It’s a question that I’ve been asked almost constantly by Canadian musical theatre lovers in person, by e-mail and via social media over the past year and a half – and one, I’m sure, I’m going to be hearing again today as they wake up to Mirvish Productions’ exciting but Hamilton-free announcement of its 2017-2018 lineup.
So, where is Hamilton, David Mirvish?
“I think it’s about 30 miles to the west,” jokes the Toronto producer – meaning the city of Hamilton.
Of course, I mean the other Hamilton – Lin-Manuel Miranda’s 2016 Tony-winning hip-hop hit about American founding father Alexander Hamilton, a musical that has crossed over into pop culture in a way none has since the two big shows of the 1980s, The Phantom of the Opera and Les Misérables.
Even the Academy Awards felt the need to pay homage to Hamilton on Sunday night, having Miranda rap an introduction to a song he wrote for Moana – and, then again, when Canadians Seth Rogen and Michael J. Fox crooned a few lines from The Schuyler Sisters: “Look around, look around, at how lucky we are to be alive right now.”
Mirvish Productions, which owns and operates four theatres in the heart of Toronto, is the outfit everyone expects to bring Hamilton to town. So does Tuesday’s programming announcement for 2017-2018 mean that Rogen and Fox’s duet is the closest we’re going to get to a Canadian version of the show in the foreseeable future?
“I wish I had an answer for you,” says Mirvish, who, since June, has made no secret of the fact that he’d like to produce the musical with a Canadian cast in Toronto. “There’s no question that we’re deep in discussion; so I would love to be able to answer that, but I can’t quite yet.”
There’s nothing more to learn from New York. “We have nothing to report regarding the status of Hamilton in Toronto at this time,” says Sam Rudy, Hamilton’s publicist, via e-mail.
Toronto theatregoers could be forgiven for hoping that a Hamilton production might be announced now, when Mirvish usually launches its next subscription seasons. After all, a Chicago production opened this fall – and British uber-producer Cameron Mackintosh is set to open a production on London’s West End next fall.
Meanwhile, a U.S. tour launches in March in San Francisco – and more than two dozen American cities have already announced stops for 2017-2018 or 2018-2019, not just big ones like Boston and Seattle, but smaller ones like Schenectady, N.Y., too.
So, why hasn’t Toronto – the fourth-largest city in North America, sitting in the continent’s seventh-largest metropolitan area – heard anything yet?
Well, there’s simply no guarantee when a Tony-winning musical might show up in Canada’s largest city, or in what form – as a sit-down production (a franchise of the Broadway production with a local cast that usually runs until demand runs out); on an official Broadway tour; or in a new production created top to bottom by local artists.
We’ve seen an example of each of those with the three Tony winners before Hamilton. Kinky Boots, the 2013 winner, showed up in Toronto in a sit-down that opened in 2015 and ran for 11 months, while A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, the 2014 winner, just visited on tour in 2016. As for Fun Home, the 2015 Tony winner, it will get its Toronto premiere in a brand-new production directed by Robert McQueen in 2018 – from the Musical Stage Company, presented as part of the Off-Mirvish season.
Since the bubble of commercial theatre in the 1990s popped, a sit-down in Toronto has been far from guaranteed. And, for the past five years, Chicago’s relative attractiveness for such productions compared with Toronto’s has increased – thanks to a live theatre production tax credit that Illinois launched that offers a tax rebate up to $2-million (U.S.) for “pre-Broadway and long-run shows.” (Similar programs are in place in a few others states, but Ontario hasn’t tried to lure producers north with the same trick.)
Indeed, the producers of the two biggest hits before Hamilton this millennium decided that the Toronto market was more lucrative to hit on tour repeatedly to maximize revenue. Wicked passed through for the fourth time in 2014, while The Book of Mormon is currently on its third stop in town.
Now with the dollar close to 75 cents, bringing official Broadway tours to Toronto is less lucrative than it once was – as the talent gets paid in American dollars, but the box office take is in loonies.
If I had to put my money on it, then, I’d say the delay in a Hamilton announcement for Toronto is due to Mirvish and New York producer Jeffrey Seller hammering out the details and timing for a local sit-down production that might tap the demand for the musical in Southern Ontario.
And I also don’t think we’ll have to wait another year to hear about one.
But all I can really say for sure this moment is: Wait for it.Report Typo/Error