Together Sarah Louise Younger and Ashley Taylor form the newly created collaboration known as Salty Theatre. Their maiden show, People Suck -Winner of Best of Toronto Fringe and Patron’s Pick, is about to launch at the Butterfly Club. Written by award winning Canadian writing team Megan Phillips and Peter Cavell, People Suck promises to be irreverent and hilarious.
The show’s genesis came out of a real life experience for co-creator Phillips while visiting Toronto in 2014.
“I was part of a comedy group that was breaking down. I couldn’t understand why we were being so horrible to each other… especially me to them. So while journalling (weeping profusely) the question why I wasn’t acting more evolved towards these humans than I knew I should be, the idea for a show called People Suck popped into my head. I saw it right there: it was a musical theatre song cycle about people – ALL people -being horrible to each other. I knew I wasn’t strong enough to helm this on my own, so I approached the one person I knew (Peter Cavell) who hated people almost as much as I did— who happened to be a phenomenal and intelligent musician and comedic mind himself. Pete originally said No, but by the second sentence (when I told him the title of the show), he interrupted me and said, “I’m in.” And thus began the most frolicking of journeys down the dark shadow of humanity. (And a really cool partnership. That part is dead true).
I’d like to be clear that none of this entire process answered my original question. I’m still very open to ideas.”
Cavell says he’d been accidentally researching the premise of the show for his whole life without realizing it. “So when Meg came to me with this idea in 2014, I hoped that it might put my entire life journey in perspective. It did not, but we at least got to write some blasphemous tunes about frenemies, grammar, and reciprocal oral sex.”
Phillips describes the fortuitous meet as a kismet romance without any of the kissing romance (quickly taking a sec to give focus to Pete’s badass wife Adriana for keeping Pete’s kids alive this whole time).
“We met at the University of Western Ontario in the improv club, then the Faculty of Music, and finally as part of a group of students that chanted cheers during Orientation Week. We never really hung out or created in University, but the Universe really wanted us to be pals: despite living across the country, we would repeatedly bump into each other on the street when I visited Toronto (until finally I just started calling him once a year when I came to visit family). People Suck was our first creative and biz partnership together.”
Cavell adds that Phillips is conveniently forgetting that they also both played bit-parts in a university production of Henry V in 2003ish. “I still consider that to be a significant creative collaboration for us, even if she doesn’t.”
Phillips quips that she has wiped that entire production — and summer— from her memory!
As can be expected from responses thus far, their writing pairing is pretty flexible, depending on what they are working on. “We usually come to each other with premises for new songs, and then we flesh them out together and start working on lyrics,” explains Cavell. “Once we’ve figured out the hook of the song, the melody just kind of materializes. That said, we live three time-zones apart, so most of our writing is done over Skype and Google Docs during the brief one-hour window each day where our schedules line up.”
Phillips adds a shoutout to Google Docs and the Internet.
On the question of early influences and inspiration, it would seem The Phantom of the Opera has a lot to answer for.
Cavell: I’ve always been a music-lifer, but seeing The Phantom of the Opera at the age of nine officially sealed the deal for me. From then on I knew that I wanted to write musicals, and that’s still pretty much my number one goal in life. Two of my biggest inspirations nowadays are Tim Minchin and Joe Iconis. If I ever write anything half as cheekily witty as Minchin or 50% as bizarrely poignant as Iconis, I’ll immediately call my mom.
Phillips: OMG PETE HAVE WE NEVER TALKED ABOUT THIS?? I was OBSESSED with Phantom as a kid, I had such a crush on Jeff Hyslop (the original National Tour Phantom). I also loved Les Miserables, which may give some insight as to my childhood mental health state.
Pete got me into Tim Minchin, for which I am forever grateful. I am big-time into Maria Bamford, Pete Holmes, and Bo Burnham.
Cavell: Okay, clearly we need to talk Phantom later, when all these magazine readers aren’t looking at us. *waves awkwardly at the nice people*
BONUS FUN FACT: Jeff Hyslop is most famous to our generation for playing a fabulous dancing mannequin on the seminal 1980s Canadian kids TV show Today’s Special. Meg’s crush on him raises all sorts of interesting questions.
Phillips’ favourite genres are electro-pop and dance music as well as Macklemore, and musical theatre songs that make her cry. “Not difficult,” she adds.
For Cavell it’s musical theatre and classical all the way – with mad respect to his main man Frederic Chopin. “Though when I started working as a musical director for Second City I gave myself a crash-course in all kinds of obscure musical genres,” he says. “And that was how I discovered my deep passion for Zydeco.”
It would seem the duo is certainly on the same page re. long term goals:
Phillips: I speak for myself here, but to get this show to Broadway through any means possible, stomping on whoever we need to, so we can make enough money for one thing and one thing only: to park in front of no parking signs day after day just because we can. (Pete does not know about this).
Cavell: I actually did know about this, but was waiting for it to come up naturally in the course of our friendship. I’m glad we’re finally talking about it. As for me, it’s always been my secret ambition to achieve an EGOT and have three shows running on Broadway at the same time. As of today, I am 0% of the way towards these goals.
So how did the partnership between Phillips, Cavell and Salty Theatre present itself:
Cavell: it’s a funny story. Meg and I were sitting around minding our own business, doing something typically Canadian (i.e. making maple-syrup poutine on a snowmobile while watching beavers play hockey) when we got this lovely email from Ashley, who we had never met. She introduced herself and asked to produce our show in Australia of all places.
Phillips: true fact. We agreed that Ashley’s enthusiasm was the perfect antidote to a show about gruesome meanies… they can’t ALL be bad ALL the time. We definitely have some future schemes in the works, but let’s get through one sold out run at a time.
Cavell: Ashley and Sarahlouise don’t know this yet, but we intend to write them a hip-hop musical about American founding father Alexander Hamilton.
Phillips: We actually already have. (Google Docs….did you know it actually writes songs for you now??? The magic of the future).
People Suck – a musical airing of grievances – is an all-too-relatable musical comedy exploring the many, many ways in which people are just the worst.
Says Phillips: If you’ve ever left your house, answered the phone, or been on the Internet, this show is for you! And if you do not relate to this show, please can I have your life?
And a quick counter by Cavell: This show will teach you to love again.
So whatever it is for you, see it!
March 11 – 16
Tickets: via – https://thebutterflyclub.com/show/people-suck-a-musical-airing-of-grievances