If this had been the script of a TV show, you would have dismissed it as too perfectly and predictably triumphant. After being announced last as finalists during Friday’s preliminaries at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre, and randomly picking the last-place spot to perform in Saturday’s finals, Wexford Collegiate School of the Arts (whom Torontoist totally singled out before the competition began) proved once and for all that they’re first-place material at the inaugural Show Choir Canada National Championships Saturday. So You Think You Can Dance Canada‘s Melissa Williams summed it up best after the 70-student performance: “Your epicness has nothing to do with your size, your numbers—individually, your commitment is what makes you epic as a group.”
Show Choir Canada will be back in 2012, and since the last two days were spent judging the 10 high schools that performed, it’s only fair to briefly turn a critical eye on the competition itself: Will next year include schools from other parts of Canada, to make it a truly national competition? And, as countless parents were overheard speculating, could they create separate divisions for the arts and non-arts schools? And finally—the thing they probably really, really wish we could all just forget—will they create a more streamlined process to avoid mixing up the fifth- and sixth-place winners in front of the entire crowd?
The competition definitely has room for growth, but the emotional commitment and confidence shown by this year’s choirs proved they must be doing something right. Each of the schools seemed to have some kind of dramatic secret weapon, whether it was Richmond Hill High School creating the pitter-pattering sounds of rain with their hands before their version of “Africa,” Etobicoke School of the Arts’ all-male rendition of Madonna’s “What It Feels Like For a Girl” (Glee has nothing on them), or the love story strung throughout St. Peter Catholic High School’s entire show—we’re still holding our breath for soloists Ryan Binsell and Sarah Blouin to kiss at the end of their performance.
Of course, as we mentioned in our preview, Wexford Collegiate’s winning show choir had not only the largest group, but a few tricks of their own: their medley of Rent songs went from modern zombie-inspired moves to a hip-hop dance break, and included an appearance by Wexford’s Elijah Manalo as Angel, Rent‘s young drag queen, performing “Today 4 U.” The choir’s director, Ann Merriam, calls him a real pro: “This is as good as it gets,” she says. “To have that in a high school, I mean, this guy is gold.”
But as well as surprises, the choir also gave the audience what they were surely waiting for when the winners were announced: Wexford’s encore performance was Journey’s anthemic “Don’t Stop Believin’.”
Photos by Corbin Smith/Torontoist.