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Introducing The Dan School of Music and Drama

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This past Thursday April 7, 2016 I had the great privilege to attend a gala concert in honour of the naming of the new school of Drama and Music at my Alma Mater, Queen’s University.
The new school combines the already prestigious schools of Music and Drama into one unified institution.

“Our plan is to create the pre-eminent School of Drama and MusiDSoD&M  Ty and REW.jpegc in Canada and one of the leading such schools in the world,” says Craig Walker, head of the Dan School of Drama and Music. “Moreover, we hope to lay down new paths for scholarship in the field of music theatre. This generous donation by the Dan family will help enrich the learning and research environments for students in drama and music at Queen’s and help our students reach new heights.”

I am proud of have been mentored by Craig Walker both as a student at Queen’s and early in my career as I was learning the ropes. I was overjoyed when he contacted me in February to ask if I would take part, along with several other Queen’s alumni, in the concert.

The evening was hosted by Drama professor, Greg Wanless and featured the great Tim Fort (who was also one of my mentors), as well as several other alumni who have gone on to make their careers in drama and/or music. I had the distinct pleasure to perform a duet with Robin Evan Willis who was in first year when I was a fourth year. Robin and I sang an old Irving Berlin standard, “You’re Not Sick, You’re Just In Love” and had a blast doing it.

The guest of honour however was Aubrey and Marla Dan. AubreCraig & Aubrey.jpgy is a celebrated businessman and philanthropist who had a deep love for the performing arts. He is also the founder and head of DanCap productions in Toronto where he has produced many live productions. He is also a Broadway producer. The Dan’s daughter is a recent graduate of the Queen’s Drama department and when he was approached by Craig Walker for a donation he surprised everyone by exceeding everyone’s expectations of generosity. The University thanked him for his generous $5M endowment by naming the new school of Drama and Music after its most generous benefactor. Aubrey was invited on to the stage during the gala to discuss the sequence of events that lead up to the massive gift. We finished the evening off with the final scene from “The Drowsy Chaperone” (starring professor’s Wanless and Fort and the entire ensemble of performers including Aubrey Dan himself) and a cocktail reception afterwards.

It was good to be back on campus (especially to see the new Isabelle Bader performing arts centre) and remind myself how lucky I am to have studied at Queen’s and to be part of such a proud legacy.

 

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The entire company performs the finale from “The Drowsy Chaperone”.

~TjM

 

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Let’s Take a Step Back

Last week I ended a year three blog drought by posting my review of the latest Detective Comics Cinematic Universe film: Batman v Superman: The Dawn of Justice. I reviewed the film because those who know me know I am a lifelong fan of all things Batman. I’ve loved the character since I was a small child and that interest has continued well into adulthood. I’m still a few years shy of 40 but still get a child-like excitement when a new comic book movie comes out. Live action or Animated. Especially if it has to do with The Batman.

I will admit to spending a lot of time online looking up all sorts of stuff that has to do with Batman. I’ve watched hours of YouTube videos relating to the top ten Batman moments in the animated movies; fan made music videos using clips from the movies set to popular songs; different artists interpretations of the Batcave and Batsuits… Let’s just say I could have been spending my time more productively, but this is my hobby and it’s not hurting anyone… I’m just a Batman nerd. Who cares? There’s lots of us out there.

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When I was in high school the word “nerd” was still an insult. Now it’s a lifestyle. It seems like every city has a comic con and “cosplayers” are no longer stereotypical comic book guys (like the famous Simpsons character)… They come in all shapes, ages, and sizes… heck a lot of very attractive people have garnered infamy out of their overly sexed up costumes…
It’s all fun and games. Nerds are celebrating our collective love for fantasy. Everyone is having fun.

And yet…

There is a growing threat. Anyone who has taken an interest in anything in the last 20 years knows you can’t look up anything on the Internet without encountering the dreaded trolls.

Internet Troll:
A person whose sole purpose in life is to seek out people to argue with on the Internet over extremely trivial issues. Such arguments can happen on blogs, Facebook, and a host of others sites.
The best thing you can do to fight an Internet troll is to not answer, or report, them.

Or, more accurately:

Internet Troll:
Freaking a$#holes who try to piss you off!

(I got both of those definitions from Urban Dictionary. Choose whichever you prefer, they are both accurate.)

Seeing posts by trolls on the Internet is an unavoidable daily occurrence. There are a few websites I visit daily. I read the newspaper online and every article that is open to public posts has dozens of troll comments posted in less time than it would take the average person to actually read the article they are posting about.

I visit imdb.com for news on the entertainment business. Click on a news article there… same thing. Haters hating for hate’s sake.

One of my favourite websites is a Batman fan site called Batman-on-film.com. The Webmaster, Bill “Jett” Ramey is a born and bread Texas boy who loves the Dallas Cowboys and all things Batman. We don’t always share the same opinion on what we wish to see in the cinematic version of Batman, but we do share a deep love, respect and appreciation for the character and neither of us has any time for trolls. Jett takes frequent flack for his opinions and his NO SPOILER rule on is website. Some of the vitriol I have seen posted on his website is shameful. And what is the reason? Because someone doesn’t share his opinions on a Movie Version of a FICTIONAL man dressed up as a Bat who fights crime in a FICTIONAL version of New York City.

I’m sorry but Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Spiderman, Captain America, The Joker, The Flash, Iron Man, The Hulk, Thor, and Aquaman… ET ALL… Are Comic Book Characters.

They Are NOT Real!!!

Their function, is to entertain. They’re function is to transport us to make believe worlds where grand people are granted grand power to do grand things. Impossible things like Fly; Breath Under Water; Build Super Suits that give Super Powers. They are immortal. They are aliens. They have been bitten by radioactive bugs and most of them are orphans.

The most believable part of all of that is the Orphan thing.

Tragedy. That is the underlying commonality uniting all these characters. They’ve all had greatness thrust upon them, but they were also had tremendous sacrifice thrust upon them as well.

The tragedy is also what makes these characters relatable. None more so than The Batman. He has no super powers and has to rely on his iron will which drives him to become a perfect example of human potential. Yes, Batman is the most conceivably “possible” comic book character out there. And yet…

Being BATMAN would be IMPOSSIBLE!!!

Come on everyone. A pre-teen billionaire forsakes his birthright wealth and runs away to learn how to be the world’s greatest Ninja, Detective, Escape-Artist, and Scientist? To be that young and that rich he would be the most famous human being on the planet. Hard to run away and stay hidden. Even in the furthest corners of the world. Especially if you are being trained to fight sinister fiends by already nefarious masters of these respective crafts. Then to return home 10-15 years later only to take control of a multi-billion dollar corporation all the while using your vast wealth to build (and power) a giant hidden lair under a mansion and spend most nights chasing bad guys on rooftops? Leaving Bat shaped ninja stars all over the city covered in DNA and other evidence that modern police could use to track and arrest said individual for being a brutal vigilante who cares nothing for due process?

IMPOSSIBLE!!!

symbol.jpgBut a damn good read. A story like that makes a hell of a comic book. Or a movie. Or movie Franchise! Or several movie franchises!!!
It’s terrific material for fantasy. Delicious fantasy that can inspire people to do as young Bruce Wayne did and strive to be the best he can be. A symbol.

But we’ve gone too far. People are taking the character too personally. They are projecting what the character means to them, they’re personal inspiration from the character, and railing against all other interpretatisons-of-batman.pngons. Fans are pushing their RULES for the character on other people. And they are doing it viciously. Calling each other out. Hating different versions instead of celebrating the characters versatility.

I am an actor. I pride myself on the ability to play different roles with equal skill. I have strengths and weaknesses and range. If someone were to say to me “you can only do musical comedy because that is what I’ve seen you in the most and that’s what I like and I don’t want to see you do anything else” I would tell them to go to hell.

Why should the same ridiculous constraints be placed on our favourite fictional heroes?

Why should (director) Zach Snyder deserve a pre-judged failing grade on his Batman/Superman movie because movie you didn’t like some of his previous movies? Why should Ben Affleck’s name be spit on because he made a movie you didn’t like 10 years ago? Filmmakers, actors, directors, artists, EVERYONE grows with time. Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone (hopefully) learns from these mistakes.

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At the end of the day, Zach Snyder, Ben Affleck, and Henry Cavill have just as much a right to tell their stories, their versions of these characters as anyone else. More so in fact because they have proven to be leaders in their craft and they went through the same vetting process as anyone else would have to when given the responsibility of helming a mutli-million dollar franchise.

Don’t like it? That is your right? You have the right to not see the movie. You have the right to write to discuss what you found lacking or just plain bad about the film..

At the end of the day you also have the right to sit in front of your computer, protected by the anonymity of the internet and spew hateful, shameful, vitriol at people who’s sole purpose is to spend years of their lives to entertain you for a few hours at a time. Yes, you have the right to do that.

But that doesn’t make it right.

~TjM

My Opinion on Batman v Superman

Warning: Spoilers

Full disclosure…

I have been a Batman fanatic for over thirty years. I have spent an embarrassing amount of hours thinking, reading, and writing about the character. I even continue to watch Gotham every week on Fox. Even though it’s not very good. I Love Batman.

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Needless to say, I get excited when a new Batman movie comes out and until recently I’ve gone into the cinema expecting to blindly love the movie. So “Of course”, you’ll say… “Of course Tyler is going to give BvS a good review”.

But here’s the thing. I have an admission to make… I only “liked” Batman Begins and I really really “Did NOT like” The Dark Knight Rises. I tried to convince myself I liked both of those movies more than I did. Begins gave us a plausible origin story for the character after all, and Rises followed the, arguably, greatest comic book movie ever made in The Dark Knight. Of course I hated Batman & Robin – everyone did… even George Clooney. But the public admission that I didn’t like Rises is a big deal for me. Nothing against the filmmakers or the performers. I loved the little as possible use of CGI that Chris Nolan used; and I love Christian Bales’s Bruce Wayne. All the villains were incredibly cast and interpreted with respect. This trilogy – TDK aside – just didn’t quite jive with my very personal take on the character.
My point is I will not pretend to love a movie just because it’s a Batman movie anymore.

When Man of Steel came out it was met with a great deal of criticism. The destruction of Metropolis in the final scene was the major point of contention. Of course, there was criticism of Henry Cavill’s portrayal of the character. Unfortunately many people still have Christopher Reeve’s iconic version of Superman in their heads. They don’t want to believe that that version of the character, from the 1970s and 80s belonged to a different world. He wouldn’t fit in 2016 and he’d be decried as campy and ridiculous. Alas…
Then shock waves were scattered across the geek universe when Zach Snyder did the unthinkable. He cast Ben Affleck as Batman. The man who everyone hated as Daredevil more than 10 years ago was given the responsibility of playing the most popular comic book character ever. It might have been one of the most over blown, negative, hateful days the Internet has ever experienced (as far as trivial issues like who got cast in a comic book movie goes).

Here’s the thing…

“You can’t judge an actor on a performance they haven’t yet given… or a performance you haven’t yet seen.”

How can you possibly judge something you haven’t seen? You can’t! It’s not possible. It’s ignorance in action. It’s beneath everyone. Everyone.

Anyhoo, back to the topic on hand.
On March 26th, 2016 I saw Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
and “I really really Liked it”!

The plot of this moviWayne in Metro.jpge is an organic continuation on where we left off with the events of Man of Steel. In fact the first act of the movie is partially set during the climactic scene from MoS; this time from Bruce Wayne’s point of view. Wayne sees first hand just how powerful and destructive the Kryptonians are and how necessary it is to be able to put them in check.
The world seems divided in their opinion on Superman. The movie touches on very current themes of immigration and open mindedness toward what we don’t (or don’t want to) understand.

Superman is literally called before the government to answer for his actions. The government wants to control the uncontrollable. And it scares the hell out of them.
Enter Lex Luthor (Jessie Eisenberg). Imagine this: a successful and well-known Billionaire uses his celebrity and wealth to influence the public opinion in a negative way toward an “illegal alien”. Turns out, he’s a psychopath. Remember this was made two years ago. Yikes.
Lex makes a plan to take out Superman (by obtaining Kryptonite of course). Bruce, in full spy mode, discovers the plan and plots to intercept the Kryptonite and use it himself. A mysterious and very beautiful brunette (Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman), intercepts Bruce’s plan to intercept Lex’s plan and… well… wrenches are thrown into everyone’s plans…

Eventually Bruce and Diana come to an understanding that they are on the same side and they work together. Diana gives Bruce the encrypted hard drive that she stole from Lex so he can read the contents. Diana & Bruce.jpgHe discovers the Kryptonite location AND files on Wonder Woman and several other “meta-humans”. There is even video footage of them. Here’s your future Justice League cameos. Very brief. Any criticism of these clips is pure Much Ado About Nothing. They are cool Easter Eggs for DC fans to enjoy. ‘Nuff said.
Bruce finds the kryptonite and decides to use it to take Superman out. He’s gone to the darkside (pardon the pun) and is ready to do what is, he feels, needed despite Alfred’s (beautifully played by Jeremy Irons) objections. He doesn’t just rely on the Kryptonite. This is a Bruce Wayne who readies himself. Affleck clearly understood the importance of this part of playing Batman. There’s a short training sequence and we see just how BIG Affleck got himself to play the role. He’s jacked up huge.

Despite losing his kryptonite (and Batman makes sure he knows who has it) Lex turns to his plan B – which involves the corpse of General Zod (Michael Shannon and the easiest pay check he’s ever received). He also recognizes that he has two thorns in his side in Batman and Superman and pits them against each other. Lex uses Lois (Amy Adams who has way more to do in this film that I would have imagined) and Martha Kent (Diane Lane) to help entice Clark. Yup, Lex knows his secret identity. Kill Batman or Martha gets toasted. Superman has no choice and heads across the bay to a waiting Batman. Here’s the “v” in the title.

The battle itself is well shot and very exciting. It’s much shorter than I expected it to be. It’s set in an abandoned building in Gotham that is chalk full of graffiti Easter eggs from Bat Rogues. They both get in great jabs. Bruce classically displays a “readiness” for the battle and Clark classically displays that Bruce needs all the help he can get.

The fight is ended however when both Clark and Bruce’s Moms make them stop fighting. Seriously.
It’s their mothers who prove to be the catalysts that make them play nice and join forces. Just in time too because while they were scrapping, Lex gets plan B ready to let loose on the city. The silly trailers for this film let the plan B cat out the bag already so there’s no point in not mentioning it’s not Doomsday (created from Zod’s DNA). He’s a powerful foe and even Batman and Superman need help defeating him. Enter Diana in full Wonder Woman glory to do some serious ASS KICKING underscored by some heavy metal rock guitar. (I’ve heard criticism of the score for this movie and I just want to know exactly what music you want to listen to when watching the DC Trinity fight a friggin’ monster with super powers?)

A massive battle ensues. The DC Trinity v Doomsday.  Blood is shed. Sacrifices are made. The forces of good win the battle. And realize they must prepare for the War…  without their big gun. It is the “dawn” of something big.Trinity.pngThis film puts great effort into covering a lot of ground. Yes, the movie is a big old set up for the upcoming DC movies, and it makes no apologies about this fact.  Questions are asked and their answers remain forthcoming. But that is kind of the point in a set up isn’t it?

Anyone who was worried about the casting choices in this flick can stop worrying. There isn’t a bad performance in the movie. My least favourite was Jessie Eisenberg’s Luthor, but he made very strong, very original choices for the character I respect that. Just because it wasn’t my cup of tea doesn’t mean it was bad.

WW.jpgGal Gadot made the absolute most out of her limited screen time and I for one am stoked to see her solo Wonder Woman flick. She was strong, smart and sexy.

Cavill Supes.jpgHenry Cavill’s Superman is, as it was in MOS, terrifically played. Playing Superman is no easy task. The character has been around for eight decades. He means so much to so many. AND he’s practically indestructible with one Achilles heel. It’s easy to see how many people think it’s a boring character. In this movie we are given a man torn between the man he wants to be and the limitations of what the world will let him be. Save us when we need you, and stay out of sight if we don’t. It’s a damned if you do and damned if you don’t situation which is exactly what Snyder and the writers were going for. Cavill won’t be winning any oscars for this role, but he won’t get any razzes either.

The haters have been going after Ben Affleck since it was announced a few years ago that he was cast as Batman. I hope he is enjoying seeing all the reviews (even the bad ones for the film) almost unanimously agree that his performance is terrific. We have a very different Batman from the ones we’ve seen in the last 30 years. He’s much closer to the version I’ve always wanted to see.
Affleck seems to have ticked all the boxes the fans have wanted and is still getting a lot of disrespect despite his clear success in playing this part. There’s no weird put on Bat voice here (it’s computer generated). he uses the grappling gun and batarangs the way they are used in the Arkham games and the animated versions, (so visually cool) and the fight sequences are bloody brilliant. There’s the brutality of a guy who doesn’t mind cracking some skulls mixed in with the theatricality one wants from a ninja taking out a couple of dozen thugs with guns.
We also get a very different Bruce Wayne in this movie. He’s not a teetotaler whose Playboy persona is a façade. This guy is sucking the Wayne wine cellar dry and waking up… well, not alone. Affleck rocks the tux, drives cool cars and engages in espionage without the cape and cowel. He’s suave, sophisticated and seething all in one beefed up package. If this isn’t what you want out of your Bruce Wayne, I don’t know what will please you.

A lot of people are angry with this Batman’s lax stance on killing. But, aside from a dream sequence, he doesn’t murder anyone in this film. There is collateral damage and Bruce seems okay with that. (Not really different fBatFleck.jpgrom Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer or Christian Bale’s version of the character). This is a guy who has not only seen his parents murdered in front of him, but a partner has been slaughtered by, we presume, his arch enemy and now he witnesses a half a city get levelled in one day by super powered aliens. His priorities change because of all of this. It’s a tough pill to swallow but it is also quite believable. Thankfully he finds his way back to his code by the end of the film. You’ll notice he makes the decision to NOT brand Lex at their final meeting. A clear sign he’s turning back into the man he was when he started his crusade. Affleck gets top marks from me in the role.

The major success of this film is proving to a divided world that they need Superman. As with most difficult lessons, this one is learned the hard way. When Superman is removed from the equation what is “this” world to do? Replacements must be found. Wonder Woman has already returned from her self-imposed exile and Batman climbs out of his dark abyss of cruelty and brutality to be leader the world so desperately needs. Superman represents all the goodness and potential of humanity. To be all-powerful AND incorruptible. To be faced with hard decisions and choose the right path even though it may be the hardest path. In his absence, those who believe in his ideals must unite. It would take many gifted people to fill his shoes. The movie ends with a Batman who chooses to find these gifted people and lead them according to Superman’s example so he can atone for failing Superman in life. This leaves us with the ultimate message of the house of El.

Hope.

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TjM News: August 14, 2013

 

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Remember the good old carefree days of Saturday Morning cartoons? Living the delicious irony of not being able to drag yourself out of bed on a school day but getting up at 5:30am on a Saturday with a pitcher of milk, a box of your favourite sugary cereal, a bowl & spoon and, of course, CARTOONS!

 My schedule was pretty consistent for years: 5:30 wake up, grab the breakfast accoutrement, a blanket and the couch and watch hours and hours of my favourite animated stories. I learned about courage and heroics from The Masters of the Universe and The Super Friends. I learned about comedic timing from Bugs Bunny & Friends and sarcasm from Garfield the Cat. It was all so glorious.

I have lived my entire life with a childlike disposition and I wish I could raise my son with the same enthusiasm for Saturday morning that I had. But these days, he can get cartoons whenever he wants. As soon as he figures out how to work Netflix I’m going to have to put a TV in his room. HOWEVER, I now have a few tools in my Dadman utility belt to help make sure my boy loves cartoons the way I did. Heck, he will see them in a way different light than I did. The reason is:

I am now the voice of a cartoon character!!!

This past spring I had a role in a new animated series called Trucktown. Trucktown is based on a series of kids’ books, of the same name, by renowned children’s author Jon Scieszka. It’s about a group of young trucks who live in a town/playground called, you guessed it, Trucktown. They’re led by Jack a young flat bed truck who loves to race around and have fun. He, along with his two best friends Dan (The dump truck) and Max (a monster truck) lives a life of fun and adventure.

I play Ted, a cool, smart, laid back tow truck that likes to take his time and do things right. He also loves to nap.  Make no mistake though; Ted likes having fun with the Best of them. So far I’ve recorded 5 episodes and can’t wait to get a few more under my belt.

 More information as to where and when Trucktown will air to follow soon.

Keeping with animation news, I’ve recently worked on a few other projects that feature cartoon characters. I recorded a guest voice on a show called Pinkie Cooper and the Jet Set Pets and served as the acting coach on a live action/animated series called The Adventures of Napkin Man starring Yannick Bisson as Mr. Anthony/Napkin Man.

The Napkin Man gig also lead to my be-friending Yannick, which lead to him inviting me to audition for a role in the upcoming seventh season of CBC’s Murdoch Mysteries. My family and I have been fans of Murdoch for years now so this was a definite “tick the box role.” I’ll be appearing as Gus Smalls, a slimy degenerate in episode 5 of season seven entitled: Murdoch of the Living Dead.

ImageThis past week I also shot a guest role on the CTV/NBC series Saving Hope. (Starring Erica Durance – that’s right, I did a scene with Lois Lane.)

I play Tristan, a Lab Technician who has a chip on his shoulder when it comes to the “hot shot” doctors who work at Hope Zion Hospital. My appearance is in episode 14 of the current second season.

Finally, rehearsals for Cameron Mackintosh’s new production of Les Misérables begin next week. I’ve been looking forward to this show for quite some time now. We’ll be learning all the big group numbers for the first four days and then we’ll begin staging and learning any solo parts. As I wrote 6 months ago, performing in this show is a dream come true. I can’t wait to get started. For show times, ticket prices and other information, visit www.mirvish.com.

Oh, and I get this a lot: “Let us know what nights you are on and we’ll come see it”. Friends, there are 8 performances a week and unless I’m gravely ill, I’ll be on stage that night.

The odds of me performing my understudy role (M. Thénardier) are quite remote. However, should I get the call to go on, I’ll let everyone know via my Facebook page: The link to it is at www.tylermurree.com.

I dreamed a dream…

In 1989 my parents left my sisters, brother and I with my aunts and took a trip to Toronto for a weekend. While there, they saw the mega-musical The Phantom of the Opera. They brought me home a t-shirt and the cassette tape that I played every day in the car… and in my bedroom… and in my sisters’s walkman… I did this for years…

I sang songs from Phantom until I wore the tape out and replaced it with the CD. Colm Wilkinson, singing the title role was chilling. I wanted so very badly to be him. I tried so very hard to emulate him. I’m sure my family still wants to kill me for the torture I put their ears through during those years. Eventually Mum & Dad took me to Toronto to see the show. Colm had left the production by then, but it was still amazing.

Most musical theatre nerds know that just before Phantom was released to the world, another mega-musical was growing in popularity. Les Misérables was a West End hit. And a Broadway hit. And, at the same time my parents were seeing PhantomLes Mis was also a hit in Toronto. For some reason I’ve always had a fierce sense of loyalty. My young mind wouldn’t allow me to be a fan of Les Mis because I was a Phantom freak. I wouldn’t even give it a listen…

Colm Wilkinson and I at the Lord of the Rings opening night party in Toronto.

Fast forward a few years… a now wiser, teen-age me was watching PBS one day when a familiar face and voice came on the TV. There was no mistaking Colm Wilkinson’s voice, but the music was new to me. I soon learned that I was watching the now famous 10th Anniversary concert of Les Misérables. Just as I was years, before with my Phantom cassette, I was hooked. My ferocious loyalty grew three sizes that day and made room in my heart for a second musical. Eventually my father ordered a copy of the VHS tape (which I recently learned my mother still has and watches) so I could watch the concert, sans 25 minute interruptions from the good people at PBS.

I often give credit to The Phantom of the Opera for being the musical that made me want to perform for a living. But it was Les Misérables that made me want to sing. The music was emotional in a way that I couldn’t describe. But later when my teachers told me that people sing in musicals when mere spoken words weren’t enough to convey their powerful emotions, I understood the allure of Les Mis… of ALL musical theatre, really.

Cliff Saunders

Last week my agent informed me that after a series of auditions that spanned well over a year, I had been offered a role in a production of Les Misérables that will be coming to Toronto this Autumn. I will be playing various supporting roles in the ensemble and understudying the role of Thénardier (who will be played by the brilliant Cliff Saunders).

I’ve had the pleasure of acting, singing and dancing in dozens of musicals over the years, this is truly a childhood dream come true. I am grateful for the opportunity and incredibly happy to share this news.

TjM

No Longer Looking for Richard?

“Looking for Richard?… not anymore…”

Last September a story came out of England… The long lost remains of King Richard III “may” have been discovered, buried under a parking lot in Leicester, UK. 

Today, the world learned that those bones have been confirmed to be those of the famous monarch who died 530 some odd years ago… 

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Painting of Richard III (1483-1485) and his recently discovered, battle damaged, skull.

This story fascinates me because 12 years ago a friend and colleague (Brad Lepp) took a gamble and cast me as Richard III in a production of Shakespeare’s play about his villainous rise to power. 

The experience of playing Richard III changed me as an actor forever…

Up until then, acting had always been about having fun. Getting some attention… playing around and singing and dancing. I felt I had a gift for it, but I had never considered myself an “artist”. I didn’t really know what it meant for an actor to be an artist. I was an immature 21-year-old; what can I say? 

Now the show was cast in March. But rehearsals didn’t start until September so we had a lot of time to prepare for our roles. At the time I was just finishing my second year at Queens and I was going to spend my summer performing at the Weston Playhouse. I was in 3 main-stage shows and 5 cabarets that summer, so my R3 prep and research time was limited. Luckily some splendid actors and directors were at the playhouse that summer and when they heard that I was going to be playing Richard III they offered to help me prepare. Everything from running lines, to monologue workshops, to tutorials in “playing verse”… I had a lot of help.

I am grateful to all those gifted artists who helped me prepare and I don’t think I would have been able to pull off the role had it not been for their guidance… but what I enjoyed the most in those months between auditioning and rehearsing was my own personal research. I must have read the play five times a month. And each scene was dissected, investigated, pondered and puzzled over a thousand times. I had NEVER combed through a play like that in my life… I loved it.

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I read a wonderful book, that I’d recommend to ANY actor, called Year of the King by Antony Sher. Sher played Richard in an infamous production at the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1984. The book is a publication of the journal he kept for the year before he played the part. His research/ preparation/rehearsal diary if you will…

I also watched Al Pacino’s documentary “Looking For Richard” in which he rehearses and performs several scenes of the play with a who’s who of Hollywood and Theatre elite, and he goes in search of the truth behind the mystery of Richard III, whom Shakespeare cast as a villain but may well have been misrepresented by the Bard. 

I watched every actor interpretation I could find. I read and researched the War of the Roses and all Shakespeare’s histories from Richard II to Richard III.

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Ian McKellan as R3 on film.

Poster for Al Pacino’s “Looking For Richard”

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Antony Sher (1984)

The play consumed me.

When it came time to show up for day 1 of rehearsal, I was prepared. I had all but one speech memorized (Richard III is Shakespeare’s second largest role, but ours was an edited version of the play).
The production was a joy, and the final bow was bitter sweet.

I won’t write much about the rehearsals (those details are for the director and his actors and should be, in most cases, kept within that inner circle).

The performances were a great deal of fun. The show was set in various locations around the campus of Queen’s University. A guide walked the audience from location to location and they met the actors who were ready and waiting to begin the scene. The final battle took place on a Rugby pitch at dusk. Every evening the sun would set on our play as it did on Richard’s life at the battle of Bosworth Field in 1485.

For many in the cast, the closing of the show meant another one was in the can and rehearsals or auditions for the next show would be starting soon.

 For me, it was the end of the most rewarding acting experience I had ever had… and the beginning of my life as an artist.

 My Kingdom to do that show again… 

“I am determined to prove a villain/ and hate the idle pleasures of these days.”

www.TylerMurree.com updates

Well,

It’s been a year or so since my buddy, Dave Piggott took over as webmaster of TylerMurree.com. Recently Dave and I got together, via Skype, to discuss a few changes to the site. We’re in the process of implementing some of these changes. Most are aesthetic but there are some content changes as well… most notably updated bios, resumés and soon there will be an actual photo gallery and a real life demo reel (curtesy of Andy Muir who is an actor/editor/mac expert).Andy is currently sifting through my on camera performances (film/tv/commercial) and editing together what I’m sure will be a kick ass demo.

A.Muir

If any of you need a demo reel put together, you can contact Andy via the links page at http://www.TylerMurree.com. 

If anyone has suggestions for changes to the site, or things you would like to see more of, let me know via the contact page.

Cheers,

TjM