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BWW Interview: Music Director Mark Selby Talks Ryan G. Hinds' #KANDERANDEBB at Stratford Festival

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Music Director Mark Selby Speaks to why Ryan G. Hinds is the Perfect Artist to Entrust with the Iconic Music and Stories of Kander and Ebb

BWW Interview: Music Director Mark Selby Talks Ryan G. Hinds' #KANDERANDEBB at Stratford Festival

This season at the Stratford Festival, many of the events taking place as part of the Meighen Forum have gone digital, but there are still some live, in-person forum events coming up and one of the most anticipated ones is right around the corner. #KanderAndEbb is a live, in-person showcase from creator and performer Ryan G. Hinds. It is advertised by the Festival as "a tour through the music of Broadway songwriters John Kander and Fred Ebb, set against entertaining and touching real-life stories from the fan who managed to get semi-close to the legendary writers' fabled world." Broadwayworld had the opportunity to chat via zoom with Mark Selby, the Music Director and pianist of this cabaret. Having had the opportunity to perform this show with Mr. Hinds before, Mr. Selby has some inside scoop as to why this "magical" show put on by a "brilliant" showman should not be missed.

When asked by BWW how this partnership came to be, Mr. Selby explains that he actually first met Mr. Hinds back when they were both campers at the National Music Camp of Canada and then they reconnected years later and had remained familiar with one another's work. "He reached out to me when he started to do cabarets more regularly and I'm thrilled because we have such a good time putting these shows together and performing them."

As for the genesis of this particular cabaret, Selby describes Hinds as a "life-long Kander and Ebb fan" and likens his energy and overall persona to the music of Kander and Ebb: "Ryan personifies showbusiness in a wonderful way and there's a certain innate sense of, well, 'razzle dazzle' in the music of Kander and Ebb, to quote their song lyric. So, I think it speaks to his nature as a showman." He adds that Hinds is the type of person who can strike up a conversation with anyone and has a "magical" way of making friends in the showbiz industry.

"He and Chita Rivera have a longstanding special relationship. They met when she was in Toronto doing (Kander and Ebb's) KISS OF THE SPIDER WOMAN and they've maintained a relationship and stayed in touch over the years."

Relationships like the one with Rivera have allowed Hinds to hear all sorts of anecdotes about Kander and Ebb productions. According to Selby, he has managed to creatively weave these meaningful and personal stories into this cabaret in order to share something very special with audiences. "There are some behind the scenes stories, but a lot of the stories are personal, which I think makes for a more interesting show."

Some of the personal anecdotes have even gained more layers since Hinds first premiered this cabaret. Selby shares that one night after performing the show at 'Don't Tell Mama' in New York, he and Hinds discovered that there was someone in the audience who had a direct connection to one of the stories Hinds had told. This unbelievable story is so delightful that I won't dare share it here. You're just going to have to go see the show!

Selby has some of his own fond memories of doing this show. He recounts the time he met Broadway legend Donna McKechnie on a street corner while on his way to meet Hinds for a sound check: "So I'm walking along 46th St. and I see Ryan standing in front of the venue and I wave to him and I walk up to him and I see he's talking to somebody...It's Ryan, so for all I know he's pitching the show to a passerby...he looks at me and he's like 'Mark, let me introduce you to Donna McKechnie!'" It turns out Hinds got to know McKechnie through Chita Rivera when they worked together in (another Kander and Ebb show) THE VISIT..."When your cabaret starts with some well wishes from Donna McKechnie, you're in pretty good hands. So that was a nice omen."

BWW Interview: Music Director Mark Selby Talks Ryan G. Hinds' #KANDERANDEBB at Stratford Festival

Hinds and Selby have performed this particular show together in Toronto, Montreal, and New York city over the last few years and BWW was curious about how those past experiences have shaped the production Stratford audiences are about to see: "It has evolved a little bit, there have been changes. What's nice about doing a show at Stratford is that you can add a little bit more production value than you could in a one night cabaret. For a one night cabaret you don't really get lighting cues or...instrumentalists playing with us, but in this Stratford run, there's me on piano, Julian (Clarke) on percussion, Jeff (Deegan) on bass, and Quinton (Naughton) on keys. So the show evolves in terms of the material, but also just the quality of the show increases when we are afforded the opportunity to do it."

Selby notes that previous productions of #KanderAndEbb have been very well received: "The feedback to the show has been phenomenal. One woman came up to Ryan after the show in Montreal with tears in her eyes saying 'I haven't been to New York in years but you took me there.' She was just so emotional, and Ryan has that ability. He's a very communicative performer."

In describing why a show like this seems to resonate with people, Selby gushes about the brilliance behind Kander and Ebb's music and lyrics: "There's so much emotion and character behind these songs. [For example], you look at a show like CHICAGO, and most of those songs are written as pastiche - they're all in the style of a famous vaudeville performer - All I Care About is Love is written in the style of Ted Lewis, When You're Good to Mama is written in the style of Sophie Tucker, Mr. Cellophane is written in the style of Burt Williams - All these famous vaudeville performers...So these songs do and can stand alone as show pieces, but they speak to the characters they're written for, they speak to the era where CHICAGO was set, they work on so many levels...I think it's not just that showbiz veneer of these songs that appeals to Ryan, and to me, and to audiences and to everybody, but I think it's the fact that they work on so many levels, because they're just multi-layered, and more so than people expect."

Although Selby reassures us that audience members who are not overly familiar with the works of Kander and Ebb will certainly recognize some of their more famous tunes, there will also be some "deep cuts" for the superfans. "There's a lot of material that [more casual fans] will recognize for sure, but the show has a really nice mix of the familiar, some deep cuts, and some re-imagining of some songs." With regards to the "re-imaginings," Selby clarifies that everything remains "true to the intention of the music," but, for example, because KISS OF THE SPIDER WOMAN is so important to Hinds, it is featured heavily via a medley in this cabaret. "I think that the beauty of the music in KISS OF THE SPIDER WOMAN - not that it's unexpected for fans of Kander and Ebb because everyone knows that they write great songs, but I think just the depths that they went to...the way that they invoked certain musical styles in the telling of that story, to really do it justice and make sure an audience appreciates that, the best way to communicate that in this case is through a medley."

As for some other surprises that are sure to leave audiences equipped with a broader knowledge of Kander and Ebb's works, Selby notes "It's important to realize that no matter how successful [Broadway composers and lyricists] are, everyone has their flops." In many cases, these shows 'flopped' simply because of the popularity of other shows at the time, and so #KanderAndEbb aims to introduce audiences to some charming tunes they may have previously missed out on.

At the time this interview was conducted, Selby had just completed writing an overture that includes music from every single one of Kander and Ebb's shows as well as a film they wrote music for (you might be able to guess which tune that is). "Ryan's instructions to me when I was putting the overture together were 'You don't have to go for the obvious. You can have some fun with it.' The superfans of the audience might be treated to certain songs that you wouldn't immediately think of." He adds that he had a lot of fun working on this and collaborating with Hinds in this way.

What is abundantly clear when speaking with Selby, is the respect and admiration he has for Hinds. "There really is nobody better to be performing this show than Ryan. The vote of confidence that John Kander gave him by doing [an interview] with him (as part of the Festival's Digital Meighen Forum) is huge too. People can kind of wet their appetite with that conversation and see how knowledgeable and what a fan Ryan is of their work and then come and see the show for themselves." This writer, for one, cannot wait!

There will only be 5 performances of #KanderAndEbb starting on September 14th at 8pm. The show will be held in Lazarus Hall in the new Tom Patterson Theatre. Selby calls this space "stunning" and expresses how excited he is that this show to be chosen as one of the first productions to be performed there. Tickets initially sold out, but protocols have changed allowing additional seats to be added. Tickets can be purchased at: https://www.stratfordfestival.ca/WhatsOn/PlaysAndEvents/TheForum/KanderAndEbb/BuyTickets

Ryan G. Hinds' one on one interviews with John Kander and Chita Rivera can be watched through the Stratford Festival's Digital Meighen Forum. More information can be found here: https://www.stratfordfestival.ca/AtHome/TheDigitalMeighenForum

Mark Selby will be heading to Stratford on the heels of his debut at the Toronto International Film Festival. He is a Producer of the exciting new film: Oscar Peterson: Black + White. You can learn more about this film and Mark himself at his website: http://www.markselby.ca/

Title Photo Credit: Dahlia Katz

Mid-Article Photo Credit: Ryan G. Hinds


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