Catching up with Idol Elena Juatco

Queen’s Drama student completes her run in T.O. musical

Elena Juatco—student by day, Canadian Idol contestant/actress by night.
Elena Juatco—student by day, Canadian Idol contestant/actress by night.

A typical Sunday night for the average Queen’s student might involve trolling around on Facebook, working at a part-time job, or even doing a little homework. But for Elena Juatco, ArtSci ’07, such relaxing times were put on hold when she stepped into the title role in Ross Petty’s production of Snow White and the Group of Seven.

If you’ve ridden the TTC in the past few months you know what I’m talking about: the family musical was staged at Toronto’s Elgin Theatre, one of the premiere venues in the city. Starring Sean Cullen (best known from Toronto’s version of The Producers) and Juatco, the performance closed to warm reviews. Richard Ouzounian of The Toronto Star called it “the hippest of the ten holiday shows Ross Petty has produced over the years.” Juatco in particular was praised as “a real charmer with a sweet voice.” It has been a chaotic past two years for Juatco, a third-year drama student who first endeared herself to audiences on the second season of Canadian Idol. With her powerhouse voice and down-to-earth manner, Juatco was a shoo-in. She auditioned in her hometown of Vancouver—just three days after her first year ended—on the urgings of friends, including many fellow Queen’s Players alumni.

After spending the last summer taking courses at the Shaw Festival and teaching at a theatre camp in New Brunswick, Juatco returned to Queen’s and was soon after plunged into rehearsals for Snow White. Incredibly, she has never been anything but a full-time student and is still on track to graduate in 2007.

“I organized my schedule ... and [took the train] back and forth [to and from Toronto],” she said. “It was hectic ... but I worked really hard and did as much as I could before rehearsals began.” Lucky she had plenty of time to plan her scheduling acrobatics after auditioning last winter for the role. “I found out this summer when I was in Vancouver that I got the role,” Juatco said. And in terms of tight scheduling, “I jumped on a bus in between classes.” Juatco had lots of company in Snow White, as several other Canadian Idol performers were in the cast. Ryan Malcolm, Gary Beals and Billy Klippert made up three of the members of the “Group of Seven”—not dwarves, but an aspiring boy band. Juatco enjoyed working with the earlier Idols.

“They let me in. I was like an older sister ... when you put those three together, it’s crazy. They play off each other ... I’m so glad I got to know them and work with them.” Juatco also praised Cullen, saying, “I absolutely adore him ... he’s the most hilarious man I’ve ever met. So natural on stage and so sweet in person.”

Snow White ran for more than a month in Toronto, staging eight shows a week before closing on Jan. 8, just one day before the winter term began. Juatco couldn’t head home to Vancouver to spend the holidays with her family, so her family came to her in Toronto. She spent the holiday season in a city where her image was plastered on ads everywhere from the transit system to billboards. “It was surreal,” she said. “I get to work on the subway! I was embarrassed.” Future plans for Juatco are focused on acting, most likely in Toronto, where she has already become a member of the Canadian Actors’ Equity Association. Still, she continues to write music and keep her voice in shape.

“I would like to record someday,” she said. In the meantime, Juatco has managed to stay involved at Queen’s, and her campus resumé includes acts as varied as Queen’s Players, The Vagina Monologues, a stellar performance at last fall’s Take Back the Night rally and of course, her sweeping win of Campus Idol in 2004.

In the immediate future, however, Juatco will be appearing in the Drama department winter major Variations on X and Why We Float, a dramatic response to the texts of Tim Etchells. Etchells is the creative director of Forced Entertainment, a group that has been called “Britain’s most brilliant experimental theatre company.” Juatco is clearly excited about the performance.

“Going from doing a panto[mime] to doing a very abstract, movement-based production is great,” she said. “It’s different ... with a panto, you need to have a lot of energy every night ... [the winter major] is a chance to be more experimental, more introspective.”

Genuine and enthusiastic about Queen’s, Juatco seems unaffected by her success to date. When asked if she ever considered leaving school and pursuing her career full time, she said “I came back during Frosh Week and everyone was getting ready for school ... I missed it too much. I have a lot to learn about acting ... I don’t want to rush it ... I love Queen’s to death.”

Variations on X and Why We Float will run March 8-11 and 15-18 in the Rotunda Theatre, located on the first floor of Theological Hall.

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