A big anniversary calls for big plans and David Mirvish is marking his family’s 50 years in the theatre biz by presenting a record 18 shows in its four venues this season. Among them will be a docu-drama from the U.K., featuring veterans of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, and a raunchy improv comedy by a troupe of rogue Jim Henson puppets that would make Miss Piggy blush.
The Two Worlds of Charlie F, a “troops’-eye-view” of war that won Amnesty International’s Freedom of Expression Award at last year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe, will play Feb. 25 to March 9 at the Princess of Wales Theatre. It will be the third title in the Off-Mirvish subscription series, which also includes the previously announced God of Carnage, staged by Toronto’s Studio 180, and the Canadian premiere of George F. Walker’s Dead Metaphor – incidentally, also a play about an Afghanistan war vet.
Capitalizing on the success of Avenue Q, the adults-only Puppet Up! Uncensored finds Jim Henson Company puppeteers cutting loose with a crude cast of non-Muppet characters dubbed the “Miskreant Puppets.” The show, co-created by Henson’s son Brian, makes mischief at the Panasonic Theatre from Oct. 22 to Nov. 3.
Both productions were revealed by Mirvish on Tuesday. The bulk of the shows for the two Mirvish subscription series were unveiled back in February. They include the Broadway-bound premiere of Disney’s new Aladdin musical.
Puppet Up! is one of eight offerings outside the subscription menu. The others include return visits by Broadway favourites Chicago (March 26 to 30), We Will Rock You (April 29 to May 4) and Disney’s The Lion King (April 30 to June 15). Chicago boasts the professional acting debut of Canadian figure-skating champ Elvis Stojko, who will play the role of lawyer Billy Flynn. Green Day’s American Idiot, originally brought to Toronto in 2012 by Mirvish’s now-defunct rival, Dancap Productions, will have a brief reprise March 11 to 16 at the Royal Alexandra Theatre.
Mirvish has also picked up this summer’s Toronto Fringe hit, The Musical of Musicals (The Musical!). A wildly funny parody of iconic Broadway composers, it will be the holiday-season offering at the Panasonic, Dec. 18 to Jan. 5.
In the main subscription season, Brian Bedford will join the cast of the British play The Last Confession. Bedford, who had to bow out of Stratford’s The Merchant of Venice this year due to ill health, will portray the pope in Roger Crane’s Vatican-set thriller, which stars David Suchet of TV’s Poirot. This remount kicks off its international tour at the Royal Alex, April 18 to June 1.
Mirvish made his announcements from the stage of that historic Toronto playhouse, where his late father, Ed Mirvish, launched the family’s theatre empire in 1963. The current season begins Sept. 27 at the Princess of Wales with a revival of one of their greatest hits, Les Misérables.