it comes to hitting the high notes, Cynthia Dale is a pro. She started
her musical career at age five in the chorus line of Gypsy at Toronto’s
Royal Alexandra Theatre. During the past decade, she’s graced the
Stratford Festival stage with such musical performances as Eliza
Doolittle in My Fair Lady, Guinevere in Camelot, Maria in The Sound of
Music, and more.
But after this season ends the songstress and actor
will be hitting new notes as her career shifts in a different
direction. Dale won’t be returning to Stratford next season and frankly
admits that she may not ever return to that venue, though there will
certainly be other stages, other characters and many, many more songs.
the decision was not hers, she isn’t unhappy with the change and, in
fact, admits to being almost uncharacteristically calm and unconcerned
about the future, willing to let fate chart her course.
putting anything on my calendar after I close the show (on Oct. 31).
I’m just going to wait and see where I want to go and what I want to
do. I’m just holding. I’m gonna go buy groceries and take my boy
(eight-year-old son Will) to the hockey rink and see what happens.
don’t know (what I’ll be doing) and I feel really happy inside about
not knowing.… I will definitely sing because I need to sing but if I
don’t get work right away, or if it takes awhile, I think I’ll be okay
It’s an attitude that’s somewhat atypical and seems to
have evolved from age and experience — and maybe some of the metaphoric
wisdom that comes with those.
“Ten years ago, I would not be this
relaxed about it all,” she says. “But, right now I don’t feel anxious,
I don’t feel sad, I feel like I’m just breathing normally.
“I don’t have the same ambition at 47 as I had at 37,” she adds. “Life
changes you. My garden changes me. Work will come along.”
That is not to say Dale isn’t ambitious. She has plans. Concerts, for example. Last
spring she did her first symphony gig, two nights with the
Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony, which she describes as “incredible.”
“I hope at some point in my life, I’ll be able to do more of those.”
made three CDs, featuring love songs and Rogers and Hammerstein
favourites, but has no plans for another at the moment “because I don’t
have anything to say — that’s usually when I do CDs.”
it’s all about finding the balance — and the right part. Even though
she’s spent the better part of a decade on the theatre stage, she’s
also done film and television (notably there, her six-season run as
ruthless lawyer Olivia Novak on Street Legal) and maintains it’s not
the medium that attracts but the role.
“It’s all about the parts for
me.” For example, last fall, Dale had a role in the film Broken, with
Tom Sizemore. It wasn’t a major role but it was satisfying, she says,
“really just one meaty, meaty scene.”
And during her Stratford tenure, she says she’s been “blessed” with the roles she’s had to play.
don’t think there’s another actress in Canada who’s had the parts I’ve
had. I’ve done the juiciest… all the best parts in musical theatre… and
some phenomenal straight stuff, from Miracle Worker to Cat (On A Hot
Tin Roof). They’re all so special to me, and I feel so blessed to have
This season, the role is bathing beauty Edythe Herbert,
star of a 1920s Hollywood style swimming/dancing extravaganza in the
Gershwin musical My One and Only, featuring such well-known tunes as 'S
Wonderful and Nice Work if You Can Get It. Her Stratford swan song
is one of the most physically demanding shows of her stage career. “I’m
dancing harder than I’ve ever danced,” she says.
It’s like one long workout. “I don’t have to do a lot, other than the show, to keep in shape,” she says.
of the time, she says, her workout consists of “taking after an
eight-year-old! Just taking after him can keep me in good shape. I
don’t go to the gym.” In fact, this season she actually is working
to keep weight on with the physical demands of the show. “Because of
how much I’m dancing, I can eat anything I want.”
Normally, she is
careful about diet, although she says after turning 40 or 45, it
becomes more important for women to keep a bit of weight on. “If you
have a tendency to get thin, you wear it more on your face. I find it
harder to keep those extra five pounds on, so that I don’t look too
thin and too gaunt in my face.”
But that still comes down to a sensible diet.
“I’m pretty careful about what I eat,” Dale says.
vitamins. “I’m really health conscious. My body, my voice, is my
instrument and (keeping it in shape) is going to mean whether I get
work or not.
“If I could, would I live on Rhéo Thompson chocolates? Yes! And Haagen Daas ice cream? Yes! But I know I can’t.” Again, the balance.
a very disciplined person, always have been,” she says. “It’s one of
the reasons why I think I’ve had some success in my life. I take my job
and the responsibility very seriously. I know it’s not fair of me to
show up and not be in prime form. So, if I want to work and I want the
job and I want the responsibility of the leads in a show, I know what
it takes. Yes, it’s a constant focus. But there’s a million people in
the world who live like that, who work at the top of their game all the
At the same time, Dale realizes the importance of giving herself time to just be.
I spend downtime? Yeah. Do I sit in my garden? Yeah, I’m a big
gardener. I’m a big reader. I’m a painter. These things are really
important to me. So I take downtime for my soul, for sure.”
family. “Our time for family is weekends,” she says. “Because Peter
(husband, CBC anchor Peter Mansbridge) works during the week in
Toronto. So our weekends are pretty sacred.” As well, they have a
family cottage where they get away as often as possible and they take a
winter holiday in the south.
The final part of life’s balancing act, for Dale, is her spirituality.
“I know fate will offer me what I put out there,” she says. “I pray a lot.”
That helps to keep her focused in the moment.
helps me keep a focus as to what’s important, what’s really, really
important. And I am incredibly grateful to know I’m being taken care
“There are constant reminders in life to know that. My job is
to make sure I see the reminders, not just with my eyes, but with my