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Sheridan music theatre alumni dominate festival season

Music theatre alumni dominate festival season

May 20, 2016

If your summer plans include a trip to the theatre, chances are that you will experience the power of Sheridan theatre graduates front and centre. From Charlottetown to Port Hope, Sheridan is playing a major role in productions at Canada’s foremost theatre festivals, from now until the fall and beyond.

The varied talents of Sheridan music theatre graduates are already in full force on stage and behind the curtain at this season’s Stratford Festival. Twenty-one music theatre alumni are part of the cast and creative teams of 10 productions slated for this year. A record 12 graduates alone plus a class of 2017 student are performing in the Festival’s headline musical, A Chorus Line. (Cast photo appears above by David Hou). At the Shaw Festival in Niagara-on-the-Lake, alumni are part of three productions, including Sweeney Todd, Alice in Wonderland and Our Town.  

Drayton Entertainment has enjoyed a stellar reputation for high calibre theatre productions throughout Ontario, thanks in no small part to the presence of Sheridan alumni.  This year is no exception as Drayton’s 2016 line-up includes a strong Sheridan contingent. Alumni are playing a variety of roles in Marathon of Hope and Cinderella, both at St. Jacob’s Country Playhouse in Kitchener-Waterloo.  The cast of Aladdin at the King’s Wharf Theatre in Penetanguishene and the Huron County Playhouse in Grand Bend includes our graduates, as does the list of performers in Crazy for You and ABBA, both at the Port Hope Capital Theatre. 

On the east coast, Sheridan-trained Katie Kerr is preparing for her star turn as Sophia in Mamma Mia! with David Cotton (2009) as Sky at the Charlottetown Festival.  Alumni are also part of Charlottetown’s production of Spoon River and the Citadel Theatre’s version of West Side Story in Halifax.

Regardless of where they land, Sheridan’s music theatre alumni are in demand from the moment they graduate, says Michael Rubinoff, Associate Dean, Visual and Performing Arts at Sheridan. “Our graduates leave our stage ready for the rigours of the profession, and easily move from one production to the other. The extraordinary training that our alumni receive makes them valuable and much sought-after by the industry.”

Two cases in point: Emily Lukasik (2015) went straight from her role in the Mirvish production of Once to Little Women at Theatre New Brunswick before joining the casts of Sweeney Todd and Alice in Wonderland at Shaw. In Toronto, fellow classmate Vanessa Sears starred as Dorothy in a production of the landmark musical, The Wizard of Oz by the Young Peoples’ Theatre, on the heels of her work in Mirvish’s smash, Kinky Boots. She will also star in All Shook Up at Drayton Entertainment this summer.

Sheridan alumni are cast not only as performers but are tapped for key roles that truly bring productions to life, including positions as stage managers, music directors, costume designers and set designers. It’s notable that Drayton’s Aladdin and Cinderella will open under the leadership of David Connolly (1989) as Director & Choreographer, with Marion Abbott (1999) providing Music Direction for Aladdin.  

One of five technical production grads working at Stratford this season, Melissa Rood has held Stage Manager and Assistant Stage Manager positions at the Stratford Festival since 2004.  Rood traces her career achievements back to Sheridan – specifically the expertise and commitment of the professionals who trained and mentored her. “Twenty years later, I’ve been able to go back and coach, and confidently hire from the pool of young theatre artists with which Sheridan is so rich.” says Rood, who graduated in 1996.

Sheridan’s influence on the theatre scene has been strengthened even further by the success of The Canadian Music Theatre Project (CMTP). Three productions that were developed at Sheridan and The CMTP will premiere in Canada this year including Marathon of Hope, the heartfelt story celebrating the life of Canadian hero Terry Fox, which features music and lyrics by 2005 graduate, John Connolly. Prom Queen, another musical which was incubated at Sheridan, will debut at the Segal Centre in Montreal, while Come From Away, originally developed and produced by Sheridan and The CMTP is headed to Mirvish in November just ahead of its Broadway debut in the spring of 2017.

South of the border, Sheridan continues to make a splash, with six graduates appearing on Broadway: Chilina Kennedy (2000) and Scott Campbell (2007) in Beautiful : The Carole King Musical, Michael Lomenda (2001) and  Kara Tremel (1996) in Jersey Boys, Timothy J. Alex (1986) in Tuck Everlasting and Camille Eange-Selenge (2012) in The Book of Mormon.

Learn more about the Canadian Music Theatre Project.
Learn more about Sheridan’s Bachelor of Music Theatre Performance program
Learn more about Sheridan’s Technical Production for Performing Arts Industry program
Learn more about Sheridan alumni at Stratford

Matt Nethersole
Matt Nethersole (2013) as Richie in A Chorus Line at Stratford
Photo: David Hou