Photo from Barrie Examiner of Carson Nattrass, Jennifer Lyon and Eddie Glenn.

TIFT show brings touch of vaudeville to Barrie

Wednesday, March 19, 2014 7:39:41 EDT PM
By Susan Doolan

Carson Nattrass is happy to be back in Barrie, co-starring in the Talk Is Free Theatre (TIFT) production of The Wakowski Brothers, a Canadian Vaudeville which opens on Thursday.

He is revisiting the love of his youth and has an opportunity to reconnect with a local family.

“Really early on (at university), my friends and I were really obsessed with vaudeville, particularly Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin,” Nattrass said. “It’s not something that most young people get into, but (the) singing, dancing, actors who have comedic timing and fall down without hurting themselves, to me they were super artists.”

The story centres on two fictional brothers Jimmy and Conrad Wakowski (Nattrass plays Conrad) who grew up in Cape Breton. Their father was a miner. After the death of their parents, the brothers were looking to avoid a life in the mines, but needed to make money.

They discovered they could make a show career out of hitting each other for laughs, until they had a falling out over a woman. Eight years after splitting up their act, they reunite for a one-night tribute performance and attempt to rebuild their relationship.

Written by Wesley J. Colford, it marks the first time Nattrass and Jennifer Lyon, who plays the woman Caitlyn Rose, have been in the same TIFT show, even though they have performed together many times in the past. Both are from Winnipeg.

This is Lyon’s second show with TIFT. She played Sky Masterson in Guys and Dolls.

The Wakowski Brothers marks the second TIFT show for Nattrass. The last time he was here was for Great Expectations, and he is still playing in that show around Ontario, in between other projects. It was when he first heard about David Ball, a local actor, dancer and singer who won a 2010 Barrie Arts Award for emerging artist.

Nattrass cast Ball as the lead in a show he was directing in Winnipeg (Footloose) and he is currently begin billeted with the Ball family while he is appearing in the Wakowski Brothers.

Going into theatre/acting as a career may have come a complete shock to his musical family. His parents sang and played instruments and his sister sings at Winnipeg Jets games, but it was always a strong interest for Nattrass, just as much as sports.

After high school, he picked up awards for drama student of the year, athlete of the year. He played footfall, but also trained in tae kwon do and played other sports whenever he could. And he was named valedictorian.

“I was conflicted going into university. I started in phys ed to become a gym teacher and was failing biology because I learning my lines for Midsummer Night’s Dream. And that’s when it all started to change,” Nattrass said. “I knew where I belonged.”

He switched his major at the University of Manitoba and the same year, auditioned for the bachelor of fine arts acting program at the University of Alberta. It was a conservatory that takes in only 12 people from across the country.

Nattrass counts himself fortunate to be accepted and he took it very seriously.

Since then, he has won a number of awards, appeared in musicals and plays, film and television and worked with major artists such as Andrew Lloyd Webber and Sarah Polley among others, directed, and is a playwright, too.

But through it all, he enjoys movies the most.

“I got into acting because of the movies and then quickly discovered we don’t have a film industry in Canada,” he said. “I’m not one of the traditionally good looking people to try and get into film. I’ve made a career as a character actor. I did three movies last winter and I was a cop in all of them. I quite love it.”

Four years ago, Nattrass married fellow actor, director and writer Sharon Bajer. The couple has a blended family of three children. They are based out of Winnipeg.

The Wakowski Brothers, a Canadian Vaudeville, plays from March 20-29 at the Mady Centre for the Performing Arts, located in downtown Barrie at 1 Dunlop St. W.

Evening and matinee performances are available.

Tickets are $31-$34, available at the TIFT box office, 705-792-1949.  For information, visit

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