Entertainment

Jonah McIntosh: Actor was a ‘source of joy’ at Shaw

John Law

By John Law, Niagara Falls Review

Jonah McIntosh is being remembered as a bright star with an "open heart" at the Shaw Festival this week. The young actor died Tuesday, midway through his first season with the Niagara-on-the-Lake company. PHOTO: David Cooper / Shaw Festival

Jonah McIntosh is being remembered as a bright star with an "open heart" at the Shaw Festival this week. The young actor died Tuesday, midway through his first season with the Niagara-on-the-Lake company. PHOTO: David Cooper / Shaw Festival

It didn’t take long for Jonah McIntosh to make an impression at the Shaw Festival.

With a contagious smile and endless energy, the 23-year-old actor made the most of his two roles this season, as a supporting character in the musical Me and My Girl and part of the ensemble in 1837: The Farmers’ Revolt.

“I loved watching how he grew in rehearsals from being the new guy in a big company to an accomplished, hard-working, delightful performer,” said Phil Akin, McIntosh’s director for Farmers’ Revolt. “He tried everything with an open heart and was always ready to snap off a double pirouette at the drop of a hat.

“I miss him a ton.”

Akin, like all of the Shaw family, was stunned to hear of McIntosh’s death Tuesday. Immediate performances of both his shows were cancelled.

“We are devastated by the loss such a source of joy and sunlight in our company,” the company posted on its Facebook page, accompanied by photos of McIntosh in this year’s plays. “Our hearts go out to his family and everyone who love him.

“All we can do is offer them, and each other, all the unconditional love we can.”

When contacted late Tuesday, Shaw’s senior communications manager Laura Hughes added “at this time we are focussed on our Shaw family and ensuring they have the support they need to get through this difficult time.”

Raised in Ajax, McIntosh studied musical theatre at Sheridan College, starring in productions of Grand Hotel, Damn Yankees and Legally Blonde with Theatre Sheridan. Before joining Shaw, he starred in a production of Beauty and the Beast with Halifax’s Neptune Theatre.

Cherissa Richards, McIntosh’s co-star in 1837: The Farmers’ Revolt, saw his star potential early.

“I actually had cast him in a show I was to direct in Winnipeg, but then we both got offers for Shaw and had to drop out,” she said. “When I saw him here I embraced him and told him how talented he was. I was already a huge fan.”

Playing at the Court House Theatre, 1837: The Farmers’ Revolt boasts a tight-knit ensemble all playing multiple roles in a show about an immigrant rebellion against the Family Compact in Upper Canada.

Richards, who has also worked with Carousel Players in St. Catharines, said McIntosh “lived every day out loud in positive brilliance.”

“We played husband and wife in 1837: The Farmers’ Revolt, and we would share so many moments on and off stage. He would dance his pants off every day in the wings as we waited to go on in the second half. I’ve never met such a young actor who knew himself so well.

“He knew exactly what he wanted and always dove headfirst into every scenario with the most enthusiastic, energetic, happy drive.”

For Me and My Girl, McIntosh was part of the ensemble in several musical numbers, including the show’s trademark song The Lambeth Walk.

Co-star Neil Barclay, in his 28th Shaw season, praised McIntosh on his Facebook page Tuesday night, saying he “made the corners of Dressing Room 5 so much brighter.”

“I’m very grateful to have shared five months working and laughing with this extraordinary young man and I’m mourning the loss of what I’d expected would be years of friendship.”

McIntosh’s brother Cody said his sibling wanted to “spread positivity” and “make everyone around him better.”

“(Jonah) wanted to make the world right,” he said when contacted Wednesday. “He honestly just fought every day of his life for love, equality, justice and fairness. He was a special soul with a special purpose. He did his job; he blessed countless people.

“We connected, as I understood his special mind. He wanted to go, so he went. He’s probably jamming with our grandfather and great-grandfather right now.”

A visitation will be held for McIntosh at the McEachnie Funeral Home in Ajax (28 Old Kingston Road) Friday at 2 and 6 p.m., and the Christian Life Centre in Ajax (1030 Ravenscroft Road) Saturday at 2:30 p.m. A Celebration of Life will follow at 3:30 p.m.

jlaw@postmedia.com 



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