Montreal’s musical theatre scene is being taken over by thunderous storm this summer with a highly anticipated Canadian Premiere presented by the newest “star kids” on the block as Just Right Productions opens “Firebringer” at the MainLine Theatre this weekend.
Originally created and staged by StarKid Productions in 2016 (whose viral parody hits include the “A Very Potter Musical” trilogy and “Twisted: The Untold Story of a Royal Vizier”), this outrageous musical comedy set in the prehistoric era deals with the ramifications of new inventions and discoveries as made by man –– and woman –– kind. Featuring an ensemble cast of thirteen performers, a live band of five musicians, life-sized puppets, and animated projections, Just Right Productions‘ reimagined version of the cult piece is fun, feisty, and fierce.
“Spear”heading the spectacle as Zazzalil is Just Right Productions co-founder and co-producer CALLAN FORRESTER – a force of nature in her own right as one of Montreal theatre’s most promising rising talents. Read our full interview piece with the co-leading lady below in anticipation of tonight’s grand premiere.
MONTREAL THEATRE HUB (MTH): It’s always a wildly celebratory occasion for us when local theatre artists brazenly start their own companies. How did Just Right Productions come to be?
CALLAN FORRESTER: Just Right Productions was started by myself, Alicia Magliocco and Lucas Amato at the beginning of this year (2019). The biggest thing that drew us to starting our own company was the notion of typecasting. The three of us are actors with fairly specific type casts and we know that a lot of our friends feel the same. Our goal was to create a company that works around traditional type casting and lets actors play roles that they can be amazing at, regardless of looks or previous experiences. We also wanted to put a focus on comedy and improv style shows where actors really get a chance get to know their character and play with it throughout.
MTH: Why the choice of the zany, unorthodox “Firebringer” as your company’s inaugural production?
CALLAN: The StarKid style is one that fits pretty perfectly into our mandate. Their actors are generally encouraged to improvise and try new things on the stage at all times. It’s a hilarious show that is also touching and heartfelt. When we saw that the rights had been made available, we knew we had to apply for them. This is the first time a StarKid show is being done legally ever in Canada which adds an extra level of excitement for us.
MTH: As the titular “fire bringer” Zazzalil, what do you hope to bring to the role?
CALLAN: Zazzalil is so special to me. She has a carelessness that seems to come to her with such ease but deep down she’s just as insecure (if not more so) than the rest of us. I hope to be able to capture her free spirit but also her anxieties and in certain moments, her power. She’s silly and funny but she is not someone who you can overlook or she’ll let you know. I hope to be able to share that with the audience.
MTH: For audiences experiencing the musical for the first time: what can they expect at the theatre? For StarKid buffs familiar with the original: is there anything fresh they can look forward to in this raw rendering?
CALLAN: What we’ve said from the beginning going into this show is that we want to pay homage to the original without copying it to a tee. For those unfamiliar with StarKid, the style is unlike most musical theatre. It prioritizes being silly and having over the top caricatures but it tells an important story at the same time. Expect to laugh, roll your eyes and ultimately have your heartstrings tugged on. For diehard StarKid fans, I think we truly respected what this show is and what the original production did. But we’ve brought some new ideas for sure. Come see these new ideas for yourself (wink).
MTH: You mention the piece being as heartfelt as it is hilarious. What are some of the grounding messages and relevant themes of “Firebringer” in this day and age?
CALLAN: Power is a big one. Power is questioned and redefined multiple times in this production: what power means, who should have it, what happens when it’s taken advantage of, etc. I think we live in a time where power is an important and very relevant topic. There are definitely parallels to be drawn between “Firebringer” and the real world.
Furthermore, I think that the idea of questioning what you’re told and standing up for what is right and what you believe in is particularly important today. The show promotes not letting your fears take you over and I think that’s an important thing to reiterate in today’s world.
Oh and finally: the show is super LGBTQ+ friendly which is amazing. Very open minded for a bunch of cavepeople.
MTH: In addition to featuring a female-heavy (and lady-led) cast, the show counts on multiple creative talents and technical production skills of female artists here in Montreal. How important was it to have women at the fore of this project and how have their contributions been vital to this collaborative creation?
CALLAN: Having women on your team for a show like “Firebringer” is SO important. Especially since the plot is centred around two incredibly strong women in power. The vast majority of our team is women which has been a super cool experience. It’s great to see so much local talent come together to create something special. This show giving opportunities to female artists is something that I am incredibly proud of.
MTH: Personally, what have been the most rewarding parts of working on this artistic creation? What have been the most challenging aspects?
CALLAN: Starting from scratch was a huge challenge. This show has aspects like giant puppets that I’ve never had to work with before so hiring people to do all this stuff was important. It’s definitely been a challenge as a producer and production manager and cast member to balance all of that and make sure that each sector that I was working in would come together. But at the same time, that’s been the most rewarding. Getting to see my baby come to life and see all of the amazing work that our team has done has made me prouder than I could have ever imagined.
MTH: What is the most exciting discovery that you have made (about yourself, about humanity – anything) in the process of bringing your brainchild to the bare stage?
CALLAN: Running a theatre company is something you can’t do alone. I’m a person who very much likes to be in control of every part of a project. But with something at this level, I physically could not do everything. Learning to trust and delegate was huge for me. And the team is so wonderful that I had no fear that it would come together. Theatre truly is a collaboration and I learned how far that collaboration goes with this show.
Rapid FIRE Round
Favourite StarKid musical?
Favourite song in the “Firebringer” score?
“Just A Taste” or “Into the Night “
Favourite line in the”Firebringer” script?
“Babe, it’s a rock covered in shit – it’s a bad plan”
Favourite overall moment in the show?
The closing of Act One
Something you wish you’d invented?
Something you wish someone would invent?
Just Right Productions presents “Firebringer”
Performances: August 15-18 at 8PM | August 17 at 2PM
Venue: MainLine Theatre (3997 St-Laurent, Montreal)
Admission: $23 General Admission | $17 Students
Box Office: www.mainlinetheatre.ca/en/spectacles/firebringer
Zazzalil: Callan Forrester
Jemilla: Alicia Magliocco
Emberly: Robin Kravitz
Grunt: Joel Bernstein
Keeri: Kaysey Ayoola
Chorn: Emily Brayton
Smelly Balls: Kyle Tannahill
Ducker: Lucas Amato
Schwoopsie/Jemilla Understudy: Camila Fitzgibbon
Tiblyn: Julianna Astorino
Molag: Nour Malek
Himself/Puppeteer: Jeremy Lewis
Himself/Schwoopsie Understudy: Zachary Sykes
Producers: Callan Forrester, Alicia Magliocco and Lucas Amato
Director/Stage Manager: Julie Reckziegel
Music Director/Lighting and Sound Design: Malika Pharand
Choreographer: Debora Friedmann
Technical Director/Production Manager: Melanie Ermel
Assistant Director: Mathieu Roy
Assistant Stage Manager: Morgan Bercovitch
Set Design: Noush Kadian
Costumes: Erika Salter
Puppets: Jessica Alley
Props: Courtney Orbin
Projections: Alex Callard