Bergstrom “passionate” about playing Rob Ford

Lisa Goudy
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Sheldon Bergstrom can pinpoint the moment he first had his calling to become an actor.

Sheldon Bergstrom is pictured during RuBarb Productions Inc.'s show, It's a Wonderful Life, on Dec. 7, 2013. Bergstrom will play Rob Ford in Rob Ford the Musical in Toronto this fall.

“I’ve been performing in plays since I was a kid. I was in Grade 4 in Saskatoon when our school did a production of The Sound of Music and I fell in love with that show,” he said. “I fell in love with performing just from watching that show and since then I’ve always kind of wanted to do plays.”

During his elementary and high school years, he became involved with high school and community theatres in Saskatoon.

“I used to go and watch shows at Persephone and dream of one day being on that stage and same with Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan,” said Bergstrom, whose hometown is Prince Albert.

“I have had the most amazing, fortunate, lucky (life). I don’t know all the words that describe the type of career I’ve had, but I am unbelievably lucky and I know it and I’m beyond grateful.”

Bergstrom, 42, landed the role of Rob Ford in a musical about the Toronto mayor called Rob Ford the Musical: Birth of a Ford Nation.  The 90-minute musical, which will feature 10 original tunes, will debut at Toronto’s Factory Theatre on Sept. 16 and it will run until Sept. 28.

“It’s a dream come true … I’m passionate about this. I’m fascinated by Rob Ford and he’s kind of a Shakesperian cartoony-like character unlike we’ve ever seen before and to get to play him is such a treat,” said Bergstrom. “I felt like it was the perfect role for me.”

Evie Koop Sawatzky, artistic director of RuBarb Productions Inc., has worked with Bergstrom on several occasions for shows in Moose Jaw.

“We’re really thrilled for him. It’s actually kind of funny because we had talked about that the last couple years … and that Sheldon was a perfect match for that,” she said.

“We were joking that someone needed to write a musical about this and then when he was able to audition and he got cast in that, that was kind of just perfect. He’s great for that part.”

She first worked with Bergstrom in last summer’s production of Shrek: The Musical. He was also in last December’s production of It’s a Wonderful Life.

“He’s always really great to work with, a great team player,” said Sawatzky. “He’s a sweetheart and so funny and so committed to doing excellent work. He’s always prepared and has great comedic timing. He just shines on stage. I have no complaints and look forward to working with him again.”

Rehearsals for Rob Ford the Musical will begin on Sept. 1, allowing only two weeks to prepare for the show.

“A two-week rehearsal is a little rare. Usually you’re looking at least three weeks, if not four, for a show,” said Bergstrom. “So for us to be doing it in two weeks is going to be a bit of a whirlwind.”

A unique auditioning experience for Bergstrom

The process Sheldon Bergstrom undertook to get the role of Rob Ford in Rob Ford the Musical was quite unusual.  

Normally auditions for a show are done in person, but at the time of the auditions this summer, Bergstrom was starring in the musical Hairspray in Edmonton and couldn’t get to Toronto.

“I freaked out. I panicked and I started writing them via Facebook and Twitter and I found email addresses for the producers,” said Bergstrom. “I just started to reach out and see if there was some way I could possibly come out and audition late or something.”

When his friends and family caught wind of what he was doing, they wrote letters and messaged them on Facebook and Twitter as well.

“Eventually they called me and said, ‘OK we’ve got a bunch of people who are hounding us to talk to you so tell us about yourself,” said Bergstrom. “I begged and pleaded and they offered to let me send them a video. So I recorded a video of me singing.”

Prior to sending the video, he got his haircut and dyed blond to look similar to Ford. He sent several videos and talked with them on the phone and via Skype.

“They offered me the job without me actually having to be in the room, which is a first, but I feel incredibly blessed and I know that I won’t let them down,” said Bergstrom. “It was bizarre, but I just believe firmly it was meant to be.”

Follow Lisa Goudy on Twitter @lisagoudy.

Organizations: Prince Albert, Factory Theatre, RuBarb Productions

Geographic location: Saskatoon, Toronto, Saskatchewan Moose Jaw

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