Back in 2007, now groundbreaking producer Mitchell Marcus was looking to put on a one-night fundraiser of Toronto’s musical-theatre stars singing pop music. Music director Reza Jacobs had a dream of arranging an evening of Beatles music and UnCovered was born.
Since then, it has grown from a fundraiser to a full scale, annual production event for Toronto’s much lauded Musical Stage Company.
“We discovered the magic of UnCovered is witnessing the impact a great storyteller can have on songs that we think we know,” explains Marcus. “So often we ignore lyric for the sake of rhythm and melody. Theatre is all about text. So we build musical arrangements that clarify and reveal the story within the lyrics, making you rediscover songs you think you know.”
The mission of the UnCovered performances is to demonstrate the power of telling great stories through music. Pairing the very best performers with these incredible songs is what they promise to their audiences. This year, UnCovered is venturing outside of its Toronto home to perform at the Living Arts Centre on Nov. 16 at 8 p.m.
“We were so honoured to be asked to come to the Living Arts Centre after Don Shipley attended our show last year,” adds Marcus. “We know that UnCovered will work its charms on audiences in Mississauga this year.”
This year, the UnCovered show is featuring the work of Carole King and Joni Mitchell. With much of pop music history dominated by male voices, it’s fitting to pay tribute to women who were able to be heard, and heard well.
“Joni Mitchell and Carole King are geniuses,” says Marcus. “Their music is so powerful and – in the spirit of putting the story of the song at the centre – tell such clear, emotionally-resonant stories in their work.”
This is also the first year where they are featuring a fully female performance ensemble. The turn of events was more accidental than by design. As Marcus and Jacobs sat down to imagine which singers could do justice to these songs the list pf performers was overwhelmingly female. They decided to embrace it and assemble a powerhouse group of women.
“Each number that we have rehearsed so far is so utterly incredible that it’s impossible to choose a favourite,” says Marcus. “Gemini and Dora Award winner Jackie Richardson always brings the house down. Juno-winner Jully Black singing Natural Woman is going to be a powerhouse performance.”
The show also features Ma-Anne Dionisio taking on Mitchell’s heartbreaking, River. Stratford’s Sara Farb and Hailey Gillis from Soulpepper reinvent So Far Away. Perennial UnCovered favourite, Kelly Holiff will try to elicit dancing in the aisles with Raised On Robbery. Aimee Bessada straps on her electric guitar for Don’t Bring Me Down while Michelle Bouey accompanies herself on cello for Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow.
“I describe Uncovered as Christmas coming early,” says performer Hollif, fresh from a turn as Ursula in Disney’s The Little Mermaid. “It’s almost like each song is a whole show with a new story that maybe you never thought of before.”
The cast of singers is rounded out by two modern legends of the Toronto stage. Three-time Dora Award winner Maev Beaty and Gemini winner and screen veteran Linda Kash will embody the roles of Joni Mitchell and Carole King respectively.
“I think that the sheer power of seeing this remarkable group of artists onstage together is going to make this year’s edition especially unique,” says Marcus. “I wouldn’t miss any of it if I were you.”
UnCovered: Joni Mitchell and Carole King runs at the Living Area Centre on Nov. 16 at 8 p.m. Tickets are available online here
Photo: Jackie Richardson singing at a recent UnCovered performance.