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Aubrey Dan of Dancap Productions on May 20, 2008 (Jim Ross for the Globe and Mail)
Aubrey Dan of Dancap Productions on May 20, 2008 (Jim Ross for the Globe and Mail)

Theatre

2012 Dancap season mixes high calibre, low cost Add to ...

Dancap Productions unveiled its 2012 season on Monday, a curious mix of high calibre and low cost that shows impresario Aubrey Dan’s commercial theatre company still growing into its ambitions.

On the first-class side of things, Prince of Broadway is set to have its world premiere at Toronto’s Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts next summer – and aims to transfer to Broadway in the fall of 2012.

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Legendary American producer and director Harold (Hal) Prince will co-direct this autobiographical revue with fellow Tony winner Susan Stroman.

Prince was on hand at the Four Seasons to speak about the project, which will tell the story of his career with musical numbers from such diverse shows as The Pajama Game, Fiorello!, It’s a Bird…It’s a Plane… It’s Superman, Sweeney Todd and The Phantom of the Opera. (Yes, composers Stephen Sondheim and Andrew Lloyd Webber – often held up as artistic opposites – will both be represented in the revue.)

In addition to being the subject and director of the show, Prince will also star – in video and audio recordings, anyway. “I’ll be seen occasionally, and I’ll be heard too much,” he told The Globe and Mail.

During the press conference held to launch Toronto-based Dancap’s season, Prince proclaimed, “Canada's been very nice to me.” This was a reference to the musicals he directed in Toronto for Garth Drabinsky’s Livent in the 1990s: Show Boat and Kiss of the Spider Woman, both of which transferred to New York, as Prince of Broadway intends.

For those hoping since Dancap’s inception that it would be the second coming of the defunct (and financially discredited) Livent, Prince of Broadway is the beginning of a promise fulfilled.

However, in its accompanying subscription series of tours – the bulk of its Toronto programming – Dancap risks damaging a brand that has been heavily promoted with New York-centric words like “Tony-winning” and “Broadway” in order to provide a full slate of shows.

This year, the six musicals Dancap has to offer are:

- In the Heights, the 2008 Tony winner for best musical set in the Latino community of New York’s Washington Heights district;

- Shrek The Musical, based on the popular animated movie starring Mike Myers;

- West Side Story, in a tour based on (late) book writer Arthur Laurents’s recent bilingual 2010 Broadway production.

- Beauty and the Beast, a new tour of the Disney warhorse;

- Million Dollar Quartet, a jukebox musical about Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins; and

- American Idiot, the Green Day musical, which kicks off its tour in Toronto – and was previously announced.

All promising titles, but three of these tours will be non-Equity productions. ( Million Dollar Quartet, West Side Story and American Idiot are the exceptions.)

What does that mean? Simply that the performers in them are not members of the Actors’ Equity Association.

Over the past decade, more and more tours of Broadway shows have had to go non-Equity – or turn non-Equity – in order to be financially feasible. “That’s the way of the future, unfortunately,” Dan told The Globe. “From the consumer perspective, there’s no difference.”

Indeed, non-Equity does not always mean cut-rate quality; there are plenty of talented actors without a union card – and others who drop their card or adopt a pseudonym – to perform in these tours.

That said, Dancap’s chief commercial rival in Toronto, Mirvish Productions, has so far kept non-Equity tours out of its subscription series – though it will rent its theatres to them. And some Toronto newspapers have a policy of not reviewing non-Equity shows. (The Globe usually doesn’t, but determines these things on a case-by-case basis.)

In terms of transparency, however, Dancap may be ahead of its rival. The company is not offering Prince of Broadway as part of its subscription series, but giving its subscribers a first shot at tickets. This is in case the revue has to be postponed, according to Dan. (Mirvish subscribers have, in the past, expressed exasperation when highly hyped shows have been cancelled or replaced.)

“Building a new show, things can happen,” Dan said. “We want to make sure, if we make a promise.”

Note to readers This story has been modified to reflect the following correction: The actors in the Broadway production of West Side Story coming to Toronto are members of Actors' Equity.

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