Garber at the Grand
As far back as I can remember,
performing was what I could do, what I was driven to do and obsessed to
do. I played Tom Sawyer. I remember auditioning for it and getting it
and I thought: "That's it. I'm hooked."
- Victor Garber,
By far the most famous alumni
of London Little Theatre, Victor Garber began his theatre career in children's
shows at the Grand and gradually worked his way up to featured roles in
a number of mainstage productions throughout the 1960s. What follows is
a brief description of the fledgling actor's career in London.
Ten-year-old Victor was somewhat familiar to Londoners through appearance
on his mother's At Home show on CFPL-TV when he was given his first role
by the Grand's artistic director, Peter Dearing. This April 1959 production
was geared towards high school students studying the play in their English
classes. Garber's first ever line on stage? "What is amiss?"
The King and I (Royal Prince)
A non-speaking role for Garber, his brother, sister and mother in this
large-scale musical which opened the season. It was the first production
to pair Garber with director Don Fleckser, who would become the young
actor's mentor during his amateur period. Garber (buried in a children's
chorus) got to sing the first of many Broadway songs, Getting to Know
Tom Sawyer (title role)
Garber's first significant stage role in children's theatre was the result
of Don Fleckser's keen eye for casting. Future stage and film actress
Kate Nelligan was inspired to enter the theatre after seeing this production.
Another children's production with Garber playing opposite Bridget Blackwell
and a bunch of live goats.
Life With Father (John Day)
Another season opener directed
by Don Fleckser, this show called upon Garber to have his hair dyed red
for the role. Set designer Martha Mann later noted that Garber's star
quality was undeniable by that time.
Kiss Me Kate (big shaggy dog)
Although one of Garber's most anonymous roles, his performance was
singled out by the local theatre critic. At the age of 12 Garber
had been diagnosed with juvenile diabetes which may explain why his budding
talents were absent from the London theatre scene for more than two years.
The Diary of Anne Frank (Peter Van Daan)
During the summer of 1964 Garber took a theatre course at Hart House
under Robert Gill. At this time, he was the youngest member of
the company at 15 and had changed his professional name from Vic to Victor
Garber. His costar in Anne Frank, Caroline Dolny-Guerin, later
became the head of the drama department at a local high school.
Roar of the Greasepaint - The Smell of the Crowd (Cockey)
Garber had attained semiprofessional status by the time he appeared in
his final London Little Theatre show. He had taken theatrical training
at George Luscombe's Toronto Workshop and had just started up a successful
folk rock group, Sugar Shoppe, with fellow Londoner Laurie Hood. Unlike
previous musicals at the Grand, Garber had a chance to sing solo this
Sugar Shoppe disbanded, Garber landed the role of Jesus in a Toronto production
of Godspell, which led to his casting in the film version of the play
in 1973. This performance helped launch a stage career that has included
plays like Deathtrap, Sweeney Todd and Damn Yankees. In recent years,
his film roles have included Titanic and Legally Blonde. He has returned
to the Grand Theatre on rare occasions, most notably for a performance
of Love Letters and for the theatre's 100th anniversary gala in 2002.
In 2005, Garber lent his name
and image to the Grand's fundraising effort and to a London-based educational
campaign sponsored by the Canadian Diabetes Association. (Image courtesy
Banting House National Historic Site)
here for a complete list of Victor Garber's acting credits.