As part of their 65th anniversary celebrations, Massey Theatre presented an innovative new-age gala to encourage diversity and collaboration in the community theatre arts.
Walking to the Massey Theatre, I realized I had no idea exactly what kind of event I was attending. The description on their promotional pieces and press releases included words like gala, celebration, diversity, and performances. I found my seat with only a vague idea of what kinds of performances waited behind the stage’s majestic red curtains.
The night proved to be a charming and enticing program: local artists of different cultural practices, ages, and walks of life were paired with one another in a challenge to perform whilst complimenting both of their abilities. It was like a cultural battle of the bands, except instead of battling against each other, they strived to create unforgettable works together.
This collaboration of the arts summarized the last 65 years of the Massey Theatre: “A catalyst for an expressive community and a stage where any dream is possible,” as stated in their vision statement. It’s a place where all sorts of different talents and artists have graced the stage to establish a community spirit that actively exists today.
Act One included dance, song, and rhythm, but there was much more unique depth than what those words could possibly encompass. The show kicked off with a collaboration between a young rising ballet dancer, Sebastian Pateman, and the artistic director of Lamondance, Davi Rodrigues. Their performance was called “Journeys in Dance — Miles Traveled,” a blend of traditional and contemporary dance.
The complexity of the performance increased as it progressed, beginning with a beautiful solo act by Pateman followed by a more intricate acrobatic and storytelling dance by Rodrigues and nine additional dancers.
Next on the program was “Miraculous Voices,” an enchanting taste of Broadway by Jolene Bernardino, a senior high school student active in the musical performing arts community, and pianist/vocal coach Kerry O’Donovan. This performance captured the different generations and levels of experience coming together to celebrate two powerful, animated voices. They sang a couple of duets, but my personal favourite was Bernardino’s solo version of “My Man” from Funny Girl, a song that accented her incredible vocal range and talent.
To finish off act one, Jesse Cahill and Amika Kushwaha swooped in and made jaws drop with a stunning rhythmic performance. Cahill, an accomplished jazz drummer, and Kushwaha, a master of kathak, one of India’s eight classical dance forms, came together in an energetic performance that created an impressive visual and musical combination of energy and expression.
Act two began with “States of Mind,” pairing tabla master and vocalist Cassius Khan with classical guitar master John Oliver. This collaboration was well-coordinated and unique, with traditional tunes played on the electric guitar. It was organic meets electronic, east meets west. The performance and the message that Khan sang was inspiring: “If there was no melody in notes, then there would be no humanity. We all sing together and live in peace.”
Next up was “Improv Everyone?,” introducing comedy improv for the first time on the Massey stage. This was the most unpredictable performance of the evening. The show was an unrehearsed collaboration between a young teenager and an older, more experienced improv performer, the latter of whom told us their mantra of improv is to “never judge what’s about to happen, just let it happen.”
Last but not least, the show ended with “Body, Mind, Spirit,” a zen-like group performance by Jodi Proznick, Celeste Snowber, the New Westminster Secondary School Choir, and director Kelly Proznick. It was a harmonious and spiritual collaboration between three great leaders of the New Westminster community, and represented the community connection that Massey Theatre strives to exhibit on their stage.