It’s times like this I wish I could add sound effects to my writing. Imagine, if you will, the sounds of rustling papers as the orchestra prepares… the woosh as the curtain opens… and the pop-bam! as the spotlight illuminates center stage. I don’t know about you, but just writing that got my heart racing as I imagined the opening notes to a favourite show tune filling the air. I love musicals. I love the simple storytelling of the early ones, the glitzy glamorous show-stopping numbers, and the more gritty realism we’ve seen in productions over the last two decades.
So, you can understand my excitement that Montreal has their very own Broadway vocal ensemble! The Lyric Theatre Singers (LTS) are celebrating 25 years in 2015 and are putting on a musical-theatre-extravaganza of a show with Back to Broadway. This is an original Broadway review with 48 performers backed by six musicians performing 37 songs from 21 shows. Where else will you hear music from Beauty and the Beast and Hairspray side by side with The Book of Mormon and The Producers?
I had the opportunity to speak with Chris Barillaro who, along with founder Bob Bachelor, acts as Musical Director to LTS. We discussed his fondness for musical theatre and the upcoming show.
If you pay attention, you might notice that he is involved in almost everything to do with singing and theatre in Montreal. Since last September I have seen him act in, sing, play piano, and/or musically direct a preview of Danny Boy (a musical he has written with Lisa Forget), Witches, Bitches and Glitches (one-woman show with Tara Bissett), and Forever Plaid. Plus, for the last three years he has been musical director with LTS- which requires not only knowing the music inside and out, but knowing your singers and bringing them the best music for their voices so that they can put on the best possible show.
This just in, Chris has confirmed that he doesn’t sleep. I had to know a) if he had any time for himself and b) what he likes to do in that free time. Here are some highlights of our conversation.
Stephanie Weiner (SW): When you’re not involved in a production, what do you like to do for yourself in those rare moments?
Chris Barillaro (CB): [laughs] I like to play video games, piano just for fun, recording, playing around with a synth. I do magic because I like it – but I don’t perform it.
SW: You work as both a performer (actor/singer) and musical director. You’ve said you love both equally. What would be your dream production to perform in? To musically direct?
CB: As an actor/performer, right now I would have to say Next to Normal. As a musical director, A Chorus Line. I love the orchestration and think it would be neat to direct. I can’t dance well enough though, so I could never be in it.
SW: What is the process like for you and Bob Bachelor to prepare a show like Back to Broadway?
CB: Our June shows are always Broadway themed. That is set. The choice is in the repertoire and factoring in who the choir are and their sound that year. Bob, he has so much music! What’s really great is that he knows a lot of neat older shows, and I bring some of the newer, edgier, off the beaten path ones, and together we combine the knowledge from our brains!
For me, the workload is busier in the earlier part of the year. I get the music taught to the choir, get them on board with the notes. Then, as they become more comfy with the music, they can focus more on choreography and I put together band arrangements. As the year goes on, it becomes less time with the choir and more with the band.
SW: What’s in store for the 25th Anniversary of the Lyric Theatre Singers?
CB: We have an event in the works for alumni coming this Fall.
If you are an alumnus of LTS, check out the website for details.
SW: If you could say one thing about Back to Broadway, what would it be?
CB: If they come to see our show, they’ve discover old songs in a new light. We’re doing some awesome arrangements with a lot of classics where it sounds like they were written last year. Come rediscover the classics!
I’m on it!
Get your tickets here.
Back to Broadway at DB Clarke Theatre Concordia University (1455, boul. de Maisonneuve) June 11-13th 8 p.m. June 13th 2 p.m. $34, $30 (students/seniors), $17 (children 12 and under). Non-perishable food item donations will be gratefully accepted for the NDG Food Depot