Arts & Entertainment
2 min

Ottawa’s fifth annual Show Tune Showdown

Put down the knitting, the book and the broom - it's showtime!

STAGE FIGHT. Zucchini Grotto Theatre Company (from left: Kodi Cannon, Sarah Strange, Nicole Milne and Shaun Toohey) competes at the 2009 Show Tune Showdown. They're back again this March. Credit: Courtesy of Frances Beatty Photography

Roll out the red carpet, dust off the tuxedos and start humming those old favourites — Ottawa’s musical theatre aficionados and enthusiasts alike are preparing for the fifth annual Show Tune Showdown.

Expect singing and dancing. But also expect the unexpected, since the Showdown’s organizers usually have a trick or two up their sleeves.

The event started in 2005 when Rob Bowman, a member of Tone Cluster, a local queer choir, came up with a fundraising idea that would appeal to a wider audience while also raising money for the group.

“A concept that would combine theatricality and music — an interesting concept that could also draw in arts groups from not only Ottawa but other parts of Ontario as well, to really make it a special event,” say Bowman.

This year’s Showdown comes in the wake of the hit musical TV show Glee, which has claimed a loyal fan base, especially among young queers. The success of a number of Broadway shows on film over the last decade — Chicago, Rent, Mamma Mia, The Producers — has also helped reinvigorate the genre.

At Show Tune Showdown, teams perform for a panel of judges, who not only know the songs, but can sing too. There’s a role for the audience, as well, and most folks end the evening singing a happy tune.

This year the judges’ panel includes three people who have, in different ways, dedicated their lives to performance: Pierre Brault, an actor, playwright and comedian who has been contributing to the Ottawa theatre scene for many years; Kathleen Petty, the voice of CBC Radio’s Ottawa Morning  (herself a showtunes enthusiast who can name songs at the drop of a note); and Erica Peck, the star of the Canon Theatre’s remake of the London hit “We Will Rock You.”

Peck is a judge with the inside knowledge of what it takes to be a performer and the desire to see old songs performed in a way that she finds refreshing and exciting.

“I love creativity, I love seeing a whole bunch of performers have the freedom to do whatever they want, to do something different with a song that maybe we have heard a number of times,” says Peck.

This showdown will also mark the Zucchini Grotto Theatre Company’s fourth year competing.

“The preparation isn’t so much learning the songs as it is the presentation of the piece; we want to make sure that we do a really stand-out job of entertaining the audience,” says Zucchini Grotto’s Nicole Milne.

“You really want to gear your selection towards something that is outstanding but also entertaining.”

Over the years, support for the Show Tune Showdown has been growing, not only within the gay community but from all Ottawa music and theatre enthusiasts.

The fifth annual Show Tune Showdown features the Zucchini Grotto Theatre Company, Orpheus Musical Theatre Company and Sheridan College’s Musical Theatre Program. Catch the show at the Ottawa Little Theatre, 400 King Edward on Mar 13, 8pm. Tickets $22 in advance and $25 door.