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Saturday, January 7, 2012

Theatre For Thought, January 7, 2011

joel fishbane

Nothing like the first week of the New Year to go through all those annual traditions, like breaking your resolutions, avoiding your credit card bill and wrestling with that eternal question: just how long do you keep saying “Happy New Year” to people? As for me, I took the crystal ball out of storage in order to look ahead to what Canadian theatre has to offer for 2012. The most frustrating thing about doing this is the silly “season” that theatres have: except for Shaw and Stratford, most theatre seasons run concurrent to school years and so any crystal ball gazing past the summer is almost impossible. Nonetheless, here’s what I’m excited about, at least until June:

And while we’re talking about shows taken from Broadway, there are two productions of Patrick Barlow’s The 39 Steps.

Former PWM artist-in-residence Robert Chafe’s new work Oil and Water is getting a quasi-cross-country tour, appearing in Toronto (Factory) and Calgary (Magnetic North) before heading to the Maritimes for the summer. It’s based on the true story of Lanier Phillips, an African American who washed up on the shores of Newfoundland and went on to become a legend.

Another tour comes to us from Halifax’s One Light Theatre, who have an intriguing project with my favourite title of 2012 (so far).  Chess with the Doomsday Machine is based on the novel by Iranian novelist Habib Ahmadzadeh and takes place during the early days of the Iran / Iraq war. Any time we in the west can get a non-Western perspective on war, we should jump on it. The bilingual production begins in Iran before moving on to Halifax and Calgary.

Here in Montreal, it’s hard not to be giddy about the world premiere of Morris Panych’s In Absentia or Sidemart Theatre’s musical Haunted Hillbilly, both appearing at  Centaur Theatre.  Panych seems to be preferring Quebec as his new spot for premieres and Sidemart, already a household word in Montreal, is one step away from being Canada’s favourite export. But I’m equally excited about the last show in Geordie Theatre’s season, a new very un-Disney adaptation of  Pinnochio by local wunderkind Harry Standjofski.

At the  Manitoba Theatre Centre, Canadians will finally get a glimpse of August: Orange County, Tracey Lett’s Pulitzer-Prize winning play that dazzled Broadway a few years back. And while we’re talking about shows taken from Broadway, there are two productions of Patrick Barlow’s The 39 Steps. I caught this show in the West End and can attest it’s one of the funniest shows known to man; let’s hope that Regina’s Globe Theatre and Theatre New Brunswick do it justice. 

Everyone and their dog is talking / barking about  Stratford’s slotting of Clark Gesner’s 1966 musical You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown!, but I’m more excited about the Shaw Festival’s production of Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahren’s Ragtime. Flaherty and Ahrens are my favourite musical team and this show, based on E.L. Doctorow’s book, is one of the best they’ve ever produced. 

But the show I’ve already lined up to see is Caroline or Change, Tony Kushner and Jeanne Tesori’s 2003 musical about the civil rights era.

It’s also hard not to be at least mildly curious about the musical version of Bring It On, produced by the folks at Mirvish. Whatever you think of the movies-turned-musical trend, the creators of this show have a great pedigree: Jeff Whitty (Avenue Q), Tom Kitt (Next to Norma), Amanda Green (High Fidelity) and Lin-Manuel Miranda (In the Heights). 

But the show I’ve already lined up to see is Caroline or Change, Tony Kushner and Jeanne Tesori’s 2003 musical about the civil rights era. To the best of my knowledge it’s never come to Canada (at least not professionally), so it’s good to see Obsidian Theatre teaming up with Acting Up Stage Company to show us all the true power of the musical stage. Set in 1963, the show presents those turbulent times as seen through the eyes of a black maid and the employer’s eight year old son. 

And you’ll have to forgive me if I take this moment to mention something else I’m excited about: my new one-act play Lover’s Flight will premiere as part of Alumnae Theatre’s New Ideas Festival in March. 

See you at the theatre!

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