Altar Boyz and Beyond: An Interview with Brian Goldenberg

Published: December 21st 2009
in Culture » Stage


In his first outing as artistic producer of Angelwalk Theatre, Brian Goldenberg’s first show did so well that performances were extended a week beyond their original closing date. For anyone who caught Angelwalk’s Altar Boyz back in the fall, it’s easy to see why: a fun, lighthearted spoof of boy bands and Christian pop music, Altar Boyz showcases five singing heartthrobs (four Christians and one Jew) who make up the fictitious titular band, as they perform the last concert of their national “Raise the Praise” tour in your hometown while trying to save your soul.




With its upbeat tunes and no-frills production, Altar Boyz was the perfect show to kick off Angelwalk’s inaugural season. But in a city already rife with theatre companies of all shapes and sizes – from large-scale musical presentations to intimate barroom productions – where does Angelwalk Theatre fit into the mosaic?




That’s the question I asked Brian Goldenberg (pictured above), who co-founded Angelwalk over a year ago with his producing partner Kevin Horton. A two-time graduate of York University in Toronto, with a BFA in Music and an MBA in Arts Management, Goldenberg has long been involved with the theatre scene in Toronto, including duties as assistant producer for the Acting Up Stage Theatre Company and producer and musical director for Vanier College Productions at York (positions which he still holds). But his love for musical theatre, and desire to try something new, led to Angelwalk.




“Looking at Toronto, there are a lot of big theatres that do musical theatre and some really small ones, but to be able to perform in a theatre that seats 100, 200, 300 people – there is very little musical theatre happening this small,” Goldenberg says. “And there are a lot of shows that don’t suit bigger houses, so those simply aren’t going to get done.”




There’s also the question of feel. “New York theatres are generally a lot smaller than Toronto theatres,” he notes, “and they’re constructed in a way that the audience is a lot closer to the stage. But when you try to take a smaller show into a large theatre in Toronto – and when I say smaller show, I still mean shows that are playing on big stages in New York City – you lose that connection to what’s happening on the stage. Your ability to connect with an audience is really important in a show, and the size of the theatre can make a big difference.” Altar Boyz is a case in point: “If I did it in a 500 or 700 seat theatre, it wouldn’t be the same show.”




For these reasons, the 200-seat Studio Theatre at the Toronto Centre for the Arts was the perfect place to house Angelwalk’s shows, not to mention its location is easily accessible for both uptown/suburban theatre-goers and downtown dwellers. 




Finally, there’s the Angelwalk mandate to create opportunities for Canadian professionals with homegrown productions of new, exciting shows that may not have been done here before. But beyond all that, Goldenberg simply wants to help the theatre scene in Toronto grow. “Theatre breeds theatre,” he says. “The more you see theatre, the more you’re willing to take a chance on it. [Angelwalk] is not about trying to compete with the companies that are already here. And we’re at a stage right now, with our city growing, with the population growing, that it just felt like the right time to start something new.”




Related articles: (stage, brian goldenberg, angelwalk theatre, altar boyz, the last five years)

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