"Better than This" with Cathy Wilmot

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  • Brad Ho

A new show chronicling the evolution of women’s roles in musical theatre is coming to the stage in February. The audience will enjoy songs from many of the most beloved musicals of the past century, including West Side Story, Chicago, Wicked and more.

It features a foursome of talented female performers including Cathy Wilmot, recently seen in the Arts Club Theatre’s production of Mamma Mia. We take some time to chat with her about the show and her experiences.

OSB Cathy, after a quick look into you, it appears you have a huge repository of experience. Tell us a little on your background, training, and education and artistic practices and can you speak of some of your favorite roles or productions?

I originally trained in opera and acting and realized that my passion was musical theatre. Life led me down a few different roads but after 20 years of performing, I decided to pursue more training and I did my Masters of Fine Arts at the prestigious Boston Conservatory. I have been incredibly blessed to have the career I have had so far and a lot of companies like Applause Musicals, Fighting Chance, TUTS, and then the Arts Club have given me great opportunities to play amazing roles. Some of my favorites have been Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd, Edie in Grey Gardens, Paulette in Legally Blonde, and Rosie in Mamma Mia. All roles that really allowed me to grow as an artist and performer.

OSB: Describe “Better Than This" In your own words.

Better Than This is a new work about the evolution of women in musical theatre and we hold a microscope to the last 100 years of this genre.

OSB: Without giving too much away, what can audience members expect to hear from you in the show?

My fellow performers and I play all of the female archetypes and tropes that we have come to be expected from female characters in musicals. All four of us on stage really get to stretch our acting chops and embrace all of the wonderful roles.

OSB: I understand this is a brand new work. How has that process been, and were you able to contribute ideas that ended up in the final show?

I haven’t started rehearsals with them yet, but I have been excited to have many conversations with the creative team about how female roles have been crafted over the last century, and where we hope they will go. The dialogue and songs were chosen for the four of us cast in mind and we all got to add in some lines about our wishes for women in theatre.

OSB: What have you noticed has changed the most in the evolution of women's roles in musical theatre?

Definitely, the trope of a woman's job of servants and suppliants has changed. Women have started to be written as realistic living, breathing humans who are allowed to have character flaws.

OSB: What would you like to see in the next 10-50 years change in the future evolution of women's roles in musicals?

I’d love to see more content where women support each other and don’t have to compete with each other, stories with universal themes that don’t rely on gender narratives. and casting to be truly inclusive and reflect all types of people in the community regardless of ethnicity, age, body type, orientation, ability, and gender.

OSB: Why is this subject matter important to be showcased?

For exactly the reasons mentioned above. Women have been written into these archetypes - doe-eyed ingenue or cynical middle-aged crone for far too long. The Bechdel test is another good indicator of why things need to change. When men's characters run the gamete of types, so should women's roles.

OSB: How has working with Fabulist Theatre been?

Great! They have been very supportive of ideas and thoughts about how each of the performers sees the characters they are playing in the show to match with the message the show is about.

OSB: In one sentence, with so many theatrical offerings, why should people see this show.

Firstly, it’s a musical - and as we cover 100 years of music, there will be some familiar toe-tappers as well as some new songs perhaps you may not know from the musical theatre canon, and hopefully leave with renewed knowledge of musicals. Secondly, Fabulist theatre created content that is missing right now - and I always think that the community should support new works:).

Better Than Tis plays February 28th - March 9th at The Havana Theatre is at 1212 Commercial Dr. in Vancouver.

Tickets are $18 if bought by Jan. 31, $24 if purchased in advance, and $28 at the door. There’s a pay-what-you-choose preview on Feb. 28 ($5 to $20), and a half-price show on Tuesday, March 5. The Friday, March 8 performance features a post-show talkback in honour of International Women’s Day.

See www.tinyurl.com/BetterThanThisTix to buy, or see @FabulistTheatreVancouver on Facebook for details.