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David Mirvish has more tricks up his sleeve than just Harry Potter and the Cursed Child for his 2020-21 season – notably the North American premiere of a new jukebox musical built around Swedish songwriter/producer Max Martin’s greatest hits, and a revolutionary re-imagining of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma!
The Toronto commercial theatre producer revealed his upcoming mainstage and off-Mirvish subscription slates on Wednesday – an eclectic mix of musicals and dramas that will go on sale separately from the anticipated blockbuster plays that continue the story of J.K. Rowling’s famous wizard, which are set to open at the Ed Mirvish Theatre in October.
“Because [Harry Potter] is in two parts, it makes it difficult to program on subscription,” Mirvish explained. “However, Mirvish subscribers will have a priority window to purchase tickets at special prices.”
& Juliet, which imagines a life for the Shakespearean heroine after Romeo, is the major show in the Mirvish season not about wizards.
This West End musical is built around pop songs written or co-written by Martin for artists like Britney Spears (…Baby One More Time), the Backstreet Boys (I Want It That Way), Kelly Clarkson (Since U Been Gone) and even Toronto’s own The Weeknd (Can’t Feel My Face).
The comedic script weaved around Martin’s hits is by the Canadian playwright David West Read, currently nominated for a Canadian Screen Award for his work as a TV writer on CBC’s Schitt’s Creek.
Mirvish sees something in common between & Juliet, which he says will be “built, cast and rehearsed in Toronto,” and another fun show featuring Swedish songs that he brought to town in a similar manner two decades ago.
“All I can tell you is that this clever, funny and infectious new musical gave me the same sense of joy and hope that Mamma Mia! did when I first saw it in 1999, and decided immediately to have that show’s North American premiere in Toronto in 2000,” he says.
Mirvish’s mainstage season is heavily stacked with productions and shows that originate in England. It launches in September with Pressure, a West End play about a meteorologist who advised General Dwight D. Eisenhower on the timing of D-Day. Kevin Doyle of Downton Abbey renown is set to star.
That will be followed by a double whammy of Andrew Lloyd Webber: A 50th anniversary production of Jesus Christ Superstar directed by Timothy Sheader, originally staged in London’s Regent’s Park; and then the Canadian premiere of Love Never Dies, Lloyd Webber’s controversial sequel to The Phantom of the Opera.
A new adaptation of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express by playwright Ken Ludwig that originated at the Chichester Festival closes the season in July, 2021.
The sole Broadway tour in Mirvish’s 2020-21 season will be an exciting one for fans of new takes on old musicals – a dark and daring immersive rethink of Oklahoma! that won the Tony Award for best revival of a musical last spring.
“What director Daniel Fish has accomplished is similar to what Rodgers and Hammerstein did with their premiere of Oklahoma! in 1943,” Mirvish says. “They revolutionized musical theatre; what they did was radical in their time."
In addition to his mainstage season, Mirvish will once again be offering a three-show off-Mirvish subscription package – which will, for 2021, be comprised entirely of Canadian productions.
Things I Know to Be True - a drama by Australia’s foremost playwright, Andrew Bovell - will feature Stratford Festival stars Tom McCamus and Seana McKenna as the 60-something patriarch and matriarch of the Price family, who, according to a description, “find themselves guiding and supporting their children as they each face life-altering changes that shake the foundation of the once-stable family home.”
Mirvish is producing that one with the acclaimed Company Theatre in February, 2021; Philip Riccio will direct.
Then, Jake Epstein – the Canadian stage star whose career has taken him from “that guy from Degrassi” to the Broadway debacle Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark – will reprise his hit Fringe Festival tell-all, Boy Falls from the Sky, in March, 2021.
Finally, in April, 2021, Mirvish will bring in Mythic: An Immortal New Musical, a modern retelling of the myth of Persephone, which features book and lyrics by Marcus Stevens and music by Oran Eldor.
Director Brian Hill’s production comes from Montreal’s small but mighty Segal Centre, which under the leadership of Lisa Rubin has become known across Canada for the high quality and adventurousness of its musicals. It was recently the source for the off-Mirvish hit Piaf/Dietrich, which was extended twice and ran 16 weeks at the CAA Theatre last fall.
“The Segal has a good-size auditorium – not so small that one can’t judge the popularity of a show, and not so big that the space overwhelms the show,” Mirvish says. “Mythic, which we saw at the Segal earlier this season, was an even bigger success in Montreal than Piaf/Dietrich.”
Outside of these new shows and Harry Potter, Mirvish continues to have a hit on his hands with Come From Away – which is now in its third year in Toronto and is set to run at the Royal Alexandra Theatre until Sept. 6.