Pages woos the Isabel

First entirely student-written show is uplifting queer theatre

QSB performing Pages at the Isabel. 
Credit: 
Photo from Facebook

For many, the most frightening thing about university is graduating. 

However, Queen’s Students on Broadway’s musical Pages refused to be afraid. The show—which ran from Nov. 15 to 17 at the Isabel Bader Studio Theatre—is an uplifting answer to graduation anxiety.

Its fearlessness proved successful. The show broke Queen’s records for ticket sales at the Isabel Studio Theatre. 

The Studio theatre reached 82 per cent capacity at every performance, which is well over the average 70 per cent capacity seen with the theatre’s other productions.   

Directed and written by Bryan Cuypers, with music by Lilac Toh, Pages  explores the realities of graduating from university, all while being the first entirely student written show to take the stage at the Isabel. 

With a small cast, Pages empathizes with graduating students’ fears of moving into adulthood after university. 

It tells the story of Grace, a recent Queen’s graduate. In the musical, she wakes up in her favourite storybook, and manages to escape from the reality of her recent graduation.

While graduation was one aspect of the production, Cuypers’ also set out to address the lack of uplifting queer theatre at Queen’s. As a result, his writing process was inspired by one positive moment. 

“The initial concept behind Pages was the ‘wooing scene’ where the main hero woos the prince, since most theatre that deals with queer issues is depressing,” he said. “We’re trying to subvert what other theatres do with queer productions. We built the rest of the play around that ‘wooing’ scene.”

This mixture of modern romance and anxiety for the future is set against a strong soundtrack that compliments the coming-of-age story’s uplifting themes. 

While writing the show’s music, Toh drew inspiration from The Killers and Sara Bareilles.The former inspired 

Toh’s song, “On the Bright Side,” an infectious answer to Cuyper’s belief in creating more positivity in queer theatre. 

Despite what Cupyers and Toh called “hiccups” in Pages’ production—like the last minute construction of their main set piece of a tree—the show surpassed expectation. 

Toh and Cuypers wouldn’t change anything.

“Everything we went through in the process of creating Pages was something we needed to go through for the production to be as successful as it was,” Toh told The Journal in an interview. “Everything that happened we had to go through for it turn out the way it was.” 

Considering Pages’ ticket sales, the approach appears to have worked.

Cast member Katy Scott said part of Pages’ success relied on subverting expectations of genre. 

Instead of creating a cliché storyline, the show recognizes its tropes, poking fun along the way. 

This good-natured humour offered a surprising relatable narrative for students tired of predictable takes on graduation and adulthood. 

“None of us know what we are doing. We are all in the same boat. We are all in the same wariness,” Scott said. “But, I think it’s reassuring that everyone is going through the same thing and trying to figure it out. 

You have to make your decisions in your own time and you have to make your own choices.” 

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