I was lucky enough to be in Toronto earlier this month to catch the third and final episode of the CBC’s “Triple Sensation,” the best reality show I’ve ever seen. Make that one of the best TV shows I’ve ever seen, period. Think “American Idol” with heart and a Broadway bent, in which singer/actor/dancers aged 16 to 26 competed across Canada for the title of “Triple Sensation.” First place: a $150,000 scholarship to study theater arts.
Maybe Canadians are just nicer, or perhaps the show’s creator—producer Garth Drabinsky—wanted to prove that reality TV doesn’t need humiliation and infighting to entertain. Whichever—for theater junkies of any stripe, “Triple Sensation” was pure charm.
I won’t torment you. You can see bits and pieces of the show on the Web. But before you do, here’s what you need to know: After initial open-call auditions, a select group of 12 contestants strove to impress a panel of judges (Drabinsky, actress Cynthia Dale, composer Marvin Hamlisch, choreographer Sergio Trujillo and director Adrian Noble) and assorted instructors as they endured the rigors of “Master Class,” an exhausting, weeks-long regimen of dance, vocal and drama instruction. This group in turn was whittled down still further to a final six, who, in the series’ last hour, each performed a Gershwin standard, plus a monologue and dance number, before a huge Toronto audience.
Throughout, contestants needed to show not only talent, courage, moxie and endurance, but the ability to grow and learn as well. That meant that even the super-talented were penalized if they were merely super-talented when all was said and done.
The winner? Click below. He was my personal favorite, a decided long-shot, and only 16 years old. But you will fall for every one of these kids, all of whom are sparkling and original and following their own brilliant stars. Sutton and Hunter Foster better be watching their backs.
(Click on http://www.triplesensation.ca/index.html#videos to access videos of winner John-Michael Scapin, plus highlights from the series.)