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Garth Drabinsky. (Charla Jones/Charla Jones/ The Globe and Mail)
Garth Drabinsky. (Charla Jones/Charla Jones/ The Globe and Mail)

The impresario strikes back: Disgraced Drabinsky plots his return Add to ...

Garth Drabinsky, the former high-flying impresario of Livent Inc., is planning to stage a comeback in Toronto theatre.

The mercurial showman, convicted this year of co-authoring one of Canada's largest commercial frauds, has been retained as creative consultant to two New Jersey-based producers for a remount of Barrymore, a one-man show starring actor Christopher Plummer.

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Preliminary talks have also been held about Mr. Drabinsky playing a similar consultative role for an all-black version of the musical Kiss of the Spider Woman, although these are only in the discussion stage.

The Barrymore project, according to producer Peter LeDonne, would be mounted for a limited engagement in Toronto in early 2011 at the Elgin Theatre. The production would also be filmed for subsequent commercial release in cinemas.

Mr. LeDonne says he has long admired the Barrymore show. Based on the life of actor John Barrymore, it was produced with Mr. Drabinsky's participation at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in 1996 and on Broadway in 1999, with Mr. Plummer in the starring role.

"It was only natural that we would go to Garth for help with this," Mr. LeDonne said.

"I have enormous respect for him. He's a creative genius."

Mr. LeDonne said he has two other producing partners in the venture, including Steve Kalafer, another American with whom he has produced five feature-length documentary films, two of which were nominated for Academy awards, and Toronto producer Kevin Albrecht ( Battle of the Blades).

Mr. Drabinsky, who was not immediately available for comment, is also thought to be considering mounting a Toronto production of a third show, the musical Finian's Rainbow, currently enjoying a revival on Broadway.

Convicted last August of fraudulently manipulating Livent's financial statements, Mr. Drabinsky, 60, is free pending an appeal of both the conviction and his seven-year sentence.

The appeal process may drag on for months, even years.

But it would not be impossible for Mr. Drabinsky to resume his production career even if the appeals fail and he goes to jail.

Under Canadian law, convicted white-collar criminals can be released to half-way houses or house arrest after serving one-sixth of their sentences - about 14 months for Mr. Drabinsky - and get full parole after one-third.

For Mr. Drabinsky, even the limited consultative roles would be an opportunity for him to reestablish a presence on the theatre scene and perhaps help rehabilitate his name.

At Livent, Mr. Drabinsky also produced the original productions of Kiss of the Spiderwoman. With music by John Kander and Fred Ebb, a book by Terrence McNally, and based on the Manuel Puig novel El Beso de la Mujer Araña, it had runs in Toronto (1992), London (1992) and Broadway (1993) and won the 1993 Tony Award for Best Musical.

Mr. Drabinksy's co-accused, former Livent CFO Myron Gottlieb, was also found guilty at trial and received a six-year sentence.

He, too, is free, pending appeals.

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