In fact, CMTP is quickly becoming one of my favourite parts of the Toronto theatre scene. They take a show that they’ve always wanted to do, they cast every role based entirely on technical skill — so long as they’ve got the voice for it, nobody is too old to play Maria, too fat to play Hope Cladwell, or too male to play Anne of Green Gables — and they dispense with the conventional rehearsals, skipping straight ahead to opening night.
The actors rehearse their parts individually, but never see each other — or learn who else has been cast! — until about an hour before showtime. And then, for one night only, the cast stumbles their way through the whole show, top to bottom, stepping on each other’s toes, blowing their cues and mugging for the audience throughout.
Key to the experience is the energy in the room. Sure, the failures are fun — but more than that, we want these people to succeed. And when they do, oh lordy, this is the stuff theatre fans live for.
My strongest memory of the night was watching Daphne Moens positively blow the top off of the Victoria College Chapel, earning a solid minute-long standing ovation after her spin on Bring On The Men. There’s a very visceral thrill in watching an audience of people who love a show, and love a song, and never thought they’d hear it in their lives, getting to stand up and stomp and hoot and holler at a truly outstanding rendition.
And that’s really the secret to this brand of success. The fun isn’t just in watching Martin Buote play Jekyll and Hyde: he’s good, but the real tasty stuff involves watching him do so much with so little. The economies inherent in this format — no set, no lights, no stage effects, no costumes other than what people can find in their own closets — force creative choices. And as a result, it doesn’t matter whether you’ve seen a show a thousand times or have never heard of it in your life: you’re going to see something new, something fresh, and something that nobody will ever get to see ever again. (Remember, one night only!)
With that in mind, I’m reluctant to talk too much about this production, because what I saw isn’t what you’ll see. But you should see CMTP, and you should be so lucky as to see it in a room with the energy, the enthusiasm and the love that I got to be a part of. This is the kind of thing where, if you give it a little hug, it’ll hug you right back — and I suggest you approach it with arms open wide.
- The Confidential Musical Theatre Project next plays June 13th (8:00 PM) at the Red Sandcastle Theatre. (922 Queen East, between Broadview and Pape/Carlaw.) This will be a special “Intimate” CMTP, with limited seating and a very small cast.
- The next full-scale CMTP will be on July 17th (7:30 PM) in the Victoria College Chapel, on the University of Toronto’s St. George Campus.
- Tickets for all CMTPs are $25, or $45 for two, and can be purchased online or in-person immediately before a performance. (Door sales are cash only.) Advance purchase is strongly advised; see website for details.
- While most performances are suitable for all ages, young children may not find these productions to be of interest, depending upon the chosen show. Recommended for ages 12 and up.
Photographs of the company of Jekyll & Hyde provided by the Confidential Musical Theatre Project.