A big homecoming is about to happen for the folks at DreamcoatThursday, September 05, 2013 by: Kate AdamsThe 2013/2014 season for Dreamcoat Fantasy Theatre It is shaping up to be a truly exciting one with the launch of a new family show that will not only debut in North Bay, but also acts as a homecoming for a truly talented artistic team.
Director Paul Tessier joins with the music team of Mark Allen and Ted Chase and choreographer Chad Wolfe to bring to life Tessier’s interpretation of Ebenezer from the wildly popular A Christmas Carol.
“You could say this is the homecoming of a dream team. It is wonderful to think that all this talent was homegrown in the north. This will be a theme we will push as the Good Ship Ebenezer sails the world,” Says Tessier.
“It started in 1995 when I saw a musical version of "A Christmas Carol" in Vancouver. Despite a strong cast, I felt the music was dated and the story was a little flat. As I walked home, I thought to myself: "Hey, I can do better than that!" So I went home, spent two months on the piano and ended up with 1.5 songs with terrible lyrics.”
“After that humbling experience, the show was "put on the back burner" and for the next 15 years the vision percolated in my head. After the "Waiting for Godot" experience with Gateway in 2010, I was ready for a new project. Finally, the time was right for "Ebenezer," Tessier tells BayToday.
“Since I didn't have another two months (and most likely several more) to throw away at the piano, I looked for a creative team to write the music and lyrics. Mark Allen and I went to high school together and I remembered his musical talent and skills. He had written all the music for several Sears Drama Festival entries during our high school career which were very impressive. I also vividly remember listing to his original musical he had written as a project in our English class that was absolutely beautiful (a haunting story of a young aboriginal girl from Moosonee moving to North Bay). As I sat, agog, in that classroom, listening to his music, I realized Mark had a very special gift. So! How to exploit it,” he notes.
“So, as the vision for Ebenezer began to take shape, I invited Ted, Mark and Chad to my parents’ home on Lake Nipissing in March of 2011 where I pitched the show and tried to convince them to take their talents "to the next level" and jump aboard the Good Ship Ebenezer. Despite my fumbling around with the pitch and not having producer in sight, they went for it! I will be forever grateful to the three of them since it took a great leap of faith and courage to commit to this. "If you write it, they will come..."
And write it they did, the Allen and Chase Team mulled the idea over for a while, decided ‘why not’ then rolled up their sleeves and got down to work.
“Paul first mentioned his desire to mount a new musical based on Dickens’ A Christmas Carol back in 2010, I believe, while he was still engaged in directing ‘Waiting for Godot’ for the Gateway Theatre Guild. Finally, in the spring of 2011, he managed to get all of us (Paul, Mark, Chad and me) together and pitch his vision,” explains Chase.
“Actually, Mark and I really weren’t sure at first that we were up to the challenge of writing new music and lyrics for this British Victorian classic, with which most of the world is already so familiar. At first, we just agreed to think it over. Then, we agreed to give it a try. And then, we were hooked!”
“I honestly wondered ‘What is Paul thinking ...we can't write Victorian music!" Anyway, with lots of personal doubts, we decided that Paul must know something we didn't, so we went to his parent's place to talk about his idea. In a word, Paul's excitement and creative genius were infectious...we left totally pumped, feeling a bit like we'd been to an Ebenezer rally,” states Allen.
“I remember thinking "I still don't know if we can do this but darn it let's give it a try!" One thing we were confident of was that we could both tell a story and set a mood with music. Maybe if we used the styles we know with ‘19th century touches,’ that could work!”
“Short answer … Paul is a friend and we were flattered to be asked,” he adds.
Tessier says the classic tale is one all ages can enjoy but it is infusion of new music, great dance steps and the new set configurations will set this show apart from other musicals.
“1) Brilliant character: Ebenezer Scrooge was recently voted the most popular of all Dickens' characters. All the characters are fully developed (not always the case with musicals). 2) Timeless story: This classic tale is told in a very fresh and original way 3) The message: "It's Never Too Late Too Start Over" is more important than ever especially in today's environment. 4) The music! The music is gorgeous, the harmonies sublime and the lyrics brilliant (again, not always the case with musicals). 5) The set: for the first time in North Bay, we plan to use digital projections as the set. 6) Special effects: Ray Girard at Dreamcoat has invented a silent and invisible "flying machine". The show will have cool flying (and not scary flying like "Spiderman")! No more about this flying machine as it is a secret...” Tessier lists the reasons.
“This show appeals to young and old -- from 6 to 106 -- and to both men and women. What I am most happy about is the fact that this is truly a Canadian cover of a Dickens classic. This show will well represent Canada throughout the world when it is produced abroad … there is already talk of a Spanish version to be done in Mexico!”
Choreographer Chad Wolfe agrees there is something so special and so appealing about this production that he is willing to commute back and forth from Ottawa to North Bay to work on this show.
“My fiddle and step dance school operated in North Bay from 1996-2009. During this time, I had the sincere pleasure of watching these traditions blossom in the area producing Canadian Champion step dancers, dedicated instructors, and a wide range of performers from recreational to professional,” he explains.
“Also during my years in North Bay, I enjoyed performing as a musician/dancer/actor with the Nipissing Stage Company (where I first met Mark and Ted in Train Town in 2005), the Gateway Theatre Guild, and it all started off for me with the 1998 Dreamcoat production of The Hobbit, when my dancers and I were invited to join the cast for a couple segments in the show. I made many lasting friendships in the strong North Bay theatre scene, and I'm delighted to have this chance to once again connect my passion for fiddle music, step dance and theatre.”
“The music for Ebenezer is truly spellbinding and I was honoured when Paul, Ted, and Mark asked me to add some Canadian fiddle flair to the show. Now, I can't wait to get dancing!”