A cult leader’s fu­neral in Yorkville

Village Post - - Currents - By Ron John­son

Dr. Sil­ver: A Cel­e­bra­tion of Life, which opens Sept. 13, is the lat­est im­mer­sive the­atre of­fer­ing from the city’s pre­mier pur­vey­ors of this artis­tic fare, Out­side the March, in a col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Mu­si­cal Stage Com­pany.

The pro­duc­tion was cre­ated by Toronto mu­si­cal the­atre dy­namos (and sis­ters) Anika John­son and Britta John­son, who re­sponded to Out­side the March’s call for sub­mis­sions with their wild tale of the fu­neral of a cult leader.

“It’s a pretty fun task to make our au­di­ence feel as though they are mem­bers of a cult,” says Britta John­son.

Im­mer­sive the­atre is one of the most pop­u­lar new trends to de­velop in stage works as a way to com­pete for at­ten­tion with all the stream­ing ser­vices and such keep­ing the pos­te­ri­ors of po­ten­tial pa­trons plunked on couches in the com­fort of their own homes.

But don’t worry, no­body will be asked to sac­ri­fice a vir­gin or drink anything be­yond pos­si­bly some Kool-Aid.…

“The con­ceit, the as­sump­tion is we are there to per­form a rit­ual and some­times the au­di­ence might sing along,” says Anika John­son. “They be­come the con­gre­ga­tion of the fu­neral. No­body has to im­prov or anything.”

In Dr. Sil­ver there is no di­a­logue and mu­sic is a con­stant.

“The mu­sic is very evoca­tive and puts you in the mood right away,” says Britta John­son. Much of the back­ground mu­sic is cour­tesy of the cult’s own choir, the Sil­ver Singers, made up of stu­dents from Toronto arts high school Wex­ford Col­le­giate, where Britta has been a guest artist for a num­ber of years.

“It’s a re­ally cool part­ner­ship to work with the kids,” she says. “The com­mute is a lit­tle rough (the school is lo­cated in Scar­bor­ough), but they’ve been do­ing an amaz­ing job.”

The cast prin­ci­pals in­clude Mu­si­cal Stage Com­pany col­lab­o­ra­tors Kira Gu­loien ( Grey Gar­dens) and Rielle Braid ( Life Af­ter), who are joined by Donna Garner, Peter Dei­wick and Broad­way vet­eran Bruce Dow.

Dr. Sil­ver is di­rected by Mitchell Cush­man of Out­side the March.

The John­son sib­lings, who wrote the book, mu­sic and lyrics for the pro­duc­tion, were born and raised in Strat­ford, Ont., home of the Strat­ford Fes­ti­val.

“Our par­ents were pit mu­si­cians at the fes­ti­val, so we kind of grew up in the­atre,” says Anika. “We would see mu­si­cals 14 times be­cause our par­ents were play­ing in them and didn’t know what else to do with us.”

With mu­si­cians as par­ents and grand­par­ents (and an­other sib­ling in opera), it is no sur­prise mu­si­cal the­atre was their call­ing.

“It is a huge part of our shared lan­guage and world, says Britta.

“It was kind of like be­ing raised in a mu­si­cal cult,” says Anika. “Not as se­ri­ous as this one, though.” Anosh Irani re­turns to the Fac­tory The­atre with this heart­warm­ing tale of life, love and cricket. Lots of cricket. From one of the coun­try’s most com­pelling minds.

‘Dr Sil­ver: A Cel­e­bra­tion of Life’ is the lat­est im­mer­sive the­atre pro­duc­tion from Out­side the March

Anosh Irani

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