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This article was published 20/1/2010 (3584 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A prominent acting couple will marry in early March and then leave Winnipeg for career-boosting opportunities in Stratford and Toronto.
Sharon Bajer was one of nine applicants — out of 80 received from around the world — to be selected for a prestigious directing workshop at the Stratford Festival in Ontario this summer while her betrothed Carson Nattrass has signed a one-year contract to perform in the Canadian premiere of the Broadway hit musical Rock of Ages, which opens in Toronto in May.
"It's an exciting time for us," Nattrass says. "Sharon and I get married March 6th. Our honeymoon is going to be our drive to Toronto. We'll go through the (United) States and make it special."
Rehearsals start March 15 for Rock of Ages, a rockin' jukebox musical heavy on the power ballads of '80s hair bands. Nattrass was in the right place at the right time last fall performing in the Manitoba Theatre Centre/Mirvish Productions collaboration Boys in the Photograph when he got word of the Rock of Ages cattle call.
"It was like auditioning for American Idol," Nattrass says. "There were thousands of people dressed to the nines like it was 1985. I sang Bon Jovi's Bed of Roses."
He and Boys in the Photograph co-star Tony LePage are each covering three leads as well as singing in the chorus. Nattrass impressed despite not having the requisite dance moves. Or the hair.
"That dance call was one of the most embarrassing moments in my life," he says. "You really don't want to see me try to dance. In this show everyone has a full head of hair and as a balding man I can't wait to feel bangs in my eyes. For the narrator role I need a beautiful mullet. I hope to get a nice red mullet."
His soon-to-be wife is equally thrilled to be participating in the Michael Langham Workshop for classical direction. It offers training in Shakespeare not available in Winnipeg. Part of the deal is that Bajer gets to assistant direct this summer's production of Two Gentlemen of Verona. She is best known as one of the city's most recognizable actresses and as an emerging playwright most notable for Molly's Veil.
"I'm trying to become a triple threat, acting, writing and directing," says Bajer, who appears as Pope Joan in Top Girls, opening at MTC Warehouse tonight. "Daniel MacIvor can do it. Morris Panych can do it. Sharon Bajer can do it."
Also along for the ride to Toronto with mom and dad is their baby Theodore, who turns one this week.
"A lot of actors fear starting a family because they think it will interfere with their career," says Nattrass. "We just went for it and put our name in the hat for everything that's out there. It just worked out we're both heading for Toronto at the same time."
He vows they will return to their Wolseley home despite the prospect that Rock of Ages could run for years.
Nattrass says, "I have every intention of raising Theodore here in Winnipeg."
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The musical theatre students of Balmoral Hall School are getting personal coaching from a Broadway star.
Jeremy Kushnier, the original star of the $6.5-million musical Footloose in New York City in 1998, is back home visiting his parents in East Kildonan. He was introduced last week as the director of next summer's Rainbow Stage production of Rent.
This afternoon he and his wife Jennie Lee Stern — who met in the Chicago cast of the touring production of Jersey Boys — will lead a two-day intensive workshop for 26 young women on how to put together a Broadway number.
Everyone is to focus on the well known song from West Side Story, America.
"They will work it through from audition to make it Broadway-ready," says Joanie Sheps, Balmoral's student activity adviser.
The students aged 14-18 were invited for their interest in musical theatre. Balmoral is not presenting a musical this spring and have designated 2009-10 a development year. The idea is to give the kids an up-close brush with Broadway that can inspire them for next year's musical.
"Jeremy can bring his passion and love of theatre to our kids," Sheps says. "He could pass on his experiences of taking the bus to New York City to audition for Footloose. He seemed the perfect choice. Also who would come to Winnipeg in the middle of January?"