The cast of TV show Glee may have hit the big time singing Journey’s Don’t Stop Believin’, but for Katherine Wilson, the song has a certain resonance now that she is in a glee club of her own that is about to make its national TV debut.
Wilson, along with her coworkers from The Keg Mansion, a Toronto restaurant where she has worked as a server since 2007, are raising their voices to compete on the country’s latest reality singing competition –– a Glee-like competition called Canada Sings that is currently airing on Global TV.
The show features people from various workplaces –– from teachers to firefighters to junk collectors –– forming glee clubs and competing against each other for a $10,000 donation to their charity of choice.
Not only do they perform in front of a national audience, they have to impress the three rather eclectic judges: Calgary singer Jann Arden, Rob Van Winkle, better known as rapper Vanilla Ice, and French-Canadian musician Pierre Bouvier
“It was amazing as soon as I found out who they were,” said Wilson. “I was casual about it all at first, then when I heard who we would be working with, I had to think about what I got myself into.
“This is not just getting up and singing, it’s dancing, singing, and working out. I loved it. The nature of this is what I want to do.”
Performing is nothing new for Wilson, who attended Vernon’s W.L. Seaton Secondary School, and starred in a number of school productions including Little Shop of Horrors. With a love of music theatre instilled, she moved to Toronto after graduating in 2003, and attended the Randolph Academy for the Performing Arts College.
Signed to an agent for a number of years, Wilson’s first big break came in 2009 when she starred as a murder victim in the TV show, Psychic Investigators.
Also a singer, Wilson has formed a band with a friend and has performed at open mics, and recently made an appearance in another Glee-like live performance at an Israeli festival in Toronto’s Mel Lastman Square.
“I’m hoping for more opportunities as the word gets out,” said Wilson.
Canada Sings isn’t the first time she has tried out for a singing competition.
“I did audition for Canadian Idol four-to-five years ago. It was the second-to-last season, and I went to final auditions in Toronto, where I was told they had filled their quota of people,” said Wilson. “I didn’t think I’d go through that kind of avenue again. It’s been nice to have the support system, and not do this alone. That part of if it has been really great.”
Wilson heard about the glee club after a memo was circulated about the show at the Keg Mansion, a well-known restaurant located in a 1867 mansion located on Toronto’s historical Jarvis Street.
“I was totally on board as soon as I heard about it,” she said. “One of our new managers, Sheldon Smith, was given the memo from our general manager, and he put the group together to do this. He worked on Hairspray in the Toronto Mirvish production and was also in the movie. He also has a dance background. He didn’t really know people at The Keg yet –– we have a big staff –– but he got the ball rolling.”
With their team captain established, the group of 10 staffers sent in their audition tape under the name Keg Spirits after the restaurant chain’s foundation, which supports a community of children in Africa as well as local charities.
“We selected a song that we could choreograph and sing to that wouldn’t be too difficult as only a few of us had performed before,” said Wilson. “Sheldon took the reigns and choreographed something for us to I Want You Back by the Jackson Five. It was so awesome.”
The Keg Spirits also entered Put It In A Love Song by Alicia Keys and Beyoncé.
And then they waited, and waited.
“The submissions were sent in September, but we didn’t have confirmation until November, when we heard we were frontrunners. We then had an interview with the producers who came to The Keg and interviewed each of us and as a group to narrow things down. We really hoped this meant we were in.”
The co-workers didn’t hear anything until right before Christmas, while all were working a shift, Smith and the restaurant’s general manager broke the news. They were in.
“We were all super excited after we heard we’d be part of the show.”
After more interviews over the Christmas holidays from the production team, who wanted a profile on each member, the Spirits got word that they would be the first team to rehearse at the end of January.
“They were like ‘you’re our guinea pigs, good luck,’” said Wilson, who was even more excited when she found out who the team would be working with.
Assigned to Vancouver choreographer Kelly Konno, who has worked with Janet and Michael Jackson as well as Justin Timberlake, and Calgary musician Scott Henderson as music director, the Spirits worked non-stop for a week on their number.
“I’ve never been so tired,” said Wilson, adding the crew didn’t film the final product until March 17 –– St. Patrick’s Day.
Excited to finally get on stage, with full-on hair, costumes and makeup, Wilson says she felt like a superstar.
“I never had that kind of attention before. For me, the nerves weren’t really there. I expected to be super nervous in anticipation, but it felt right. I knew my family was in the audience, and we had a big group of support as we were able to invite friends and coworkers to come see the show. It was surreal to see the panel of the judges.”
Now four months since the episode was filmed, Wilson can soon break her silence on how her team did.
“They tried to create an atmosphere of competition, but from my perspective, I didn’t get to feel that much. We came to win prize money for our charity.”
To find out how Wilson and the Keg Spirits fare against workers from The Scarborough Hospital, tune into Canada Sings on Global TV, Aug. 31 at 9 p.m.