Sweet Dreams play brings Broadway talent to Fredericton

Courtney Hammond, left, Georgia Priestley-Brown, centre, and Ana Beatriz Cordeiro backstage at the Fredericton Playhouse. (Submitted: Georgia Priestley-Brown)

Sweet Dreams first swept the Fredericton Playhouse on Oct. 22. With the play’s high turnout, a third show had to be added to the listing due to the first two selling out.

Ana Beatriz Cordeiro, a St. Thomas University fine arts student, won a scholarship for her participation in the production as assistant stage manager. Cordeiro, an international student from Brazil, struggled to fund her education due to COVID-19 and the high international tuition costs. This, on top of high currency conversion rates, have made attending school a struggle for her. 

Cordeiro worked with stage manager Georgia Priestley-Brown to gain experience for her musical theatre classes at STU. The production was part of the Fredericton Playhouse’s interMISSION program, an artist residency made to support artists during the pandemic.

“It was beyond my imagination,” said Cordeiro. “It was the best two weeks of my life.”

The scholarship was awarded by Impulse Productions, the Fredericton-based theatre company that helped produce the show.

This re-imagining of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream was cut down to a 90-minute timeframe because an intermission with audience mingling wasn’t allowed.

Tony LePage, a Broadway actor who starred in Come From Away, co-wrote Sweet Dreams. He said cutting down the showtime was one of the many COVID-19 restrictions the play had to work with in order to perform in theatres.

“They had somebody at the door, they checked our temperature every single day, we had to be socially distanced from the crew,” said LePage.

Courtney Hammond, left, and Tony LePage premiered Sweet Dreams at the Fredericton Playhouse. (Shannon Nickerson/AQ)

He and his partner Courtney Hammond, a producer and cast member, said they were pleased with the measures put in place to keep the cast and crew safe. Hammond said if anyone left the theatre, they had to be screened again.

LePage and Hammond have had a rocky ride down to Fredericton since the start of the pandemic, beginning in New York and ending up here in LePage’s hometown in Fredericton.

First, they travelled to Florida, spending three months in Orlando. After buying a car, they headed up to Canada to begin socially isolating. They’ll be in Canada for another month. Afterward, LePage said they’ll be going back to New York.

“The thing we keep saying is it’s all in pencil. Everything’s in pencil right now with a big eraser beside it,” said LePage.

Tania Breen, STU musical theatre instructor, said the show was excellent professional exposure for students. Breen produced the workshop and created the residency that pulled the artists together for this production.

Breen said she had to rethink how musical theatre could proceed this year. She said musical theatre wouldn’t be able to amount to a large scale production like they normally would.

“I knew the musical theatre students were going to be building their own work in the second semester, so I was trying to find a way to expose them to professional development,” said Breen.

Actors had to stand six feet apart while talking and 12 feet apart while singing due to COVID risks. Hammond said it was fascinating trying to figure out the logistics of a socially-distanced play.

“I heard so many comments after the show about how excited people were to be back in theatre again,” said LePage.

Hammond said live activities like theatre have been sparse since the start of the pandemic, facing more difficulty in execution. Still, Hammond enjoyed the Sweet Dreams experience.

“I think it was something that I needed for my heart and soul, just to know that the arts will fight and they will come back,” said Hammond.