Hannibal the Musical gives Montreal’s special needs adults the opportunity to shine


The I Can Dream Theatre Group is a community based organization that gives young adults with special needs the opportunity to develop their talents in the area of the performing arts.

Their latest show, Hannibal The Musical is close to being unleashed to the public (November 14 and 15, 2014 at the Oscar Peterson Hall at Concordia University)

The I Can Dream Theatre Group is a group that connects to me on a few different levels. Yes, my sister (Michele Matthews – Musical Director and Choreographer) and my friends (Ada Masciarelli – Writer and Director, Tricia Bartley – Production Manager) are the fearless leaders making their mark on the independent theatre scene in English Montreal, but there’s something more to it than just familial and friend relationships.

The group consists of 20 members whose needs range from autism to Downs Syndrome. All cast members went through an audition process to get their spot in the group.  Each member shows an inclination towards dance, acting or performing.  This theatre group focuses on having a polished, properly rehearsed final product at the end of the performing cycle.  Self-esteem and confidence boosts are only some of the positive results seen within cast members in their participation.

Here’s a timeline for you: Auditions happen at the end of a year, around November or December. Once final casting decisions have been made, rehearsals begin for the new production in January of the new year.  Rehearsals run until June, then a break for the summer, resuming again in September and then they march all the way through until showtime in the Fall.   So work on an I Can Dream is a full time job. And it keeps going.  Ideas for the next show begin brewing while the previous show hasn’t even finished yet.  At the rate this group is going, the I Can Dream Theatre Group has a long life ahead of it.

Could it be their knack for production that I gravitate towards? Well, I would say that’s part of it.

In order to draw their audience in, the I Can Dream Theatre Group shows are always based around known pop culture references and songs.  Their latest show, Hannibal The Musical (being performed this week on Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at the Oscar Peterson Hall at Concordia University) features none other than Hannibal Lecter himself – or rather the background behind how he grew up.

Scary you might say? Not in the least.  I Can Dream shows are a family affair, and it’s fair to say that you can expect the unexpected with this show – and with all of their shows.  I mean their past shows include Love Trek: The Final Frontier (a mash up of The Love Boat + Star Trek) and One Night At The Copacabana (you can see where this is going – Barry Manilow would approve).

Songs that are used are all known and popular – there’s a beating pop song heart at the core of all of their shows. The song catalogue that is usually chosen for their shows rely mostly on ’50s, ’60s and ’70s pop classics (a great lesson in music education for their young cast) but the occasional current song also will find its way in one of their shows.  Past shows include a dance around Michael Jackson’s Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’ and JLo’s Let’s Get Loud.  One of the crowd pleasing moments in last year’s show was a (planned) surprising flash mob to Rihanna’s Don’t Stop The Music.

I am and always will be a fan of the underdog, and this group is about allowing the chance for the proverbial underdog to succeed and shine.

But what I love the most about this group is its ability to diffuse and breakdown stereotypes around special needs individuals – and it is doing so with every single show.

In each audience, there is at least one audience member (a “newbie”) who for some reason or another is sitting there, unsure and nervous about what they are about to see. Is it all right to laugh? Will I feel awkward? Will this show even be any good? Those are just some of the questions that may be floating through this person’s head.  But within minutes of an I Can Dream show being presented, those thoughts float right out of the atmosphere, and that audience member has become a fan for life.

And the even deeper resonation that happens is that just maybe, another person is a convert and is able to see that the commonalities that unite us all far outweigh the differences.

There are big plans in store for I Can Dream in 2015. While a new show next Fall will be in the wings, expect more programming and events throughout the year that will truly solidify the group’s reputation in our fair city.  I can’t wait to see!

There are still tickets left for Hannibal The Musical this Friday and Saturday.  Contact icandreamtheatre@gmail.com for more details. Auditions for I Can Dream’s 2015 show will be taking place in December.  Email us for more details if you’re interested. 

We’re on Facebook (I Can Dream Theatre Group – Montreal) and Twitter (@icandreamMTL) so come find us. Our website is: www.icandreamtheatregroup.com