The recent stage production of the Cote Saint-Luc Dramatic Society’s “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” was an unprecedented success. Show after show brought in crowds that filled every seat. Additional shows were added on and extra chairs were brought in. Some shows even had standing room only onlookers.
The reputation of the seven-year-old community theatre is solid. This is in large part due to the vision of its founder and the city’s current mayor Mitchell Brownstein and to the incredibly talented and professional founding Artistic Director Anisa Cameron.
I caught up with the two of them since the show closed last month to ask about the wild success of Joseph, the CSLDS and what lies ahead:
Nashen Notes (NN): Tell me about success of this show in terms of seat sales, revenue…?
Mitchell Brownstein (MB): The Gala brought in a lot of money to sponsor entire elementary school grades to come see the show as well as Senior Citizens from our local residences and special needs adults, many in wheelchairs. The revenue, from the Gala and 25-plus performances, brought in a big profit to allow us to continue to improve our offering of Arts and Culture to the Community.
NN: What was it about Joseph that lead to this success?
MB: It’s a story we all know from the Bible and a show that has been around for 50 years. It appeals to people of all ages. The cast ranged in age from 8 to 80 and the audiences ranged in age from very young children to seniors well into their 90s, one whom told me she was 98 and looking forward to next year’s show.
NN: What does this say about English community theatre in CSL and the West-End?
MB: It’s some of the best theatre you can find anywhere, professional or amateur, as it really brings joy to its audiences led by a professional team of artists: Anisa Cameron, Artistic Director, Nick Burgess, Musical Director and Alexia Gourd, Choreographer. They really make everyone shine.
NN: What about an enlarged venue in CSL?
MB: We have previously won two METAs (Montreal English Theatre Awards) and hopefully this show will win as well. Traditionally, we remount our successful shows at the Segal Centre or Centaur.
NN: What comments stand out from the feedback you’ve received?
MB: “I saw the Donny Osmond production years ago and this show was better!”
NN: What’s the likelihood of a remount?
MB: Very promising.
NN: How is the CSLDS contributing to CSL as a community?
MB: We value arts and culture as much as sport in the development of the person and in building a community. Over 3000 people came to see this show from Cote Saint-Luc and beyond, enriching their lives and the lives of our actors and creative team. By bringing the schools, the disabled and the seniors from residences to see the show, we are building a community where we care for each other and together we bring happiness to all.
NN: Anisa, tell me about the success from an artistic point of view?
Anisa Camerson (AC): It’s overwhelming! I knew that Joseph would be a popular show, but I couldn’t believe it was so popular that we sold out our entire run. In the 7 years since Mitch Brownstein and I founded the Dramatic Society, we’ve never experienced this kind of success. We usually sell out in the final week and a half of the production, but to sell out for the full three weeks has been a lovely gift from our audiences.
NN: What are you most proud of in Joseph?
AC: I’m so proud that we were able to produce an artistically beautiful, funny and poignant piece of theatre. I’m also proud that myself, the cast, designers, and production team – particularly Nick Burgess (our Musical Director) – really pushed ourselves to the limit in terms of how challenging this show is to produce.
Joseph, being an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical and being sung from beginning to end, is a relentless challenge for our performers (and for those of us creating the look, sound, and feel of the show). There’s never any downtime. Usually, you get a musical scene broken up by several straight scenes. That’s not the case with musical theatre that is sung right through. It’s constant musical staging: musical and vocal arrangements and choreography that has to flow seamlessly from the first moment the lights go down in the audience to the final bow.
NN: What are your thoughts on Sam Boucher’s (Joseph) performance?
AC: Sam Boucher is a remarkable talent that we’ve been lucky enough to work with for the past 3 years. His prowess as a performer belies his age. He is only 19! He brought a sensitivity and thoughtfulness to Joseph that was touching to see at every performance. His performance of Close Every Door was nothing short of remarkable.
NN: How has the CSLDS helped some of these rising stars?
AC: We have been fortunate to attract some of the most talented young people looking to gain performance experience in a professional environment. While we are a community theatre, our production team is made up of remarkable professionals who support our cast. Many of these young performers have this incredible talent that they need to polish and hone.
The CSLDS provides an education through experience in that regard. It’s very rare that a community theatre gets the opportunity to have 23-24 shows back to back over a month-long run. Usually, you work on a show for anywhere from 6 months to a year and you get anywhere from 4-8 shots at performing it for an audience.
The stamina that it takes to perform in our summer musicals is on par with performing in a professional production. There’s a lot you learn about yourself, as a performer, when you are given the opportunity to perform… a lot!
Many of our cast members from the past have gone on to pursue careers in the arts, studying at Sheridan College, or Randolf Academy or Ryerson University, or Concordia Theatre. There are still other memorable performers who are already pursuing a life in the arts, but due to a lack of opportunity in the professional world, grace us with their considerable talent!
NN: What comments stand out from the feedback you’ve received?
AC: Our audiences are always so kind and supportive. This year they were ecstatic! I think the number one comment I always get and that sits with me heavily is “How are you going to top that?”. Honestly, I don’t know how we will be able to top this one. Joseph is a real milestone for myself and for the CSLDS.
NN: Were those little singers too cute? Tell me about this new add-on compared to previous shows?
AC: Because this is Joseph, I knew we needed to add children to this show in a way we hadn’t in the past. They added so much to our unity as a cast and a sense of import to what we were doing because everyone became responsible for introducing most of these young performers to their first theatrical experience. They were as dedicated and determined to put on the best show they could as all of the adults around them. The sense of family that is created on a production was made that much stronger for having them with us.
On an artistic note, the intergenerational aspect of this production was particularly important to me. Joseph is a biblical story that has made its way down through countless generations to reach us here today so that it resonates on a much deeper level when you pay homage to those generations. We spoke a lot about the guardianship of this story and how our older generation hands it down to us in the present and we in the present then hand it down to the next generation. That was the intention and vision behind our choir and how they were linked to our narrators (entrancingly performed by Jeanne Motulsky and Nicole Arrage). Past, present and future all represented on stage together to ensure the story survives.
NN: You’re a wonderfully extraordinary artistic director. Are you not itching to move to Toronto or NYC or Vegas? What’s in the future for Anisa?
AC: I would love to have the opportunity to work anywhere in this wide world that will hire me, so spread the word! That doesn’t mean that I would forsake Montreal and Côte Saint-Luc. I love this island! As long as the Dramatic Society is here, I will also be here, that’s the beauty of being an artist; your schedule is flexible (to a point)!
NN: Anything to add?
AC: I’d just like to add that none of this would have been possible without the tireless vision and efforts of Mitchell Brownstein and now Mitch Kujavsky as well as Ryan Nemeroff and Emma Loerick! They are an incredible dream team that supports us in all that we do and I am forever grateful to them. It is also a rare occasion when a municipal government recognizes the power of the arts in their community. I am also grateful to the City Council of Côte Saint-Luc for continuing to believe in the dream of the CSLDS.
My full review on Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat can be read here: https://gjnashen.wordpress.com/2018/06/05/review-joseph-an-amazing-musical-entertains-all-ages/
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