If I was a Millionaire...
Ten shows I'd be gadding around the country to see before Christmas
by Gaëtan L. Charlebois
Yes, we are in the dog days of summer, but it is now that theatres are slowly climbing out of the heatwaves and realizing that it is time to make some noise for the upcoming season. It is also the time when Estelle Rosen, our Editor-in-Chief, and I look at what is out there in the first half of the subscription lineups across the country and, subsequently, set to pestering publicists.
It is my duty, when reviews start coming in across the land, to sit down and format them for the various sites. I am, basically, a code-monkey. My job would be so much easier if I just cut and pasted and went on with my life. Instead, though, I read everything (before Estelle then proofs the stuff) and revel in the many kinds of art the reviewers are seeing and imagine what it would be like to be there, in some far-away hall, sharing the night with each and every one of them. I fantasize about getting a nice roomette on a train (do they still have those?) and whistle-stopping all over the country to see just what I like. (Forget flying...I have a phobia and need a case of Ativan and an SO rubbing my shoulders to get anywhere in an airplane.)
If I could do this, now, I have the next months laid out. After removing the three must-sees of my hometown, Montreal (Metachroma's Richard III, Jean-Duceppe's Thérèse et Pierrette and Opéra de Monréal's Flying Dutchman) I have narrowed the huge field (and my travel intinerary) down to ten shows and, obviously, kept it to those already announced. Let me say this before I proceed, though: it's the little gems which pop up at the little theatres which - season after season - steal my heart. Now...the ten (in order East to West and ignoring chronology).
Neptune (Halifax) has Sweeney Todd. Oh! I so love this near-opera from the Sondheim canon. I saw it on Broadway with Len Cariou and Angela Lansbury and though this was a fine production, I knew others could do just as well...differently. Sweeney is funny, scary, heart-breaking and has some of the finest music Sondheim's ever written. Each company that presents it has some decisions to make, the most important being how far they will go with the blood-letting. Very few will take the story of the killer-barber and his lover who made his victims into pies as far as Tim Burton did in the film version of the piece. (And that's a good thing...)
In Toronto, I'd take in more blood-letting with, appropriately enough, Bloodless - a new Canadian musical the Mirvishes are bringing to the fall table. I'd be seeing a revival of The Normal Heart, last season's raved-about hit. I saw the play in a student production soon after the piece was written and well before it saw its first Broadway run. It pierced the heart then but I knew that behind Larry Kramer's angry rhetoric there were humans we were meant to care about. By all reports Studio 180's production fills the bill. I would also take in Michael Healey's enormously controversial play, Proud (the one...well...you know the story...). I would have an opera break with Il Trovatore - my favourite Verdi work - at COC hoping they would do something rock 'em sock 'em with it so I could delight in more controversy before getting back on the train.
I'd be at Stratford to catch the end of their season with Cymbeline because I adore the play and - hell! - when will I get to see that one again? Also I want to see the work of the incoming AD Antoni Cimolino (with whom I have had only an email contact). I'd also have a look at Chris Abraham's Matchmaker because it is a wondrous play - the archetypal delightful night of theatre - and, from all reports, Abraham has done it wondrously.
On to Shaw to see Ragtime. It's a work where all the elements work for me in advance - music, story, style - and it would be nice to see it come together on stage (as opposed to in a novel or a recording).
To Alberta, now, and Edmonton (or Calgary) to see the Theatre Calgary/Citadel joint production of Next To Normal. Anyone who comes from a big family will tell you that stories of how a family copes with mental illness are endlessly fascinating. And besides, CharPo's musical theatre pundits, Stuart Munro and Joel Fishbane, tell me this is a gorgeous work.
Finally I would end in Vancouver with Clybourne Park - a what-if speculation of the story from A Raisin in the Sun. I first saw the film of Raisin when I was 10 and rewatched it recently. At its end there are questions, questions, questions. They say Clybourne Park answers them all, adds some new ones and does it all joyfully.
I think it's a good trip. But I'll bet dollars to Timbits you have suggestions to make it longer.