Allison Girvan and Desiree Hall are joint music directors for the Nelson musical Chicago.

Duo helps actors get on the right key

Performers in the show Chicago get vocal help from music directing duo Allison Girvan and Desiree Hall.

A cast of 19 Nelson performers will bring the musical Chicago to the Capitol Theatre stage next month, and helping them prepare vocally for the production is music directing duo Allison Girvan and Desiree Hall.

For the past month and a half, the pair have been at twice-weekly rehearsals helping the actors perfect the show’s many musical numbers.

It’s a familiar role for Girvan who leads the Corazon and Lalin vocal ensembles and is a regular behind the piano at rehearsals for youth theatre productions. But for Hall it’s a brand new opportunity. A Corazon alumna who now sings with Lalin and recently completed the Selkirk music program, Hall is shadowing Girvan to learn what it’s like to direct other vocalists.

“It’s been super eye-opening for me to be in this seat and realize it’s really what I’ve always wanted to be doing,” said Hall, who’s involvement with musical theatre has more often been as an actor. She most recently appeared as a villager in the Christmas pantomime Rapunzel.

Hall said she’s learning a lot from Girvan, particularly around how to urge the singers to change what they’re doing without causing them unnecessary stress.

Girvan has also benefited from having Hall by her side. She said offering the mentorship means she always has an extra set of ears and somebody to bounce ideas off of.

“It’s a lovely gift for me to have somebody else who is very talented sitting here listening, who I can turn to and ask, ‘what did you hear,’” Girvan said.

Also helping out on the music is Darren Fuss, the rehearsal pianist who will double as band leader during the show, directing the musicians who play live on stage.

“They’re such a kind and supportive team to work with,”  said Chicago producer Sydney Black who also plays the vaudevillian murderesses Velma. “Music can he really difficult, especially if you can’t quite hit the right notes. You need somebody there who can make you feel successful even when you’re having a really frustrating session.”

Black met Girvan when she was a teenager taking part in Capitol Youth Theatre productions and singing as one of the founding members in Corazon. As an adult, they were reunited when Girvan was musical director for Little Show of Horrors, the first Nelson production Black acted in after theatre school.

“She’s a huge inspiration and just one of the best people to work with,” Black said of Girvan, noting that Hall has a similar demeanor and the two compliment each other very well.

For her part, Girvan said she feels fortunate to be working with such a talented bunch of performers, including her eldest son Gabriel Macdonald who plays the emcee.

Chicago runs June 12 to 15. Tickets are available at the Capitol Theatre online at or by phone, 250-352-6363.

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