What: The Merridale Showdown: Broadway Edition
Where: Victoria Event Centre, 1415 Broad St.
When: Sunday, March 15, 8 p.m.; doors/bar 7:30 p .m.
Tickets: $10, at the door
Musical theatre hasn’t just become increasingly popular in this town over the past few years, it’s something local fans just can’t seem to get enough of.
With Langham Court Theatre’s acclaimed production of the Rupert Holmes musical The Mystery of Edwin Drood continuing until March 21, Gotta Getta Gimmick’s sold-out March 9 cabaret celebrating Charles Strouse now in our rear view mirror and Victoria Opera Society’s production of Les Miserables and Blue Bridge Repertory Theatre’s Pal Joey on the horizon, there is no shortage of choices for fans of show tunes.
“High school musicals even get listings in the newspapers here,” says Kirsten van Ritzen, the Victoria-based actor, comedian (Sin City) and playwright who admits: “I’m also a huge fan of musicals.”
Still, our appetite for Broadway is apparently insatiable. It explains why she decided it was time for the Merridale Showdown, held the third Sunday of each month at Victoria Event Centre, to tip its hat to Broadway.
Van Ritzen hosts and recently began producing the popular event that gives seven performers up to seven minutes in the spotlight to compete to become the audience favourite. The winner collects a $100 cash prize, and gets to return in the season finale to compete against winners of the other monthly events showcasing different genres such as dance, spoken word or standup comedy.
Merridale Showdown challengers have also performed in a special Valentine’s Day “love edition,” and next month’s showdown (April 19) will celebrate funny women.
“Some themes haven’t been done before, and Broadway is one of them,” says Van Ritzen, a musical comedy diva herself who at one of Gotta Getta Gimmick’s musical theatre cabarets at the Belfry Theatre last year sang Ten Cents a Dance, the Rodgers and Hart tune written for the 1930 musical Simple Simon.
“I’m also going to do a puppetry edition soon,” she says. “A lot of people are into puppetry, and I’m lucky enough to know a few wonderful ones. But it will be adult-oriented.”
Half the fun for the audience, she says, is watching performers try not to go over their allotted time. If they do, they’re disqualified.
A video screen with a seven-minute countdown clock keeps track as part of the show’s format.
“It adds an element of pressure and excitement before the audience votes,” she said. “Obviously for musical theatre, though, they should know in advance how long their numbers are.”
Sunday night’s show will feature some familiar faces, including Victoria Operatic Society performers and Canadian College of Performing Arts students and grads.
The singing and dancing performers who will aim to beat the clock while maintaining a crowd-pleasing level of showmanship include Ian Crowe, Amy Culliford, Madeleine Humeny, Alex Judd, Greg Liow, Alexandra Willet and Alicia O’Brien.
Gotta Getta Gimmick co-founders and performers Brad L’Ecuyer and Sarah Carle will also be featured during a special appearance, and Jim Hill, the prolific musical director and pianist whose talents have been showcased at the Stratford and Shaw festivals before he became director of music at CCPA will provide accompaniment.
“There’s no rehearsal, and Jim is good at sight-reading and embellishing,” Van Ritzen says. “It makes all the difference.”