Ten years ago today, the Stratford Festival production of Jesus Christ Superstar opened on Broadway – and almost everything that could go wrong with a New York transfer of a hit show did.
One of the stars was felled by a respiratory illness during media previews, The New York Times critic deemed director Des McAnuff’s production better suited for Vegas, and, on the Tony Awards telecast, presenter Ben Vereen accidentally said the show originated with the “Stanford Shakespeare Festival.”
But while that visit to Broadway didn’t do much to boost Stratford’s brand (or bottom line), it did send a lot of Canadian actors down to New York for the first time – and reopened producers’ eyes to all the triple-threat talent north of the border.
In fact, Karen Burthwright, Chilina Kennedy and Lee Siegel, three of the actors who were in that JSC 10 years ago, are back on Broadway about to open a new musical called Paradise Square. Three other Canadians – Eric Craig, Kevin Dennis, Camille Eanga-Selenge – are also in the cast of the historical epic that opens on April 3 and is produced by Garth Drabinsky. (I’ll be going down next week to review.)
Coincidentally, two other actors who have passed through the Stratford Festival company at one time or another are also taking on starring roles on Broadway in April.
Hadestown’s producers just announced that longtime cast member Jewelle Blackman, who I wrote about in December, will take over the lead of Persephone on April 5. And Schitt’s Creek star Noah Reid is set to open a new Tracy Letts play called The Minutes on April 17.
Last but not least, Pamela Anderson is also making her Broadway debut in April. The Canadian icon who is back top of the mind because of the Pam and Tommy limited TV series will be playing Roxie Hart for limited time in Chicago starting April 12.
Anderson is the odd Canuck out not having any Stratford Festival acting experience under her belt – but, as it happens, Stratford is also producing Chicago this summer. Perhaps she can go understudy Roxie there after her Broadway stint? It’s fun to watch Stratfordians succeed in New York – but let’s have some two-way traffic.
This news doesn’t quite fit into the above item but I wanted to note it anyway: Jovanni Sy, the former artistic director of the Gateway Theatre in Richmond, B.C., has landed a plum role in the United States. He’ll be playing Chojun Miyagi in the world premiere of The Karate Kid – The Musical. This new musical has got its eye on Broadway as well – but its first stop is St Louis. in May.
Season announcements for 2022-2023 have started to trickle out lately as theatre companies get more confident about the future.
The Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre’s was announced last week – and while many of the shows on artistic director Kelly Thornton’s playbill were initially supposed to be staged in 2020-21, there are also new additions such as Rosanna Deerchild’s play The Secret to Good Tea on the mainstage.
Theatre Calgary, another major regional theatre, also announced its 2022-23 season last week – including a show chosen through a controversial (well, I thought it was controversial) “Calgary’s Choice” contest. Alberta theatregoers picked the Jimmy Buffett jukebox musical Escape to Margaritaville over Into the Woods and The Rez Sisters to complete the season – and it was apparently not a close race.
Artistic director Stafford Arima chose the other shows in the season – which include Forgiveness, a world-premiere stage adaptation of Mark Sakamoto’s Canada Reads-winning novel of the same name by Hiro Kanagawa.
Openings this week:
In Dartmouth, N.S.: Eastern Front Theatre is launching an intriguing series of interactive digital theatrical installations from Atlantic Canadian theatre artists called Connections (March 25 to 27). You can experience them in person at Alderney Landing Theatre or access them online.
In Toronto: A new solo show from Daniel Brooks called Other People opens on Thursday night at Canadian Stage (and runs to April 3). Look for my review online Friday.
In Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont.: Cyrano de Bergerac – starring Tom Rooney and Deborah Hay – is back up on stage at the Shaw Festival (until May 8). I’ll be checking in on that production, three years on from its debut, over the weekend.
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