The Cello of Mr. O

The Cello of Mr. O

A musical story for all ages

Performed by Karen Bassett*, Jacinte Armstrong and Norman Adams

Story by Jane Cutler – Music by Steven Naylor and J. S. Bach – Images by Lukas Pearse – Lighting by Susann Hudson – Stage Manager Theo Pitsiavas*


The Cello of Mr. O is set in a city under siege, in an undefined place and time. A small girl tells us about her life: danger surrounds her and food, water and electricity are in short supply. Amidst this hardship, Grumpy Mr. O. plays his cello in her apartment building.  When a supply truck is hit by a rocket and Mr. O. heads to the square to play his cello, the girl learns about courage and the power of music to heal and comfort us, even feed us.

The Cello of Mr. O is based on the book for young readers by prominent American author Jane Cutler. The work includes solo cello, actor, original music and excerpts from J.S. Bach and projected images and video.

The Cello of Mr. O features three performers: actor Karen Bassett, cellist Norman Adams, and Jacinte Armstrong, dancer. Steven Naylor is the composer and sound designer of the show.

Mr. O’s History

In 2005, Norm Adams was introduced to The Cello of Mr O by his son’s 3rd grade teacher. The story touched Adams deeply and became the core of an art project he had been envisioning. In 2006 a creative workshop based on the story was hosted by suddenlyLISTEN. After a hibernation period and revisioning process between Norman and Canadian theatre artist Karen Bassett, funding for the commissioning of a score from Steven Naylor was granted from the Nova Scotia Department of Tourism Culture and Heritage. Finally in October 2012, the piece was premiered in 2 performances at the Bus Stop Theatre in Halifax. The theatre was filled and the audiences ranged widely in age; everyone came away from the performance as touched and transformed as Adams was, on his first reading. It was a huge success that was recognized by both Neptune Theatre, and Halifax City Schools Music Department who immediately proposed student performances of the piece.

In 2015/16 the piece has been revised again, adding elements of movement with dancer /choreographer Jacinte Armstrong, to flesh out the words and music and to make the words come to life even more! The new version will be premiered May 14 and 15, 2016 and will be ready for touring and other performances immediately.

The Cello of Mr. OWorkshops

Through the development of The Cello of Mr O, suddenlyLISTEN is presenting multi-generational audiences with a meaningful and current story within a multidisciplinary artistic setting. In conjunction with performances of The Cello of Mr O, Karen Bassett, and Norman Adams offer participatory workshops to actors and musicians young and older.

Karen and Norman have facilitated hundreds of workshops on a variety of subjects, in diverse populations and places: from the community centre across the street, to the remote islands of Fiji. This workshop will vary slightly to suit audience demographic and venue size. In addition we are eager to offer presenters and communities the opportunity to blend performances with their choice of other workshops, master classes, and lecture demonstrations for all ages and abilities. Our workshops can range from creative sessions for schools, to more specific work with theatre artists and musicians of all levels of experience. This outreach work is lively, fun, educational, engaging and is designed to immerse as much of the local community in art making, as possible.

What people say

“Mr. O is a wonderful entertainment with something for the whole family.”
C. Homewood, Neptune Theatre, 2012
“I loved this play! Not only is it dramatic and beautiful sounding, it can teach all of us on many levels and topics: music social studies, theatre arts, history and most importantly, empathy.”
P. Mason, teacher, 2012
“A preciscely performed and very touching story of a war and the humanity music can bring. The piece has images that stay with you. A very clever adaptation of this poignant story.”
A.M. Kerr, Theatre Artist and parent, 2012


Contact Norman Adams at suddenlyLISTEN


suddenlyLISTEN gratefully acknowledges the support of Arts Nova Scotia and Halifax in the creation, production and promotion of The Cello of Mr. O.

*The participation of these Artists are arranged by permission of Canadian Actors’ Equity Association under the provisions of the Dance Opera Theatre Policy