last week, i had the pleasure of being invited to the opening night of a new musical called to be: in concert, directed by montreal’s own trevor barrette. you might recognize his name – i reviewed his production of none of the above last month. trevor is the owner of kaleidoscope theatre, a new production company based here in montreal; the company has thus far put up four productions, and is well on its way to making a name for itself here.
i had no idea what to expect from to be: in concert. the book and lyrics were both written by barrette, with music by gabriel frank and stephan bradshaw. a true home grown production. if you know me at all, you know how much of a lady boner i have for musicals, so needless to say, i was excited. all i knew of the plotline was that the show was about a young guy, adam, whose estranged father had passed away. a year later, adam is coming to terms with his father’s death, helped along by his cousin benny (played by none of the above‘s scott humphrey). the two get a little tips and hit up a local drag show. i expected a “coming of age” story, a lesson about life and death. to be: in concert was much more than that. what surprised me most was the way the show dealt with adam’s new found sexuality. adam realizes part way through act one that he is gay, and the show builds an intensely deep relationship between adam and the supporting male, seb. what struck me most was how honest the show was – the love scenes in particular were something i’d never quite experienced in theatre before: raw, gritty, honest, nothing was held back. i think the grandmother sitting next to me actually had a stroke when seb and adam ripped off one another’s shirts in a fit of passion. that said, it never felt inappropriate, and that’s tough to make happen.
as for the cast, adam (played by sean colby) and seb (played by adam capriolo) were truly a pleasure to watch. the ensemble were stars as well; the chorus numbers had everyone under their spell. easy, natural dialogue was punctuated by excerpts from shakespearean plays. the lit student in me died a little, in a good way. i shamefully only recognized a handful of pieces but i found myself reciting sonnet 18 along with seb, swooning. to be’s exploration of identity, growing up, and learning about yourself was intensely touching, truthful and poignant, in every capacity.
although the play ran for only four performances, and i’m a bit late getting this piece up (true to form), i caught up with trevor to delve into the making of to be: in concert.
congratulations on what has been another amazing number from kaleidoscope theatre! can you tell me a bit about the history of kaleidoscope and your mission as a company?
thanks! kaleidoscope theatre montreal started when I graduated from john abbott college’s professional theatre program in 2011. we’ve since produced sophocles’ antigone, william shakespeare’s the tempest and the canadian premiere of jenny lyn bader’s none of the above. to be: in concert is our fourth production and first ever musical and we are thrilled!
and what about you, what is your own background in theatre?
i started acting when i was 10 and have been working in theatre in different capacities ever since; in directing, choreography and, most recently, playwriting. to be is one of two full length plays that i’ve been developing over the past few years. the other, mixtape is a bilingual play that, like to be, deals with themes of sexuality and identity.
the last production you worked on, none of the above, was a modern love story, a power struggle. how would you describe to be?
the play is about a young man, adam, discovering who he is and who he is meant to be after the death of his father and the blossoming of a new relationship with another young man. again, very modern, but this time with a touch of the classics. this musical features text adapted from the works of william shakespeare. the text is adapted to heighten moments of the play, to enlighten what the characters are going through.
so, how does working on your own production differ from working on a pre-existing script?
ultimately, as a director i am serving the text, like the actors, trying to bring the story to life. in directing to be, i have a different kind of insight to the text, sometimes it’s very helpful, but i still end up discovering just as much as if it were someone else’s words. creating to be was a collaborative effort, and so now to bring it to the actors to break it down and put it back together feels very natural. it’s been wonderful to get to explore the story again with such a talented team and cast.
as a writer myself, i know how gut wrenchingly terrifying it can be to take a leap and share your work with others. i can’t imagine ever sharing my work in the same way that you do. what can you tell me about that experience? any advice for overcoming those fears?
i think, for me, what’s important to remember is that the reason i write is to share my stories with an audience. what’s great about working in the theatre is that it is a team sport, at least in the projects i’ve worked on. even though it is my text, my words, there are fourteen of us working on stage and in the wings with the same goal to share the story. there’s a tremendous amount of support all around and that helps to overcome the stress of it.
tell me about the cast – the cast of characters, and your own cast of actors. what was it like casting the piece? did things kind of fall into place or was it a battle to the last choice?
we have an all-male cast of 10 acting, singing and dancing in the show. it’s a lot of energy! what was most important to me was to find a group that would work well together and would enjoy working together. they are fantastic!
which character would you say you’re most like? why?
tough question! i can relate very closely with a lot of the characters. adam’s personality is very close to my own, in terms of how he tries to deal with things on his own and when he is discovering what it means to true to himself. most of the characters come out of relationships and experiences that i’ve had, so there is definitely a bit of myself in all of them. i’ve also always had a soft spot for david, who is the youngest and probably most naïve of seb’s group of friends. he just loves to go out and be crazy, but he has a lot going on on the inside. not really who I am, but I think he’s a very interesting character.
david is who i think i related to most in the play as well! tell me a bit about songwriting. you wrote the lyrics for this piece, but the music arrangements and production were a collaboration between you, stephan bradshaw, and gabriel frank. were you expressing yourselves or expressing the story?
to be is my first musical endeavor. the melodies came out with the story as i was writing it. they were woven into the text from the very begin and it was clear to me early on that this was going to be a musical. sometimes when i write, dialogues and speeches become musical and i can’t help it. steph and gabe came on board to help me get the music from my head to paper. we had three months to write the first draft, having never worked together before, and it was an amazing experience. the three of us have very different musical styles, so the score feels very full and travels through many different genres. chris barillaro came on board this time around to create a new arrangement for the score and his work managed to bring our music together and really create a sound that was unique for to be.
if your life was a musical, what kind of music would soundtrack it? what would the “big number” be?
sometimes I feel it is very musical! It varies day by day. i’m getting into electro swing, and i’m loving it! i also love a lot of local montreal folk stuff. i guess a big number in my life would be happy days are here again.” i find myself waking up to that a lot!