In their own words: Conversations with the Cast of A Certain Singing Teacher

A Certain Singing Teacher opens Friday, February 10th.  If you haven’t yet reserved your seats, call 1-855-372-2210 or Book Online now.

The cast of A Certain Singing Teacher in rehearsal

 The Cast

Allan Fairfax Christopher Spear
Hillary Carlyle Heather Town
Francine LaSalle Kristiane Black
Antonio Pasquali Liam Cragg
Sam Saller Stephanie Koomen

VOS Theatre caught up with the cast from A Certain Singing Teacher and here’s what we found out.

Liam Cragg & Kristriane Black in rehearsal for A Certain Singing Teacher

Tell us about yourself in two sentences or less.

Kristiane:   I’ve been a resident of Cobourg for the past 11 years, and I love living, working and playing in this town.  My passions include my partner Dave, our children, my work as a United Church minister, gardening, cooking and playing the piano.

Liam:   I got up the nerve to get on stage in 1999 and haven’t looked back since then.
I love taking on bigger than life characters and Antonio Pasquali is no exception

Heather:  I am a colour consultant at Colour Your World in Port Hope. I’ve been involved in lots of VOS musical productions – I love singing and dancing. I’m a board member with VOS THEATRE and long time volunteer.

Christopher Spear in the PTG Production of Hedda Gabler

Many of you have been involved in large musicals with 30 or more cast members and equally large production teams. What’s great about a smaller ensemble?

Kristiane:    It’s a lot easier to feel like family and work out little glitches – it’s really fun to know that we’re all in it together, with all of us doing the heavy lifting together!

Christopher:  It is good to get to know everyone in the cast and to see what everyone is doing before the dress rehearsal.

Liam:  The great thing about a small cast is that everyone is integral to the show.
It’s a tight knit group and we rely heavily on each other.

Stephanie:  What I love about a smaller ensemble is that you get to know each individual person. With a cast of 30 or more you don’t really get to bond with every person in the cast.

Heather:  I’ve enjoyed that the entire cast is part of every rehearsal. We’ve all been able to watch each other’s characters develop from the start, and watch the show come together like the production team of a larger show does! 

Liam Cragg prepping for Grandpa in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

Which popular sitcom character is closest to your character in the play?

Kristiane:    Maybe a cross between Maude, Rhoda and Mary Tyler Moore in the newsroom?  It’s hard to find anyone quite like Francine in contemporary sitcoms – she’s completely a product of her era – the 70’s and 80’s

Christopher:  No Satellite and no cable so I’m afraid I don’t know sitcoms

Liam:  Massimo from the movie, ‘The Wedding Planner’, and I’ve used a bit of Homer Simpson (but an Italian Homer Simpson)

Stephanie:  The first character that comes to mind is Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory but I don’t think my character is quite that extreme. I’m not too familiar with any neurotic phobics on television.

Heather:  I actually don’t watch much sit-com type TV so I’m not really sure.. to pick a movie character from (somewhat near) that time period, I think I’d say she has a little Connie Conehead in her! Tough on the outside, kind of trendy but individual. really just a softie romantic on the inside though.

Stephanie Koomen in rehearsal for A Certain Singing Teacher

Is there a moral to the story – does Singing Teacher have a message?

Kristiane:    It’s a story about second chances and the hard work that it sometimes takes to make a relationship last – along with love, you need trust, commitment and the ability to forgive and move forward…

Christopher:  Your sins will find you out but you may get forgiven……or you may not. And possibly that hard work gets its reward (in one way or another) in the end.

Liam:  Follow your dreams. You may not realize them but you’ll find something interesting along the way.

Stephanie:  I think that there are many messages throughout the story and that they are told through each character. For my character, Sam, I believe the message is to take advantage of every opportunity you are given because something great might come of it.

Heather:  I think Singing Teacher encourages individuality, and independence.


Heather Town & Kristiane Black in rehearsal for A Certain Singing Teacher


This production is set in the 80’s. Favourite 80s culture detail?

Kristiane:    Being an 80’s show, there’s a lot of material that would have been quite forward thinking, not the least is that Francince and Alan lived together for 18 years without being married.  You gotta love the portable phones of the time, and since you couldn’t text in those days, a lot of the miscommunication between Allan and Francine works:  in the play they do have to rely on either face to face or live phone calls to get a message across!

Christopher:  Has to be the “cell” phone

Liam:  The 20 minute workout on TV

Stephanie:  I wasn’t even thought of in the 80’s so I couldn’t really tell you.

Heather:  Go big or go home! The big hair, the big jewelry!


This show is a romantic comedy and we hear it’s something everyone  will enjoy Valentines weekend. True?

Kristiane:    If you’re a Cobourger, you get a chance to support local talent, including most of the cast, production team and the playwright.  If that’s not enough, you can relax as you sit around a table with friends enjoying the fun.  And if all that isn’t enough, you get to enjoy some silliness along with some heart-warming and bittersweet moments.  Personally, I think Francine is just a great character, and I’m loving getting to know her better with every run of the play!

Christopher:  Hints of naughtiness, a touch of desparate longing, unfaithfulness and jealousy, lovers spats, some good laughs and a happy ending – all life is here.

Liam:  Yes! I feel there are many genuine ‘laugh out loud’ moments in this show. It’s the perfect way to do something special with your special someone.

Stephanie:  Yes, it’s a great show to see Valentines weekend. It’s dramatic and funny, and it’s even funnier if you know the actors personally. I hope that everyone gets a chance to see it.

Heather:  I’d say so! Also a great girls’ night show.

A Certain Singing Teacher opens Friday, February 10th.  If you haven’t yet reserved your seats, call 1-855-372-2210 or Book Online now.

A Certain Singing Teacher: OPENS THIS WEEKEND


We had a conversation with the Director of A Certain Singing Teacher over the weekend, and we thought we’d share it with you.  Here is Florence Fletcher.


VOS: Why did you choose to direct this play? Directing is a huge time com
mitment and we know it’s easier if you love the script you’re directing.
Florence Fletcher: I was fortunate enough to be chosen to read the part of Francine LaSalle, the singing teacher, in the VOS Play Reading series last season and I enjoyed the play so much that when it came up as a possibility to be chosen as one of the play to be performed this season I jumped at the chance to direct.

VOS: What is it you like so much?
FF:The characters, they are so diverse and interesting. I could see lots of comic possibilities coming out of the script.

VOS: How did you choose your cast?
FF:Having participated in the play reading of “A Certain Singing Teacher” last year I had a good appreciation for the story and how the characters interacted and fit together. I had some ideas about who might possibly fill the roles. We held auditions and then still had to call a couple of people before we had a full cast that worked together with the correct ages and attributes to make it all work. I have an amazing cast who are a joy to work with, a wonderful team.


VOS: How has it been working with a playwright who is local?
FF: Linda Hutsell-Manning has been wonderful to work with. This will be the first time the play has been performed so we have been able to do a little work shopping of the script during the rehearsal process. Linda has attended some rehearsals and has been extremely helpful in working out any little issues we have come across. Linda has a great deal of experience as a published author and as a published children’s playwright so she brings a wealth of knowledge to the table. I am thoroughly enjoying the experience.


VOS: We hear you did some tweaking of the characters in casting.
FF: Having tried a couple of possibilities I found that just the right young man was not available to play the part of Sam Saller. I re-read the play and then contacted Linda with a proposal for her to consider. Would she consider changing the sex of the character Sam Saller? After all the name Sam could just as easily be short for Samantha as for Samuel. We discussed the ramifications, decided that it was certainly possible and Linda gave me the go-ahead to make the change. Other than changing some references to Sam from him/he to her/she there has been virtually no change to the script in order to accommodate the switch and Linda is actually going to make that change in her script so that the part could be played by either a man or a woman.


VOS: How are things going this week in the count down to Opening Night on Friday?
FF: We have now moved into the Concert Hall at Victoria Hall, the set is built, furniture, piano, props, costumes and equipment are all on site ready to go. There are a few last minute touch ups and finishing touches required on the set which will be completed by Dress Rehearsal. We will be rehearsing on the set this week, working out any little glitches and getting comfortable with our surroundings. The team is working very hard to make sure that everything runs smoothly for the cast and the cast is having a ball making sure that we are all ready for Opening Night!


VOS: What is next on the horizon for you Florence?
FF: After the show we will be taking a little trip, away from the cold for a couple of weeks, and then back to Cobourg. No doubt I’ll be getting to work on some aspect of the next VOS production – Anne of Green Gables, the Don Harron musical version,  which is going to be performed in July this year from the 13th to the 22nd in the Concert Hall at Victoria Hall. Actually tickets for that show are already a hot item and are selling well. The play of course is such an iconic Canadian play, it was a natural for us to choose to perform it during Canada’s 150th celebrations.

Get your tickets now for the VOS Premiere Production of A Certain Singing Teacher

Box Office: 1-855-372-220
Or Book Online Now



A Certain Singing Teacher – Speaking with the Playwright


We sat down with Author and Playwright Linda Hutsell-Manning, who tells us more about A Certain Singing Teacher, and about herself.

About the Play: Aspiring singer song-writer, Francine LaSalle leaves her philandering theatre agent partner, Allan Fairfax, to set herself up in small town Kraymer’s Corners as a singing teacher. She gives versions of her one published song to her students. Meat market entrepreneur Antonio Pasquali who dreamed, when young, of an opera career has the opera version. Waitress Hillary Carlyle who emulates a rocker chick, has the pop version. Co-op worker Sam Saller who longs to attend Julliard works on an improvised jazz version. When the local radio station advertises a Talent Contest and Allan shows up as a judge, hilarious and improbable complications develop. 

VOS Theatre: Linda, when was your first writing project accepted for publication?
Linda Hutsell-ManningLinda Hutsell-Manning: My first publication was a children’s book, Wondrous Tales of Wicked Winston, Annick Press 1981. I had been writing for several years and had a book review column in the  Cobourg Daily Star. I was mainly writing short stories, sending them out to literary magazines and having them rejected. Winston is a rhymed narrative poem, the first verse of which simply came into my head one day. I developed it into a story in rhyme and Annick Press was the 32ndpublisher I sent it to! As I recall, this took several years as the manuscript had to be mailed with a self-addressed-stamped-envelope (SASE) and publishers often took months to reply. The story was 26 verses long and Annick asked for a second one, saying the first wasn’t long enough for a book. The first story takes place in summer and the second over Hallowe’en. I still have the outline for winter and spring episodes but have never completed them.

VOS: Have you written any other plays?

LHM: During the time I was sending Winston out and getting it back, I attended a school play production at Merwin Greer School. The play they used was American and when I asked why not a Canadian play, they said they couldn’t find one. This motivated me to write the first of three children’s plays. Freddykid and Seagull Sam was first produced by the newly formed Northumberland Players in 1978 and the cast included  Shelley Netherton as Seagull Sam, my son David as Freddykid and Tom MacMillan as the Captain. It was incredibly exciting to see my characters come to life and, after a successful run in Cobourg, I sent the script to Playwrights Canada asking about publication. They promptly sent it back saying I must have an equity actor production before they would consider it. Kawartha Summer Festival in Lindsay produced it in 1979 and Playwright’s published it in 1982. I wrote two more kid’s plays for Kawartha Summer Festival: Merch the Invisible Wizard, published in 1983 and The Great Zanderthon Takeover published in 1984. The music for the first two plays was written jointly by Jacqui Manning-Albert and Don Herbertson.

VOS: How did the idea come to you to write A Certain Singing Teacher?
LHM:  The Canadian playwright, Allan Stratton, had written a playNurse Jane Goes to Hawaii and, in 1985 , in the old space at the Best Western, I played the lead, Vivien, a ditzy Harlequin Romance writer. This play was enormously successful all across Canada and this inspired me to write my own comedy. However, I did not, as Allan did, have theatre contacts to get it started. Once written, I mailed it  to over 20 professional theatres across Canada with a SASE and not one answered or returned the script. I found out later that theatre companies were known for not replying to unsolicited manuscripts. I’m fairly sure I wrote the first draft a year after I was in Nurse Jane. How the exact idea came to me, I don’t know. One of the mysteries of being a writer. I can say a number of real life situations probably inspired me. I certainly knew people who were having marriage and/or partner problems and, in the eighties, more women were venturing out on their own, trying new roles. Francine is one of those women. I purposely made each of her students a distinct individual whose past and present influenced why they wanted to take singing lessons. The plot developed as I wrote these characters although I did purposely bring her ex back to cause complications. As soon as I heard the wonderful song, “I’m Not Through With You Yet” written by Jacqui Manning-Albert, I knew it would be perfect in the play. However, after so many rejections, I put the script away and went on to write in other genres. It was my good fortune that, in March 2016, the VOS read my play during one of their play-reading  sessions and decided to produce it in their 2016/2017 season.

VOS: Is the main character, Francine LaSalle, based on a real person you know
LHM: She is, as are the rest of the characters in the play,  an amalgam of people I knew or had met as well as bits and pieces of characters in books and plays. Whatever a character starts out as, he or she soon takes on a definite personality, their own persona so to speak and, often, they do or say things the writer has never consciously thought of. Sometimes the writer may argue with these characters as to a certain line or action and, usually, the character tries to get the upper hand. It’s an interesting mind-wrestling exercise and often a tossup as to who wins. The play Six Characters in Search of an Author  explores this mind tussle between created  characters and their author. After seeing this play, I remember being so impressed and feeling, somehow, justified that what was happening when I wrote was a viable aspect of the creative process.

VOS: How much time do you spend on writing projects?
LHM: It all depends on the length of the manuscript, which is usually tied to the genre. My first picture book, Animal Hours, I wrote in a day, with very few subsequent changes, while my novels have taken, usually, a year for the first draft and another year  for rewrites. The first draft of Singing Teacher was written, I think, during  six months and then another year or more for rewrites. We are still tweaking the script as it is rehearsed.


VOS: Has you writing career involved any travel?
I have travelled across Canada a number of times promoting my books. In the eighties and nineties there was more grant money for book promotion. Then and now, I often combine family, relative and friends visits with readings. In 1999 I, travelled to Coburg, Germany and Luxembourg  giving readings in schools (in Germany mainly high schools). The research from visiting these two places gave me material that became the settings for my two juvenile time-travel novels, Jason and the Wonder Horn and Jason and the Deadly Diamonds. Whenever a new book comes out, an author has, with much self-promotion and hustling, the possibility of setting up readings and traveling.  Jason and the Portrait Snatchers, the third in the series but not published, was written after a family trip to England and, in particular, Bristol.


VOS: What are you working on now?
LHM: I am researching and writing a memoir about two years, 1963 to 1965, when I was teacher and principal of eight grades in a one room school, SS#2 Hamilton Township School known as  the Front Road School West. It was situated on Highway Two between Cobourg and Port Hope, on the south side, two doors east of Lane’s Garage. In those days the land on either side was pasture for nearby farms. The brick school, which had seen better days, had two chemical toilets inside the front door, a wood stove for heat, one cold water tap and no storm windows. Talking to former students and finding information is both challenging and rewarding. A trip down memory lane. I am, also, thinking of beginning another two act comedy. I haven’t written anything down yet, but probably will soon.

More information about Linda can be found on her web page:

Tickets are available now for A Certain Singing Teacher on Feb 10-11, 2017
Call 1-855-372-2210 or Reserve Online Now