Entertainment Spotlight: Norm Sutton
“If I did three in a row I would probably end up divorced” says Norm Sutton after wrapping back to back productions (his 10th and 11th shows at Keyano Theatre) A Christmas Carol and The Drowsy Chaperone. But Norm’s story isn’t the typical as he didn’t get started until the ripe age of 50. “My wife Sheila and I have had the same seats at Keyano for 13 seasons in a row and were always overwhelmed by the talent.”
Moving with his family to Fort McMurray in 1996, Norm never expected to find himself on the stage until his neighbour Russell Thomas, publicist for Keyano Theatre at the time, reached out to him. “Up until recently I had the long bushy beard and long hair and he wanted somebody who looked like a pirate for the lobby poster”, Sutton explains. “A lot of people told me you oughta be in the play and I said I’ve never acted or done anything like that in my life. It was probably one of the worst auditions in theatrical history but I was lucky enough to get in. My character was only in Act 1 Scene 1 and never seen again but I got hooked.”
Despite only being in one scene Sutton was very involved in the backstage work on the show and became hooked on the whole process. “I kept auditioning, and damned if they didn’t keep giving me parts. In my first four years I did five shows.”
Now 11 shows later Sutton says the theatre community has “been a hugely rewarding experience. Ninety per cent of the best friends I’ve ever made in my life have been because I’m now a part of this theatre community. Everyone is so supportive of everyone else and it’s amazing.”
Asking an actor for their favourite production is sometimes like asking a parent their favourite child but Sutton doesn’t hesitate when he points out KTC’s presentation of Les Misérables which he calls the most fulfilling experience of his theatre career. “To this day it brings tears to my eyes when I hear some of the music from it. It was very compelling to be part of that whole process.”
Receiving plenty of critical and audience acclaim during its 2014 run, Sutton’s favourite praise came from his daughter Ayah. She’s a Les Mis fanatic who has seen the show eight times in many different cities including New York City and London, and said the show was as good as the numerous professional productions she has seen; some of the individual performances, she said, were even better.
The amount of hard work volunteer actors put into each show is demanding, often exceeding 100 hours over the process of a few months. But it’s not all hard work and no play as Sutton describes The Drowsy Chaperone, which just wrapped the most fun production he’s ever done. “There hasn’t been a rehearsal gone by where someone in the cast hasn’t broken down in hysterical laughter- myself included”.
Sutton claims you never stop learning in theatre, and Drowsy brought him several new experiences including his first on-stage kiss. “I still think of myself as a new guy when it comes to some stuff. But watching people who are doing their first show, or first show of this scale is probably one of the most amazing things.”
In addition to his 11 Keyano shows, Sutton has also been involved in a half dozen One-Acts, film acting and voice over work all of which he credits to his experience and connections within the theatre community. With all these accomplishments, is Norm done?
“I’m not done, not by any means. I’ll keep going. The only time I’ll stop is if I’m dead.”