Preview: Women of Musical Theatre Festival (Marion Abbott)

Photo of Marion AbbottA new festival in Toronto is working to showcase women’s work in musical theatre. The Women of Musical Theatre Festival which premieres this Friday July 15th to 18th at the Arts and Letters Club is a combination of cabarets, musicals by women, and an opening panel about women’s experiences in the field.

Festival creator and executive director Marion Abbott took the time to answer a few of our questions about the festival.

Can you talk a bit about the inspiration behind the Women of Musical Theatre Festival and how it developed?

In 2015, for the first time in Tony Award History, a female writing team won the Tony Award for Best Score for Fun Home. The first time?! I was shocked. Shortly afterward, BroadwayWorld published an article entitled ‘Ten Musicals Written By Women You Should Know’. A friend sent it to me and said: “I thought you’d be interested in reading this …” I immediately had the thought that it might be fun to stage musicals written by women and then have them be directed, musically directed and stage managed by all-female teams … and then the rest fell into place.

How did you go about selecting the musicals being showcased, including the arrangements for the two cabarets?

Secret Garden was an easy choice – as it was written by Lucy Simon and Marsha Norman and is utterly gorgeous; I don’t think either audiences or actors are tired of this amazing score and rich storytelling. I’m Getting My Act Together And Taking It On The Road was a show I’d always been curious about and I was excited to use it to showcase the talent of the amazing Sara Stahmer, whom I’d started to get to know this past year. For the cabarets, I started with a brainstorm list of songs I’d scribbled down in a notebook and then did my best to match the songs to the personalities and talents of the women I wanted to cast. It was SO much fun!

Can you talk a little bit about how musical theatre, particularly in Canada, has been evolving for women in the performing arts?

Oy. To be completely honest, I’m not sure. I feel that we are making great forward strides with promoting Canadian Musical Theatre, but I still see that female musical theatre artists outnumber their male colleagues approximately 3:1, and there are never, ever enough opportunities to showcase all the crackerjack talent that resides in this country. I’m particularly impassioned about finding ways for women 40+ to be featured and celebrated much more than they are at present.

What is one thing you would love to tell your audience about this festival?

This festival is a celebration – a celebration of the great women of musical theatre from the past, present and future. A celebration of the talent, the tenacity and the joy that these women possess. A celebration of their determination to be storytellers in this artistic discipline. The work of over 100 artists will be showcased and it will be fantastic.

This is the inaugural year for the Women of Musical Theatre Festival. Are there any future plans for another one? Would you be interested in seeing this as an annual feature of the Toronto performing arts scene?

The festival will most definitely be an annual event – I already have shows picked out!…It won’t look the same – my team and I have learned a TON from this first time ’round and have already devised ways to do things differently next year. But the talent in Toronto is so incredible – I will do everything and anything to continue to find ways to showcase it.The Women of Musical Theatre Festival is a super fun way to do that. I truly hope the Toronto theatre scene has as much fun with the festival, as I have had putting it together.


  • The Women of Musical Theatre Festival runs from July 15th to July 18th, 2016 at the Arts and Letters Club (14 Elm Street)
  • Opening panel is Friday at 7:30. Shows run Saturday,  Sunday and Monday at 7:30pm. Matinees are Saturday and Sunday at 2pm. For festival schedule and performance details please visit the festival website here.
  • Tickets range from $25-$35. A festival pass is available. All tickets and passes can be purchased online here.

Photo of Marion Abbott courtesy Marion Abbott