Arts & Entertainment
3 min

Luminato brings orgy of Broadway to Toronto

Annual fest to feature free, outdoor revue

My Fair Lady at the Shaw Festival. Credit: David Cooper
Outdoor event planners usually pray for good weather. Not Mitchell Marcus, though. The Luminato Festival’s associate producer isn’t worried about stormy skies during Broadway’s Night Out, the plein air musical-theatre revue he’s presenting next week.
 
“The show goes on rain or shine,” he laughs.  “Some of our best concerts have happened in the pouring rain. The audience ends up looking like a scene from Hair, bobbing along in the downpour.”
 
The 10-day festival brings top-calibre talent from around the world to Toronto’s galleries, theatres and public spaces. Alumni include the likes of Laurie Anderson, Joni Mitchell and Robert Lepage. Inspired by New York’s free annual Broadway on Broadway concert, Broadway’s Night Out will take place in the newly christened Pecaut Square (formerly Metro Square), next to Roy Thompson Hall.
 
“It’s a particularly resonant space because it was named after David Pecaut, one of the founders of Luminato,” Marcus says. A driving force behind organizations like Luminato and the Greater Toronto Civic Action Alliance, Pecaut, who died of cancer at the age of 54 in December 2009, will be remembered as one of the city’s great visionaries.
 
The event features a bevy of Toronto performers belting out tunes from current productions of Jesus Christ Superstar (Stratford) and My Fair Lady (Shaw Festival). But Marcus stresses it’s more than a chance to hear show tunes for free. 
 
“One of Luminato’s main principles is to create casual encounters with art for the public,” he says. “We want to take art beyond the walls of the gallery and the theatre.”
 
“Obviously, many people will come knowing the event is taking place,” he adds. “But we also want to capture passers on the street by transforming the space into something they had never envisioned. It’s both a showcase for art and an opportunity for community gathering.”
 
The event will be MC’ed by local favourites Sharron Matthews and Shawn Hitchens, Matthews lending her much-loved voice to the mix and Hitchens adding a participatory element with a public sing-along of iconic show tunes. Audiences may get to participate in cabaret sensation Meow Meow’s performance, albeit in an entirely different way. Known for her unique brand of “kamikaze cabaret,” blending show tunes and standards with unapologetic sexiness, the delicate Ms Meow is anything but predictable. 
 
“I got an email from her this morning asking about the height of the stage because she wants to know if she can crowd surf,” Marcus laughs. “She’s intent on breaking the fourth wall. We’re not entirely sure what she’s planning, but it definitely won’t be boring.” 
 
Filling the gaps between performances will be NYC-based VJ John Bantay. Well known for his Musical Monday events at Manhattan’s trendy Splash Bar, Bantay will play video clips of iconic moments in musical-theatre history between live acts. 
 
“I discovered the event in New York four years ago,” Marcus says. “He blends well-known things like Liza singing ‘Cabaret’ with obscure things, like a performance from the Tony Awards in the 1970s. The bar is packed with people singing along, and since there are a lot of current Broadway performers that come out, a lot of people know the choreography, too.”
 
Revellers can continue to enjoy the magic while knocking back a cocktail later that evening, when Bantay takes his schtick to Buddies for the official afterparty. 
 
Though it wasn’t a conscious programming decision to woo gay audiences, Marcus acknowledges the event will have a special appeal among homos. 
 
“Musicals have that unique mix of camp and drama, while breaking down expectations of gender,” he says. “You have men acting very masculine in one moment, then bursting into song and prancing around the next.” 
 
“I was doing musicals in my basement for my nanny when I was two,” he laughs. “I’ve always seen singing as an effective way to express oneself. I want to live in a world where there is always the possibility of spontaneously breaking into song.”

Broadway’s Night Out

Presented by the Luminato Festival
Monday, June 13, 8-11pm
David Pecaut Square (entrance off King St, just west of Roy Thomson Hall) 
55 John St, Toronto
Free

Broadway’s Night Out Official Afterparty

Part of Queer Pride 2011 at Buddies
Monday, June 13, 11pm-2am
Buddies in Bad Times Theatre
Tallulah’s Cabaret
Tickets $5, available in advance