With a background in piano, voice, and musical theatre, former district resident Trevor Barker has spent the past year focusing his passion on co-creating a children’s musical with his partner, Dustin George.
Entitled “Tuck & Daisy,” the family-friendly show featuring the unlikely duo of “Tuck” the clown and “Daisy” the rose is set to hit the George Ignatieff Theatre stage during FringeKids, part of the Toronto Fringe Festival, which starts today and runs until July 10.
“I’ve always wanted to write a musical,” enthused Barker, who hails from Devlin.
“I’ve been watching Disney films all my life so I’m in love with songs and storytelling.
“Why not put music and story on stage with actors and sets and costumes and props?” he reasoned.
“It’s all very exciting, and it’s a form of entertainment that I’ve always been drawn to.”
In fact, Barker said he even started a few original shows with other collaborators, although those projects ending up falling through.
“I needed to find the right idea and the right collaborators to make it stick,” he stressed, noting the idea for the show was really George’s.
“He’s an improv actor, and his creative mind is always moving and always wanting to start new projects,” Barker said.
He noted George previously had written a play about a clown—but the target audience was for adults and the themes were heavier.
“And I think I mentioned one day, what if you made this into a children’s musical, so that’s what he did,” Barker added.
The theme is about friendship and being your unique self.
“When you’re working on a show, you’re with it for months, if not years,” he noted. “So making the show for the whole family, with positive themes, I felt was an exciting idea.”
In the show, “Tuck” is a silent clown who dreams of one day singing in the circus. He becomes friends with a rose named “Daisy,” who always has been told to be silent, stay still, and be pretty—all things flowers are “supposed” to be.
But “Daisy” wants to talk and sing, and be as loud as she wants.
Along with their nutty neighbours, “Pam the Pig” and “Hemingway the Spider,” the story is told with music, dance, and a little bit of puppetry.
While George is the playwright and director for the production, Barker is the composer and musical director.
“The first song was written in June, 2015,” he noted. “But the last song was written [in] April.
“Still this month we’ve been making changes and cuts,” Barker added. “We don’t know if some things will work until we see it, but I’m really happy with our final product.”
He said the music is different than what he’s written as a solo artist.
“A few of the songs were modelled after certain genres,” Barker explained, citing there’s a toe-tapping song called “Unique” that is fun and really jazzy, which is sung by a philosophical, brunch-eating spider.
“Then there’s a storytelling, Irish-sounding one called ‘The Ballad of the Pirate King,’” he noted.
I was listening to the ‘Brave’ soundtrack a lot around the time that I wrote this one and you can hear the influence.”
Barker said the one that sounds most like his old music is a song entitled “Pretty Flower.”
“[It’s] when ‘Daisy’ realizes she’s not being a good friend,” he remarked.
“There are so many that I like, and listening to the actors sing music I wrote is amazing,” Barker enthused.
“They bring a lot to it so I’m so excited to get a crowd in front of us.”
In order to become part of FringeKids, Barker and George, who make up T&D Productions, had to apply.
“And then your show has to be drawn,” he said, noting the draws happen around October each year.
With only seven spots available, Barker said they were very fortunate to get a spot.
“Once we were drawn, it forced us to get our butts in gear,” he chuckled.
“I’m the type of person that works better with a deadline.”
The pair held auditions for the actors for the show. They had about 70 applicants and saw about 45 performers on audition day.
“We had to narrow it down to a cast of four, which was crazy difficult because we saw so many talented people,” Barker stressed.
“The cast could’ve gone so many different ways.”
Barker said the venue, the George Ignatieff Theatre, was provided to them by the Toronto Fringe Festival.
“I’ve seen a few shows there in the past and it’s a beautiful little theatre—perfect for a family-style musical,” he remarked, noting sets, props, and costumes all are done by himself, George, stage manager Cayla Bekk, and their friends.
“We honestly couldn’t have done this without our close friend group,” Barker said. “We’re surrounded by the best people.”
T&D Productions also got some financial support from here in Rainy River District, with local residents donating to their “Fund What You Can” campaign.
“We wanted to pay everyone involved, including actors, who sometimes go without pay,” Barker explained, adding it’s hard to make money with theatre, especially in Toronto where there’s so much of it.
“We can’t thank our backers enough, including some from the Fort Frances area,” he said.
“They’ve helped with a large chunk of it.”
The pair also sold advertisements in their programs and held a ’90s slumber party performance fundraiser to help cover the budget.
They are hoping tickets sales go well.
Barker admitted he’s a bit scared for the debut but ultimately is feeling amazing.
“We have the best cast and team; real professionals all around,” he enthused.
“This is the first time I’ve worked on a show from the ground up so it’s feeling really rewarding,” Barker added.
“It’s a funny feeling that people are going to come and pay to see mine and Dustin’s work.
“This is a dream of mine.”
The 45-minute show debuts tomorrow and will run seven times during the festival.
“We want to see how an audience likes ‘Tuck & Daisy,’” Barker said, adding if the show is well-received, he could see them remounting it—or even writing a sequel or prequel for the characters.
“There’s also been talk of touring,” he added. “We really don’t know.
“I think the main thing right now is seeing how an audience reacts,” Barker reasoned.
“We’ve been working on this for a year, so we might set it aside for now and bring it back in the future.”
In addition, Barker wants to continue teaching music and do some songwriting for himself.
“We’ve been so busy lately that I haven’t gotten the chance to write for anything other than this show,” he noted.
“So I’ll write some solo artist stuff and then go back to writing for projects.”
For more information about the show, check out “T&DProductions” on Facebook.