The Confidential Musical Theatre Project returns to surprise and entertain Toronto audiences for a second time
On a… I want to say balmy?… evening in late July, I had the good fortune of watching the first performance of the Confidential Musical Theatre Project. But you could fool me into believing that it was raining frogs that evening, for all it matters, since the only thing I remember from that day was the thrilling experience of witnessing the start of this new performance concept.
The basic idea is innovative, but easy to grasp: A cast of actors is assigned roles in a musical, and each rehearses his or her part in preparation for a one-night performance. That performance, however, also happens to be the first time that the actors ever work with one another. The ‘confidential’ aspect comes from the fact that the audience, for better or for worse, has absolutely no idea what show is going to be until the opening number has already begun. (Programs are even withheld until intermission!)
July’s performance of Sunday in the Park with George (read our review here) was a strong start for the concept, and several months later, with a Vancouver ‘franchise’ on the way, the Confidential Musical Theatre Project is back in Toronto to tackle a new musical tomorrow evening. I asked Rob Corbett (co-creator, with Marion Abbott, of CMTP) a few questions about the process of putting together this exciting, risk-taking show for a second time.
How did you come up with this idea in the first place?
I got an e-mail from Marion saying: “I have an idea, and I insist you do it with me”. I figured it was probably a good idea, but didn’t have the time to ask what it was. Two days later, she’s calls me, and the first thing she says is “You know how we don’t have the time to do all of the shows we want to do?” I was hooked immediately. And the rest is history… recent history, but history none the less.
What was the reception like for your first stab at putting on a show with the CMTP format?
It was totally overwhelming, so much more than we’d hoped. I’ve never been in a show that got a standing ovation at intermission and again at the curtain call. After the show, the audience just didn’t leave. An hour after the show ended we actually had to start shooing people out of the theatre.
What lessons did you learn from your first show?
Wonderful things happen when you work with good people, give them licence to be creative and then trust them. There is real power in surprises.
How did you decide on your current show – were you trying to do something completely different from Sunday in the Park with George? Or are you following a theme? Working your way down a list?
This show is VERY different from Sunday, but both shows were chosen the same way. One of us suggests a show, and the other one says “That’s a great show, someone should do that.” So we do it.
Our next show after this one is very different again. An audience member suggested it, and we both said “That’s an awesome show, why doesn’t anyone do that show?” so we already have plans to do it on January 15th at Victoria Chapel.
How would you describe the CMTP in five words (or less)?
Terrifying, exhilarating, exhausting, overwhelming, trust, real – – – I think that’s more than five words – – – we’re not math people.
What’s the biggest challenge with creating a show with no group rehearsals?
TRUST! We’re both control freaks and dealing with our own fears (and those of the casts) has been very challenging. We live in a world where everything from our theatre to our playgrounds have become so safe that there’s no room for adventure, discovery or risk. There’s no wonder or surprises any more. CMTP is about trying to bring those things back and it can be scary as… well… going on stage without a rehearsal.
Can you give us any hints about what kind of show it’ll be?
It’s going to be a show. There will be music, and talking, and actors, and an audience. (Writer’s note: They certainly live up to their ‘Confidential’ moniker!)
Do you have anything to say to theatregoers who are on the fence about seeing Thursday’s show?
My favourite feedback from the last show was “You made me remember why I love live theatre.” That sums it up for me.
- The Confidential Musical Theatre Project takes place on Thursday, October 16th at the Victoria Chapel, 2nd Floor, Room 213, 91 Charles Street West.
- Tickets are $25 for one, $45 for two, and can be purchased online.
Photo provided by the company