Former Principal Dancer & Producer Veronica Tennant shares her memories of Canadian acting icon Samuel Moses.
SAM MOSES is.
It is too early and too sudden, and heartbreaking, to say, “he was”. Sam has always taken first place for me - in terms of being in the league of ‘BEST’ - as artist, actor and friend.
While I have always said that I had ten Romeos (starting with Earl Kraul and finishing with Raymond Smith); if I really think back, Sam Moses actually makes it eleven, he was numero uno! – my very first Romeo, (professionally speaking of course!) I was 16 –and he, so much older and experienced—18! We were both students at the National Ballet School and for the annual Christmas Party, Richard Sias a post-secondary student created a Romeo and Juliet dance-piece, for just the two of us, to the Tchaikovsky score. MEMORIES? I don’t remember steps. There was a lot of running on, and bouncing off the barres (serving as our wings), but I do still see Sam’s deep brown eyes, always connecting, very romantic, and now that I think of it – he drove the narrative more as an actor, than dance student. Goodness, how lucky I was. Juliet opened up to me the potential of dramatic power and the emotional scope of performing - setting the course for my 25 years with The National Ballet. Celia Franca was in that audience and cast me when I entered the Company. Thank you Sam.
We were often put together in partnering class (taught by Earl Kraul). We’d practice the Le Corsaire corkscrew lift - over and over again. The image of Sam in white T shirt, white sox and black tights, knees bent, and hands on the ready, looking for all the world like a hockey goalie, leaps to mind, and him saying, “come on Veronica, this time, yes, I feel it”. Ah, THAT VOICE! We fell 9 times out of 10 but the collapse was always cushioned in raucous laughter.
CUT: to Sam, the Actor. In 1983, Joysanne Sidimus, the Founding Director of The Dancers' Transition Centre, organized a fundraiser launch, collaborating with the cast of A Chorus Line at the Limelight Theatre which starred Sam Moses in the leading role of Zach. For this one night, she assembled a line to remember, with hoofers the likes of; Karen Kain, Gregory Osborne, Terrill McGuire, Bill Orlowski, Carol Anderson, Luc Amyot, Juan Antonio, Vanessa Harwood and myself. AH THAT VOICE! Sam played Zach to a T, intimidating, except that he raised one quizzical eyebrow when he came to the stage from the darkened back of the house and joined us in the final number. He had such presence, story-telling power of conviction. His Teyve in Fiddler was - unforgettable, unforced, uncontrived – just real - rooted from his own family’s past Diaspora.
And speaking of THAT VOICE! Fast forward – Sam’s specialty accent - voicing in his Indian birthplace’s inflection – Monsoon House on CBC Radio - hilarious! He had me laffin’ out loud, as the father of Russell Peters in a comedy of equals. I loved his performances at The Stratford Festival; Rice Boy, and Fiddler, and most recently, a character role in Romeo and Juliet where he played Capulet, the Elder. Sam spoke about the fascinating experience of working with Director, Tim Carroll, delving back to the original Globe Theatre and Shakespeare’s actor-driven style.
Who can forget his Spumante Bambino wine commercial which made Sam Moses household-famous? As much as his defining quality was sparkle, Sam had range. He inhabited his roles with a lightness of touch, fuelled by an unstoppable passion for craft. He shared wisdom pearls with his Stratford fellow actors, and as the only person in the Fiddler cast who was Jewish, he held them in thrall as he took them through the historic contexts of the characters’ journeys in the play. In these later years, he excelled as a character actor; he developed character, he had character, and oh yes, Sam was – A Character!
Unique to our ballet world, are the friendships that last decades from childhood. And for fifty-one years, the romance and marriage of Sam Moses and Anne Steele is indeed unique. In recent years, there’s a bunch of us old school chums who get together, invited with warmest hospitality by Anne for frequent dinners and ‘OY VEY’ Birthday parties. Annie, Miriam Adams, Vicki Bertram, Carmen von Richthofen, Bardi Vorster and me. Sam, the only guy, is totally comfortable, content and caring. He just looks at us with quizzical eye – comments with flawless timing in that mellifluous sexy VOICE – and generates LAUGHTER, OH, LAUGHTER. L.O.L - today’s jargon sums it up Sam – you make us LAFF OUT LOUD. And we send it back at you, for your final crescendo bow - L.O.L. with, LOTS O’ LOVE!!!