‘Bermuda to Broadway’, with Candace
It has been a while but Candace Furbert is back and offering a one-day workshop, Bermuda to Broadway.
She is doing it for Troika, the performing arts group she last took the stage for in 2016 as Celie, the lead character in The Color Purple.
She has performed in the West End of London in The Book of Mormon;Tina: The Tina Turner Musical and Dreamgirls. She was also part of the UK tour of Shrek The Musical and was a cast member of the British musical comedy, Six, on-board the Norwegian Bliss.
Ms Furbert will share that experience on Saturday when she hosts four workshops for performers of various ages.
The last class of the day, a vocal workshop, offers teenagers and adults lessons in “every area of musical theatre performance including song interpretation, vocal coaching and performance technique”.
“I want to work on breathing. I want to work on different exercises that can help you to sustain your vocals to help you get through if you're unwell, and also rehabilitation,” Ms Furbert said.
The techniques are ones she learnt in 2017 after two polyps were removed from her vocal chords.
“I hadn't even finished Dreamgirls at the time. I left a few weeks early to have this procedure done and when I came back, it was like my voice was completely different. I had to learn how to sing with this new voice. It felt different, it was a bit shaky; like a child just learning to walk for the first time.
“But then, as with any other muscle, you keep exercising. I learnt these short exercises while in rehabilitation that were actually good for warm-up and I’m excited to actually show everyone these techniques.”
Her youngest class, of four to seven-year-olds, will “explore musical theatre through music from the hit Disney movie Encanto”.
“I know a couple who have registered and they probably are Broadway-ready but not everyone who might sign up will already have that. And so I have to be able to adapt and cater to those people who are actually doing it for the first time.”
Although she was singing from the age of three, Ms Furbert did not consider a career in entertainment until she was a teenager.
“It wasn't until I travelled with Up With People, after I graduated from Berkeley [Institute] in 2009. That's when I realised I wanted to do musical theatre.”
In 2011 she flew to London, England for a year of intensive training at the American Musical Theatre Academy.
Candace Furbert is looking forward to her studies at Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts in September – all she needs is a bit of help.
The £15,000 tuition is a problem for the 30-year-old who is “too old for the majority of scholarships” and struggled through school because of a learning difficulty.
“With a low GPA it's very discouraging to even apply. I’m well below the qualification; I'm not even close to it.
“I was in learning support throughout my years.”
She is “discouraged” that cases like hers don’t receive special consideration.
“My grades shouldn't matter. What does that have to do with my talent? I've proven myself. I feel like I'm working hard. Nothing like that should matter I think when it comes to performance-based arts things. It should be about what you bring to the table, what you can show.”
On returning to Bermuda from England this spring, Ms Furbert got a job at the St Regis but then decided it made more sense to be on stage.
“So I've just been really performing and working and trying to save up that way for school. It's definitely been a struggle for me but I have to go to school.”
The £15,000 tuition does not include room and board or airfare and she will require a two-bedroom flat to accommodate her 20-month-old son, Jensen.
She is very grateful for the $1,500 donated by audiences of The Experience, a musical showcase put on at Willowbank by Kairos 22 earlier this summer.
“I am truly blessed and this is a thank you to all those that have given out of their pockets for me towards my schooling.”
As work is always uncertain in the entertainment industry, Ms Furbert is reluctant to take on the burden of a student loan.
“I've tried to get as much support as possible showing myself in the community. I do understand I haven't been here for years, but that's because I'm doing what I'm sure you want me to do.
“I quit my job at St Regis after a month of working there because I felt like I needed to get out. I needed to be seen in the community. I wasn’t able to do as many gigs because I was at the hotel. My priority was putting myself out there so I can earn money through performance, which is what makes me happier, and also to get my face out there to try and get some help and support for funding for school.”
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At the end of the programme she started auditioning for shows and was accepted into Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts, a drama school in the UK.
“At the same time I landed a job in the original cast of The Book of Mormon at the Prince of Wales Theatre in London and it was that decision – whether or not I'm going to go to school for three years and come out and compete with everyone else to get this exact type of job, or I take this opportunity right now and when I’m ready come back.”
She went for the job. Shrek, Dreamgirls, The Color Purple, Tina and Six followed.
When her cousin Jason Lee died in April, she decided to come home.
“I then lost someone else dear to me, Jennifer Seymour. She was my nursery schoolteacher and had continued as my teacher my entire life. Every time I’d come from England, I’d always go to her restaurant see her. And every time I went she would pass me something and say, ‘I’m investing in you. This is for your future.’”
With the pandemic and her 20-month-old son Jensen in mind, Ms Furbert made the decision to reapply to Mountview Academy and was once again accepted.
“My whole time in the industry, I felt like there was something missing. There was information that either I didn't have ways of just asking for, or a type of training I was missing.
“With the pandemic happening, everything is a bit unsure with the West End and Broadway. You have some musicals in the UK that were started and within a few months they’re closing down because of ticket sales; everyone keeps getting Covid in the cast so we have to cancel the show … it's just a lot going on.”
She continued: “So while they’re figuring it out I decided I would raise my son and go to school while he's small. I’m used to coming home at about midnight every night from shows. I don't want to do that to my child.”
Being at home for a while allowed Ms Furbert to reconnect with Troika.
“I was a part of Ammunition, the first showcase Troika did. And since then, I’ve just had a connection with Troika but it’s always been a timing thing. Sometimes I come home but I’m not home long enough. This time [Seldon Woolridge, one of Troika’s founders] was able to catch me.”
On August 4 she leaves for England to prepare for her first term at Mountview. Ms Furbert is hoping that her time in the industry will help her through the academic side.
“I struggle with comprehension. And for this school, the majority of it is a performance grade, which is very good for me. I struggle with reading and obviously understanding what I read.
“Because I struggle with my comprehension I used to find it really hard to get into a specific character. If I'm not understanding what I’m reading, how am I supposed to understand who am I supposed to be, what am I supposed to be doing, what I am feeling as this person, this character? I don't know how I've done it, but I've obviously done something right.”
She has been told that dyslexia is not the issue but what the actual problem is remains unclear.
“I've struggled with it for years, even in high school. I'm very fortunate and blessed to have the talent that I have.”
Eventually, she wants to come back home and teach.
“Within the last five years I believe musical theatre has actually picked up on the island. So many different dance schools offer musical theatre, which is absolutely brilliant. I didn't have that option when I was a kid.”
Troika’s performing arts master class workshop series, Bermuda to Broadway, takes place on Saturday in the United Dance Productions studio on Court Street. Admission is $25 in advance. To register, and for more information: www.bdatix.bm