Theatre De La Salle
Theatre De La Salle Has Audiences Asking for MORE!
On April 27-28, audience members were transported to Victorian London to see the timeless tale about the boy who asked for more performed live by the talented students of De La Salle College.
As part of its 2017/2018 season, Theatre De La Salle proudly presented Lionel Bart’s OLIVER!, the multi-award winning musical based on the classic novel Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens.
Produced by Mr. Michael Luchka and directed by Mr. Glenn Cherny and Mr. Marc Labriola, OLIVER! was TheatreDLS’s most ambitious production to date. And it was the first one in the last 25 years that saw the casting of a teacher in one of the lead roles. “We’ve always been interested in resurrecting the De La Salle tradition of having a cast member perform in a meaningful way alongside the students,” says Mr. Labriola. “This enhances the dynamic on stage by encouraging students to elevate their level of performance. Often the reason why more staff members are not involved in shows is that they are not willing to make the extraordinary time commitment to a project of this scope. We were so fortunate that Mr. Luchka agreed to take on the iconic role of Fagin and offer his abilities in service of the other performers and to the success of the show itself.”
As a student at the College from 1988-1993, Mr. Luchka missed the opportunity to join the ranks of Lasallian thespians when then-Artistic Director, Ben Cekuta, took an extended leave of absence, thus temporarily suspending Theatre De La Salle productions. “25 years after graduating and 30 years after enrolling at Oaklands, I was able to finally see my curtain rise,” reflects Mr. Luchka. “I feel incredibly blessed to have shared the stage I yearned for as a child with an ensemble of super-talented young students. They truly worked hard and demonstrated extraordinary commitment and earned the enthusiastic applause they received at each performance.”
Bringing together over 100 cast and crew ranging from Grades 5-11, the production was very well-received by the two sold-out audiences who considered themselves one of us at the end of April.
“It's very easy to enjoy a show and still be fully aware it's a performance, but when you forget where you are, what you're watching and start to believe the actors are the characters they're playing, it's a whole other level,” writes parent Andrew Lockington. “There are 'magic moments' that happen in this industry sometimes and you all achieved one. What an incredible accomplishment and a gift to the Del community.”
Grade 7 student Justin Kopman made his stage debut in the titular role of Oliver Twist. “This was an amazing experience to meet new people and to perform in front of an audience. I learned to be brave and more confident.”
Fellow Grade 7 cast mate Maya Dorantes played a Workhouse Boy in the opening scenes of the musical. “The feeling that you get when you’re on the stage is just truly wonderful. Being part of the cast required a lot of commitment, rehearsals, and memorizing lyrics and choreography. It was all worth it.”
One of the show’s many sponsors, Ron Cheng of Big Sky Brands expresses his congratulations on the fantastic production. “We were so impressed with the quality of your show - the actors, the singing, the live music accompaniment. We thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it!”
Oliver! was first presented on the De La Salle stage back in 1977 under the direction of John McGowan and Ben Cekuta. It was revived twenty years later in the re-privatized school and directed by William Bagshaw and Marianne Kosa. Twenty years later, De La Salle students were singing “Oom-Pah-Pah” once again.
“I can't thank-you enough for putting me back in that marvellous place for such a magical evening,” wrote Mr. Bagshaw who directed OLIVER! back in 1997.
Tania Marinelli-Crawford played the role of Nancy in the 1997 production and attended the Friday evening performance. “Creativity, confidence, focus, collaboration, and accountability are just a handful of the enriching elements that are gained through the arts. I’m so happy to know that 20 years later, the arts are still strong at De La Salle and that Oliver! is making a revival!”
A special treat for the cast was the presence on Opening Night of original cast member, Mr. Norman Moeller, who played the lead role of Oliver when he was a Grade 7 student in 1977. He attended the show with his family and shared fond memories of his time with the theatre. “Being part of the 1977 production at De La Salle, from the opening auditions until the final curtain call, was a fantastic ride of emotions, only realized and fully appreciated years later,” he shared in his message to theatre patrons. “40 years later, I am so happy to be a ticket holder and audience member for the 2018 revival of OLIVER! Congratulations to all!”
In recent years, TheatreDLS has started a tradition of inviting former cast members to make cameo appearances. This year was no exception. Stars of last year’s production The Pirates of Penzance Calum Slapnicar, Nicholas De Souza, Chris Hajjar, and Max Gibson were on hand in their piratical costumes to support this year’s cast and take one final bow on the De La Salle stage.
Five teachers, three administrators, and the President of the College all made brief cameos in this year’s production. Mr. Richard Russell was especially appreciative of the opportunity to stand on our stage alongside the talented cast. “What an experience. You make these kids feel incredible about themselves and allow them to be surrounded by a massive theatre family.”
Vice-Principal, Mme. Lynda Burlon, who also made an appearance in the opening moments of the show, was very complimentary of the production and the creative commitment students and teachers make to it every year. “I wanted to thank you all for your work, expertise and commitment to the wonderful world that is Theatre De La Salle. Your continued work contributes immensely to the culture and life of the school and puts a smile on the face of many. It is jaw dropping to see our students in action. They are very talented and your time and efforts in directing and producing the show are tremendously appreciated.”
De La Salle College Principal, Mr. Danny Viotto, acknowledged the commitment of the students who made up the cast of this year’s show. “I extend my sincere appreciation and immense gratitude to our incredible students who had the courage to delve a little more into their artistic minds and allow us to bask in the joy of witnessing their talent dramatically come alive on stage.”
Mr. Viotto is leaving the College this year to return to Sault Ste. Marie with his family to pursue other opportunities in the field of education. It’s fitting that he goes out with a “bang” as he triggered the gunshot special effect in the closing moments of OLIVER! “It was such a privilege to have been given the opportunity to experience such excellence by our cast and creative team. The performances have unquestionably exceeded my expectations.”
In a letter addressed to cast and crew members, De La Salle College President, Br. Domenic Viggiani, expressed his congratulations to all those who helped create another memorable theatre production. “You, regardless of your age and previous experiences in theatre, have learned that it takes many dedicated people of various talents to produce something this good,” he writes.
Indeed, in order to produce a high quality live theatre experience at TheatreDLS, a creative vision must be realized and requires the talented and skillful hands of many individuals who work tirelessly behind the scenes.
We express our heartfelt thanks to Mr. Luchka for his unlimited passion, creative vision, and immense dedication to the Theatre and her students; to Messrs. Cherny and Labriola for helping put a twist on this classic tale with their directorial leadership; to Mr. Michael Bailey, Jerry and Marlene McGroarty, Anna Maria Cramarossa, Chris Tsujiuchi, Melissa Ramolo, and Jason Chellew for their immeasurably creative contributions; to Brother Domenic, Mr. Viotto, the Administration, support staff, and faculty of the College for their unwavering support; to the parents of our cast members for always answering Oliver’s question, “where is love?" by sharing it as it was needed; to the sponsors and donors for their unbelievable generosity and kindness; to the cast and crew for proving over and over that “it's a fine life” when you partake in a creative endeavour such as theatre; and to the enthusiastic audiences for always coming back for "MORE!"
“On behalf of all those who were fortunate enough to participate in seeing OLIVER! this year, I thank you for your fine work,” says Brother Domenic. “I know that those who were able to see it were very impressed with the excellent quality of the production.”
As we bring the curtain down on another successful season of TheatreDLS, we echo the words of Fagin and his thieves who stole hearts this year by saying, “So long, fare thee well, pip-pip-cheerio, we’ll be back soon!”
For all the latest news, reviews, and previews about Theatre De La Salle, follow us on Instagram @theatredls
For more photos from the performances, check out the slideshow below:
- 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.