Musicals are popping up more and more in Montreal’s theatre scene, especially ones that deal with male sexuality and identity. Persephone Productions had Spring Awakening. Beautiful City Theatre is brining The Full Monty to the Centaur. First time playwright, Trevor Barrette offers up To Be: In Concert to the list.
“It’s a story about acceptance, about a young man discovering his sexuality and trying to understand his past, who he is, where he comes from, and trying to understand his story,” says Barrette.
The story follows Adam, a young man who can’t seem to make things work with his girlfriend. “He’s in a real rough place,” says Barrette. Luckily for Adam, his gay cousin Benny seems to know just what to do. “Benny brings him to a gay club. There, Adam meets Sebastien and things start clicking. Adam decides to go for it and commit to the relationship and see what happens.”
Adam, however, pursues this relationship in secret and must figure out what he’s doing and who he’s meant to be. To add to the problem, Adam’s recently deceased father has a few words to say on the matter. Think Hamlet. Think Shakespeare.
Barrette’s role as both writer and director of the show allows him to rethink the play. “What I love about it is that I like to think I’m pretty open as a director and playwright. I’m open to ideas and discussion, to running scenes with the actors and coming up with new stuff,” he says. “It’s a way of being reintroduced to the characters. It’s like thinking you know somebody for five years and something new comes up and you realize that this is exactly who the characters are. It’s been great working with this cast who really enjoys the play and understands and respects the characters. When they bring them to life, I get to meet them again.”
For a musical, though, music is key. Barrette wrote the lyrics and basic melodies, but ultimately, the music is a collaboration between Barrette, Stephan Bradshaw, and Gabriel Frank. “Together, we were able to develop the score,” says Barrette. “The musical director Chris Barillaro came in and added his touch by creating a new arrangement of the score.”
Barette is happy with the results of the collaboration. “I felt like the musical had three different composers, but now it has a unified sound. We developed a sound for it to be.”
Barrette has been involved in a number of productions with his theatre company, Kaleidoscope Theatre, including the Antigone, the Tempest, and most recently, None of the Above. However, this is the first time he’s putting his own work on the stage.
“It definitely has a different feeling,” he says. “I’m wearing the producing hat as well. So I am trying to take a step back as well as look at it as a personal project where all the impulse and love comes from.”
For Kaleidoscope, the production is part of the natural evolution of the company’s work. Says Barrette, “It feels like the shows we’ve been doing –- a team effort. An actor can come up to me and discuss the play in term of writing and we’ve been developing it together.” In other ways, it is a step forward. “It’s a collaboration and this is the biggest piece we’ve worked on with 14 of us.”
Also, the show is only partially staged. Part of it is done as a concert. “There’s more staging than we anticipated and there is some dancing and full performance level pieces,” says Barrette. “But it is a hybrid. A lot happens behind music stands.”
To Be: In Concert plays at the Mainline Theatre (3997 St. Laurent) January 23-26. 8 p.m. $18/15.