When we saw the line up for The Musical Stage Company latest productions, it made us reminisce about our experiences in this city. There were both the good and not so good times. What were you doing when the city was plunged into darkness in August of 2003? I remember walking out to Yonge Street with my toddler, as we would do often, and seeing the streets full of people streaming steadily past us. I remember thinking “Oh, the subway must be down…again.” Men with jackets swung over their shoulders with ties loosened. There wasn’t that buzz of the busy streets like usual as we sat on the bench. It was different. We didn’t realize what had happened until an hour later when we returned home. Back then, we didn’t have the news apps to check what was happening. When we found out just how far-reaching the power outage but no clue as to when everything would turn back on, there was a mission to save whatever food was worth eating before spoiling. We remember the night being eerily calm as the neighbours all hung outside their porches wondering what we had to bbq up and share. It became a night of sitting out and chatting.
Three unique musicals will be showcased this month by The Musical Stage Company (August 19 to 22, 2019). Each story was prompted by newsworthy headlines and images from the Globe and Mail archives. REPRINT takes us beyond the pages with stories from the wild Beatles concert photo taken at Maple Leaf Gardens, a look at the city’s youth culture and the fascinating world of Freestyle Frisbee, and yes, that unforgettable Blackout of 2013.
REPRINT, the inaugural production of three original musicals generated in LAUNCH PAD – the ground-breaking musical development residency created by The Musical Stage Company and Yonge Street Theatricals. They have been working over the past ten months to develop their musicals.
All three musicals will star Brandon Antonio, Kaylee Harwood, Michael De Rose, and Kelsey Verzotti.
We chatted with the creators of CYGNUS (inspired by an article written by Sean Fine that ran in the Globe and Mail on August 16, 2003. The headline read: “In the hot, muggy heat of the blackout, millions were left to count the minutes.”), Steven Gallagher (writer) and Anton Lipovetsky (music/lyrics).
What were you doing on August 14, 2003 when we experienced the power outage here in Toronto along with the north-eastern provinces?
SG: The convenience store on my corner was having a sale on popsicles, and the whole neighbourhood was out in full force. It was a hot day, so we all sat on our front porches and drank wine and gossiped. The blackout forced us to connect on a deeper level than just saying hello while running in and out of our houses.
AL: I was in Vancouver, so I missed all the action!
This musical was inspired by a photo used in the Globe and Mail. Can you tell us about that image and how it helped shape the storyline?
SG: The image is of a couple sitting at the top of the hill in Riverdale park overlooking the Don Valley and the city. It was taken at sunset, so the sky is glowing, but there are no lights on in any building. It’s quite mysterious, and there is a sense of “what’s going to happen when the sun goes down?”. The photo led us to explore what might happen on a very special night and, how might people connect differently in the dark. It almost felt like “what happens tonight, stays in tonight” type of situation.
AL: I was drawn to the romance of the photo…two people sat close together overlooking the city as the sun sets…a city usually shining and teeming with life for once dark and quiet. There was such a lovely, atmospheric vibe to the photo that I wanted to capture in song.
Those of us who were around when that happened saw the city in a different light. What were some other story ideas that came to mind when the creative team worked on this particular musical?
SG: There was a real sense of camaraderie that night, and other story ideas we talked about were how neighbours who never say more than a few words to each other might connect on a night like this. New friendships might be formed, or perhaps, secrets might be revealed about the people who live next door that you never wanted to know.
AL: An experience that our musical references but doesn’t directly show is the camaraderie and banding together that happened during the blackout. Our musical focuses on the drama of our characters, but by many accounts it was a happy night. Magical, even. After the initial shock, with their plans uprooted and forced outside together, a lot of people just enjoyed wandering the streets, or barbecuing, or spending quality time together without distraction. They were suddenly present. I wonder if this would happen today?
What else would you like us to know about CYGNUS?
SG: Cygnus is about finding connection and hope in places we weren’t expecting. Our show might make people take a moment to look at the stars with a loved one and take in the vastness of the sky.
AL: Cygnus is about how we need each other. And I think it’s a uniquely Toronto story–city life brings us closer together but also drives us further apart. I hope people will be moved by the story of two strangers who share a real connection on an unforgettable night.
About Steven Gallagher (Bookwriter)
Steven is a writer, actor and director based in Toronto. His award winning play, Stealing Sam, made its American premiere in 2014 where it won Best Drama at the United Solo Festival in New York. Pollyanna, written with Linda Barnett, was shortlisted for Playwrights Guild of Canada best new musical. Drama 101, written with Kevin Wong, premiered in Toronto in June 2017. His musical, The Last Party, written with Nicky Phillips, premiered at the Toronto Fringe in 2018. He is the recipient of a 2013 Harold Award.
About Anton Lipovetsky (Composer/Lyricist)
Anton is a composer and performer based in Vancouver. His composition credits include Elbow Room Cafe (ZeeZee), Best Laid Plans (Touchstone/Patrick Street), cool beans (Solo Collective), Broken Sex Doll (Virtual Stage/Jessie Award) and FLOP! (Delinquent). He is a graduate of the Stratford Birmingham Conservatory and Studio 58.
Productions will take place August 19 to 22 at the Globe and Mail Centre on the 17th floor. For more info about Musical Stage Company, REPRINT & tickets here.