After a three-year hiatus, Near North District School Board’s (NNDSB) Theatre Outreach On Stage (TOROS) made a triumphant return with its production of Back To The 80s: The Totally Awesome Musical.
The troupe put on four very well-attended performances at the West Ferris auditorium; the show delighted audiences with its mixture of humour, dancing and hit songs from the 1980’s.
“TOROS has been legendary in our North Bay community since 1987, so it’s great to have it back in production after three years of being on pause. For many TOROS alumni, it has been a life-changing event. Some have gone on to work as professional artists or promote the arts within their own communities,” TOROS producer Shannon Falconi said.
Back to the 80s director and Chippewa Secondary School graduate Jessica Soule participated in numerous theatrical productions during high school.
“We chose to do the musical Back to the 80’s because it was fun and lively. The play is a jukebox musical, which means that it features popular songs, in this case, from the ‘80’s. It also featured a large cast with various speaking roles, so we were able to be inclusive while casting,” Soule said.
About 30 students ranging from Grades 8 to 12 were involved in the production, contributing their talents as both cast and stage crew. The troupe worked hard throughout the summer, rehearsing five days a week since the beginning of July.
First-time TOROS participant Simon Lawrence was new to musical theatre and played Feargal, the class geek and comic relief.
“I really enjoyed my drama classes and wanted to do more shows,” Lawrence said. “It was a challenge to be prepared with props and not thrown off when you can’t find them on stage, but the first performance was incredible, the audience was full of laughter and delight. I would love to do more productions.”
“The audience seemed to enjoy the performances and some even dressed up in their best ‘80s outfit. Opening night was a hit, with a nearly full house. This fueled a lot of excitement among the cast for their first show,” Falconi said.
“We are in a rebuilding phase of TOROS, most cast members have never been on stage or in a musical production before,” Falconi said. “This was a completely new experience for some of the students and we are very proud of their courage to step
outside of their comfort zones to try something different. This production is all about the students and celebrating their talent.”
Seasoned performer Abby Alexander has participated in West Ferris’s last three productions, Sponge Bob The Musical, You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown, Pippin, as well as two summer challenge shows, Newsies and Chicago. Alexander played the lead female role of Tiffany Houston in Back to the 80s.
“The highlight of my experience was the cast. I had never had a cast that was so close-knit before. We became one big family, and I enjoyed coming to rehearsals to be with this group of people,” Alexander said. “The performances went well. The audience was very excited to be there and very lively. We had a very receptive audience.
“I plan on doing theatre for the rest of my life,” Alexander said. “It’s so worth it to meet people. In theatre it’s important to make connections. The more connections you have the more work you will get.”
“Programs like TOROS are important because they give students a sense of belonging. By the final show, we really became a family, and all the students had made lifelong friends. It’s a safe space for them to express their creativity. It also gives them career options, some of these students may go on to be professional performers,” Soule said. “The highlight for me has been seeing the growth in the students. Some of them have never done a production like this and most were terrified to audition. Together, we worked through their fears and in the end, everyone really came out of their shell to shine on stage.”