By Tara Bradbury
“Theatre encourages one to imagine, to express and to feel,” Theatre St. John’s co-artistic director Keith Pike is fond of saying.
Music, according to 11-year-old performer Sarah Drover, does the same thing — she has researched it.
“I’m writing a speech about how music affects emotions for a school project,” Sarah, who’s in Grade 6 at Lakecrest School in St. John’s, told The Telegram.
“It’s been scientifically proven. If you’re happy, you’ll tend to listen to music that’s more upbeat, and if you’re angry, you’ll listen to music with heavy guitars and drums. It’s also known that music can distract you from things that are bothering you, and woodwind and string instruments are the most likely to calm you down.”
Sarah has also proven the theory first-hand: “Music definitely affects me. When I sing, I feel happy.”
Friday evening (May 10), Sarah will perform a duet with musician (and Theatre St. John’s co-artistic director) Kelly-Ann Evans on stage at the Arts and Culture Centre in the theatre company’s annual gala fundraiser. This year, it’s a tribute to British composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, and Sarah and Evans will perform Webber’s “Pie Jesu.”
As part of its mandate, Theatre St. John’s aims to help develop the talents of local young actors, singers and dancers through workshops and mentorship opportunities with experienced performers, giving them the opportunity to perform in professional productions.
Sarah has been taking lessons from Evans and singer Julia Halfyard, who’s also performing in the show.
“I love to perform, and to perform with Kelly-Ann and all the other great performers in the show, it’s a dream come true for me,” Sarah — an experienced singer, who has performed in the Kiwanis festival, on the Janeway Telethon, in school musicals and on stage in “Annie” she said.
Sarah is particularly excited about performing on the same ticket as actress Krystin Pellerin of CBC TV’s “Republic of Doyle.” Pellerin sings in both English and French and for the gala, will perform “Another Suitcase” from “Evita.”
Others performing in the one-night-only event include Shelley Neville, Peter Halley, Meghan Herder, Kiersten Noel, Dana Parsons, Darrin Martin, Calvin Powell, Jane Hutchings and the St. Bons Elementary Choir, doing Webber hits like “Cats,” “Jesus Christ Superstar” and “The Phantom of the Opera.”
Theatre St. John’s is a not-for-profit theatre company that has produced more than a dozen shows since it was founded by Pike five years ago. The annual fundraising gala takes a different theme each year, although this is their second time doing Webber’s music.
“He just did two revivals on Broadway, ‘Evita’ and ‘Jesus Christ Superstar,’ and he’s doing ‘Wizard of Oz’ now in Toronto. It’s a big year for him and his music is timeless,” Pike said. “His songs are really great to perform and they’re classic. It’s classic musical theatre.”
Once the performers were recruited, Pike and Evans left it up to them to choose the Webber song they wanted to perform. As it happened, everyone picked a different song, with no crossovers.
The St. Bon’s Choir will present a couple of songs from “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat,” marking the first time Theatre St. John’s has worked with a full choir.
“We’ll learn from them, they’ll learn from us and it’ll be beautiful,” Pike said.
“It really means something to Theatre St. John’s to branch out and work with kids, because they really are the future of the theatre community.” It’s what kids bring to the table: they bring an energy, they bring a naiveté that is open; that we can all learn from as actors, as directors and musicians. They don’t judge their work, they just do it. If we continue to foster what they’re doing and nurture them, it’s only going to make them better artists.”
Money raised from the show will help the theatre company continue to provide free workshops to schools in the city, and will go towards the funding of the upcoming season, including venue rentals, marketing and administration costs, and salaries for actors, directors, musicians and technicians.
Theatre St. John’s next production will happen in September, when they bring the debut of Disney’s “Mary Poppins” to Atlantic Canada.
It’s taken four months to work out all the details of the production, Pike said, and it will be the biggest undertaking the theatre company has undertaken to date.
“It’s going to be the biggest cast, and definitely the biggest set. The spectacle of ‘Mary Poppins’ will be the biggest because it’s Disney — you’ve got that air of Disney magic. What you see in the movie is pretty much what we’ll see on stage, including the flying. It’s a big job, but for Theatre St. John’s to continue to grow, it’s important for us to do this. It’s a fun show, and who doesn’t know ‘Mary Poppins’?”
Auditions for ‘Mary Poppins’ will happen as soon as the fundraising gala is over, Pike said.
Tickets for “An Evening with Andrew Lloyd Webber” are $40 and are available at the St. John’s Arts and Culture Centre box office, online at www.artsandculturecentre.ca, or by calling 729-3900.
Sarah is hoping for a big turnout.
“It’s something to look forward to, and it’s most likely only going to happen once,” she said. “For me, it’s very exciting and I think for anyone who comes to see it, they will really enjoy it.”