A Pinballapalooza Adventure | Jr. Guest Blogger Adam Leung

by Adam Leung

On May 16, my Grade 6 class from Runnymede Public School made the journey via subway to First Canadian Place in downtown Toronto to participate in Pinballapalooza. Pinballapalooza was an event organized by the Stratford Festival to promote this season’s production of Tommy. Since a big part of the play revolves around pinball, it made sense to use pinball, and Pinballapalooza, to promote Tommy.


When we arrived at First Canadian Place, it didn’t look like anything major was happening on the outside, but when you entered the building you could see that Pinballapalooza was there because of all of the signs advertising Tommy and the pinball machine sounds coming from the lobby. Once we were inside you couldn’t miss it as the pinball machines stuck out like a sore thumb in First Canadian Place. It was very intense and there were a hundred pinball machines being used at once. Everyone was paying so much attention to their pinball machines that you rarely ever heard people talking. All you could hear was the dinging of the pinball machines and clicking of the flippers. There were all kinds of pinball machines there with the themes from Lord of the Rings and Avengers to Metallica, Spider-man, AC/DC, The Simpsons and Avatar, to name just a few.

Just before they attempted (and succeeded in) the world record for the most people playing pinball at the same time, there was a preview concert where the main actors performed some of the songs from Tommy, such as “Pinball Wizard.” A lot of the kids in my class really like The Who, so they were very excited to go and listen to the songs – especially my friend Jack and my teacher, Mlle. Walker. Before the concert, they had even taken the time to install a few rock concert-style lights that flashed and spun while the musicians played.

Once it was time to go, everyone in my class was disappointed since we all wanted more time with the pinball machines. The event itself was really fun but I’m just glad that I wasn’t part of the setup crew that had to carry all those pinball machines in and out of First Canadian Place!

A special thanks to the Stratford Festival for inviting my class to Pinballapalooza and to my teacher, who organized the excursion and let my class go to Pinballapalooza!

12-year-old guest blogger and theatre enthusiast, Adam Leung, joined us for Pinballapolooza in Toronto with his Grade 6 class on May 16. Stay tuned for Adam’s reviews of Romeo and Juliet and Fiddler on the Roof.

Enjoy other blogs by Adam here.


Stratford Festival achieves a new GUlNNESS WORLD RECORDS™ goal at Pinballapalooza

May 17, 2013… The Stratford Festival is officially home of one of the newest GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS. One hundred “pinball wizards” took over First Canadian Place in Toronto yesterday to successfully log the greatest number of pinball machines being played simultaneously at a single venue.
At 12:40 p.m., participants synchronically launched their silver balls and played one complete game as hundreds of onlookers cheered from the sidelines. The record was made official by GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS adjudicator Philip Robertson.
An exciting event to celebrate the opening of the Festival’s much-anticipated rock musical, Tommy, Pinballapalooza also featured spectacular performances by Tommy cast members Robert MarkusPaul NolanGabriel Antonacci and Matthew Armet.
Tommy is the biggest musical we have ever mounted in Stratford,” says Executive Director Anita Gaffney, “and what better way to celebrate it than by throwing a larger-than-life pinball tournament that would impress even Tommy, the pinball wizard himself.
“It was very rewarding to see so many people come out in support of this event. Whether they came to play pinball, to catch a sneak peek at our sensational production or just to be a part of history, it was a fun opportunity to showcase our theatre to a wider audience.”
For those who could not attend, the Festival offers two other opportunities to practise your pinball moves: a Tommy-inspired pinball machine found at different locations in Stratford throughout the season and a virtual pinball game at tommypinball.com.
Based on The Who’s 1969 concept album of the same name, Tommy tells the story of a young man who, despite having lost the faculties of speech, sight and hearing, becomes a pinball virtuoso – and the centre of a celebrity cult. In a new production helmed by its original Tony Award-winning director, Des McAnuff (who co-wrote the show with The Who’s Pete Townshend), the explosive rock opera features such unforgettable hits as “Pinball Wizard,” “See Me, Feel Me,” “Acid Queen” and “We’re Not Gonna Take It.”
The production features Robert Markus as Tommy, Jewelle Blackman as the Gypsy, Kira Guloien as Mrs. Walker, Jeremy Kushnier as Captain Walker, Paul Nolan as Cousin Kevin and Steve Ross as Uncle Ernie.
Choreographer Wayne Cilento, Set Designer John Arnone, Costume DesignerDavid C. Woolard and Fight Director Steve Rankin, key members of the original creative team, have reunited for this production to join Musical Director and Supervisor Rick Fox, Lighting Designer Howell Binkley, Sound Designer Andrew Keister, and Projection Designer Sean Nieuwenhuis.
Tommy officially opens on May 30 and runs until October 19. For tickets, contact the box office at 1.800.567.1600 or visit http://www.stratfordfestival.ca.
Tommy is sponsored by Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation. Production support is generously provided by Richard Rooney & Laura Dinner and by the Ontario government.
Support for the 2013 season of the Avon Theatre is generously provided by the Birmingham Family.
Stratford Direct, the new daily return private bus service between Toronto and Stratford, began May 1. Departing once daily from May 1 to 25 and October 1 to 20 and twice daily from May 27 to September 29 (on performance days only), the round trip costs only $20.
Support for Stratford Direct is generously provided by The Peter Cundhill Foundation.
The Stratford Festival’s 2013 season runs until October 20, featuring Romeo and JulietFiddler on the RoofThe Three MusketeersThe Merchant of VeniceTommyBlithe SpiritOthelloMeasure for MeasureMary StuartWaiting for Godot and two new Canadian plays, Taking Shakespeare and The Thrill, along with more than 150 Forum events.
Welcome to Pinballapalooza – http://bit.ly/104rSAN 
What’s your pinball name? – http://bit.ly/12En2MA
Guinness World Record attempt – http://bit.ly/12EN7Lt
Game over? – http://bit.ly/1054eUP

Meet Tommy – Interview with Robert Markus

Meet your 2013 Tommy, Robert Markus! Robert sat down and chatted with us about becoming Tommy and about his role as Mendel in Fiddler on the Roof as he embarks on his debut season at the Festival! Enjoy learning a bit about our resident pinball wizard!

Robert Markus

Robert Markus

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Stratford Festival (SF): We’re so excited to welcome you to the Festival this season! You’ll be playing the title role in Tommy as well as appearing as Mendel in Fiddler on the Roof.  Has musical theatre always been a passion for you?

Robert Markus (RM): Actually, my introduction to theatre was by being involved in straight (non-musical) plays. I went to the University of Alberta for drama. We didn’t do much musical theatre. I think my love for theatre started with non-musical and then as my love of singing grew, I started to gravitate toward musical theatre.

SF: Tommy is undoubtedly a troubled character. How have you been preparing for the role?

RM: Research. I tried to do as much research as I could on The Who and Pete Townshend, trying to understand where they were coming from and what was surrounding them at the time they were writing it.

SF: There are so many iconic songs in both Tommy and Fiddler on the Roof – what’s your favourite song from each show?

RM: I love “Sunrise, Sunset” from Fiddler and “Pinball Wizard” and “Listening to You” from Tommy.

SF: What excites you most about our upcoming production of Tommy and what do you think will distinguish it from past iterations of the show?

RM: Hearing this fantastic cast sing this amazing music is incredibly exciting. This production is suped up – brand new theatre technology for a bright and shiny new production of Tommy.

SF:  Have you been practicing your hand at pinball lately?

RM: I’ve been trying to! I went to an amazing Pinball museum last December.

SF: Both Tommy and Fiddler boast amazing casts and artistic leadership – is there anyone in particular that you’re excited to be working with? 

RM: Two actually. Donna Feore and Des McAnuff.

The first production I saw at Stratford was Oklahoma!, which Donna directed in 2007. I was awestruck. It is probably one of my favourite productions that I have seen. It was magic. The storytelling in that production was crystal clear. It ignited a passion of wanting to pursue classic musical theatre.

Working with Des is a huge dream for me. I’m still kind of awestruck by him. I mean the man envisioned the stage show of Tommy. He knows the show better than anyone, besides Pete Townshend himself. It’s pretty cool.

Just for fun…

SF: One thing we’d always find in your refrigerator is…

RM: Ketchup.

SF: If you weren’t an actor, what would you be doing?

RM: Trying to pursue some kind of singing career.

SF: The most-played song on your iPod is…

“Down” by Summer Camp

Follow Robert on Twitter -> @robert_markus

Read Robert’s full stage bio here!

Don’t forget that you can see Robert and cast members from Tommy perform live at our Pinballapalooza in Toronto this week on May, 16 at First Canadian Place at 12:15 p.m. and 1:15 p.m. at the Waterfall Stage! The fun doesn’t end at the performances; we’ll be around all day with 100 pinball machines set up for free play, amazing prizes, an exclusive ticket deal along with a Guinness World Record attempt at 12:40 – best of all, the whole event is free! So come out to enjoy some great music and fun at our first ever Pinballapalooza!

For more information about Pinballapalooza, visit our website at www.stratfordfestival.ca/pinball!