The other consideration is in figuring out how the song fits in the show because I think with these concerts people want a mixture of reinvented tunes and classic fare. So generally the way these work is that there is a smattering of songs that are similar to the original and some that are quite different.
Have there been a few songs that have stood out as a favourite?
I think everyone has their own favourites. It’s hard for me to play favourites because they’re almost all like my children. Some of them are stronger than others just like with children. Some can be more aggressive, some are quiet and I love it for that variety.
Have you ever had someone really dislike the new arrangement?
Sure there are times that happens but that’s a part of the whole collaborative process. For example I have a few good friends who came to the Paul Simon show who preferred the songs in their original form. But you can’t please everyone and the concert was very received by most people – but there will always be some people who it will bother. With the Michael Jackson concert for example I reinvented the songs quite a bit and I stripped a lot of them of their rhythmic drives and when I look back I think ‘ok maybe that was a wrong decision’ because that is what is so magmatic about his songs. But live and learn right?
One of the things I love about reinventing is it forces people to reconnect with the lyrics and hear the words again. It makes them hear the stories in the songs. When you have songs you love you become immune to the lyrics because the songs are so familiar. It’s like what happens with families sometimes, we take them for granted because we’re so familiar with them. What I’m trying to do is give the songs a bit of a makeover so we can look at our family members anew.
How do you choose who will perform in these shows?
It’s a mixture of chance – who is available and who wants to be in the concerts. We also brainstorm, I sit down with Mitchell and we toss around names but usually it just falls into place. I always think that these things turn out the way they should.
What do you think of the musical theatre scene in Toronto? Are you optimistic?
I’m always a robust optimist. I kinda feel like things move in phases and at any given time there are things that you can feel good about and there are things that you can complain about. I think it has a lot to do with where people are personally in their lives and arts funding. That has a huge impact on things, especially on non-commercial theatres. So if I’m ever going to get irked by anything it would be about arts funding cuts. Other than that I’m pretty optimistic about everything. I know a lot of people who are working and I’m interested in a lot of things happening out there and I think there’s excitement.
The cradle of excitement lies within all of us. It’s easy to become down and pessimistic about stuff, but I think we have an obligation to ourselves to be positive and not be down and pessimistic because those are self fulfilling attitudes. Get out there and do something. Make art.
Or at least buy a ticket and go see art? *laughs*
What would you say is the number one reason to come and see the show?
It’s a hell of a lot of fun. There are great vibes in the room and on stage. It’s joyful, big bright and smiling warm energy. And it’s done with great technical proficiency from the singers and from the band. Even if you don’t like every version of every song, each song only lasts about three minutes so it’ll be over quickly. Plus we've got incredible talent on stage.
When and Where?
Acting Up Stage presents Tapestries at Koerner Hall on Monday, November 26th at 8PM. Tickets start at $40 and can be purchased online through the Royal Conservatory website.
For more information on Acting Up Stage, visit their official website at www.actingupstage.com.