Thursday, July 12, 2007

Ladies & Gentlemen, May I Present...

I've been teaching part-time for several years at Sheridan College in nearby Oakville, Ontario. Currently, I'm the Character Design Instructor for 2nd Year in the BAA Animation Program, which I prefer to having taught 1st Year as it allows me to get more involved with the subject of characterization rather than concentrating merely on the basics of construction. For me, the idea of getting that performance on paper (and ultimately onscreen by my students) is what really thrills me. Because of this, I am also very interested in another program here at the college.

Sheridan has also become rather renowned for its Music Theatre Program. I've seen a number of the Sheridan productions and have been very impressed with the high calibre of the students involved. And once they graduate after the three years, many of Toronto's big theatrical productions have benefited from their talent. Some of them even go on to international success. I'd like to introduce you to two of these fine talents.


In my last post, I talked about the contribution to Toronto theatre of Ed and David Mirvish. Several years ago, the Mirvishes brought the Broadway hit, "The Producers" to their Canon Theatre here in Toronto. Well known Canadian comic, Sean Cullen was cast as the bombastic Max Bialystock. But the two characters that really impressed me were played by Sheridan graduates, Michael Therriault, as accountant Leo Bloom, and Sarah Cornell, in the role of the Swedish bombshell Ulla. Here's a picture of me with Sarah and Michael backstage after seeing them in performance. I had given them prints of caricatures I had drawn from a TV interview with them I'd recently recorded from TV.

By the time he came to "The Producers", Michael had already had several roles on the Stratford stage and brought such a poignancy to his role as Leo Bloom that I felt his performance was the heart of the show. The character is a mixture of the neurotic and the sweetly naive, and I think Michael stressed the latter in his portrayal. Since then, Michael Therriault has gone on to play Canada's Tommy Douglas in the CBC TV miniseries, "Prairie Giant". Soon after that he originated the role of Gollum in the musical stage extravaganza, "The Lord of the Rings" which debuted here in Toronto last year before moving on to London this summer. He was one of only a couple performers, I believe, that was asked to continue on in the move to London and, despite the show having garnered mixed reviews, Michael's Gollum is usually singled out as one of the highpoints. As you can see from this photo, his portrayal of Gollum is nothing like the genial Michael Therriault himself!


The statuesque and lovely Sarah Cornell was just perfect for the role of Ulla in "The Producers". In fact, before originating the role on the Toronto stage, Sarah had initially auditioned for and won the role on Broadway, replacing Cady Huffman when she decided to step down, playing Ulla for several months in New York before transfering to the Toronto production. Not only is Sarah a wonderful singer/dancer, but she has a natural flair for comedy. Currently she can be seen onstage in the darkly comic, "Evil Dead - The Musical". I just saw her a few weeks ago in the show and she's hysterically funny, playing two separate roles no less! For this performance, Sarah was recently nominated for a Dora Award, which is the Canadian equivalent of the Tony. She and one of her friends and co-stars from "The Producers", Jonathan Monro, had also been starting to develop a cabaret act for which I had been commissioned to create a caricature for their presskit. Alas, they've had to put that on hold for awhile as these other opportunities have come along. I still hope they'll resume those plans one day, though, as I thought they were just superb together. Actually, I wish Sarah would also record a CD of the standards that she sings so beautifully.

Both Michael Therriault and Sarah Cornell are two performers to keep an eye on. They're sure to go on to even greater success in the future!

3 comments:

ALVARO CERVANTES said...

Wow Pete that is such an interesting story! I think you have found a new calling....
Nice work on the caricatures as always!
Alvaor

Pete Emslie said...

One of the things I'd planned to do when I decided to create this blog was to use it to shine a spotlight on those who deserve some overdue acknowledgement for their abilities. As you know, Alvaro, artists are generally ignored here in Canada until they head down to the U.S. and make it big there first. Then, of course, they are welcomed back here with open arms and much ado is made in the media of their having been home-grown Canadian talents.

I have always felt that we should be doing more to promote our talented artists/performers while they are still here at home. Only in Quebec is there a longstanding history of nurturing and celebrating talent in the entertainment field. French Canada definitely has its own "star system" like that of the U.S., in which actors and musicians are considered major celebrities and their work supported by the masses. Of course, this is naturally due to the language difference, but still I find it highly commendable. Sadly, English Canada is not nearly so supportive of its home-grown talent, preferring instead to absorb all of the imported entertainment from the U.S. market, both good and bad. I wish that Canadian audiences would become more discerning in their tastes and be more open to experiencing the pleasures to be found among our own wealth of artistic talent. Though admittedly I will be posting a lot of caricatures on this blog of well-known Hollywood types, I am also periodically going to promote Canadian personalities whose work I admire, celebrating their talent through my own caricature tributes. Michael Therriault and Sarah Cornell are the first to be honoured in this way and I wish them both long and happy careers.

anim8ed said...

Great to see that shot of you and your favorite Ula and Bloom outside the stagedoor with your wonderful caricatures again! I'm glad to hear that everything is going so well for their careers!