Members of the UOMTS question normative gender roles through song. Photo: Tama Knight.
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Gender-bending fundraiser aims to create momentum for early 2017 production

On Friday, Oct. 14 members of the University of Ottawa Musical Theatre Society (UOMTS) got the chance to indulge in some good old-fashioned gender bending on stage.

In this cabaret-style production, called Miscast, male performers were called on to belt out their favourite female-centric broadway tunes, while the females sang their favourite male songs.

Miscast is pretty much an idea that we had to have a bit of fun, get to gender-bend some of our favourite musical theatre songs, and present it to friends and family as a fun, laid back, casual fundraiser,” said Storm Davis, a fourth-year criminology student who serves as the president of the UOMTS.

Every song elicited roars of laughter and delight from the audience, who filled Academic Hall to the point where only standing room remained.

Songs such as “Candy Store” from Heathers, or “Omigod You Guys” from Legally Blonde, as presented by men, drove the audience wild in particular.

But outside of putting on an entertaining show, Patrick Teed, a fourth-year political science and philosophy major and member of UOMTS, hopes that the audience can get more out of the production than simple, escapist entertainment.

“It is interesting for people to imagine more fluidity in different character arcs,” said  Teed.

“We gender character arcs all the time, so it’s an opportunity for actors to explore that. But it’s also an opportunity for the audience to recognize how gendered characters arcs often are.”

Teed admits that a song about men gushing over an engagement dress might be more for enjoyment than anything else, but gender-bent takes on songs from the stage productions of Newsies or Into the Woods are more subtle, and raise questions about the gendering of roles in theatre.  

The production showed that, yes, gender-bent performances can be hilarious, but also in many ways the message of the song can still be easily received. Women in place of men, and vice versa, gives new meanings to the songs, but doesn’t overshadow the old message either.

“I think the audience responds really well to that kind of contradiction that’s not actually contradictory,” Teed said, giving the example of feminized masculinity in the group’s take on “Agony” from Into the Woods.  

Even though Miscast was meant to be a quirky, laid back escape, the UOMTS  has been spending months gearing up for their next major show, American Idiot.

“Our vision for the show is it’s for students about students, what we face now, what young people face today,” said Davis.

The musical, based on Green Day’s 2004 album and subsequent broadway production, deals with heavy topics like substance abuse, sexual abuse, and mental health issues. To appeal to students, the group is updating the visuals and themes from the mid-2000s to better reflect 2016 sensibilities.

“Our goal is that every single audience member will leave with a different interpretation of the show based on their own life and what they have dealt with,” said Davis, reflecting on the darker themes of the production.

After American Idiot, Davis plans on using the UOMTS as a vehicle to teach dancing  and other musical theatre based skills to students at discount prices. These lessons are why the society puts on smaller shows like Miscast in the first place, to help fund educational programs like this.

“We know that a lot of people who have interest in musical theatre sing at home, but they have no real instruction when it comes to dances, so I’m really looking as a dancer myself to really open up the availability of students to come in and learn some rudimentary dance ability,” said Davis.

American Idiot will be playing from Jan. 20 to 22 in Academic Hall. For more information on UOMTS’ upcoming productions, auditions, and other news, you can find them on Facebook.