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

___________________________________      ___________________________________

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!

Advertisements

Electrifying rock musical Tommy starts previews Original Tony Award-winning director Des McAnuff returns

May 3, 2013… Twenty years after its Broadway première, Tommy returns to the stage in a new production helmed by its co-creator and original director, Des McAnuff. The spectacular musical that swept the Tony Awards in 1993 starts previews on Saturday, May 4, at the Avon Theatre.
 
The third rock musical produced by the Festival in recent years, Tommy will be the biggest musical ever staged at Stratford. A technical marvel, the show will feature massive LED screens and extraordinary automated set pieces that light up, explode, spin and tilt.
 
“Working on a show like Tommy is a revelation of just how far we have come in such a short time in this digital age,” says Mr. McAnuff, who was invested into the Order of Canada earlier today. “We are able to do things visually and in sound that we could never have dreamed of before. We have done our very best to rethink the visual storytelling while at the same time being careful to maintain the integrity of the story we all believe in so passionately.”
 
Created by The Who’s Pete Townshend and Mr. McAnuff, this is the story of a young man who loses his sight, hearing and speech upon witnessing a traumatic act of violence as a child. When he reveals an uncanny talent for the game of pinball, however, he finds himself at the centre of a celebrity cult.
 
“Tommy is, for my generation, one of the most powerful, iconic characters and he has had a profound influence on pop culture,” says Mr. McAnuff.
 
One look at his incredible track record and the same could be said of Mr. McAnuff himself. He is widely regarded as the top director of rock musicals. His production of Jersey Boys, for instance, is a global phenomenon. As the Festival’s Artistic Director from 2008 to 2012, he has thrilled Stratford audiences with his previous productions, including 2011’s enormous hit Jesus Christ Superstar, which moved on to successful runs in La Jolla, California, and on Broadway.
 
“Audiences have been eagerly awaiting Des’s next production, and I could not be more delighted to have him back at the Festival to bring his beloved Tommy back to life,” says Artistic Director Antoni Cimolino. “This is not just another directing job; this is a labour of love.
 
“In a season that balances a rich variety of dramatic works, Tommy is going to be not only a complementary experience but also a major theatrical event. Des at the helm, along with an incredibly talented cast and artistic team, makes for a magical combination – one that will surely make this show one of the season’s biggest hits and a truly unforgettable trip to the theatre.”
 
With music and lyrics by Pete Townshend, additional music and lyrics by John Entwistle and Keith Moon, and book by Pete Townshend and Des McAnuff, the ground-breaking musical was originally produced on Broadway by Pace Theatrical Group and Dodger Productions with Kardana Productions. Based on The Who’s 1969 concept album Tommy, the production features such unforgettable hits as “Pinball Wizard,” “See Me, Feel Me,” “Acid Queen” and “We’re Not Gonna Take It.”
 
The title role will be played by Robert Markus alongside 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.
 
Stratford’s production reunites key members of the original Tony-Award winning team including Choreographer Wayne Cilento and Set Designer John Arnone, along with Tony Award-nominated Costume Designer David C. Woolard. Joining them are Musical Director and Supervisor Rick Fox, Lighting Designer Howell Binkley, Sound Designer Andrew Keister, Projection Designer Sean Nieuwenhuis and Fight Director Steve Rankin.
 
Tommy Forum Highlights
 
The Forum, the new festival within the Festival, is a series of activities and events designed to make a visit to Stratford an immersive, all-encompassing cultural experience. Through debates, talks, concerts, comedy nights, hands-on workshops and more, The Forum will offer theatregoers more ways to discover and examine the themes running through this season’s productions.
 
Tommy will be explored through several Forum events, including: Tommy Guitar School, in which guests are invited to bring their electric guitars and learn riffs from the rock-n’-roll score; Disability, Disillusion and Self-Discovery, an address byStephen Lewis, Board Chair of the Stephen Lewis Foundation; and The Insight of Blindness, in which Alex Bulmer, a Canadian-born writer and theatre artist, shares her experience creating disabled-led art after losing her sight.
 
Support for the inaugural season of The Forum is generously provided by Kelly and Michael Meighen and the Province of Ontario, in partnership with the University of Waterloo, with media sponsorship provided by The Walrus. Support for the Speakers Series is generously provided in memory of Dr. Philip Hayman.
 
Tommy officially opens on May 30 and runs until October 19. For tickets, contact the box office at 1.800.567.1600 or visit 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 Cundill 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.
 
Cast (in alphabetical order)
Local Lad……………………………………            Matt Alfano
Pinball Lad #1……………………………….            Gabriel Antonacci
Pinball Lad #2……………………………….            Matthew Armet
Ten-year-old Tommy………………………..            Conor Bergauer
The Gypsy…………………………………..             Jewelle Blackman
Specialist…………………………………….            Matthew G. Brown
Ten-year-old Tommy………………………..            Joshua Buchwald
Local Lad……………………………………            Stephen Cota
Four-year-old Tommy……………………….            Arden Couturier
Four-year-old Tommy……………………….            Adrienne Enns
Mrs. Walker…………………………………            Kira Guloien
Harmonica Player/Lover…………………….            Sean Alexander Hauk
Minister………………………………………            Larry Herbert
Specialist’s Assistant………………………..            Keely Hutton
Mrs. Simpson………………………………..            Robin Hutton
Swing………………………………………..            Galen Johnson
Kevin’s Mother………………………………            Julia Juhas
Captain Walker………………………………            Jeremy Kushnier
Swing………………………………………..            Krista Leis
Minister’s Wife………………………………            Monique Lund
Tommy………………………………………            Robert Markus           
Local Lad……………………………………            Nicholas Nesbitt
Cousin Kevin…………………………………           Paul Nolan
Local Lass…………………………………….           Laurin Padolina
Local Lass……………………………………           Katrina Reynolds
Sally Simpson……………………………….            Jennifer Rider-Shaw
Uncle Ernie………………………………….            Steve Ross
Local Lad……………………………………            Julius Sermonia
Hawker/Judge……………………………….            Lee Siegel
Understudy…………………………………..           Jennifer Stewart
           
Artistic Credits
Director………………………………………           Des McAnuff
Choreographer……………………………….           Wayne Cilento
Musical Direction and Supervision………….            Rick Fox
Set Designer…………………………………            John Arnone
Costume Designer……………………………            David C. Woolard
Lighting Designer……………………………            Howell Binkley
Sound Designer………………………………           Andrew Keister
Projection Designer………………………….            Sean Nieuwenhuis
Creative Consultant………………………….           Lisa Portes
Musical Staging Consultant…………………            Tracey Langran Corea
Fight Director……………………………….            Steve Rankin
Dramaturge………………………………….            Chad Sylvian
Associate Musical Director…………………             Marek Norman
Associate Conductor………………………..            Laura Burton
Producer…………………………………….             David Auster
Casting Director…………………………….             Beth Russell
Creative Planning Director………………….            Jason Miller
Assistant Director……………………………            Lee Wilson
Assistant Choreographer…………………….            Julius Sermonia
Assistant Set Designer………………………            Devon Bhim
Assistant Costume Designer………………..             Jenna McCutchen
Assistant Lighting Designers………………..            Kaileigh Krysztofiak, Jareth Li
Assistant Sound Designer……………………            Michael Bogden
Assistant Projection Designer……………….            T. Erin Gruber
Choreography Assistant……………………..            Laurin Padolina
Dance Captains………………………………           Krista Leis, Julius Sermonia
Fight Captain…………………………………           Julius Sermonia
Stage Manager……………………………….           Brian Scott
Assistant Stage Managers……………………           Meghan Callan, Melissa Rood
Production Assistant…………………………           Katie Honek
Production Stage Manager…………………..           Julie Miles
Technical Director……………………………            Elissa Horscroft
 
-30-
PHOTOGRAPHY:
Promotional photos for Tommy:
 
Headshots: