, we see the vicar sneak a drink of whisky, thus, they felt, rendering it unsuitable for family audiences. For Norman, a teetotal Christian Scientist, that and the "Watkins man" suggestion ensured that negotiations broke down irreparably. Now, for legal reasons, the show is referred to officially as Anne of Green Gables—The Musical™. By the end of the century it had clocked up over 2,000 performances at Charlottetown—more than either South Pacific or The Sound of Music achieved on Broadway. Still, during the time when Lund was in charge, he did his best to keep the show fresh, and would announce at the start of each season, "We're going to do a new Anne this year, as usual."9
Composer-lyricist Leslie Arden, whose mother Cleone Duncan was a member of the Anne cast for many years, says "The reason Anne of Green Gables has lasted so long is that there are actual stakes. She is an orphan and she almost doesn't get adopted, and then in the end, Matthew does die. It's not 'he almost dies but he's okay and it's a happy ending/No, he dies. And she doesn't go to university, she stays home to look after Marilla. There are stakes, and they don't shy away from them. At the same time, the lines are truly funny. So, yes, it's old-fashioned, but the reason its lasted and is so successful is that it's a well-constructed show and you believe that they have something at stake." John Gray says that Anne works "because it's about PEI and it's in PEL When it came out, there was nothing written about Canadians. The fact that its form is an American form—it's the only one that Don and Norman had to work with. [And the early American musicals, including those of Victor Herbert, were written in the Viennese style for the same reason.] They were just writing a musical, trying to write something about the area. At that time, in the 1950s, there was no Canadian form. There were no precedents to Anne of Green Gables. If you were doing it now, you would write it differently." Campbell and Harron had even planned, with Japanese backing, to make a movie of Anne, with Norman directing. In 1982, Harron told me, "It has to be just right. It has to be done in Prince Edward Island. It has to be done with an all-Canadian cast. People said, 'You're out of your minds! Films are international! Films cross borders!'I'm sorry. TJiis is our epitaph. This is very important to us. When we make this, it's going to be for all time." That plan hit a major setback in the late 1980s when Kevin Sullivan's non-musical TV miniseries came out. Although they retained the rights to film the piusical, sadly, it never happened, and Norman Campbell passed away oa April 12,2004. Campbell and Harron wsotg two moretatjtsicals together* 3|^^ (later revised as Private Turveys W^9\yf&& ON eARL bIRNEY'S NOVEL Adventures of Private Turvey^ wasp^s^itted tt tlti' Chtfl^flfWn Festival in 1966 starring Jack Duffy? $i|fj was fewc?jrk The Ecstasy of Rita Joe, which opeftfd attfae^^ieen Elizabeth B^p^hitoie on November 23,1967, directed by George Blo^mfield. Tdft% Ate tragic story of a Native woman and 'Kef4&$cent into substance iifeiise and death on the streets of Vancouver,-,£$$& pl^y^^'^e^^^j^i^t^B musical athe lan ce story; Rita inner voice, providing a lyrical counterbto s^^re was played by the late Frani3^/Hylpyi/and her father by Qpef Dan George, who would later wkj^n Oscar as* 014Lodge Skins in Ae film Little Big Man,, Uife Wamou^'tun^m^^l doift kp staring David Rogers, that premiered at the Edinburgh Festival in the summer of 2006. Plans for the future of the production are in the works. I knew him as a brilliant «c0mpanist and writer of comical revue material. I remember a sho^hie did at Theatre4n~the~I)eE in the mid1980s in which he was thafleiigfed by the audience to improvise a song* Members of th§ aw^eripe chose five random notes for the melodic "hook/* and the words that would fit with them; one person suggested ^government," the next said "sex* and the last said "sjudrome*^ And so, within five minutes, a one-performance-only song called "The Government Sex Syndrome" was born* David also conducted the Broadway revival of
David Warrack and Michael Danso in Edinburgh, 2006, for the production of the all-Canadian musical, Rob Roy. The unique role of "Bard" was created specifically for Danso, a Scottish-born jazz singer. Photograph by Jim Marshall. Courtesy of the Scottish Studies Foundation.
Shenandoah and produced the revue Toronto, Toronto by Mark Shekter and Charles Weir, which ran for two-and-a-half years. "My observation is that one must first and foremost create a sense that what is being taught is important," says Warrack. "Do that, and the pupil wants to learn. Once that atmosphere of respect has been created, the information passed along has a context. But that information is always going to be part fact and part opinion, and sometimes it is difficult to separate the two... Even an individual with Lehmans experience, intelligence, and insight is not always going to be right. If he had been, there would have been many millions in his bank account, and the oftquoted Broadway statistic that only 21% of the shows that open return their investment would have shot up dramatically!" It is also true that the Lehman Engel approach was at odds with much of contemporary musical theatre. As in straight drama, by the late 1960s, writers had begun to turn their backs on the "well-made musical." When I entered the workshop (some time after Lehman's death), I was warned that, "if you want to write like Andrew Lloyd Webber, then you've come to the wrong place."This was not just about writing commercial hits, but about writing well-crafted shows. Workshop members had to develop thick skins and to be able to retain a very clear sense of what their objectives were, for it was very easy to lose sight of them. I walked in expecting to blow everyone away, but I was quickly put in my place. My impression, at the time, was that much attention was given to the minutiae of the craft—accurate rhyming, good song structure—without necessarily determining whether the basic idea was sound. Lehman may not have been able to guarantee success, but he believed that his methods could prevent a lot of failures. For him, writing musicals was a craft to be learned by studying the masters. "As is the case with any art form, it's invaluable to get a strong foundation in how things work," says Jim Betts, who for a while took over teaching the Toronto workshops after Lehman's death. "Lehman brought our attention to the tools of the trade—structure, character, rhyming, the Veil-made musical,' Hammerstein's approach to book writing, Sondheim's skill with lyric-writing, etc." Since then, Betts has worked as an actor, singer, composer, lyricist, librettist and director. Some of his greatest successes have been with young audiences, having won the Floyd S. Chalmers Children's Play Award for The Mystery of the Oak Island Treasure in 1984 and for The Groundworld Adventure in 1990. He won a Dora Mavor Moore Award for best new musical with Jacob Two-Two and the Hooded Fang in 1984. The Fabulous Kelly, a "medicine show" starring Jeff Hyslop was produced at Young Peoples'
Theatre in 1987. Ray Conologue in the Globe and Mail said, "His songs, while rather passionless, are inventive and endearing." Perhaps his most respected work has been Colours in the Storm, his bio-musical about painter Tom Thomson. Conologue praised its treatment of "mature and important themes." It is important to note, however, that while Lehman did write incidental scores for straight PLAYS, $4tt was riot himself known as a musical theatre writer. His insights were ^moi by giving M§ batons for hits and flops over a period dH^**$G&* ^oftetfc to the potttt that heH get somewhat bored with batojaj^viiig and WotiM Itart ig$*js$E himself why some shows were better than;'^^g^0gccoirdiiig to 'p^ficipant Nelles Van Loon. "He found hims^^^ii^ i&we and moJte Ittterest^l in anIN TURN LED TO swering this question, WHICH toil ted to his teaching .and the writing S U B J E C T T H A T A R E S T I L L R E G A R DE ED D BEST A S 'HOW T H E -TO' S U B J E C T T H A T A R E S T I L L R E G A R D OF SERVERAL BOOKS ON THE SUBJECT THAT ARE STILL REGARDED AS THE intro the other to fly down to New York to see how it's done there.) "Lehman wasn't much concerned
Lehman Engel, the Broadway conductor/ author/composer, who led the BMI workshops from 1972 through 1981 in Toronto, surrounded by admiring performers at a gala celebration entitled "Musical Chairs." Standing (1-r): Araby Lockhart, Barbara Wheeldon, John Kozak and Mary Ann McDonald; seated is Lehman Engel. Courtesy of David Warrack.
with issues that related specifically to Canadian musical theatre," says Van Loon. "However, his influence upon me—and I suspect many others—was huge and mostly positive." Susan ClufF adds, "We were learning about writing American musicals. Many writers obviously went on to write 'Canadian shows but not because of any encouragement of Canadianism from Lehman. He was an American and believed in the American Broadway musical." Warrack says, "I'm not totally convinced that Lehman ever truly accepted the necessity of an indigenous Canadian form for a musical. He was so immersed in the Broadway world, that it was impossible for him to understand that anybody might be in the business, but not choose to be in New York." Joey Miller says, "As a Canadian, I can only tell a universal truth through my own perspective." But, Mavor Moore says, "I hesitate to imagine what Engel would have done to Anne of Green Gables had he ever got near it." Since the days of Spring Thaw, Canadians had enjoyed some success with intimate revues, and small-scale musicals. It then became the received wisdom that this was our metier, and that to aspire to anything grander was somehow un-Canadian. Throughout the 1970s, a number of cabaret and dinner theatre venues prospered in Toronto—the Teller s Cage, Upstairs at Old Angelo's,Theatre-in-the-Dell, Variety Dinner Theatre, and the Limelight hosted shows with titles like Tease for Two, III Tell You Mine.. JfYou Tell Me Yours, and the long-running Toronto, Toronto. In 1977, Betts tried out his revue 777 Tell You Mine... If You Tell Me Yours, written with Bob Ashley, at the Buttery in Niagara-on-the-Lake. The Toronto Suns MacKenzie Porter suggested he was "the budding of a second Noel Coward." The revue featured Betts, Grant Cowan (who created the role of Snoopy in You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown in New York) Edda Gburek and Janelle Hutchison. The Blyth Festival, established in Huron County in 1975 by James Roy, made its reputation exclusively with Canadian plays and musicals, including Raymond Storey and John Roby's The Dreamland, about a rural dance hall in the 1940s. The Lehman Engel graduates had an outlet of sorts in which to polish their craft. "Lehman did not really give that much consideration to small musicals," says Susan Cluff. "He taught us from his perspective, which was Broadway... not composers and lyricists who would be fortunate to get small shows produced at small venues, if they were produced at all." But Lehman recognized small musicals as a means for writers to cut their teeth. "Lehman saw Tut Tut at the Pauline McGibbon Theatre [in Toronto]," says David Warrack. "The response I remember most was that he felt the economy of the cast size (three, with one actor playing
multiple roles) forced me to be particularly creative in a way that a larger piece might not have demanded. He astonished me with his memory of so many details (right down to lyric quotes) based on one viewing, and his list of suggested alterations was short but amazingly on-the-mark. At no time did he seem to be bothered by the fact that it was a small production. He was, as always, fascinated by the creative process, and focused in on how it might develop even more." While Lehman placed the greatest emphasis on the needs of the musical "book," Toronto's modest cabaret and dinner theatre scene left little room for anything other than modest revues—in other words, Eric Nicol's tap-dancing harmonica player. And comedy numbers tied up with string were not Lehman Engel's favourite thing. "But," Warrack quotes Engel as saying, "'after you've been eating steak for a while, beans taste fine.' He attended many revue performances in Toronto, and enjoyed them immensely for what they were, having no pretensions to be anything more than entertainment with (generally) a satirical edge. Of course, within those entertainments were many moments of theatricality, and indeed, many of us cut our teeth on those shows and learned so much in the process. Lehman often commented how fortunate writers were in the early years of Broadway to get introduced to the White Way by way of one or two songs included in one of the compilation shows that were so popular at the time. And he absolutely recognized that the cabaret scene in Toronto from the early sixties to the mid-eighties was an entity which provided many of us with opportunities unavailable in New York, where cabaret always referred more to night club entertainment with no sense of a staged, themed show, or even original material." "When I went into his workshop in the Fall of 1980,1 was one of those persons who thought it was possible to write a hit show Ijf Stringing a bunch of songs togethift*$ays Van Loon. "And as a |3M^il%Ffact I did have a small success with a revile of myfiwn SONGS iT WAS when I decided I wanted to write * BOOK show that Il>egaij[ to J^hder, wasting two precious summers trying tgMti^MJ^^^on^GS INTO A 'LET';S Put on a Show' kind of musical. It w^ IlWiii pSl to swato^ifeeii I realized this approach was taking me4|prfi^ And it was at the beginning of a third summer, which I didrft ^tnt to be wasted^ that Ifound Leifmiifs The Making of a Mi^icf/atTiettrel^S* Al die principles h^ltelewd in wei:e feist there, but it was't..til J g0t IP the workshops and encountered hisfeisty passionate, and dead honest wi^ that the message bega^lo sink in/1 One other alumnus who has received critical plaudits, if not commercial success, is Leslie Arden. Her Home of Martin Guerre (which, incidentally, preceded the more famous Return of Martin Guerre by Les ,; , ;"•just takingggeverything verbatim."But, she feels, somt^^'p^d|^li^ ^^tm;'^t^Rmy all shipped thee grgf(m^h^W^^don^mdl-M^^^Tmnopmj^^^mg derogatory about $o) at aEL * /$8 %rottow$ I feel they haven't gone as far, ^'i^^aj^^^^^^ of^t^Witik- Cohwrtin tbeMtwm^^ Betts found that "when I chose to throw out the formula, I hiAtoore stoeeess." Universality was also important to Lehman^Leltoah stressed good stories and characters^ says Joey Miller* **He once talked to me about Pacific Overtures, that wonderful Japanese musical with costumes by
Florence Klotz and sets by Boris Aronson etc." (However, The King and /, much loved in the West as a musical with "universal" appeal, causes deep offence in Thailand for its portrayal of King Monkut as a barbarian, and its assertion that it was "Mrs. Anna" who brought civilization to the kingdom.) Is anything truly universal? "Certain musicals play better within their own country than outside," says British producer Sir Cameron Mackintosh, and his examples might have surprised Engel. "Guys and Dolls has always proved to be the longest running musical in New York when it is revived, whereas in England it would be Joseph [and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat], Oliver! and My Fair Lady. A Chorus Line and Hello, Dolly! are two of the longest running musicals of all time in New York, yet only managed to run a couple of years in London, whereas Fiddler on the Roof, Phantom [of the Opera], Les Miserables and Cats have proved to be universal long runners. Inevitably, some shows play better in major cities rather than out of town, and occasionally vice versa."8 By the late 1980s with the arrival of Cats, Phantom of the Opera and Les Miserables, Toronto was now enjoying a commercial theatre boom, however, virtually all of the small-scale cabaret venues in the city had dried up. A group of performers and writers, led by Diane Stapley, banded together to seek a solution. They called themselves the Cabaret and Musical Theatre Alliance, dedicated to the preservation of "cabaret and small-scale musical theatre" in Toronto. (Diane invited me to join their board of directors. My one accomplishment was to persuade them to delete the phrase "small-scale," believing it to be both restrictive and redundant.) Sadly, CAMTA folded in the early 1990s. Of Lehman EngeFs contribution to Canadian musical theatre, Jim Betts says, "I still miss Lehman, and I often think of what he gave me. If IVe made any contribution to the Canadian Musical Theatre, Lehman can take a lot of credit for giving me the tools to do what IVe done. He was a very positive force in my development, and in the careers of many other Canadian Musical Theatre writers. He was a good teacher, and a great inspiration." Michael Bawtree, co-founder of COMUS Music Theatre and artistic director of the BanfFCentre's Music Theatre Studio Ensemble, says, "He adored Shakespeare and Moliere, and felt that musical makers should always learn from the great dramatists." So what happened to these Engel-trained writers when they went out into the world? Miller and Witkin returned to Charlottetown with a full scale musical, Ye Gods!, a broad comedy based on Greek mythology. Of Miller s adaptation of Gordon Pinsent s story A Gift to Last, the Toronto
Stars Robert Crew wrote, "Joey Miller's music and lyrics are clever and tuneful and (praise be) advance and comment on the action... It's smallscale and homey and its Canadian heart is very much in the right place." His The Growing Season, with book and lyrics by the late James Saar, drew its inspiration from the plight of financially embattled Ontario farmers, and was presented in 1986 at Hart House. More recently, Miller collaborated with playwright Brad Eraser (Unidentified Human Remains and the True Nature of Love) on an adaptation of the film Outrageous!, based on Margaret Gibsons short story, Butterfly Ward, about the friendship between a schizophrenic girl and a female impersonator. In 1985, David Warrack pulled off what appeared to be a theatrical coup by securing the rights to the 1953 comedy My Three Angels by Samuel and Bella Spewack. Apparently succeeding where Lerner and Loewe had failed, he overcame the Spewack's reticence by sending them a sixsong demo and assuring them that, unlike the 1954 film Were No Angels, he would remain true to the original play about convicts from Devil's Island. With a budget of $450,000, he secured the St. Lawrence Centre's Bluma Appel Theatre for a Christmas 1985 run. The cast often was led by Eric House, Tony Van Bridge, Douglas Chamberlain, Sherry Flett, Kevin Hicks and Cynthia Dale, and directed by Heinar Pillar. (It had been announced earlier that Len Cariou was to star, but he proved unavailable.) "IVe lived my life on a precipice," Warrack told the Toronto Suns Bob Pennington.9 "I would sooner try and fail than not try at all. Even so, there is a very thin line between courage and stupidity, a line that has not seemed all that clear of late^Ray Conologue of the Globe and Mail called it "an astonishingly agreeable show," but Robert Crew of the Star said "[David Warrack] is right in saying that two years is an ideal j^iribd for musicals to be workshopp^A before they they get on stage. On.dj^^BSftnce of last night's opening performance* this one|ks ari^Ai^i^iMtely one year and eleven mm^^'^^^^^^B^jA^^^ $l59^JS^ budget did not provide enough of a contia^en^ to teep A^ show running on a less than a break-even box office/aStf^thout the cash jM^the show was forced to close early Composer Phyllis Co|iift,Is the 4&&ghter of the laite critic Mathan Cohen. She a&df her collaboration tarhristine foreter (oael^e"fa£ad writer; Hobo)develo[e for The LMtiat ed a mimber of shows i& I^htBaii; Etig|ft workshops, including Emrything But Anchovies, a fo^f-hander about high school students retumiiig home from a qufe show humiliation. Ray Conologue of the Globe and Mail ^rn^^t has charm and conviction and an occasional beautiful melody/* Cohen and Foster also adapted Fredelle
Bruser MaynarcTs short story Raisins and Almonds, about a young Jewish girl's first taste of Christmas. Sadly, Cohen gave up the business some years ago and hasn't written a musical in the past decade. Arden was invited by Cameron Mackintosh to take part in Stephen Sondheim's master class at Oxford University. "A friend of mine, David Malek, was playing Marius in Les Miserable* and one night when Cameron was seeing the show, David happened to have a cassette of some of my songs with him. David gave Cameron the tape, thinking Cameron might be interested in an example of what was being written in Canada. The next morning, I received a call from my agent asking me how quickly I could get to Oxford: I'd been invited to participate in the master class." Several of Lehman's students had work staged at the Charlottetown Festival: Jim Betts' On a Summers Night (based on A Midsummer Night's Dream), David Warrack's Windsor and Witkin and Miller's aforementioned Ye Gods! and Eight to the Bar. From the mid-1980s, the outlets for Canadian musicals began to dry up. Many of the cottage-country theatres closed during the recession of the early 1990s, and few of those that survived were in no financial shape to take risks on new shows. However, some, small town theatres, such as Theatre Orangeville (Jim Betts was one of the founders and the first artistic director) came into being. The newly restored Opera House in Orangeville, Ontario, opened its first season in 1994. Other theatres survived through amalgamation. Huron Country Playhouse, established in 1972, joined with Drayton Festival Theatre in 2000 to form Drayton Entertainment, under Artistic Director Alex Mustakes, a protege of Alan Lund. The Guild of Canadian Musical Theatre Writers eventually folded (as did CAMTA) and was replaced in the late 1990s by the Association of Canadian Librettists, Composers and Lyricists. Perhaps in assessing Lehman Engel's contribution to Canadian musical theatre, we can try to separate form from substance. Yes, he came from the Broadway musical theatre, and that was the world he understood, and the vocabulary he used. But that, in itself, needn't lessen the impact of his teaching. The fact that he brought his workshop to Toronto—his only non-American stop—showed that he believed in the potential of Canadian writers. He taught people to think, but not what to think. Most of the principles he taught are as applicable to Canadian musicals as they are to Americans. Books must be well constructed. Lyrics must be clear. Songs should either advance the plot, establish atmosphere and character or comment on the action. The differences are in style or subject matter. Not everybody sympathizes with the same
things. (^776 did not play as well in London as it did on Broadway, for obvious reasons.) Still, Lehman was sometimes wrong. Some of the shows he judged as failures continue to be revived (Man of La Mancha, Hello, Dolly!) and some of those he hailed as great (Annie Get Your Gun, Brigadoori) now show their age. That doesn't matter, that is subjective. And one should always have more than one teacher. He didn't specifically tell people to study the impact of Spring Thaw, yet his exhortation to study the work that has gone before led me there (and to write this book).
n the summer of 1985, just as I was beginning the initial phase of my research for this book, I made my first visit to the Charlottetown Festival. Norman Campbell went to the airport to meet me, (which was a shame, as I was at the bus station). I would see four shows in three days: Anne of Green Gables, Fauntleroy, Swing and Sleeping Arrangements. Without the Charlottetown Festival (or as Charlie Farquarson called it, "Yer Charlatan Festeral"), Canada's musical theatre writers would have been all dressed up with nowhere to go. But, in Mavor Moore's vision, new musicals were to be the heart, if not the entirety, of the Festival. "I realized that there were simply not enough Canadian musicals—even if you threw in the revues—to make this possible without commissioning new ones... The idea was to commission a new show a year, and sometimes more." The Festival was the only theatre in Canada to produce full-scale musicals in repertory. Part of the inspiration behind the Festival was the summer tourist audience. "The population of the island, which was about 120,000, quadrupled every summer with the tourists who came," said Mavor Moore. But this also brought with it limitations. Charlottetown's reputation was based on wholesome family entertainment. According to Blanche Lund, "Alan always said, Tt's entirely different when you're presenting summer theatre to when you're doing something in the winter,'" claiming that Alan would never have done a show like Dracula (2003) in Charlottetown. "Not for summer theatre." Linda M. Peake, writing in the Oxford Companion to Canadian Theatre in 1989 said, "Charlottetown has become the most show business-oriented of the national summer festivals, putting tourism before art."1 Still, tourists were coming to see shows they couldn't see anywhere else—a lesson that Toronto's commercial producers would do well to learn. Mavor ran the Festival for its first three years. His first new musical after Anne was also by Campbell and Harron, their first to be written directly for the stage. "Every time I left Canada in those days," says Don Harron, "I'd take some book with me, some piece of Canada. For example, I took a book called [Tbe Adventures of Private] Turvey by Earl Birney, and I turned it into a play [for the New Play Society, 1957]. Later, we turned it into a musical. We did two versions of this musical. We did the one we wanted [Turvey], then we did the one Earl wanted [Private Turveys War]. I think the one we wanted was more successful."
Nathan Cohen was not so sure. Although he praised Norman Campbell's "varied and pleasant tunes,"he felt that Harron's book "shifts viewpoints so often and hops around so much in terms of character and incident that the character and story fail to achieve an organic unity."2 The later version, with some new songs added, was given more of an anti-war slant. Of this later version, Herbert Whittaker in the Globe and Mail wrote, "Private Turveys War is sparse, swift, funny and it's eventually another warning to Canada that war may be entertaining, but it's still hell, hell, hell."3 In 1967, the Festival presented Pierre Berton's Paradise Hill, which the Globe and Mail deemed "a real eye-catcher," but which the Star called "a ghastly mistake."4 "By stages, I divested myself of the general directorship [of the Confederation Centre],"says Moore. "I continued running the Festival itself for another two years, and then handed over the reins to Alan." At the time, the Festival's Jack McAndrew reported, "Mavor felt the Festival was now sufficiently established that he could hand over his responsibilities to a team of people with new ideas."5 In Mavor's last year with the Festival, he presented a revival of Sunshine Town and a new adaptation of Elmer Rice's Johnny Belinda, the story of a deaf-mute girl who is raped, for which he wrote the book and lyrics to Festival musical director John Fenwick's music. "Not in the ordinary musical comedy style," wrote the Globe and Mail's Zena Cherry, "Ijjut based on folk songs of the Maritimes—a sensitive, in-keeping score."6 This had been preceded by an earlier unproduced musical version by Karl Blumencranz and Bernard Spiro, from which one number, the "Sign Language Song," was retained. Of the 1983 revival tour, the Globe reported, "Firmly embedded in nostalgia* the musical makes for a sort of Canadian : Oklahoma! without the benefit of memorable songs."7 "Johnny Belinda looked like a failed attempt |b write $ Broadway show," says Mavor, "but it was nothing remotely like it. The attempt was to avoid stereotypical hit numbers. ^S>tAe seldop given qrftt if you tty to do something that is different from the sort of thing tiiat is acceptable in the big leagues."The Festival has reefed Belinda soflie hal£,jt dozen times since its 1968 debut Mid toured it Noimaa Campbell later directed a television adaptation, which has also heen seen in the United States on HBG» Spring Thaw contributors Ray Jessel and Marian Gttidei^ who had already enjoyed a modest Broadway success with Baker Street\ did the intriguingly titled Like Can Be Like Wow* which, in spite of Nathan Cohen calling it the "rattling of mouldering old bones,** averaged 73% capacity
houses in 1969. Jessel was later Richard Rodgers final lyricist on I Remember Mama. In 1971, Howard Cable's Mary, (based on the life of Mary, Queen of Scots) featured lyrics by the late American writer Christopher Gore (brother of Leslie "It's My Party and I'll Cry If I Want To" Gore), who would later pen the screenplay for Fame. Like Jane Eyre, this too had a previous outing three years earlier (when Gore was only nineteen) at the Parker Playhouse in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, starring John Cullum and Inge Swenson. (Leslie Arden, whose mother Cleone Duncan was a member of the Festival company, cites Mary as an early influence.) In the Charlottetown production, Marilyn Lightstone appeared in the title role. Herbert Whittaker of the Globe and Mail praised Cable's "resounding music," although he said "it's hard to declare Mary a musical in the commonly accepted sense, for Cable has chosen a supporting role as a composer, his score making its greatest points with a skirl of pipes and the blast of horns into echoes of Camelot"* Ballade, presented in 1972 (and revived in 1973) with book and lyrics by Arthur Samuels and music by Michel Conte, concerned the love affair between a thirty-year-old woman and a 150-year-old ghost on the Gaspe peninsula. The Stars Urjo Kareda called it "a musical of considerable interest and even greater accomplishment," saying that Conte's music is "the best that I have ever heard in a Charlottetown musical."9 The Globe and Mail also thought "Conte's tuneful score pushes Arthur Samuel's book into the running as another Anne of Green Gables for this summers Charlottetown Festival."When it toured to Ottawa and London (Ontario) it didn't fare so well. The Ottawa Journal moaned, "What a dreary musical Ballade is," and the London Free Press said, "the actors try hard, but they have an impossible task of making sense, or even good nonsense, out of the hodgepodge." Cliff Jones'Kronborg 1582, first presented at the Festival in 1973, wound up on Broadway as Rockabye Hamlet. Two years later, Jones replaced David Warrack as composer of The Rowdyman, based on Gordon Pinsent's screenplay of the same title. Jamie Portman of Southam News Service called it "a distinctly lightweight specimen" and complained that "there is no real sense of time and place—despite Pinsent's careful Newfoundland dialect... The idiom is certainly not Newfoundland, only Broadway derivative." In 1978, David Warrack brought his version of the Edward and Mrs. Simpson affair to the stage. Much like the 1997 London flop Always, he chose to build up the fairy-tale love story that we all now understand to be bogus. (In truth, from my perspective, it wasn't Edward's relationship
with a divorcee that brought about his abdication, so much as his flirtation with Adolph Hitler.) The Toronto Sun declared that "David Warrack. .. has come within an incli—well, let's say two inches—of creating a musical fit for Broadway or Leicester Square." But the Edmonton Journal dismissed it as "bad soap opera which reduces the love affair... to the level of a fragmented comic strip." Joey (1973), with a book by Helen Porter, based on A Summer Burning by Harry Boyle, and with songs by Nancy White and Ben McPeek, told a story of adolescent sexual awakening that would foreshadow the furor of Are You Lonesome Tonight? a couple of decades later. One parent complained to the Festival, "We were shocked by the language and filth, so much that we had to leave before the end of the first act." (The offending words included "bastard" and "titty."The novel it was based on was on the secondary school reading list in several provinces, and according to its author, "even a Protestant missionary school in India."10) The show endured for only fourteen performances. On a Summer's Night (1978) was Jim Betts' modern take on A Midsummer Nights' Dream. The Prince Edward Island Journal Pioneer said, "The play holds many surprises, not the least of which is a highly effective score," but the Ottawa Citizen complained, "There's not much one can do with a book so lacking in conflict, narrative clarity and wit, or with songs which so often seem irrelevant to matters at hand." The London Free Press went even further, "When considering how and if tjiis production can be saved* I am forced to repeat a line from one of its songs: Anything is possible, but probably it's not!'" The 1981 Aimee!, with book and lyrics by Patrick Young and music by Bob Ashley, told the story of theCaaadiaa-born evangelist Aime&Semple McPherson, the Jim Baker of her day* wfag disappeared into c/^j^&y after an alleged adultery sc^n^^^'m^^^d.shG hadbecpj^^^^ed). The Globe and Mail dubbed it adezzliing array of theil^f _ _ _ to the Ear, _ * .,.*. r& „'''. ^ - V'^lrL ler 47^1:%C^A and Stephern Wit Eight a fcwu*^foti^^ '\& became ' ' v * *••>\'•&>,**''-'* '°- * ^*»&ip5^''
In the late l$7(fe^dwt f^^ ^m^^^(s^^^:^^ m^Mons. In 1978, an eleven-city tomofJnm m® ming up to Prince Edward Isbtnd*, *jilnw&f Green G%$tes is one that s a perennial and it worics and God bless Norman Campbell and Don Haixon* It's wonderful. But it's the eiception that proves the rule." < Alan Lund's tenure came to an end in 1986* His last show was Cliff Jones' Babies, Bless Them AIL Sid Adilman wrote in the Toronto Star, "It would be nice and even gentlemanly to bid Lund farewell to the Festival
Confederation Centre of the Arts in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. Photo by Barrett and Mackay. Courtesy of the Confederation Centre of the Arts.
Alan Lund at rehearsal for Legend of the Dumbells, Elgin Theatre, 1989. Courtesy of Blanche Lund.
This scroll was presented to Alan Lund for his 25 years of directing the musical, Anne of Green Gables, at the Charlottetown Festival. Courtesy of Blanche Lund.
with an upbeat review. But it would not be honest in this case."Most of his criticisms were aimed at Lund, rather than Jones. "The inventiveness and the framework are there. And the songs, for the most part, are tuneful and dramatic." It averaged 61.9% houses and was revived—with a new script—the following year. More worryingly, Adilman points out that "the Festival, during Lund's time, has trained no directors, no choreographers and no musical conductors. It s all so sad that this national institution shows such signs of decay." One director-choreographer who did benefit from working with Lund (not at the Festival, but at a community theatre outside Toronto), was Kelly Robinson, who also worked with Brian Macdonald, and later staged Peggy Sue Got Married for producer David Mirvish in London. In 1987, he told the Globe and Mail's Ray Conologue, however, that he felt that the Festival "fell down on its commitment to composers and librettists. They had a mandate and they didn't fulfil it." Lund was succeeded in 1987 by Walter Learning, who set controversy blazing on two fronts when he staged British playwright Alan Bleasdale's Elvis play with music, Are You Lonesome Tonight? Bad enough that it was not Canadian, but the majority of the complaints related to the frequent use of profanity. Still, the season chalked up a 12% increase in attendance, while Are You Lonesome Tonight? averaged 92.3% houses. The board chairman, Catherine Callbeck reigned in protest. (A few years later, she became the province s first woman premier.) Things got worse before they got better. In 1995, under artistic director Jacques Lemay, they staged a disastrous production of Guys and Dolls. Once again, they were stripped of their funding for doing non-Canadian work, and, in 1996, produced only Anne on the main stage. "Even though we make better money," said Norman Campbell at the time, "Don Harron and I feel Anne should always have companion pieces." The following year, due to budget restraints, the Festival tried to cut the orchestra size on Anne, replacing strings with synthesizers, but Norman wouldn't have it. "I told them that I'd be happy using synths in a new show, but that Anne had run 27 years, and there's an expectation of a certain quality in the experience." Contractually, the minimum orchestra size was
nineteen musicians. In the end, they allowed two synthesizers in the pit in order to accommodate the Festival's other show, The Great Adventure, but the total number remained at nineteen. Campbell adds, "The audience was appreciative." At one point, somebody suggested that, if they really wanted to save money, they could change all the half notes to quarter notes, and thereby go home earlier. "It s very hard dealing long-distance with a bean counter with tin ears," Campbell told me, "but I will keep at it." Happily, their 1997 revival of Johnny Belinda was a smash hit, and rescued the theatre's fortunes—for the time being. In 1999, they staged their first new Canadian musical—the Festival's raison d'etre—since 1992. Emily, based on L.M. Montgomery's Emily of New Moon, had a book and lyrics by Richard Ouzounian and music by Marek Norman. There are those who still claim that the Festival should simply abandon its aim to develop new musicals. They say there is not as much interest in musical theatre as there was in 1965, and that there are more quality Canadian plays out there than musicals. Well, firstly, musical theatre remains by far the most popular form of theatre. Secondly, why should Charlottetown become just another regional theatre, doing the same thing as everybody else? And since hardly anybody else is doing it at all, surely it makes sense for one company to do it exclusively. In 1997, Curtis Barlow, whom Norman Campbell described to me as "an operator in the political sense," was appointed executive director of the Confederation Centre. In 1998, Barlow, said, "Musicals are what we do. We are one of the few cultural institutions that has the financial resources to produce musicals of scale. So if we don't, who's going to?"15 Two years later, he told Carlton University Magazines Lori Mayne that he wanted the centre to be a place where "interesting and challenging and thrilling musicals are produce^/1 It is clear from my conv«^^^;wA^avor Moore tih#t,d|p^|fefival of Music and Laughter's ma^^ Was always to favarogfvnew mushkgjj in fact it is my belife that this should be tighened they should all be be e musical, all Canadian, and fppttrilJfe'bjMi'iSwWs ^iw^:&|y.aal scores. rr-l T^ :"^y ^v , ° \ , . * * < '' *j^. ' ~''7 "' *&£6?& me Festival should have a wrtn|$j$^^ in Toronto At least one onenew jnew main stage musical should b0J$j^^ issioned each year ad originally en ?