The year is 1936.
Of the more than 150 recordings of “I’ll Never Smile Again” is this powerful one by the great Billie Holiday, who brings her own inimitable style to the song. Have a listen. Ina Ray Hutton and her The Melodears, a trendy all-female swing band that was the basis for the band in the film Some Like It Hot , are playing Toronto. But the pianist has fallen ill. A young woman, desperate for money to assist her family, auditions. She gets the gig and goes on to triumph with the band as they tour across the continent. In Chicago she meets and falls in love with another music professional. Life seems to be perfect. But tragedy strikes when her newlywed husband dies on the operating table, leaving her a grief-stricken widow at age 24.
She returns home to Toronto and pours her heartache into a lamenting anthem which she titles “ II’ll Never Smile Again”. Amazingly, the words and music she crafts reach band leader Tommy Dorsey and his new vocalist, 24-year-old Frank Sinatra. In 1940, when Sinatra records the song with Dorsey, “I’ll Never Smile Again” soars into the record-breaking heavens. The ballad launches the singer’s career into orbit. It charts at Number One on Billboard for what seems like forever.
At another time, “I’ll Never Smile Again” may have been deemed too mournful to be a pop hit, but during the early days of WWII it connects with people on a primal level, perhaps because it evokes memories of far-flung battlefields and comrades cut down in conflict.
“I’ll Never Smile Again” becomes a standard and goes on to be recorded by the most popular orchestras and singers, including Percy Faith, Glenn Miller, Dave Brubeck, Billie Holiday, Count Basie, The Ink Spots, Jo Stafford, Django Reinhardt, Bill Evans, Sarah Vaughan, Oscar Peterson, The Platters, Vera Lynn, Errol Garner... all told, more than 150 performers. The song is inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame and the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame.
That’s just the beginning of Ruth Lowe’s remarkable life. Amazingly, her life has escaped the scrutiny and adornment that it deserves because she chose to spend the second act of it as a wife and mother in Toronto, away from the limelight. She even turned down an offer to have her early life made into a bio flick starring Judy Garland.
"Mom was a 'musician’s musician'," says Tom Sandler, her son. "She's been credited with being one of the architects of the American ballad. But with all her great accomplishments, with all the love she shared and all the happiness she brought to others... her story deserves to be told, you know.”
Finally, author Peter Jennings tells the story of Ruth Lowe, the heartbroken young Canadian who managed to electrify Frank Sinatra’s career, in his newly published book, Until I Smile At You — now available online and in bookstores.
It also happens that Ruth’s son Tom is a celebrated Toronto photographer. In this video interview we speak with him about his mother and about his own career as the photographer laureate of Toronto’s arts and culture scene. VIDEO
Our favourite songwriter, Ron Jacobson — who composed all the songs in the Ghosts of the Royal Alex series — has done it again: he’s written a new song for the holidays. “Twelfth Night” is an evocative tune, a song that celebrates the greatest gift of all — love.
It is sung by the effervescent Steffi DiDomenicantonio , one of the stars of Come From Away and the co-host of Check In From Away .
She is filmed by Tristan Gough performing the song in the Distillery District, which is decked out in all of the finery of the holidays. VIDEO
For the theatre-lover who has everything, we’ve created these timely stocking stuffers: • t-shirts featuring " I ❤️ Musicals" or " I ❤️ Theatre" • masks with the same slogans • The Royal Alexandra Theatre: A Celebration of 100 Years coffee-table book. All items are $15 each . S hipping or curbside pickup available .
$1 from each item purchased will be donated to the AFC — previously known as the Actors’ Fund of Canada — a charity founded in 1882 that helps theatre artists in their time of need (and during the pandemic there has been no work for them whatsoever so their need is great).
GIFT CARDSTheatre has flourished for more than 2,500 years. As soon as it is safe for us to gather together again, the theatres will reopen. H aving been starved of it for months and months, theatre-lovers will be hungry to return .Whet their appetite with Mirvish gift cards. You will not only bring joy to the recipients, but you will also show your support for theatre artists and arts workers.
The original lyrics to "
Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” from Meet Me In St. Louis say it best:
Someday soon we all will be together If the fates allow Until then, we’ll have to muddle through somehow So have yourself a merry little Christmas now
Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
Five hundred twenty-five thousand moments so dear Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes How do you measure, measure a year? - “Seasons of Love” from by Jonathan Larson Rent
On December 4th, one Mirvish staff member decided to add up all the “stories” that have filled her days and nights since the pandemic was declared in mid-March.
Alexandra Lean, one of our excellent, friendly and knowledgeable audience services representatives, made a list of all the books, films and TV series she’s read and watched in the last eight months. Not including all the articles she’s read in news and current affairs outlets, Alexandra read 119 books, and watched 90 complete TV series and 368 films. “If consuming professionally created story-based content was a sport, these would be my stats,” she said.
She wasn’t boasting, just attempting to make some sense of how we now spend our time. In earlier times — meaning, before the pandemic — we may have measured our lives in the get-togethers we had with family and friends: the meals savoured, the laughs shared, the hugs and kisses given and received. Some of you may have even measured yours in visits to the theatre — the plays and musicals enjoyed. As Jonathan Larson wrote in
“Seasons of Love”: It’s time now, to sing out/ Though the story never ends/ Let’s celebrate/ Remember a year in the life of friends.
This inspired us to think what it would be like for each of us to take inventory of our own activities in this new era. What stories have you “consumed” since March? (We’re sure if you thought back, you probably could remember everything, or at least the highlights.)
So … we’ve created an online form where we can all share our “stats”. There are three fields — number of books, number of TV series, number of films. Under each field you can include one recommendation of the best in each category. If you like, you can include a few details about each of your recommendations.
Alexandra has added her stats (above) and her recommendations follow.
Book: Cinder, The Lunar Chronicles #1 , by Marissa Meyer — A futuristic tale about humans and androids on the streets of New Beijing during a deadly plague. This book would make a kick-ass musical.
TV: Never Have I Ever — This Netflix series is a coming-of-age comedy-drama about the complicated life of a first-generation Indian-American teenager.
Film: Little Monsters (2019) — A washed-up musician teams up with a teacher and a TV kids' show personality to protect young children from a sudden outbreak of zombies. Available on Prime Video.
We’ll share your stats and recommendations in the next issue of
Meanwhile. This may introduce all kinds of great books, TV series and films to others. Perhaps it will also help us to feel less isolated, especially as we enter the holiday season.
We were very proud to have had play Toronto last fall, before the Broadway production opened. In fact, the Broadway Girl From the North Country was the last show of the 2019-20 season to open before the pandemic shuttered theatres around the world. (The show will resume performances at the Belasco Theatre once all the theatres are reopened in 2021.) North Country
In the meanwhile, we are excited to let you know about an exclusive online one-hour panel discussion all about this unique musical and the work of Bob Dylan. Called “
Road to the North Country: Interpreting Dylan”, it is organized by the Bob Dylan Center and live streamed free on Facebook on December 15, 2020 at 7:30 PM ET.
It will feature Broadway cast members Todd Almond, Jeannette Bayardelle, Colton Ryan, Kimber Elayne Sprawl and Mare Winningham. They will discuss and interpret Bob Dylan’s words and music, as well as share some videos of the cast performing songs featured in the show, including content created during the shutdown and BLM movement. If you want to hear some of the great songs from the show again and explore insights by cast members into Dylan’s words and music, be sure to tune in.
In our last issue, we had two contests. Match the Milestone quiz and enter for a chance to win Katie Daub's page-turner TCongratulations to the winners! he Missing Millionaire. Lorraine Campbell, Elaine McKenzie, Samantha Nickel Book winners Match the Milestone quiz winnersMelissa F, Emma L, Gerald S, Sarah W and Craig S.
Leading the way in a triumphant return to the theatre in Melbourne, worldwide smash hit musical
Come From Away will be the first major musical back on stage, commencing performances at the Comedy Theatre from Tuesday 19 January.
The Australian company will also be the first of the global productions of
Come From Away to return to the stage, for a strictly limited season that must close on Sunday 21 March, prior to a national tour. A much-needed boon to the industry, the production will create 447 jobs, bringing many in the creative industry back to work for the first time since March.
The nine-week encore season is expected to attract over 90,000 visitors to the Comedy Theatre and provide substantial stimulus to the economy and the East End of Melbourne.
Now, more than ever,
Come From Away is the perfect show for our time; an opportunity to come together and celebrate an inspirational story of hope and humanity.
Producer Rodney Rigby said, “As the world collectively faces one of the greatest challenges in modern times,
Come From Away reminds us that compassion is at the core of our humanity. This is a story about unity, and about acting with kindness regardless of our differences.”
After taking Melbourne by storm when it premiered in July 2019,
Come From Away enjoyed nine months of critical acclaim and standing ovations, becoming the most successful production in the Comedy Theatre’s 91-year history, before it was forced to close early due to the threat of COVID-19.