At the top of their game

Sally Cole scole@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on June 9, 2011
Performers Maria Campbell and Nathan Keoughan talk with musical director Lisa MacDougall during a break in rehearsals for Anne & Gilbert - The Musical.
GUARDIAN PHOTO BY SALLY COLE

When Maria Campbell and Nathan Keoughan landed roles in this summer’s production of Anne & Gilbert - The Musical, they were thrilled.

That’s because after studying at prestigious voice schools they are returning to familiar characters with renewed confidence when the show opens at the Harbourfront Jubilee Theatre in Summerside on June 21.

“I have a lot more experience. I know where to place my character. I feel her more within me,” says Campbell, who reprises the role of Philipa Gordon after completing her masters of music degree in opera performance at the University of Auckland in New Zealand.

Her new knowledge is helping in different ways.

“It has given me a comfort level that I can walk in and know where to place my voice in the different songs,” says Campbell, who studied under Dame Kiri Tekanawa, one of New Zealand’s opera greats, and performed the role of Nancy in her university’s production of Benjamin Britten’s Albert Herring.

In her journey as a student, she faced a challenge when, after being trained as a mezzo-soprano and learning the repertoire, her teacher told her that she was indeed a soprano.

“It doesn’t sound like something major, but being a different voice type can throw a wrench in the works. But coming out of that allowed me to try various techniques and styles of learning. And it has made me a better performer for the show,” she says.

Similarly, Keoughan is self-assured about returning to his role as Roy Gardener after a year at the New England Conservatory of Music (NEC) in Boston where he studied with renowned baritone Michael Meraw.

“Coming back to the show I have so many new tools to work with. For instance, Meraw taught me a technique that allows my voice to become operatic. I’ve always had a loud voice, but now I can project it to the back of the house,” says Keoughan, whose bass voice filled the room when he sang May I Offer You My Umbrella during a recent rehearsal.

In addition, working with directors, coaches and conductors in school opera productions like The Magic Flute and Candide provided him with valuable experience.

“I like filtering through what everyone says and putting it on stage,” says Keoughan, adding that before leaving Prince Edward Island his voice teacher was Stephen Bouey and his coach was Sung Ha Shin Bouey.

 

 

On his return to Canada in the summer of 2010, Keoughan landed the role of Colline, the philosopher, in a production of Puccini’s La Bohèmeat Highlands Opera Studio in Ontario. He worked with director Canadian tenor Richard Margison and Valarie Kuinka.

“It was an amazing musical and educational opportunity. I got to sit there and absorb it,” says Keoughan.

Sitting at her keyboard, musical director Lisa MacDougall is excited about the new energy that the returning actors are bringing into the show.

“Nathan and Maria have fantastically strong voices. I’m excited that the characters they’ll be playing in the show have strong personalities. So the strong, confident vocal approach that they take with the show will be an absolute plus,” says MacDougall.

Director Martha Irving agrees as she takes a break from working with the actors inside the rehearsal hall.

“The fact that they’ve gone off and have returned with these wonderful colours to work with from their studies is great. They can help paint the story now,” she says.

Campbell is delighted about adding her own tones to the role that she last played in 2005.

“I love playing Philipa, the spunky rich girl who becomes friends with Anne. But six years later I have a different perspective on her. She’s confident, assertive and loves life. She’s also a bit of a feminist for her time,” she says.

 

AT A GLANCE

Fast facts

Nathan Keoughan’s three favourite things to take to rehearsals: iPhone, music and coffee.

Maria Campbell’s motto: “I look at things with an open mind and go in having fun.”

Tickets: Go to the website at www.harbourfronttheatre.com.