Way Off Broadway, episode 1: Toto, I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore
Way Off Broadway, Episode 1
Here’s the premise of Bravo’s Way Off Broadway: 21 amateur actors, eight weeks of rehearsal, one final performance. The production: The Wizard of Oz. Many adults still harbour the childhood dream of seeing their name in lights, so director Sarina Condello leads a group of Toronto randoms to musical theatre micro-stardom. This isn’t an elimination-based competition, since participants are chosen prior to filming—after trust exercises, voice lessons and a whole lot of tears, Sarina will cast each of the 21 hopefuls. The aspiring Broadway performers include dentists, students and grandmothers who think they can sing, dance and act, or at least want to try (instantly relatable). First things first, let’s address what you’re all probably thinking: we’ve never heard of Sarina either. We don’t know if she has the Fosse factor, but she does have quite the resumé. In a church basement on the Danforth, Sarina—who reminds us of a post-therapy Dr. Erica Strange on a new career path—is directing (nay, transforming) these local hopefuls (most haven’t set foot on a stage in years, or, like, ever) for a finale episode one-night-only performance of one of the most storied musicals of all time. Can she do it? Does this ragtag group of amateurs have what it takes to be on Broadway? We follow their journey after the jump.
The first episode of WOB suggests that the show is designed to be tooth-achingly sweet and Oprah-level inspirational, so let’s give everyone a hand just for showing up. The cast selection process is no more than a series of screen tests (to determine TV worthiness, duh), but who will play which role in the big show won’t be determined until next week. That will happen after this week’s first meeting, referred to as an “unconventional audition.” It’s like the first day of ninth grade and first period just happens to be drama: surprise, you’re all actors now! Especially unfortunate are the icebreakers, the first of which Sarina introduces as “passing the clap; catch the clap.” (We’re not making this up.) Then everyone just sort of jumps around and attempts to get over the initial awkwardness of singing off-key in front of strangers.
Everyone seems to come with honourable intentions, but the claws come out when Sarina pits people against each other for lead roles. Case in point: the sing-off for the coveted role of Dorothy between the Rachel Berrys young gals of the group: fresh-faced 22-year-old architecture student Siobhán; 28-year-old Rebecca, still not over playing a tree in a grade school production of Snow White, with her best friend in the title role; and 28-year-old LeeAnne, who has a great voice but needs to know that the claim “I grew up singing in church” does not give you any cred. Some favourites eventually emerge from the talent pool: Sandra, a 47-year-old contracts manager, who reminds us of AbFab’s Jennifer Saunders and has that wicked-witch cackle on lock; Jodi, a 31-year-old daycare wrangler, who gives us her best Daria-esque monotone; and 54-year-old failed politician Bernie, who just wants to try something new and get your vote in the process.
Jon, 27, psychiatry resident. He’s always done what his parents wanted, following the yellow-brick road to med school while his other interests were perpetually “denigrated.” Now he’s following his own dreams.
Shuyuan, 65, retired. She’s cooler than Yoko Ono and looks like Madonna will 10 years from now. Plus, her attempt at “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” is inspiring to say the least. She’s a star at 65 (we should be so lucky).
Taz, 45, health administrator. Girlfriend shows up to her first rehearsal in a skirt. She’s irrationally insecure and self-deprecating, fishing for compliments by saying stuff like “I’m letting you down.” As annoying as she is, it’s all in her plan to capture the audience’s attention.
14 thoughts on “Way Off Broadway, episode 1: Toto, I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore”
Unbelievably cynical & mean-spirited article! The author wins the most negative & least imaginative award in my view!!
Sort of funny actually! Can hardly wait to see the writer’s impression of episode two.
no street cred? Give me a break… how about Whitney Houston, Carrie Underwood, Kristen Chenoweth or hello Ella Fitzgerald… all of these talented women got their starts at church… oh and ps. LeeAnne also has a vocal degree.
An attempt to be funny- not really working out for this author!
Somebodys jealous she didnt get to play catch the clap lol
wow.. good way to support a Canadian TV show. Come on….
Reminder that a bad review isn’t necessarily a bad thing for the show…it attracks attention…promots a “so what’s all the fuss about” lets go look see, creats viewers, potention audience for commercials therefore money…which is what it is all about for commercial tv.
I played along in front of my tv set and caught the clap! I’d say that was time well spent! This show is proving to be fun right from the get go! Break a leg Sarina et al! Well…not REALLY, but you know what I mean! ;)
This is the same old pretentious and predictable dribble that defines many Torontonian writers. Its easier to breakdown than to build up. Give youself a big pat on the back!
This is hilarious cuz my aunt is Taz and she isn’t actually
looking for attention she was just really embarassed so back off!! and it’s hilarious cuz it’s not true!
I guess there just wasn’t enough boring death and destruction content for the writer. He just didn’t get it. No child spirit left in there at all…….. Too bad
A question to the author: will you be reviewing each episode? I liked this article.
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