When Phillipe Escoya decided to bring back the old-school variety show to the Village, he didn’t know it would be so much work.
“Six singers, four band members . . . it’s just, I don’t want to say nightmare because I’m going to be positive, but it’s challenging,” he jokes. “But at the end, once the curtain falls, then it’s just, wow! That was so worth it.”
He’s getting ready to showcase Mused 2, a Dec 11 fundraising showcase at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre that will raise money for the 519 Community Centre. The show follows five women — and a bartender — as they investigate where they would be without love.
Escoya is the creator and producer of Mused, a biannual variety-show fundraiser. The project started when a few friends wanted to create a musical showcase and thought a charity fundraiser would be a good venue. “[We] wanted to sing more, to do more shows,” he says.
“I love those variety shows — like when Cher had hers. I wish that was back on the air,” he says. “Everything was so much fun about it. That’s what pushed me to try to include everybody.”
His vision took off: the first two Mused events raised more than $2,300 combined. Mused 1, held in December 2010, raised money for Sketch, a charity that empowers street-involved and at-risk youth by giving them access to art tools, space and education.
In April, after the devastating earthquake and tsunami hit Japan, Escoya’s team saw an opportunity: use the same format that had worked a few months before, whip something up and raise some cash for the Japanese Red Cross. “We put Mused 1.5 together in three weeks. That’s why it’s called 1.5 — it was half a production,” he says.
Sara Meinke (aka Miss Minx) joined the crew for Mused 1.5. “I don’t sing professionally, but the idea of being able to do what is so fun for me and is not work . . . and actually raise money for something that’s good is great,” she says. “We love doing it. We’re not getting paid. We just have a passion for music.”
Meinke will bring a country/rock edge to the show, but she doesn’t want to give too much away. “It kind of depends on the time of year, what mood I’m in,” she says.
Growing up in the small town of Mattawa, Ontario, Meinke taught herself to play music. “[There isn’t] much to do, so you pick up a guitar,” she says. “A couple of my friends played music, so I just sort of learned there.”
After moving to Toronto, Meinke took a break from music. “Everyone was so good here,” she says. “I kind of was intimidated and I didn’t really do it as much.” Mused gave Meinke a chance to share her passion again. “A couple of years ago I just started to pick it up again,” she says. “I’ve just been so lucky to hang out with these people that are so crazy talented . . . I sort of just soak it up.”
Now, Mused 2 is ready to bring the whole hog with a much more complex show. What was formerly strictly a cabaret-style show will, this time around, include some intriguing narrative. “We linked each number with a story,” says Escoya. “Our only male cast member plays the role of a — quote unquote ‘straight’ — bartender. And I don’t want to say too much, but there’s going to be some secret revelations happening by the end.”
For Escoya, the best part about his cabaret is its capacity to bring people together. “It just includes a little bit of everything — there’s going to be something for everyone.” He promises that the audience will be made up of people with a variety of sexual identities, including “people who didn’t even know there was a Village and came down for the show and were like, ‘Wow, this is fantastic!’
“It’s great to see that people came together from their own little . . . bubble,” he says. “They just all meshed together.”
Sun, Dec 11, 7:30pm
Buddies in Bad Times Theatre
12 Alexander St