Canadian folk songstress Melanie Doane
makes her return to the stage after many years pursuing a successful solo career as Song Woman in War Horse
. Much loved among Canadians for her unique vocals and folksy style, Melanie was eager to return to the place where she got her start. She spoke with BWW about returning to theatre, how music ties into the production and why young people will enjoy the show:
You began your career on the stage and then left to pursue a very successful music career. How does it feel to return to the stage? And what about War Horse made you want to return to the stage?
It feels great to return to the stage, although that sounds kind of funny for me to say. I have done a lot of theatre and worked across Canada in many shows over the years, but I really put that aside to focus on my music career and songwriting about 13 years ago. I have used my theatre training in the work that I do everyday as a musician so it all feels very familiar. I love the discipline of doing 8 shows a week. War Horse just happens to have a part in it for a female folk singer who plays the violin. Being from Nova Scotia, this of course caught my attention as I’ve been well immersed in traditional music and have played the fiddle since I was a child. Once I met John Tams, who wrote and arranged all of the songs in War Horse, I was hooked. The songs are wonderful: some traditional, some arrangements of traditional tunes, and some written by John.
What would you say is the biggest difference between performing in a show like this and when you perform your own music?
When I perform my own music, it's my songs, my arrangements, my band, and I'm the boss. Being in War Horse is like being part of a company. You’re always working to serve the play. I love it and it's very similar to serving a song, just a longer thought process. This is a huge production and a huge hit show. It is very exciting to be a part of something that has its own life and momentum and that's bigger than the individuals involved.
Did you have a lot of “muscle memory” from your previous years on the stage or did this feel very much like a brand new experience?
The longest run I ever did in theatre was show called Buddy in Toronto, San Francisco, and then on Broadway. I did that for about 6 months and it was a lot of fun. Beyond that I have done quite a few productions across Canada over the years at Manitoba Theatre Centre, Theatre Calgary, St. Lawrence Centre, Theatre Passe Murraille, Young People's Theatre, The Royal Alex, Neptune Theatre etc. So yeah, it all feels very familiar and it's nice to take my Equity card out of retirement.
Do you think that War Horse could appeal to non theatre fans who might come out to see the show because they are fans of your work? Why?
War Horse is a spectacular show/story and THAT is the reason to come see it - not to see me specifically. I think the show appeals to anyone who enjoys a beautiful story. That's why it's a hit.
We are hearing a lot about the puppetry in War Horse but obviously there is also music involved – how would you describe the style of music that you perform and how active of a role does it play in the show?