Stagefright was originally produced in 1978, at The Buttery Theatre in Niagara-On-The Lake. In the 1970’s and into the 1980’s, the Buttery had a history of presenting small cabaret-style shows throughout the summer, as a late-night alternative to the shows at The Shaw Festival. The great Tom Kneebone and Dinah Christie did a number of their cabarets at the Buttery, most of which eventually transferred to one of the many cabaret spaces that existed in Toronto at the time.

I had written primarily “revues” before writing Stagefright, which was my first real attempt at writing a professional “book” show. It did maintain some remnants of the revue format, however, as the story wove through what were essentially 3 short one-act musicals.

The Stagefright premise is that a young woman, CLAIRE (played originally by Claire Rodgers, now primarily a jazz singer) hires two out-of-work actors, TRUDY (played originally the great Trudy Desmond) and DEREK (played originally by Derek McGrath, who has gone on to a very successfully television career – Cheers, My Secret IdentityLittle Mosque On The Prairie, and many more), to help her work through some of her life issues by using a strange form of psycho-drama.

The 3 mini-musicals they cast end up “improvising” are based on 1) Don Giovanni, 2) A Doll’s House and 3) Private Lives.

The one song from the show that is still performed from time to time is “1003”, which is based on one of Giovanni’s arias in Don Giovanni. One sings it today at some risk, however, as the lyrics are no longer quite politically correct. At the time, though, it was quite a funny number. (It’s also the one song of mine that Nancy White loves to taunt me with!)

“1003” (1978) [As published in Field Of Stars (Volume 2)]
(Music and Lyrics by Jim Betts)
From Stagefright  (book by Jim Betts, Miriam Fond and Catherine Knights)
Piano/Vocal Arrangement by Stephen Woodjetts and Bob Ashley
Piano Performance by Bob Ashley
Vocal Performance by Jim Betts
Click here to listen to an audio preview of  “1003”
Click here to purchase an individual pdf copy of  “1003”

Stagefright has subsequently been performed at a number of other theatres, including:

  • the Dell Theatre in Toronto (now sadly gone)
  • The Huron Country Playhouse in Grand Bend
  • Lunchbox Theatre in Calgary
  • Talk Is Free Theatre in Barrie