August 20, 2009

Five Unsung Heroes of Jersey Boys Toronto

August 20th, 2009

JB Toronto Unsung Heroes
Five “unsung heroes” gather before a show last week. From left, Cindy Toushan, Elizabeth Baird, Michael Lomenda, Élodie Gillett and Grant Tilly. (Photo Credit: Vince Talotta/Toronto Star)

In honor of Toronto JERSEY BOYS’ first anniversary, Toronto Star’s Richard Ouzounian revisited the show last with and saw it with a sold-out, cheering crowd, only proving that the Four Seasons song-fest he called “the most entertaining show in Toronto” when it opened last August remains the champion of the city’s musical sweepstakes.

In his feature today, Ouzounian is spotlighting the “unsung heroes” of JERSEY BOYS, the men and women who see to it that a show this successful stays that way. Below is a sneak peek to this marvelous feature on the five members of the JB team.

Cindy Toushan: Her official title is production stage manager, but anyone who knows their way around musicals would simply call this Stratford Festival veteran “the boss.”

On a day-to-day basis, she’s the person who keeps the show running smoothly, seeing to it that all the lighting, scenery, props, costumes and even actors are in the right place at the right time.

Mike Lomenda: The strong, silent Lomenda has the unenviable task of playing Nick Massi, the least charismatic of The Four Seasons.

“Nick doesn’t say very much, but that’s who he was,” insists Lomenda. “I’ve only got 10 lines in the first act, but you just have to believe that the story will tell itself.

“You have to trust that even if you’re not the focus of the scene, you’re still very important to the overall saga. I never forget that I’m part of the group.”

Grant Tilly: Whether you see Grant Tilly in Jersey Boys depends strictly on what night you go.

He’s what they call a “swing,” which means he’s not on stage normally unless someone in the regular cast doesn’t show up. He’s responsible for six roles: two of the four leads (Tommy and Bob), plus four ensemble spots with multiple characters.

“They told me to concentrate on one character first, so I spent six weeks getting Tommy under my belt, because so much depends on him,” recalls Tilly. “Then I dove right into Bob Gaudio and finally, by May, I felt I had all six roles under my belt.”

Elizabeth Baird: The woman who keeps that non-stop torrent of feel-good music pouring out into the audience is a bouncy, energetic person who leads her group from two separate rooms in the basement of the theatre. Add to that the fact that a live drum kit is frequently onstage and you have a possible recipe for disaster.

But not with a musical director like Baird.

“That’s the beauty of live theatre. I have to be in the moment and I can’t take anything for granted, because things change in milliseconds.

“I love what I do. I’m passionate about it and I always give out a lot of energy because I want the cast to be inspired.”

Élodie Gillett: When you’re watching Jersey Boys, it seems there are dozens of women in the cast – short, tall, young, old, brassy, innocent, naughty, nice – but when the curtain call finally comes, there are only three of them.

One of the three is Élodie Gillett, who pauses for breath, thinks for a second and then says, “I wear 10 wigs and 17 costumes in the show. Sometimes it’s hard to keep track of who I am next.”

“I’d say that 90 per cent of the time, when I make an exit, I’m running to make my next entrance. My quickest change is 17 seconds and that’s for wig, dress, shoes, earrings and necklace. Try it sometime!”

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