Developing Music Theatre Artists

Written by Rick Young



Musical Theatre on the Thames is a new summer training program for aspiring performers aged 18 to 30 years old. It was launched in January, and the inaugural season in London begins July 6.

Artistic Directors and founders Amelia Pipher Cayne and Jackie Short say it’s an idea long overdue. “We wanted to fill a niche that was under-represented in Canada: professional development for music theatre artists,” says the mother and daughter team. “There are many summer intensive programs for students of opera, but none for music theatre of the same calibre. Our ultimate goal for the program is to provide enriching and meaningful training for the developing music theatre artist.”

Amelia Pipher Cayne

Amelia Pipher Cayne

The two women bring impressive credentials to the program. Short is a professor of voice with the Don Wright Faculty of Music and has worked at the university for 14 years. Prior to teaching, she had a successful international opera career. Pipher Cayne is a music director and arts educator who received her training at the prestigious 5th Avenue Theatre in Seattle. She now works at Bravo Academy for the Performing Arts in Toronto.

Offered on-campus in affiliation with Western University’s Don Wright Faculty of Music, MToT will be putting participants through their paces in two programs — a three-week Full Show Program culminating in public performances of the Broadway musical Little Women based on Louisa May Alcott’s novel, and an Apprenticeship Program for aspiring music and stage directors.

“This year we are offering the Full Show Program and Apprenticeship programs simultaneously. The Full Show Program is ideal for the musical theatre artist who is about to embark on their career. Daily program activities include group classes, individual coaching in voice, acting and Alexander technique, rehearsals for our show Little Women, and participation in guest master-classes,” says Pipher Cayne. “It is truly an all-day intense program. The Apprenticeship Program is designed to give aspiring directors, music directors and other theatre professionals hands-on training in their field. They will shadow professional directors and music directors and learn directly from them. They will also be given responsibilities and an assistant title to add to their resume.”

An impressive faculty, including director Michael Cavanagh, music director Floydd Ricketts, and vocal coaches Paul Digout and Eileen Smith, has been assembled to deliver the program, with visiting specialists like Susan Eichhorn Young from NYC and Melissa Bencic from Toronto offering master-classes.

“We had a fabulous round of auditions in Toronto and London. Most participants are from southern Ontario, with a few from out-of-province. We also had numerous online submissions on YouTube and the like,” says Pipher Cayne. “We are thrilled to announce that we have one music direction apprentice and a stage direction apprentice. The majority of our participants are female and in their early-mid-twenties. We have a few special participants who are just graduating high school this June. Most participants are currently pursuing or have completed post-secondary education.”

Jackie Short

Jackie Short

Little Women is the perfect choice for MToT, says Pipher Cayne. “We chose Little Women as our inaugural production because of the quality of musicianship required, the predominantly female roles and the popularity of the show and story. Performances are Friday July 24, Saturday July 25 and Sunday July 26 at the Paul Davenport Theatre and tickets are free. We look forward to bringing this exceptional cast and show to the community,” she says.

Summer Theatre 

Summer theatre companies are now in full swing and all are well within driving distance of London, and perfect for daytrips.

Artistic Director Alex Mustakas says Huron Country Playhouse’s 2015 season is “full of magical moments, complete with Broadway blockbusters, heartwarming comedies, nostalgic musical tributes, and lots of family fun.”

In July and August, audiences can catch a trio of musical theatre productions on the Mainstage including the acclaimed Chicago, Footloose and Legends of Rock ‘n’ Roll. At Huron Country Playhouse II there will be two comedies, Sexy Laundry, Last Chance Romance, and, for the whole family, Snow White: The Panto, complete with musical numbers, slapstick comedy, and lots of audience participation.

Farther north, the Blyth Festival carries on its mandate of producing original Canadian plays with five offerings, including the world premieres of The Wilberforce Hotel and Fury. Other plays are Seeds, Mary’s Wedding, and Edna’s Rural Supper.

At Petrolia’s Victoria Theatre, audiences can enjoy From The Heart: Women of Country, a tribute to country music stars like Patsy Cline, Dolly Parton, Carrie Underwood and Shania Twain, July 7–26, Norm Foster’s Outlaw, August 4–16, and I Love A Piano, August 19–30, featuring Mark Payne, the theatre’s musical director.

Port Stanley Festival Theatre’s 2015 Season, previewed in my May/June column, stages three new shows in July and August.

And, of course, the Stratford Festival continues throughout the summer.


Rick Young, whose work has been published in local, regional and national print and online publications, was the Managing Editor, Publisher and founder of The Beat Magazine, an independent London arts magazine, from 2009 to 2014.

About the author

Rick Young

Rick Young, whose work has been published in local, regional and national print and online publications, was the Managing Editor, Publisher and founder of The Beat Magazine, an independent London arts magazine, from 2009 to 2014.