For Brampton Music Theatre, passion for the musical arts and theatre is the common thread that stitches this troupe together.
Brampton Music Theatre is currently building their production of Evita, which hits the main stage of the Rose Theatre on April 9th. To perform on a world class stage is what every performer dreams of. Though the rental of this facility is this group’s biggest expense, the expanse of their presentation is exceptional and guaranteed to please. The only difference a discerning theatre buff will find is the price of the ticket.
In a musical community, everyone has a part to play; to perform as a singular sensation, the Show. Musical theatre is ageless, the childlike glee is the same whether you are six or sixty-six or six feet under; music is your life.
When we share a musical tale, we tell the story when the curtain rises. The true story is how a musical production is built, one baton beat at a time.
With most entertainment, we fall in love with the story and hope that it emulates life. “Actually, this is a factual story, not fictional,” reminds Matthew Chiapetta who is playing Juan Perón. “It has its ups and downs, arguments between Eva and Perón, love affairs that Eva has … lots of love affairs,” as he casts a jealous glance and laughs. “It’s a good story, a really, really good story!” Though this is Matthew’s first time with musical theatre, he is not new to music. Matthew is a graduate from St. Michael’s Choir School in Toronto, and it is his holy presence that lends to his believable regal portrayal.
“I’m super excited!” adds Justin Humes, “This is my first time performing with an orchestra in musical theatre.” In real life, Justin usually sings rock with a bar band. Like tango singer Agustin Magaldi, he’s having lots of fun channelling his inner Latin charm. What do his rock buddies think? “They’ve been digging it. I’ve always wanted to sing in a different form; it’s fantastic!” His glee is obvious when he’s applying a tango influence to This Night of a Thousand Stars and then smoothly transitions into the rock/pop melody of Eva Beware of the City.
Rehearsals have moved to the music chambers of Brampton Concert Band where the layer of orchestra is being added. “It reinforces that it’s crunch time. Now, all the cues that have been missing, all of a sudden are there,” says Lindsey Camara Godinez. Not new to Brampton Music Theatre, she is portraying Eva Perón in her first lead role. During rehearsals, the ensemble members sing along with her, acting to their colleagues beside them, each dreaming of the day they will become lead. “It is full circle,” acknowledges Lindsey with a smile. “I was in the ensemble for Les Miserables back in November; I know what they are feeling,” It was just five months ago when she was dreaming that dream, and now she is living it. “I’m not as young as some of the ensemble is today. You can see their enthusiasm. It’s a nice comforting feeling!”
Anchoring the Evita team of leads is John De Pinto, a professional singer/songwriter and theatre performer. He too was in BMT’s Les Miserables, with a powerful portrayal of Javert. It is his beautiful voice and his dramatic stage presence that will guide the audience through Evita as narrator Ché Guevara. Probably the most experienced of the Evita cast, for John, this too is new. “It’s totally different than Les Mis. This show musically is much, much tougher. There are numerous time changes, key signatures, very odd harmonies. Sirs Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber were probably under the influence when they wrote this one.” John jokes about the musical duo that brought us Joseph and his Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and Jesus Christ Superstar, as their Evita score is eclectic. There are quick shifts in genres, from haunting chorales to exuberant Latin, with sporadic dives into rock, pop and jazz influenced numbers. Musically, it has to keep up with Eva Perón’s transformation from whore to saint in a lifetime that spans from the age of 15 to her death at 33.
For the last few months, the cast has been rehearsing with musical director Sharon Vandrish and keyboardist Alicia Mighty. Assembling the ensemble is the foundation when building a musical production, but now it’s time for the leads to work with the orchestra before combining it all.
Musicians from community music groups, Brampton Concert Band, Jazz Mechanics, Brampton Rose Orchestra and former Brampton Symphony Orchestra make up Brampton Music Theatre’s orchestra pit. Instead of being on stage, they are all under the stage. Lead trumpet for all these groups, David Harmsworth, explains, “It’s really cool not being on the stage but still having to do your best. Though the audience isn’t watching, they are still listening, and the performers are depending on us for their presentation. It’s a partnership.” The magic of connection is that the musicians playing never see the performance. “We can’t see, but we can hear. We hear the audience reacting to what is happening on stage. Though it’s not a real picture, it’s just as vivid,” and this is the art of musical theatre, where everyone, from performer to musician, stage and lighting hands, and every member of the audience has a role to play.
“The musical director, who stands up front, is the only person who can see both stage and pit.” David now speaks with great admiration about Sharon as musical director. “She has this giant responsibility to make it all come together. If it really works, which it does with this group, especially with Sharon as the captain, we all know it’s going to instinctively come together. It did with Les Miserables and she was at the helm for that. We know it will happen now with Evita.”
In musical theatre, the musical director is in charge of the overall musical performance. Sharon is ever present, from the very first rehearsal to the final curtain call. She will make sure the cast knows the music thoroughly, supervise the musical interpretations of both the performers and the pit orchestra, and conduct the orchestra. In other entertainment formats, there are several people assigned to these tasks; but in live performance, control must remain in one person’s hands. It’s a daunting task and, for anyone involved, Sharon is the first person they all depend upon. She has to know what is happening on stage; she is conducting in the pit below; she is aware of the audience reactions; and she anticipates what is happening backstage.
Her cast and crew explain that it’s not a baton in her hand, but a magic wand. Yet for Sharon, “Once I am standing in the pit and the orchestra joins us, and the audience takes their seats, and everyone is where they are supposed to be, I really feel that I’m just the coordinator. I feel like the show is turned over to me from an organization perspective.” To this humble definition, David is quick to retort, “If there was a god in the musical kingdom, she’s god! No matter what goes wrong, she’s carrying it on her shoulders. As the orchestra, we’re watching her, and we can see it in her face if something is going wrong someplace. She’s ahead of it, all the time. The CAO of a company isn’t all this. It’s like being Superman!”
But at the end of the day, it’s about putting on a great show. “It’s about giving the people, the audience, THE reason to come out,” reminds John. “This is a combined effort. We’re a bunch of entertainers and performers wanting to bring the people of Brampton out to see a show, to be entertained, to be taken away for a couple of hours to join us on this journey. THIS is what it’s all about.”
Community involvement can be cohesive on a non-professional level. All members of Brampton Music Theatre are volunteering their time for the arts, committing themselves on another level.
Enrich Magazine has prepared photography albums for Brampton Music Theatre’s productions of Evita and Les Miserables. As well, on Friday, will begin with posts on their Youth Troupe production of Bye Bye Birdie which hits the Pearson stage in May, 2015. Please like us on Facebook, and share our excitement for the music arts.