Works in progress performed at festival


Music Director Neil Bartman and author Brian Hill presented the first act of their new musical, Senza Luce, at Sheridan’s second annual Canadian Music Theatre Project festival.

The show was created with the help of producer, Michael Rubinoff, who loved the idea the duo had created.

“We worked on a project at Sheridan two years ago and loved the experience so we decided to come back and do something else,” said Bartman.

The show was cast in spring and began its four-week workshop in September.

“Our play is so early in the writing process that we would take the first half of every week to write and then meet with the actors for a couple days in a row for about three to four hours a session,” said Hill.

The role of the actors is to embody the characters they play to the best of their ability and display the strengths and weaknesses of the written material.

“I felt the rehearsal room was a very warm place to try new stuff,” said Celine Tsai, actor and fourth-year Music Theatre Performance student. “I loved that the character I played seemed very relatable to me and it felt like it was very easy to embody her.”

Bartman loves that Sheridan acts as a protected environment for developing musicals where industry professionals are allowed to make mistakes and students are given the opportunity to work on something new with no template.

“It’s different than working on an existing show where there is a recording to refer to or model after,” said Bartman. “The students are really creating a role from the ground up and that’s an invaluable experience for them.”

The experience for actor and fourth-year Musical Theatre Performance student, Greg Solomon, was “creatively inspiring with shots of adrenaline”.

“You had to approach the material in three roles,” said Solomon. “You had to diagnose exactly what to do like a doctor, justify every piece of the material like a lawyer and perform as strong as an athlete.”

Senza Luce was the last play presented at the festival and received good reviews from the audience.

“One of the big things we were hearing was even though we were just standing at music stands and performing, people forgot that we were just doing a live read,” said Solomon.

“We would normally never have a first draft with so little material presented in front of an audience,” said Bartman. “It was very gratifying even during those moments where the audience was locked in to let out a sigh of relief and say ‘Something is working here’.”

The most tense part of the workshop was during the last week before performances.

The actors were handed out a week’s worth of material and it required an intense amount of focus for them to bring the show together.

“We had to take and memorize notes the first time we heard them,” said Tsai. “There was just so little time left in the rehearsal process that we couldn’t revert back.”

Senza Luce is very early in the creative process and could require many years before becoming a fully produced musical.

“I think it’s going to be fun and moving,” said Hill. “I also believe in the long run that it will have a deep message about enlightenment and keeping people in the dark, something universal.”