If you ask Geoffrey Tyler what his favourite thing about musical theatre is, he would say it’s also his least favourite: the exciting part of the business for him is never knowing where the future will take him, one song at a time.
“There are a lot of challenges. You’re constantly moving and auditioning. It’s like having a job interview every few weeks for the rest of your life. It is hard work. But that said, I could change that any day and I don’t, because I love musical theatre.”
Involved in musical theatre since age 10, Geoffrey never missed a beat when it came to his career path. For him the seminal moment came when he looked out into the audience in his middle school production of Oliver, playing the Artful Dodger. He had a moment where he felt that being on stage felt right, and that musical theatre was something he wanted to pursue.
“I grew up in a small town, where there wasn’t a lot for someone with my kind of energy. My parents knew that, and they realized that maybe this was something important to me.”
Geoffrey attended the Etobicoke School of the Arts just as it opened, which was the first publicly funded school for art in Canada at the time. He went on to Sheridan College, and from there, performed in the Stratford Festival. Geoffrey laughs a little as he recalls how much he worked versus what he was paid.
“I went there as an apprentice, and did everything known to man, for something like 370 dollars week. I was young and eager and couldn’t wait. Actually, I was the first swing person ever in Stratford, which meant I was the understudy of 12 people’s dance roles for the chorus. I would have done fifteen people’s roles, I was that eager.”
Since then, Geoffrey has played in productions including Napoleon and Tommy, and is currently in a second showing of the award-winning musical Assassins.
“The current run of Assassins that I’m doing is really special, and really a highlight for me. First of all it’s a great role, and I feel very satisfied in playing, and the company of actors I get to work with, and it’s very well directed and conceptualized, and we all had a hand in that. There was a much greater collaborative effort, which is a bit of pride for a show that has been very successful. It’s our thing.”
Geoffrey Tyler is also putting on a one-man cabaret show on February 26 called Making Other Plans as part of his own personal desire to revive a certain kind of musical theatre—the cabaret, with a salon-like feel. Geoffrey feels that part of what is lacking in musical theatre shows today is a true interaction with the audience—a real connection.
“I grew up at the end of the variety show era, with greats like Dean Martin, who would interact with the audience, sing and tell jokes. I didn’t want people to be in a dark theatre. I want Making Other Plans to be a very social evening where people could experience new songs that were from popular composers and musicians.”
Tyler wanted to create a sophisticated show that allowed for audience interaction and humour. He looked for inspiration from French salon culture to help him come up with a theme for Making Other Plans. He sought out new artists and galleries that could showcase great Canadian and American talent—especially newer, localized artists. He feels that there are really great new things coming out of musical theatre today.
“I really picked music that I thought would work for me. Kooman and Diamond are two composers and arrangers I chose that are producing really amazing things in the States and Canada. The audience is going to be able to experience new songs that are from popular composers and musicians.”
In the future, Geoffrey plans to do more directing, taking more of a leadership role. He is currently working on a new musical by Leslie Arden and Norm Foster for this summer, to be played at Theatre Orangeville. Looking back, Tyler still finds that’s there’s no business like show business.
“To the outside world it can seem like a glamourous lifestyle, and Noël Coward used to say, ‘When work is more fun than fun, you’re doing the right thing.’ I feel like when I am busy doing shows like I am now it’s the best thing in the world. But I always remember that once that contract is finished you have to look for more work. It’s one thing to do that when you’re twenty, and another thing to do that when you’re 40. There’s never certainty in theatre life. But that’s one of the great bits of the business that keeps it exciting.”
For more info about Making Other Plans visit the online ticket site, tel. 647-705-7247.
February 26 show is at Labspace Studio, 2A Pape Avenue, Toronto, Ontario M4M 2V6.