Some people have show tunes in their blood. They’re quite comfortable in conversations about Oscar Hammerstein, Cole Porter and George and Ira Gershwin, and can make references the rest of us find eye-wateringly obscure. In the face of their enthusiasm we are dazed, lost and mildly annoyed.
Tone Cluster’s ninth annual show tune competition, Show Tune Showdown, is for those fanatics. Taking place at Centrepointe Theatre, a 966-seat venue, Show Tune Showdown is the queer choir’s largest event of the year. The event raises funds for Tone Cluster’s community appearances and regular season of concerts.
Three teams of four performers sing songs from Broadway or off-Broadway musicals for a panel of local celebrity judges. This year’s judges are choral conductor Laurence Ewashko, Ottawa Centre MP Paul Dewar and drag performer China Doll. Each team represents an Ottawa-based arts organization: the Orpheus Music Society, Suzart Productions and Vanity Project Productions. The winning team gets $500 for its organization.
Gianluca Ragazzini, one of the event organizers, says that with new teams, judges and songs each year, the event is always fresh. However, this year he’s most excited for the Showdown Rounds. The competition is divided into three rounds. At the end of each round there’s a showdown round, where the MC asks a skill-testing question about a particular song. “The team that can answer can also then perform the song,” Ragazzini says. “This part is completely unrehearsed and they get extra points for it.”
If none of the teams can answer the question, it’s opened up to the audience. “If somebody from the audience can answer the question, that audience member can go on stage and sing it and give the points to the team he or she prefers,” Ragazzini says. “That adds some uncertainty and excitement, and it’s great interaction with the audience.”
Audience participation is a high priority for Show Tune Showdown — one of the rounds is for audience members only, there are a couple of audience sing-alongs, and the audience members with the best Broadway-themed costumes will win prizes and get to geek out by showing off their costumes on stage.