NAUGHTY BUT NICE
Forte Musical Theatre Guild adds a few new songs to holiday favourite
Even if she wanted, Madeleine Suddaby simply doesn’t have the time or energy to be naughty. She’s spending all her waking hours learning songs and routines for Forte Musical Theatre’s fifth edition of its popular musical Naughty but Nice, this year dubbed The Big V. First-timers Suddaby and Tenaj Williams join Naughty/Nice veterans Scott Olynek and Justine Westby for what has become a holiday tradition.
Joe Slabe, Forte’s artistic director who masterminded this sometimes sentimental, sometimes cheeky, song cycle, says last year’s entry “broke all attendance records so we’re excited that people continue to enjoy the show year after year.” He promises this edition will feature many of past favourites as well as a few new songs he wrote for StoryBook Theatre’s Twas the Night Before Christmas.
To create Naughty but Nice five years ago, Slabe reached out to composer friends across Canada, the United States and England, asking them to write some new holiday tunes. Calgary’s own Dan Perrott wrote some instant favourites, including Brendan the Brown-Nosed Reindeer and The Best Christmas Movie Ever. Before she auditioned for Slabe and the show’s director, JP Thibodeau, Vancouver native Suddaby had never seen a production of Naughty but Nice.
“I’d certainly heard about it. People were always talking about Bailey’s for Breakfast as if it was a holiday anthem,” says Suddaby, who had worked for Slabe and Thibodeau in their 2017 Theatre Calgary revival of Touch Me: Songs for a (dis) Connected Age. That’s also where she met her Naughty/ Nice co-star Williams.
“This show has a five-year history. People who’ve been in it love it as much as audience members who keep coming back,” said Suddaby. “It’s exciting to be a part of this Calgary holiday tradition, but it’s also stressful because the rehearsal schedule is so short. There is so much material to learn and so many routines.”
Suddaby will be introducing Slabe’s new song I Hate Christmas to the Naughty/Nice cannon.
She had been performing in Vancouver for several years when, in 2011, she decided to move to Calgary. She was cast immediately in The University of Calgary Operetta Company’s production of Guys and Dolls. The following year, she
starred in StoryBook’s adult puppet show Avenue Q, winning a Calgary Theatre Critics Award for best actress in a musical. Since then, she “has been doing my best to build a non-stop career.”
In 2015, Suddaby was negotiating with companies in Calgary and Edmonton when her agent called and said she needed to fly to Toronto to audition for Kinky Boots. She received a year’s contract to become one of the production’s swing actors, which means she was an understudy for five of the female roles in the show.
“It meant sitting in the green room waiting for a call from the stage manager. It’s quite a thrill, because you never know when you will have to go on or for whom.”
Once she got a call at intermission to replace an actress. She thought the stage manager meant for the next day’s performance but he meant in 20 minutes, because the singer had experienced voice problems in the first act.
In the seven years since she made her move to Calgary, Suddaby has been working in theatres from Toronto to Vancouver but admits “there’s still more of the country left to explore. I’d really like to perform in the Maritimes and in Victoria.
“I’ve moved back to Vancouver to be with my boyfriend and nearer my parents, but I’ll fly anywhere, at any time, if the role is good.”
Naughty but Nice! The Big V runs at Lunchbox Theatre from Dec. 11 to 22.
“Because we are sharing the Lunchbox Theatre space with It’s A Wonderful Life: The Radio Play, it means we will be returning to the WBFR radio station to take over the airwaves as we did in 2016,” says Thibodeau, who has to alter his staging of the songs depending on what show Lunchbox Theatre is presenting over the holidays.