Theatre De La Salle
- A Short History of Dramas and Musicals at De La Salle College
- The "Oaklands" Auditorium
- Drama and Musical Productions at De La Salle College "Oaklands"
Brother Gabriel became well known for his dramatic productions, which were originally staged at Massey Hall. Born Peter Ray in Waterdown, Ontario in 1893, he entered the Brothers’ Juniorate at De La Salle Duke Street in 1909. Four years later he divided his Novitiate between Montreal and the newly reopened District of Toronto. Except for four years, Brother Gabriel was on the staff of De La Salle Bond Street from its opening in 1914 until 1932. He published three short volumes on Shakespearean characters and was well-known for the following productions which were staged at Massey Hall:
- 1922 Shattered Dreams - written by Brother Gabriel
- 1923 Hamlet
- 1924 Merchant of Venice
- 1925 Macbeth - with 4,500 people in attendance
- 1926 Passion Play
Brother Gabriel lived at “Oaklands” throughout his retirement years and died at St. Michael’s Hospital in 1981.
It was to Brother Gabriel’s credit that the new school on the current campus opened in 1950 with its own auditorium. At his insistence, the new school building was to have an auditorium separate from a gymnasium and that it be a specific size. This is why the auditorium extends beyond the rest of the building.
The home of what was later to be known was Theatre De La Salle had a sloping floor, an orchestra pit, a large marble foyer, and a balcony.
The official opening of the auditorium was a formal occasion with dignitaries on hand as well as a ribbon-cutting ceremony to separate the curtains which were a gift of the class of 1920.
Brother Gabriel directed the first two dramatic productions Cinderella O’Reilly (1951) and Dear Ruth (1952).
Brother Andrew spent his first year at Del (1950-1951) developing a glee club and an orchestra before staging the first of his five annual Gilbert and Sullivan musical productions. The female chorus was made up of soprano-voiced boys from the grade school dressed up as girls. The female leads were played by young ladies from local Catholic high schools. By 1954, Brother Andrew had built the student orchestra to 34 members.
Brother Walter replaced Brother Andrew as musical director, and in 1958 produced the first of his ten musicals. The popular scores of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein counted for eight well-received productions. In 1960, the Toronto Star reviewed Oklahoma with these words:
The hardest thing to keep in mind is that it is a high school show.
The quality is consistently far beyond what might be expected;
better, in fact, than any university musical.
The Toronto Telegram reported:
There was a spontaneous joie de vivre...that gave the show a
refreshing quality sometimes missing from a seasoned
By 1961, boys no longer took female parts as 35 young women took their place with 41 boys from Del to make up the cast of Carousel. That year, the leads accompanied Brother Walter to the backstage of the O’Keefe Centre (now the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts) to meet the composer, Richard Rodgers, who was in Toronto on a promotional tour.
Following the departure of Brother Walter, Del began a 19-year period (1969-1987) in which not only a musical, but also a drama was staged almost every year. The success over so many years of top-rated productions is certainly due to the dedicated directors of musical and dramatic productions, choreographers, set designers, and costume and make-up artists who volunteered countless hours of their time and shared their passion for the performing arts with the boys and girls who took to the stage.
During the 1980’s and early 1990’s, Theatre De La Salle thrived under the direction of Ben Cekuta. Memorable productions of West Side Story (1980), Jesus Christ Superstar (1983) and Man of La Mancha (1985) cemented Del productions among Toronto’s finest. The school flood of 1989 damaged the auditorium so badly that the theatre was closed for three years. It wasn’t until 1993 that the theatre reopened its doors and the stage was put to use again.
Del’s theatrical tradition has been continued by the private school which opened in 1994. In 1998, DELTA (Del Theatre Arts) was established and gave students the opportunity to take a leadership role in the theatre production process. Student directors Luke Arnott and Robert Kim went on to direct some of the private school’s more memorable productions, including Little Shop of Horrors (1999) and Twelve Angry Men (2002). Classically-trained drama teacher Glenn Cherny directed several dramas, including The Importance of Being Earnest (2006) and Pygmalion (2008).
In 2010, Del alumnus Michael Luchka (Class of ’93) revived the original Theatre De La Salle which saw its final curtain come down in 1993. With unprecedented support from the Administration, Parents Association, and Del Alumni, Theatre De La Salle launched a new era with Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (2012) and continues to showcase the many talents of the school’s students and staff. The Theatre relies on creative fundraising initiatives, advertisers, and dinner theatre and V.I.P. sponsorship packages to raise the funds for its lavish productions. A Theatre tradition established by the creative team is to invite a cast member from the previous year’s production to join a current staff member in making a cameo appearance in a current production. Del and Theatre DLS alumnus, Jerry McGroarty and his wife, Marlene MacDonald, who also appeared in several Theatre De La Salle productions in the 70’s and 80’s, have assisted behind the scenes with set and costume design with each of the five most recent productions. Their son, Johnny, also an 'Oaklands' grad and Theatre DLS alum, has assisted as musical director.