Belated World Theatre Day Post (how I fell in love with musical theatre and writing)

First, I should apologize for my tardiness in getting this entry posted, perhaps due to the fact that it was World Theatre Day on March 27th, the theatre scene and therefore my workload was particularily busy.  That being said, I couldn’t let the holiday pass without a blog entry dedicated to the occasion, and therefore I bring you my belated WTD2010 post – how I came to love musical theatre:

People often ask me how I came to review theatre, and why it is that I spend so many hours slaving over blog posts, Twitter conversations and attending many nights out watching various productions.  The answer is not very exciting – to put it simply, I love it.  Always have.  In honour of World Theatre Day 2010, I decided to try and put into words just how this Broadway Baby was born.

It goes back a long way – best I can tell, my love for theatre was sparked when I was a mere five years old, and my Mom would play the Original London Cast Recording of Boubil and Schonberg’s Les Miserables in the car when she would pick me up from daycare and bring me home.  I still remember crying during “Come To Me” and tearfully asking my Mom to explain to me what happened to Cosette after Fantine died.  My Mom would simply shake her head and switch to something a bit more upbeat (usually Amy Grant or the soundtrack to Dirty Dancing – I was afterall a child of the 80s) but always promised that one day she would take me to see the musical and I would understand.  Of course, I was a stubborn child who had already been bitten by the musical bug, and “someday” wasn’t cutting it for me.  So I borrowed the Original Broadway Cast Recording from a friend and listened to it over and over again, trying to make sense of the story and understand exactly what was happening behind the music that I was falling in love with.  I would sit in my room and sing along, generally alternating between being either Eponine or Gavroche.  With a natural flair for the dramatic, seems only fitting I would gravitate towards characters who met a more devastating demise, perhaps I always knew a storybook ending wasn’t likely to be in my future.

Later that same year, my Mom finally made good on her promise.  The Canadian Premiere of Les Miserables took place at the Royal Alexandra Theatre in 1987 courtesy of Mirvish Productions, and I remember my parents got us third row seats.  They dressed me up in my fur coat and patent leather Mary Janes, as this was back in the day when people still deigned to dress up when going out to the theatre.  My Mom wore a beautiful dress and my Dad looked handsome in his suit, and I remember we ate at Ed’s Seafood (which sadly no longer exists) before trekking to the theatre.  It was the most magical night of my life.  The music that had been playing in my head over and over again for many months came alive in front of me, and these characters were solidified as permanent fixtures in my life.  I can still remember almost every detail – the costumes, the voices, the tears.  Suddenly, the music made sense.  The story was so powerful it broke my heart, and exposed me to a whole world I never knew existed.  That first performance of Les Miserables didn’t just expose me to my love for musical theatre, but also to general theatre, to history, to French studies and the French language, culture and of course, writing.

At curtain call the actress playing Mme Thenardier winked at me, and I remember feeling like I was on Cloud 9.  My parents could barely get me to go to bed that night as I wanted to listen to the recording “one more time”!  It continued to be played regularly for years, much to the chagrin of my parents and my friends.  I dressed up as Gavroche for Halloween one year, and every night would go to sleep in my ratty grey Les Miserables t-shirt that was about five sizes too big. 

When World Theatre Day 2010 was approaching, there was much discussion on people’s first experiences at the theatre.  Some of the most popular responses certainly reflect my generation (CATS, Phantom of the Opera, RENT, The Lion King) as well as geographical location (the Canadian Classic Anne of Green Gables).  Strangely, I was one of the few people who listed Les Miserables as their first theatre experience.  I am however extremely grateful that it was this show that introduced me to my love for Broadway, because I think that falling in love with this production helped shape and mold me into the person I ended up becoming.  Eventually I saw all the shows listed above (some many times over) but the one that always kept me coming back, and the one that is always nearest and dearest to my heart, is the French classic that is now regarded as the world’s most popular musical.  It’s nice to be in good company.

As for how I came to review theatre, it was largely the result of that initial experience with Les Miserables.  Once I saw the musical I quickly got my hands on a copy of the Victor Hugo classic novel, and then read more French classics and other great literature from the same time period.  Suffice it to say not many children my age were reading such books, and because I found it alienated me a bit from my peers, I began to write as a creative outlet and a way to pass my time. 

Gradually I began to write more and more, and as much as I loved it, I was always repeatedly drawn back to the theatre.  I would try and see every new production that came to Toronto, always in the hopes that I would get to experience that same magic one more time.  So far, I have not had an experience quite like that first time watching Les Miserables; however, I have been able to see many wonderful and touching productions that have affected my life in more ways than I could ever hope to write down.  Seemed only natural to try and find a way to fuse my passion for writing with my love of theatre, and the desire to review shows was born. 

It is an amazing thing, when you basically get to live your dream.  I’m able to do something I love and (hopefully) contribute in some small way to the theatre experiences of other people.  I get to see many shows that I otherwise wouldn’t get the chance to see, and then I get to write about them.  And sometimes, I even find myself looking at the children in the audience, watching closely and hoping to catch a brief glimpse of the magic that can only come once – that very first time a musical touches your soul.


For anyone who is interested, the UK production of Les Miserables is celebrating 25 years on stage in London by launching a worldwide tour with an all-star cast.  As of right now there have been no dates announced for Toronto but the tour is making a stop in Detroit, and this Broadway Baby certainly plans on attending.  For more details, check out the Broadway in Detroit website:

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