Q&A Series: Cayla Brooke, creator of Eva Cassidy: How Can I Keep from Singing

Now you’ll really want to find out what Eva Cassidy: How Can I Keep From Singing is all about!

Gabriola Theatre Festival: This is your first visit to the Gabriola Theatre Festival. What are you looking forward to most about bringing your show, “Eva Cassidy: How Can I Keep From Singing” to Gabriola? 

Cayla Brooke: I am on a personal mission to garner new Eva Cassidy fans. One show, one audience member at a time! Next stop … Gabriola! 
I am so blessed to be accompanied by the most spectacular band. Wait until you hear them! Bill Sample on the piano is absolutely astounding. Rene Worst is the man when it comes to the bass! David Ivaz from Chicago on the guitar and Bowen Island’s own Buff Allen on drums. Joined together these guy’s resumes are long enough to reach the top of Blackcomb and back. Then there’s Tom Pickett. Y’all are going to love him. He is amazing! So charismatic. 

GTF: Can you tell us more about the inspiration behind your show? What can the Gabriola audience expect from it?

CB: I am a huge fan of Eva Cassidy’s. It really started off with that and realizing very few people in Canada knew who she was. I had to change that! When I tell people I do a show about Eva Cassidy I tend to get one of two responses “Eva who?” or, “Oh my God! I love Eva Cassidy!” There seems to be no in between. 
What is wonderful is that everyone on stage in the show is a fan of Eva’s as well and the love of her music (which is incredible) is infectious. We have so much fun performing her music and telling her story in a very personal way. The audience can sense that and joins right in. 
This is an intimate show. It’s like sitting in our living room while we take you on an incredible journey filled with music, laughter and some very poignant moments. 

GTF: Is this the first show that you’ve ever written and performed yourself? How has this process been for you?

CB: I have written three other musicals/plays which have all been performed, but they were mostly for children. This is my first show for adults that I’ve written with the intention of performing in multiple venues. The process of writing this show was rather magical. I came up with the idea in February 2013. I didn’t start writing the show until May of that year without anything but an idea. We were up and on stage in September of that year. It was like a miracle. 

GTF: You’ve got some raving reviews of “Eva Cassidy”. Were you expecting this kind of reception? 

CB: Honestly? No I wasn’t. There was no one more shocked than I when we had our first standing ovation opening night. I thought the audience must be full of family and friends. But night after night of standing ovations I realized I was running out of family and friends in the audience and that people really did like the show. People have been very kind in their praise of the show, often returning the next performance with 6 friends in tow. Eva’s story and how it is told touches people in different ways. We have some audience members who have seen the show 6 times!

GTF: How often does “Eva Cassidy” go on the road? 

CB: This is a brand new show! We only premiered in September 2013. We did another successful run in May of 2014 so this is our first time with the road-style show. It’s very exciting. We have another week run scheduled for September with the full ensemble added and we’re working on the BC tour. Those dates should be coming out soon.

GTF: Can you tell us about your journey to working in theatre? 

CB: I started off as a singer with my first professional gig at the age of 14. By the time I was 19 I had performed on several continents, before Prime Ministers and sung in Carnegie Hall. I thought that was normal. It’s funny how life can change things (in particular marriage and children). I started acting later in life and fell in love with it. I love taking on a character and bringing it to life and have been fortunate to portray some incredible women on stage. Women like ‘May’ in Norm Foster’s “The Affections of May”,
Jenny in Albee’s “Everything in the Garden” and many leading roles in musical theatre gave me the confidence I needed to carry a show like ‘How Can I Keep from Singing.”

GTF: Are you working on any other shows at the moment? 

CB: Yes I am. My husband, Warde Ashlie, is also an actor and playwright. He has written a new one act play titled “Grandpa and Me”.  I remember when he first showed me the opening scene of the script. I absolutely loved it and was complete engaged with the story. The simplicity of it is beautiful. The plan is to have Seabrooke Entertainment produce the show in spring 2015. I will be portraying the adult version of the Granddaughter (nepotism at its best).  My husband is currently working on a companion piece with the working title “Grandma’s Story”, another One-Act, which will be performed in conjunction with “Grandpa and Me”.  Who knows? We may end up performing at the festival one year! 

GTF: What show are you looking forward to seeing at the Gabriola Theatre Festival? 

CB: Easy! Holmes and Watson Save the Empire! I didn’t’ get to see this show during its run on the North Shore. Damon Calderwood and I tromped the boards together a number of years ago. I can’t wait to see him on stage again. He and Gordon Roberts are very talented indeed.

GTF: Is there anything else you think Gabriolans should know? 

CB: I used to visit Gabriola regularly in the 80s and early 90’s. My ‘outlaws’ at the time owned waterfront property and I even helped build a wall of their beautiful home. I spent many a summer and Christmas there. I hear Gabriola has changed a lot. I can’t wait to see the old and new Gabriola.


  1. Daniel

    I saw this show in May. It is fantastic! Wow is all I can say. I didn’t have a clue who Eva Cassidy was before I was dragged to the show by my wife. Now I own two of her CD’s. I loved this show! If you can – see it. You’re welcome.

  2. Judith MADSEN

    What a great interview. Now I’m really excited and by Daniels comment too. I’m one of those who don’t know Eva Cassidy. Thankyou play selection group.