After Blame Canada was successfully produced in the cities of Vancouver, New York, London, and Toronto, CMTWC decided to take the Blame to another musical theatre hub: Montréal, Québec, where audiences––and even the performers––discovered the quality and diversity of songs that Canadian writers are producing.
On September 9th, The Segal Centre for Performing Arts, well known in the Montréal community for pioneering new Canadian musicals, served as the venue for a new rendition of Blame Canada. Under the musical direction of Chris Barillaro and hosted by Anisa Cameron and Landon Braverman, the soirée began with Blame Canada. It was followed by the Segal Centre’s “Broadway Café,” a monthly open-mic cabaret, where enthusiastic local artists regularly come to perform their favourite show tunes and promote their upcoming theatre productions. The evening attracted the regular Broadway Café audience and gave them a chance to experience new Canadian musical theatre.
The cast of Montréal’s Blame Canada was chosen from local performers in the Montréal musical theatre community. “Welcome to the Rock,” from the Tony Award-winning Come From Away (by Ottawa natives Irene Sankoff and David Hein), was the perfect opening number to welcome the community and kick off the night.
Several of the performers expressed that in learning a previously unfamiliar song, they were able to connect to themselves and others in a new way, and were pleased to add these songs to their repertoire. Cathy Burns sang “As We Stumble Along” from The Drowsy Chaperone by Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison. She shares that “it was great fun for me to embrace the hilarious character… I grew to love the wit and hilarity of the lyrics and [Drowsy’s] spirit!”
Alisha Ruiss performed “I’m Not Leaving,” where a promiscuous woman refuses to leave a neighbourhood because of her reputation. The song is from Lies My Father Told Me by Elan Kunin (Montréal), with whom Ruiss has performed before and whose compositions she admires.
Composer Jonathan Monro accompanied Marie-Pierre de Brienne as she sang “Is it Me?” about a mother feeling distant from her son as she watches him grow. The song is from Monro's The Hockey Sweater: A Musical, which is currently playing its world premiere at the Segal Centre. This special performance gave audience members the chance to not only hear new Canadian musical theatre works, but to see them performed by the composer himself.
I was fortunate enough to sing “It Started Out So Well” from A Meeting of Minds by Leslie Arden (Toronto). Though Arden’s song was new to me, there was a familiarity in the emotions and description of the nostalgia for the rush of new love, even when that love has faded. I trust that many in the audience were reminded of their own lives as well. Not only did we reconnect with our own personal memories and stories, but we were connected as a community through our shared experience.
Co-host Anisa Cameron expressed a similar sentiment: “I was not familiar with most of the work that was performed, but was moved by so many of the pieces… I was filled with a tremendous sense of pride, connecting our small, talented community with the larger national and international musical theatre world.”
Musical Director Chris Barillaro noted that the audience “genuinely enjoy[ed] discovering the selections from the Canadian musical theatre repertoire. I have a feeling that many people were surprised at the caliber and variety in the writing and I was happy to be able to share that with Montreal audiences.”
Indeed, it seemed that all who attended and performed in Blame Canada that evening at the Segal Centre discovered new music. Through these songs, we felt even more connected as musical-lovers in Montréal, but also as part of the Canadian music theatre community as a whole.
Other songs that were performed include: “My Traveling Salesman” (Sisters: The Belles Soeurs Musical by Neil Bartram), “The End of the World” (Joseph Trefler), “Leaving St. Urbain Street” (The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz by Alan Menken and David Spencer), “So Right” (Prom Queen by Colleen Dauncey and Akiva Romer-Segal), “Poetry” (Life After by Britta Johnson), “Finally in Munich” (The White Rose by Landon Braverman and Derek P. Hassler), “Rumba Raylene” (Variations on a Nervous Breakdown by Jonathan Monro), and “I Only Hear Your Voice” (Evangeline by Ted Dykstra).