St. Clair College’s Music Theatre Performance students are reinventing a Canadian musical they have adapted for Covid times.
Girls In The Gang is this year’s final stage production, but it wasn’t done on a stage, it was made for the screen.
Director Katherine Kaszas, who also runs the college’s three-year program as its artistic director said students typically perform two to three shows per school year on the Chrysler (Theatre) stage in addition to smaller productions in a studio at the main campus.
The performances are capstone projects and are part of the course’s curriculum, where they are trained in acting, singing, and dancing.
The story focusses on a boy named Edwin Alonzo Boyd, who is a real character in Canadian history that returned from World War II, was in a gang, and shot up banks in and around Toronto during the late 1940s and early 1950s.
Kaszas said however the premise is as the title indicates; it is all about the girls in the gang and follows their tales of broken hearts.
In a combined effort, the cast of four men and four women filmed their separate parts individually with mobile devices.
The entire production was directed through Teams to set up the shots, lights, backdrops, costumes, and green screens, which were delivered to their homes for filming.
“It plays out like a 50s or 60s type of movie in terms of some of the actions," Kaszas said.
The Canadian musical was originally commissioned 34 years ago (1987) by a theatre company called the Blyth Festival, which is in Blyth, Ontario, known for developing and producing new Canadian plays. Its success led to production in several theatres across Canada.
Kaszas thought it would be perfect for the individual students in terms of where they were as far as artistic development point of view, as well as music point of view.
“The writing is very clever. There is a lot of meat on the bones for young actors to sink their teeth into. It’s not always the case with musicals.”
Kaszas knows the play quite well. She was involved in the original commission in Blyth. At the time, she was the youngest artistic director in the country as well as the only female.
"The writers have seen our production and are very complimentary about the work the students have done," she said.
Written by playwright Ray Storey with music composition by John Roby, St. Clair’s final production team includes musical director Mike Karloff, choreographer Melissa Williams, and video editor Zak Dunn.
“It’s the power of film, we all love live theatre which is why we’re in performance," Kaszas added. "Theatre artists love obstacles and tend to rise to the occasion. So, we just kept climbing over obstacle after obstacle.”
Snippets of Girls In The Gang will be released to the public followed by a full version on the St. Clair College YouTube page this summer. A sneak peak of the production can be seen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=55IpKMl4mQI
“Kudos to all the students. It takes a lot to be a performance student, be locked in your room and still come up with a great performance.”
- Todd Shearon