For those ready for musical theater entertainment, Porchlight Musical Theatre of Chicago delivers with their virtual musical revue, “New Faces Sing Broadway 1961,” featuring 10 young artists, including 23-year-old Marcus Canada of Brookfield.
The show is based on a series of “New Faces” revues put out from 1934 to 1968 and which introduced unknowns at the time, including as Maggie Smith, Henry Fonda and Eartha Kitt. Host of the Porchlight show, Kelvin Ralston, Jr., provides information such as this as well as factoids on the musicals and songs sung from them before and after each number in the program.
Musicals represented from 1961 range from the well-known “How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying” to the virtually unknown “Subways are for Sleeping” to those with songs that became very popular, such as “Make Someone Happy” from “Do Re Mi” and recorded by artists including Barbra Streisand, Aretha Franklin, Sammy Davis, Jr., Tony Bennett and The Supremes.
Musical theater has been an important part of Canada’s life since he was young. He began acting and singing with Christian Youth Theater at age 11, he said, and stayed with the group through age 18. He was in shows including “Annie, Jr.,” “The Wizard of Oz” and “Seussical.”
“Through that, I really fell in love with it,” Canada said.
While he was involved with acrobatics for a while – his dad Paul Canada owns and runs The Flipside Academy of Movement in North Riverside – by the end of high school, the stage was Canada’s only focus.
He went on to major in musical theater in college, and after graduation he was lined up to participate in showcases in New York City in May 2020. However, when COVID-19 hit, that foiled his plans. Although not the same, he said, Canada participated in a virtual showcase and submitted a tape of himself “singing in his basement.” From this, he was signed by a New York talent agency, Creative Artists.
No work has come from this agency yet due to many New York theaters being shut down. However, Canada pursued work on his own in Chicago while living in his Brookfield home. In the fall he received word from Porchlight to audition for “New Faces.”
“In March of 2020, I auditioned for their season; I think this show was included,” Canada said. “In the fall, I got the callback specifically for ‘New Faces.’ … Porchlight has been really great. I think they were really one of the first larger theaters to figure out how to do a virtual production.”
The show itself has more in-person performing than most shows in the area have had since that pandemic began. “New Faces Sing Broadway 1961” was filmed at the Studebaker Theatre in the Fine Arts Building on Michigan Avenue in Chicago.
Canada said he took part in one in-person rehearsal and one in-person filming day. Canada sings a solo — “Artificial Flowers” from the musical “Tenderloin” — as well as in a duet and a trio. For the duet and trio, the singers are together, unmasked, but socially distanced.
Seeing people together singing in the same space is a welcome sight. The space of the restored theater, built in 1898, is used to create variety for the musical numbers. For the trio, the singers are positioned in the balconies as they sing “Sez I” from “Donnybrook!” and they sing from the stairs for “Strange Duet” from “Subways are for Sleeping.”
“At that first in-person rehearsal when we were together, we all had this moment of, ‘Oh, it’s been so long since we’ve done this, since we’ve had other people in a room to sing with,’” Canada said. “That was really great.”
Each New Face also shares something about themselves throughout the show, giving the production a personal touch.
There are also viewer engaging sing-alongs with multiple New Faces and opening and closing numbers with the whole group. Canada said five at a time were on stage singing those group songs, a departure from the many individually recorded and edited numbers of other pandemic performances.
Porchlight Music Theatre’s “New Faces Sing Broadway 1961” is available for streaming through May 16. Tickets are $25-$50 from porchlightmusictheatre.org/events/new-faces-sing-broadway-1961.