Intensive Musical Mayhem Summer Musical Theater at Gibsons Heritage Playhouse

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Three performances of song-and-dance revue Musical Mayhem at the Gibsons Heritage Playhouse on July 22 and 23 provided a glimpse of future theater stars in action.

The show was the culmination of the Summer Musical Theater Intensive, a two-week program organized by local production company Synergy at Play. Thirty-three young performers participated in daily workshops led by industry professionals – in person and via video connections from New York.

Synergy at Play was created 14 years ago by Varya Moysey-Rubin and her husband Bill Moysey. Moysey, a performer, designer and producer himself, died last year during the intensive musical theater program, following a battle with lung cancer.

“There is always an element of collaboration to [the intensive]Moysey-Rubin said. “As soon as the students come, we will have already chosen pieces for them to do. And throughout the day, they organize very nice workshops in their particular areas of interest. They all have singing, dancing and acting, but they also work on ensemble pieces.

The cast, dressed in tie-dye shirts and headbands coordinated by wardrobe coordinator Linda McTurk, opened the show with a full-throated rendition of Aquarius and Let the Sunshine In from the 1967 musical Hair.

Artistic director Moysey-Rubin selected selections from other classic Broadway shows, including three numbers from 1955’s Guys and Dolls. Gretchen Hergescheimer appeared as an angry soloist in Adelaide’s Lament before returning alongside Olive Copping for a dynamic duet rendition of Marry the Man Today. Larkin Miller sang Luck be a Lady with suave poise, eventually rolling a pair of dice to the audience.

Company-wide numbers demonstrated the group dance skills instilled by instructor Shantaya Cottrell, including Anything Goes (from Cole Porter’s 1934 show) and Singing in the Rain, a tribute to the 1951 Broadway classic which evolved into a mashup inspired by Glee’s hip-hop interpretation. 60 years later.

Lyric Moysey-Rubin and Riven (Journey) Dupuis kept the crowd laughing during their comedic performances of Monsieur and Madame Thénardier from 1980s Les Miserables. In Take What You Got, Mia Espinoza and Maggie Rose Herschler channeled the visceral power of Cyndi Lauper, who wrote the song for the 2012 musical Kinky Boots.

21st-century performances have also helped demonstrate soloists’ showmanship, including Elliott Laviolette’s plaintive repetition I Love Play (from 2015’s Be More Chill), Salma Star Atoui’s characterization of the irascible Wednesday Adams in 2009’s Pulled and Olivia Copping’s Sayonora emphasis on the 1981 comedy How to Eat Like a Child. During Cody Kelso’s fist solo in When I Grow Up (from 2010’s Matilda the Musical), he jumped up on a chair as an army of backing vocalists marched in formation.

I Feel Sick (also from How to Eat Like a Child) was performed with wacky balance by Maeve Fynn-Richards, Eloise White and Victoria Reyes Abbott, and provided one of the show’s many allusions to the perils of pandemic life.

The live band included musical director Daniel Deorksen on guitar, pianist Tom Kellough and bassist Jack Davis. The trio was tightly locked in backstage performers, and even the absent eye contact fluidly compensated for their impromptu variations.

Moysey-Rubin conducts three other musical ensembles: the Sunshine Coast Children’s Choir, the Sunshine Coast Youth Choir and The Wild Women. All will induct new members this fall.

More details on Moysey-Rubin’s initiatives are available online at synergyatplay.ca.

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