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Crown Point Players makes debut

New musical theatre group of mostly queer artists aims to produce interesting productions in unexpected places. It kicks off with 35mm: A Musical Exhibition.

Director Claire Hughes says 35mm: A Musical Exhibition is “funny, poignant, and thought-provoking. The creative process has been unconventional and the result is something beautiful, interesting, and cathartic.”

This is Crown Point Players’ inaugural production, playing June 20, 22, and 23, and it’s an ambitious choice. 35mm is described as an “innovative take on music, theatre, and art together.”

35mm: A Musical Exhibition is the creation of New York City-based composer and lyricist Ryan Scott Oliver. Entertainment Weekly called him “the future of Broadway … a major new voice in musical theatre.” The show is a collection of songs paired with stories inspired by the photography of Matthew Murphy, Oliver’s husband. In 35mm, photographs inspire the music and lyrics, and the music and lyrics enliven the art. Aural and visual storytelling overlap.

Oliver’s website describes 35mm as “representing a collision of artistic disciplines as disparate as musical theatre, photography, and pop/rock music,” to push “the limits of self-expression” and create a “multi-sensory emotional journey.”

It started development in 2010, and made its off-Broadway premiere in 2012. Due to its popularity, its run was both extended and sold out. There have been subsequent productions of 35mm in the United States, the U.K., Canada, and Australia. One of the original cast members was Lindsay Mendez, recently nominated for a Tony Award in the Broadway revival of Merrily We Roll Along, co-starring 2024 Tony winners Jonathan Groff and Daniel Radcliffe.

In the press release for the show, 35mm is called the “perfect” inaugural production for Crown Point Players as it “touches on concepts of creation, the meaning of art, and its parallels to how we navigate relationships.”

Rachel Cuthill performs in 35mm: A Musical Exhibition.

“I think the biggest take away is that art is everywhere: In the kids you babysit, in the relationships of yesteryear, in mundane photos of regular life,” says the Crown Point Players’ musical director Abigail Veenstra. “It’s the personal and human stories that create relationships, and they create experiences that we will take with us.”

Founded last year, Crown Point Players is “a new musical theatre company with a mission to share passionate performances in interesting and sometimes unexpected places. We believe in creating accessible works outside of the traditional confines of a theatre space.”

Producer and actor Chris Monachino says, “A lot of this show is about being vulnerable, courageous, and approaching things in unconventional ways, and that is exactly what was required of all of us to start this company.”

Crown Point Players is made up of predominantly queer music and theatre creators. The 35mm cast includes Monachino as well as Jacob Rushton, Kathryn Sears, Michael Lloy, Oakley Mossop, Olivia Gallant, Rachel Cuthill, and RJ I'Anson. The band is composed of Crystal Lee, Geoff Ball, Glenn Paul, Karine Bedard, Po Karim, and Rebecca Ripco.

“It’s not groundbreaking that queer people are making theatre, but the issues of alienation, identity, and finding connection in (its) queer-coded songs felt important to us. We wanted to flag in some small way that we take these things to heart within our production,” Hughes says.

“Especially because 35mm contains queer themes and was created by a queer composer/lyricist, we found it important to include how our own experiences and points of view connect with the source material,” she adds.

In addition, in keeping with its innovative structure and central theme of art-making, this production of 35mm will take place in an unusual theatre space, Crown & Press Gallery on Ottawa Street North.

Olivia Gallant in 35mm: A Musical Exhibition.

“We’re very fortunate that our musical director (Veenstra) owns and operates the café portion of Crown & Press,” says Hughes. “They were interested in having performances there and Crown Point Players jumped at the opportunity to put on a production in a beautiful space that’s not a traditional theatre setting. 35mm: A Musical Exhibition has such a foundation in visual arts so it feels fitting to perform it in a gallery.”

Staging this unique piece of theatre in a gallery setting with a sizable cast, video projection, and live music will provide 35mm’s audiences with the opportunity to experience something special. “My favourite experiences with theatre have always been ones when you really feel like you’ve created a community and sense of place with the group you are working with,” Monachino says.

For its director, 35mm has posed an interesting challenge to block and choreograph. Hughes explains that previously, the show has mostly been “presented as a concert without much movement.” It’s given her the opportunity to experiment. “Most shows I’ve done (outside of original musicals at Fringe Festivals) have had a history of past productions, films, and countless YouTube uploads from theatre companies. Even if you try not to crib from other productions, it’s hard not to have those echoes in your mind as you work with the cast and crew, she says. “This has been an opportunity to be creative in a way that I haven’t ever experienced.”

For her part as music director, Veenstra says she has also really relished excavating the possibilities with the cast and band saying that, through hard work, they have been able to “create beauty out of what may seem like unconventional harmonies,” ending up with an “incredible soundscape.”

Jacob Rushton is a member of Crown Point Players.

With its visual, sonic, and theatrical storytelling elements, there are multiple ways to access and enjoy this production. “Because it has sort of a multimedia/interdisciplinary bent, I think it’ll be attractive to people who enjoy things like photography, video projections, and installation art, as well as music, theatre, and musical theatre,” Hughes says.

The run culminates months of effort by this fledgling company with a determination to bring something fresh to local audiences. “This is a brand new theatre company, started by Hamilton artists, performed by Hamilton artists, supporting Hamilton artists, and we want to create a stamp in Hamilton that we have the guts to do something like this,” Veenstra concludes. “When the audience leaves, we want them craving more theatre, more music, more art. This is what makes the world go round.”


35mm: A Musical Exhibition
Crown and Press Gallery and Café
303 Ottawa St. N.
June 20, 22 & 23 at 8 p.m.
(Doors open a half hour before the performance)
Tickets: $25 plus tax
Tickets available here