Monday, December 11, 2017

Meet Me in St. Louis director helps cast build character

December 2, 2015 by Adam Marsh, contributing writer

For Chris Moss, director of Meet Me in St. Louis, rehearsal stands for “re-hear.” It is only after he and the cast re-hear the music and words a number of times, he says, that his cast members can truly “own their character.” The countless hours of collaboration and preparation for a large-scale show like this one is something that Moss loves.

“It’s a lot of dealing with people,” he says. “Which, in theatre, I enjoy. This show is a boy-meets-girl kind of show. It’s a really fun, family show. It’s not going to break any records anywhere, but it’s one you can come away from smiling. It’s safe.”

Moss is directing 23 actors and actresses, most of whom are still in high school. Working with such a large group of people and watching them develop, Moss says, is one of the most rewarding factors of directing.

Meet Me In St. Louis features local 15-year-old Angelina Robinson as female lead Esther Smith (photo provided).

Meet Me In St. Louis features local 15-year-old Angelina Robinson as female lead Esther Smith (photo provided).

“Gradually, over the period of the whole rehearsal period, you go from telling them, ‘That was terrible’ to, ‘That was wonderful.’ And their confidence builds every time they have a rehearsal. And they can feel it. They own the roles, and they start saying to each other, ‘Let’s go over that part that we did yesterday and get it right this time.’”

Moss says that when the writers adapted the movie for the stage (Meet Me in St. Louis was originally a 1944 film starring Judy Garland, then adapted to the stage in 1989), they evened out all the parts, so that each cast member had “enough to build their character around,” which, according to Moss, has created “a much more balanced show than it is in the movie.”

“The only thing we don’t have is small cats and dogs in it,” says Moss with a chuckle. “Other than that, it’s loveable.”

Moss says that if he, as a director, can be responsible for 50 percent of what happens on stage, leaving the other half to the creativity of the actors and actresses, then he can trust the process.

“Some actors are used to being told exactly what to do on day one. You stand there, you turn in this direction, you raise your eyebrows, and then you say your line, and that’s not the way I direct. I explore the character.”

15-year-old Angelina Robertson is playing female lead Esther Smith, who was portrayed by Judy Garland in the film version. Robertson’s love of theatre and performing arts goes back to Grade 3, she says, when her elementary school drama teacher introduced her to it.

“Since then, I’ve always loved theatre,” she says.

Robertson says she was attracted to the storyline and the role of Smith right from the beginning of the audition process. She is tackling a big endeavour at a young age, but loves being up on stage.

“There’s a bit of pressure in having a part like this and having had such a world-known person play that part,” she says, adding that Moss is a great person to work with and has amazing pointers. “I think it shouldn’t be too bad, but there is always pressure trying to get it to be as good as you want it to be, especially when someone as good as Judy Garland has played the role.”

Moss says that he loves comedies because he gets to laugh a lot during rehearsals, but adds that after all the laughs is the satisfaction of a job well done.

“It’s a satisfying experience when you put that much effort into something,” he says. “You want to come out of it saying that everyone’s been having a good time here and we’ve come up with a product that the audience will like.”

Meet Me in St. Louis
December 4 to December 13
$21.75-$49.50, MacPherson Playhouse

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