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She Brought Cats & Phantom to Canada

"Tina VanderHeyden"

Hard work, some luck and knowing from an early age that she wanted to be in show business is the secret behind Tina VanderHeyden's success.

For over 18 years Tina VanderHeyden has been promoting and marketing live entertainment in Canada. It's a very competitive world and promoters come and go in rapid order. It takes a special kind of tenaciousness to last.

She moved from Vancouver to Toronto to work for the National Ballet. Restless working with others, she decided to move out on her own forming a company, Tina VanderHeyden & Associates. Her clientele included Bill Cosby, Frank Sinatra, Richard Burton, Don Rickels, Liza Minelli, Vanessa Redgrave and many other illustrious stars.

But her own star really moved up when she risked everything to co produce the Canadian cast version of CATS-the Andrew Lloyd-Weber stage musical based on the work by T. S. Eliot.

"CATS set the precedent for me and my career. I had always been interested in producing shows using mainly Canadian talent. My only worry when / got the contract was whether I could find the talent pool. "

She needn't have worried. The flood of aspiring dancers, singers and actors never stopped and the Canadian production, which ran for two years in Toronto before taking to the road, was judged by some critics as better than the New York and London West End versions.

Tina's next big break came two years later when she got the contract to co-produce with Cineplex’s Garth Drabinsky, the six million dollar version of "The Phantom of the 'Opera". The story of The Phantom was written in 1911 but, the musical version as it is now staged is relatively new. It is also one of the most challenging of all operatic-based works to mount. Versions are now playing to sold-out audiences in nine countries.

The Phantom of the Opera opened in Toronto in September 1989 in the magnificently renovated Pantages Theatre, built in 1920. It's expected to run there at least three years. It was sold out for the first two years after opening

Tina is very happy with the success of both CATS and The Phantom, but it has been hard work.

"For theatre to be a success in Canada you really have to get out there and sell, and promote. Even if it means you get arrested in the rain in Saskatoon!"

The reference is to the fact that Tina was caught putting up posters in violation of a bylaw against it in the Prairie city.

Although she enjoys being in a very glamorous business, it is a 24-hour-aday job and you have to be prepared to make some sacrifices.

"I am extremely fortunate having a fabulous husband who makes it possible. But there are negative sides. Not being there when your baby takes his first steps. I really miss that. They say that women can have it all. It simply isn't true."

However, it's been a lot of fun.

"Anyone thinking of getting into production and management in theatre should be well-prepared to work hard, know your business and look for the breaks. Nothing comes easy. Show business is half show and half business. And the business part is really important."

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