‘La Vie Boheme’ of the musical theatre ensemble

Desautels faculty of music students gear up for showcase at the Gas Station

The musical theatre ensemble is one of many ensembles tucked away in the practice rooms of the Taché Arts Project. 

The course is open to auditions from any student who wants to learn to sing, dance and act under the guidance of director Donna Fletcher. 

Under that same guidance, this batch of musical theatre ensemble students will be released from their practice room to perform their yearly cabaret showcase of various scenes from different musicals, written and composed by the ensemble students themselves at the Gas Station Arts Centre on March 9 and 10, called La Vie Bohème. 

The showcase is a curation of scenes from the musicals Anne of Green Gables, Hamilton, Little Shop of Horrors, Little Women, Phantom of the Opera, Rent, Something Rotten and The Sound of Music

Between rehearsals, tight schedules and feverish excitement, students preparing for the Saturday performance are working hard to balance their courses and their passion for the ensemble. 

Second-year voice major and ensemble member Lizzie Rochon said that her favourite part about it is the hard but rewarding and fun work that comes with musical theatre, like singing, dancing and acting. 

“It’s challenging and so specific,” she said, praising the program’s director as well.

“[Fletcher is] a really, really good acting coach. The intention she brings and the ideas she has, advice she gives, is so specific and so helpful.”

Rochon says that the ensemble is a very practical class for musical theatre students, as it gives them a glimpse into the professional theatre world.      

Isabelle Buisson, first-year ensemble member, cites the music program as a whole for providing more performance opportunities, “even just seeing performances. It’s just like constant music.”

Fletcher has brought in multiple professional artists to help build the showcase — one dance number is choreographed by Samantha Hutchings, a musical theatre instructor at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, and another by Shauldon Santos, who performed at the Bahay Kubo Sessions in January. 

Meanwhile, the musical direction is curated by Rachel Cameron, who has been music director for Rainbow Stage and Dry Cold Productions. 

Buisson describes many scenes of the showcase as connected by a theme of lightheartedness. 

Alongside the opportunity to work with professional artists provided by the class, Rochon and Buisson both emphasize the work Fletcher puts into the showcase as director — from cultivating costumes and collecting props to coaching, Fletcher is at the core of this production.

“I feel like I just learn so much from her,” Rochon said.

The ensemble, brimming with opportunity, is also accessible to all kinds of students. 

Ranging from engineering to science and more — students’ faculty of origin doesn’t bar them from becoming an ensemble member. When the spotlight hits, everyone is a performer regardless of their faculty. 

Buisson joined the musical ensemble after transferring from the faculty of arts. Despite never having the chance to do musical theatre before university, they found a sense of togetherness in the ensemble. 

Buisson told the Manitoban “the collaboration with all the other students is really fun […] Someone has one idea, and then another person has another idea until the scene turns into something even greater than you could have imagined.” 

Rochon recalls being warned of loneliness before beginning at the University of Manitoba. She was recommended to get involved with clubs but finds that “you kind of don’t have to in music ‘cause it’s built in.”

Getting to be a part of the ensemble and participating in her first showcase is, Buisson feels, like “a childhood dream coming true.”

The showcase isn’t just for light-hearted musical theatre seekers. “It has something for everyone,” Rochon said, regarding selling the idea of attending the showcase to students outside the faculty. 

The showcase features a variety of different musical theatre styles and scenes. “It’s got Phantom of the Opera for kind of your classic musical theatre, it’s got Little Shop of Horrors, it’s got […] The Sound of Music. It’s got a whole bunch of different ones.” 

Buisson said she hopes the audience will “feel the sense of community that is in the ensemble” while watching the performance. 

The showcase runs March 9 at 7 p.m. and March 10 at 2 p.m. at the Gas Station Arts Centre. Tickets are $12 for students and $20 for general members of the public. For more details, visit  https://eventscalendar.umanitoba.ca/site/music/