BWW Interviews: Reza Jacobs on Acting Up Stage's TAPESTRIES
Acting Up Stage is embarking on an exciting new 2012-2013 season, featuring A Craigslist Cantata and Falsettos in addition to a continued focus on developing and cultivating Toronto’s musical theatre landscape. As part of this, they are presenting ‘Tapestries’, a one-night only concert featuring some of Canada’s best and brightest theatre talent singing the music of James Taylor and Carole King. ‘Tapestries’ follows on the heels of two sold out concerts – Both Sides Now and The Long and Winding Road. The evening features well-known and loved songs, re-arranged by Reza Jacobs in a brand new way to pay tribute to this music.
Tapestries will feature songs such as “I Feel the Earth Move’, ‘Fire and Rain’, ‘It’s Too Late’, ‘Sweet Baby James’ and ‘You’ve Got a Friend’ sung by Cynthia Dale, Arlene Duncan, Jake Epstein, Sara Farb, Kelly Holiff, Amanda LeBlanc, Eden Richmond and Josh Young.
Reza Jacobs sat down to speak with BWW about his role with Acting Up Stage and with Tapestries, how he arranges such well known music and how he feels about Toronto’s musical theatre scene:
What exactly is 'Tapestries'?
Every year we do a concert that takes an artist or a couple of artists and I do arrangements of the songs. I also do arrangements for our back-up singers and the band who hold the concert down, and then we have soloists who come and sing individual songs. We’re featured Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell, Lennon and McCartney and Michael Jackson. This year we’re doing James Taylor and Carole King which is a great musical pairing, they’ve been collaborators and sung on each other’s album so it makes musical sense.
Where did the idea for these shows come from?
When I first moved to Toronto six years ago I knew about two people here, so I started to get out and get to know people. One thing led to another and I found myself at a production of Elegies: A Song Cycle done by Acting Up Stage. After the show someone pointed out Mitchell Marcus and said ‘that guy is the producer’ so I went up and introduced myself. I told him I had just moved from NYC and didn’t know anyone but that I loved his show and wanted to meet with him.
A little while later I was working for Toronto Youth Theatre and I did a version had took a meeting. He said he had an idea to bring two people from New York who were doing a concert version of Ben Folds Five songs to Toronto. I suggested we do our own version of something similar and suggested the Beatles. It was a seminal event in my time in Toronto – he took a huge leap of faith. He’s one of the smartest people I know who also has a great gut instinct. We did it, it went really well and now we’ve continued to do it.
Do you do all the arrangements?
I wish I could take all the credit but I do collaborate with the artists, we try and find what works with their voices and their personalities. For the back up vocals I work with the four girls and we try to make the them together. They’re all very instinctive and very musical. It’s not easy, it takes a lot of work but we have a great vibe together and we love coming up with the vocals. I love collaboration and I like seeing what a person needs by figuring out how they work as a human being – and putting that into the music.
How do you decide how much to change in any given song?
That’s decided on a case by case basis. There are two things. One is looking at just the song and the person singing it. I want to find out why they’re singing that song and what story they want to tell. For example, with Cynthia Dale we’re doing a three in the morning, dirty, sexy, sultry version of It’s Too Late by Carole King. We were sitting in a room together and we just came up with it and did it in one take. We didn’t know why or how, but it was one of those magical things and we knew we needed to honour that organic impulse.