BWW Special: Toronto Critics Take the Stage in You're A Good Man Charlie Brown
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by Kelly Cameron
This Sunday, many of Toronto's theatre critics will do the unthinkable - put themselves on stage in a musical performance where they will be judged in the same manner that they judge performers all year round. The show is a one-night only benefit performance for The Actor's Fund, a charitable organization which helps members of our community when they need it the most. Organized by Producer Arkady Spivak and Talk is Free Theatre, the performance will take place Sunday night at The Young Centre and is sure to offer a lot of laughs while raising money for a worthy cause.
Talk is Free has amassed an impressive line-up of 'talent' for the production, including Globe and Mail Critic Kelly Nestruck as Charlie, National Post Critic Robert Cushman as Schroeder, NOW Critic Glenn Sumi as Linus, Sheila McCarthy as Sally and Melody A. Johnston as Lucy. Toronto Star Critic Richard Ouzounian was originally rumoured to appear as Lucy, but has had to bow out due to an unplanned operation.
As everyone knows, the classic tale of Charlie Brown wouldn't be complete without the adorable scene stealer Snoopy, and for this production there are a few familiar faces sharing that role. Associate Dean of Sheridan College Michael Rubinoff, Rose Theatre Director Costin Manu and Stratford Festival Snoopy Stephen Patterson will all wear a dog collar and floppy ears for the cause, and I'm somewhat terrified to say that I will be returning to the stage after a fifteen year hiatus to join them.
I've been reviewing theatre in Toronto for BroadwayWorld for almost four years now, and agree with my colleague Glenn Sumi that there is a certain amount of safety in observing others from a dark seat within the audience. While no one has ever accused me of being shy, there's a big difference between being an opinionated and stubborn redhead who may overtake the odd dinner table debate, and getting on stage to sing and dance as one of the world's most beloved canines. That being said, when asked to participate I said yes without hesitation, and only now, while writing this piece, is it sinking it just what I've gotten myself into.
My first semi-professional performance was back in public school when I was a tree fairy at The Markham Theatre in a production of A Midsummer Night's DreaM. Shortly thereafter I competed in various vocal competitions while studying for my Royal Conservatory of Music exams, ending my career as a songbird on a high when I won a regional award for a rousing Hebrew ballad (which I'm somewhat ashamed to admit I still don't understand). After that performance, I had a eureka moment where I had to decide whether singing and dancing was something I could feasibly pursue for the rest of my life.
You know how they say 'those who can't do, teach'? I think I came to the conclusion of 'those who can't perform, critique!' My love of theatre was so firmly ensconced in my being that I knew I couldn't give up a life connected to the arts, but I also realized I lacked the talent to make performing a full-time living. So I concentrated on writing, and have been extremely lucky to be able to make a career promoting the arts within the city of Toronto.
That said, my love of performing and big Broadway dreams never went away, so when I step on stage Sunday night, there will be a small part of me hoping I'm suddenly 'discovered' and whisked away to the more glamorous world of performance art where people can critique me on a regular basis. I realize the likelihood of that occurring is slim, and perhaps I should set slightly more realistic goals for myself.
With that in mind, this redheaded Snoopy will follow in Glenn Sumi's footsteps and endeavour to at the very least, be better than the warbly Russell Crowe in Les Miserables. However, the theatre geek within is hoping to surprise everyone with some hidden skill I never knew I had. And if I'm wrong, please remember it's for charity. And I'm playing a dog. Throw bones, not tomatoes.
You're A Good Man Charlie Brown
The Young Centre for the Performing Arts
Sunday Feb 10th at 8PM
Tickets start at $30 and can be purchased online at www.tift.ca