We sing more in December. The light disappears and we sing to infuse the dark with magic. In the car, spontaneous karaoke erupts frequently and I’m humming at every turn. It’s in my bones. I come by it naturally so I seek out places where singing is celebrated. Earlier this month, I found it in the voices of the youth programme at Wavestage Theatre. Clearly, these kids don’t limit their singing to December.
I felt instant kinship, as I too connected to drama and performance at their age. If there was a show at camp or school, I was all over it. Yet, compared to these gorgeous talents, I was a geek at their age. These kids are far more savvy and professional about their commitment to the work. They wowed me. How did they arrive here? A wise teacher, that’s how.
My sister Sarah has been singing too all her life. My own television career might never have happened without Sarah’s prompts at the back of our summer camp rehearsal hall. I CAN”T HEAR YOU! She taught me to “throw”my voice, to lend it inflection, nuance, and give character to all my solos and speaking lines. A former opera singer, Sarah has run an outstanding theatre and performing arts school for decades, in addition to directing and producing several shows a year with her company, Wavestage Theatre. She has taught in Newmarket and Aurora, and new this year, due to demand, Sarah is also accepting students here in Toronto. Some come for help with Royal Conservatory exams and university prep; most are keen for the opportunity to be directed on stage by a passionate performer who has turned directing into a true vocation.
I asked some of her youth performers what they have learned from Sarah: most told me showbiz tricks like opening your mouth wider for better enunciation, but all of them had picked up something far more profound about being involved in special seasonal productions like a black box production of A Christmas Carol. Here’s a sample of what I discovered when I met a few of them backstage:
While the Wavestage production was a one-night special, you can catch their upcoming show Big Fishin January. For all you Dickens nerds (you are my peeps, I bless you all), check out the Soulpepper production as it’s one of the best I’ve seen, and of course, the new movie, The Man who Invented Christmas, starring none other than Downton Abbey’s Dan Stevens. Other reasons to celebrate this movie? The screenplay was written by Canadian actress/writer Susan Coyne.
As for me, if you pass me on the road, I’ll be bopping to Queen Aretha. Kind of like Bieber does here.