Three performances of the Musical Mayhem song-and-dance revue at the Gibsons Heritage Playhouse on July 22 and 23 provided a glimpse of future theatre stars in action.
The show was the climax of the Summer Musical Theatre Intensive, a two-week program organized by local production company Synergy at Play. Thirty three young performers participated in daily workshops led by industry professionals — both in-person and via video connections from New York City.
Synergy at Play was established 14 years ago by Varya Moysey-Rubin and her husband Bill Moysey. Moysey, himself a performer, designer, and producer, died during last year’s Musical Theatre Intensive program, following a battle with lung cancer.
“There is always a collaborative element to [the intensive],” said Moysey-Rubin. “As soon as students come, we will have already chosen pieces for them to do. And through the course of the day, they’re doing really lovely workshops within their particular areas of interest. They all get some singing, some dance and some drama, but then they’re working on ensemble pieces as well.”
The cast, outfitted in tie-dyed shirts and headbands coordinated by wardrobe coordinator Linda McTurk, opened the show with a full-throated rendition of Aquarius and Let the Sunshine In from the 1967 musical Hair.
Artistic Director Moysey-Rubin plucked selections from other classic Broadway shows, including three numbers from 1955’s Guys and Dolls. Gretchen Hergescheimer appeared as the choleric soloist in Adelaide’s Lament before returning alongside Olive Copping for a dynamic duet rendition of Marry the Man Today. Larkin Miller crooned Luck be a Lady with suave composure, finally tossing a pair of dice to the audience.
Full-company numbers demonstrated the group dance skills instilled by instructor Shantaya Cottrell, including Anything Goes (from Cole Porter’s 1934 show) and Singing in the Rain, a tribute to the 1951 Broadway classic that evolved into a mashup inspired by Glee’s hip-hop interpretation 60 years later.
Lyric Moysey-Rubin and Riven (Journey) Dupuis coaxed guffaws from the crowd during their comic representations of Monsieur and Madame Thénardier from 1980’s Les Misérables. In Take What You Got, Mia Espinoza and Maggie Rose Herschler channeled the visceral power of Cyndi Lauper, who penned the song for the 2012 musical Kinky Boots.
21st-century spectacles also helped demonstrate soloists’ showmanship, including Elliott Laviolette’s plaintive I Love Play Rehearsal (from 2015’s Be More Chill), Salma Star Atoui’s characterization of irascible Wednesday Adams in 2009’s Pulled, and Olivia Copping’s emphatic Sayonora, from the 1981 comedy How to Eat Like a Child. During Cody Kelso’s fist-pumping solo in When I Grow Up (from 2010’s Matilda the Musical), he leaped onto a chair as an army of choristers marched in formation.
I Feel Sick (also from How to Eat Like a Child) was performed with farcical equipoise by Maeve Fynn-Richards, Eloise White and Victoria Reyes Abbott, and provided one of the show’s several allusions to the perils of pandemic life.
The stage band included music director Daniel Deorksen on guitar, pianist Tom Kellough and bass player Jack Davis. The trio was tightly corralled upstage of the performers, and even absent eye contact, compensated fluidly for their impromptu variations.
Moysey-Rubin directs three other musical ensembles: the Sunshine Coast Children’s Choir, the Sunshine Coast Youth Choir, and The Wild Women. All will be inducting new members this fall.
More details about Moysey-Rubin’s initiatives are available online at synergyatplay.ca.