A UofT student’s full-length musical debut is on the way.
By Meghan Butcher, Arts and Culture Staff Writer
Fourth-year student Josh Allen has something up his sleeve – something nostalgic, heart-warming, and completely out-of-the-box for a student in the sciences. Yesterday’s Dance, expected to premiere live during the 2022 winter semester, is his debut full-length musical. Parts of the show are also to be streamed through the Mississauga campus’ English and Drama Students Society (EDSS) festival.
“It’s a bit of a coming of age story,” is the opening Allen uses to summarize the play. “It’s about this young woman, a dancer. She’s grappling with the realities of dreams and expectations, you know, coming against practicalities as she’s growing up.” The show follows a journey of growth and self-discovery (“Not to sound too cliché,” he jokes), with a healthy dose of youthful naivety. Yesterday’s Dance is a musical about big decisions and pivotal life moments, designed to be relatable to folks at any age and stage of life, and particularly to post-secondary students.
In what may come as a surprise considering the scale of such a project, Allen doesn’t necessarily have a formal theatre direction background, and was in fact primarily a competitive figure skater in his formative years, despite participating in small theatre projects throughout high school. “I always loved musical theatre,” he says when asked how Yesterday’s Dance came to be. Being in one’s final undergraduate year, it seems, can spark a burst of now-or-never creative energy. “I mean, there’s nothing like going to see a good Broadway show. And so I thought, well, I had this idea in the back of my mind to do this musical for quite a while and I thought, maybe now’s the time to start putting together some songs and formulating a story.”
The show is based on a universal and personal experience: the young artist’s reckoning with a lifelong pursuit of their artistic endeavours or a dive into academic studies, and the harsh realities of life outside of school or art. Allen, like many others, found this moment upon him when deciding whether to continue to figure skate or to pursue physics, math, and HPS in university.
“[Skating] was a huge part of my life. It was what amounted to a full-time job… I went quite far with it, but I made the decision [to pursue academics instead].” When asked how that personal change in direction influenced the show, he nods to the importance of having met people in his artistic field, drawing from his own experiences and those of the people around him at that time – but assures prospective audience members that the show is entirely fictional.While ticket prices, exact time, and location are up in the air for a while longer, EDSS can be followed for future information on a virtual edition of the musical. Stay tuned for more information to come about live performances of Yesterday’s Dance. The EDSS can be followed on Instagram @utmedss.