Entertainment Local

In Tune festivities offer first look at fresh works

By Brian Paterson

Touchstone Theatre will be presenting In Tune June 8-18. (Supplied Photo)

Touchstone Theatre will be presenting In Tune June 8-18. (Supplied Photo)

In the world of theatre, shows don’t get much bigger than musicals.

Requiring creative teams of playwrights, choreographers, and composers - and triple-threat casts who can sing, dance, and act – the process of creating a new musical is one of the industry’s most daunting challenges.

“It’s a massive, massive job,” says Amiel Gladstone, interim artistic director at Touchstone Theatre. “It requires a huge amount of resources and collaboration. You have to wonder how anyone gets them off the ground.”

In Vancouver, the answer to Gladstone’s query is the biennial event: In Tune. Returning to the city for its fourth outing from June 8 to 18, In Tune gathers together a range of in-development musical theatre creations while giving early-adopter audiences the chance to experience workshop showcases.

“The idea is to focus on new musicals. How they’re written, how they’re produced, how they’re toured,” says Gladstone, who will be at the helm of In Tune for the first time in 2017. “The most exciting part for me is experiencing these projects in their early, early stages. Where you start to see what could grow into the next hit musical.”

This is no exaggeration. Recent professional productions that benefitted from In Tune workshops include Elbow Room Café: The Musical, The Best Laid Plans: A Musical, and last year’s Arts Club smash hit: Onegin (which Gladstone himself created, alongside collaborator Veda Hille). Onegin’s success was so resounding that Toronto and Ottawa productions are already in the works.

In 2017, audiences will have the opportunity to experience six eclectic in-development works from an array of acclaimed creators.

One such piece is The Longing and the Short of It by Daniel Maté. The poignant song cycle follows six individuals on their personal journeys of longing and connection.

“Daniel’s been training and working in New York, but this will be the first exposure of his work to Vancouver audiences, outside of small concerts,” says Gladstone. ”He actually grew up here, so I know he’s excited to have a chance to show what he’s doing!”

In addition to emerging talent, In Tune will also feature fresh creations from Canadian legends.

“One of my earliest theatre experiences was seeing Ann Mortifee’s 1980s piece: Reflections on Crooked Walking. I remember being blown away by the theatricality,” says Gladstone. “Anne is such a huge part of musical theatre in Vancouver. So the fact that she is back with a new piece—called The Mysteries—is just amazing.”

In Tune will also showcase musicals-in-development that take their inspiration from some interesting and intriguing places, such as The Sweet Life, by Leslie Mildiner and Bob Buckley.

“It’s about the Chocolate Candy Bar Strike of 1947, when Vancouver Island kids protested the price of chocolate bars going from a nickel to eight cents,” says Gladstone. “It spread across the country: In Burnaby a bicycle parade tied up traffic for two hours. In Winnipeg, merchants reported zero sales. It got all the way to Fredericton New Brunswick. I love that Lesley has used this as a jumping off point.”

Other works, such as the abundantly alliterative The Preposterous Posthumous Predicament of Paulie Peel, plant their roots in the art world.

“It’s a new musical based on a painting. In Toronto, Musical Stage did a project called Reframed that assigned works of art to writing teams as inspiration,’” Gladstone says. “Kevin Wong and Julie Tepperman wrote a piece here and have expanded it into more. So much of musical theatre is about adaptation—and I think the idea that a show could come from a painting is really exciting.”

In Tune also hosts a wide array of workshops and masterclasses for artists and audiences, as well as a series of special events and parties. Among these unconventional additions are a Tony Awards viewing party and Showdown Throwdown, an event that pits beloved musical theatre scenes in head-to-head battle.

In Tune showcases are presented on a by-donation basis. Full details and schedule available at www.touchstonetheatre.com.