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After a successful run in Toronto, Come From Away is getting a Canadian production again sooner than expected.Cylla von Tiedemann/Mirvish

The world of Canadian musical theatre is a strange one full of surprises – and that was especially the case last week.

First came news of a mysterious new musical-theatre producer in Toronto.

I stumbled upon a press release for an upcoming run of Rock of Ages – the eighties glam- and hair-rock jukebox musical that was turned into a 2012 movie – at the Elgin Theatre from Feb. 23 to May 20. The company behind it is called More Entertainment, whose chief executive officer and executive producer is a fellow called JP Gedeon; according to his website, he is “one of North America’s leading transformation, culture, and workforce mobilization experts.” The name is new to me, and I don’t recognize the theatre credits in his bio.

But I know some of other artists involved, such as Mirvish veteran cast members AJ Bridel (Kinky Boots) and Steffi DiDomenicantonio (Come From Away); musical director Mark Camilleri, who has worked all over the place; and head of design Nick Blais, a multiple Dora Mavor Moore Award winner.

The reappearance of this naughty noughties jukebox musical (which Mirvish produced in Toronto in 2010) on a big stage such as the Elgin is surprising to me. I remember thinking it was tongue-in-cheek fun, but not necessarily a show that would have a long afterlife.

And yet it keeps popping up in unexpected places – for example, a new French translation in Quebec that just wrapped a run at Espace St-Denis in Montreal this past weekend (“Les grands succès de Journey, Bon Jovi, Styx et bien d’autres…”).

An email I sent to the Rock of Ages publicist asking who the director was went unanswered by end of last week. Gedeon and I now follow each other online, but I didn’t get an immediate response to a DM with the same question.

Is this a new commercial competitor emerging for Mirvish Productions? Or something else? Watch this space for more information as it surfaces.

Surprise number two: Come From Away is getting a Canadian production again sooner than expected.

On Friday, Andrew Furey, the Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, announced that a brand-new production of the Irene Sankoff/David Hein smash-hit musical will premiere in Gander (where the 9/11-themed show is, of course, set) in the summer of 2023.

Jillian Keiley, formerly of the National Arts Centre, is directing and Michael Rubinoff is producing with the Arts and Culture Centre. Shows will take place at the Gander Arts and Culture Centre Thursdays through Sundays from July 7 to Sept. 3, with an official opening set for July 22. (Tickets are already on sale.)

A press release described this as an “inaugural run” – leading to expectations Come From Away might end up becoming an annual event in Gander, just as Anne of Green Gables: The Musical has been for so long in Charlottetown, P.E.I.

I must admit that I had had some concerns about Ottawa’s National Arts Centre and federal government-backed plan to resurrect a Canadian production of Come From Away in 2024 – and then hand it over to Mirvish Productions in Toronto. The main one being that that might inhibit the roll-out of local productions across the country. But it looks like I needn’t have worried on that front.

Now here’s a cosmic coincidence: This week, Toronto’s Soulpepper opens The Golden Record, a theatrical concert inspired by a couple of phonograph records that NASA sent out into the universe on the Voyager spacecraft in 1977 “in an effort to communicate our world to any extraterrestrials who might find it.” It’s on from Nov. 9 to 20, directed by Frank Cox-O’Connell and music directed by Mike Ross – and the writer on the show is Sarah Wilson.

Meanwhile, at Montreal’s Théâtre Denise-Pelletier, the creative team of Maxime Carbonneau and Laurence Dauphinais (who had a critical hit with Siri) are premiering a new hybrid musical show called Si jamais vous nous écoutez (roughly: If you ever listen to us) that’s also inspired the Golden Record. It opens on the exact same day, Nov. 9, and runs to Nov. 22.

Great minds think alike … or are the aliens involved in this eerie happenstance, perhaps?

Reviews you can (re)use

Mixtape, classical singer and actor Zorana Sadiq’s solo show that’s a memoir of the sounds of her life, is at the Grand Theatre in London, Ont. from Nov. 8 to 13. I reviewed it in its premiere at Crow’s Theatre year ago.

Prince Hamlet, Why Not Theatre’s fascinating Shakespeare production for both deaf spectators and hearing audiences, is in Quebec City at Le Diamant from Nov. 10 to 12 (with French surtitles). A show so nice I reviewed it twice – in 2017 and in 2019. (Note: Some casting has changed.)

Old Stock: A Refugee Love Story, the acclaimed Hannah Moscovitch musical with song by Ben Caplan and Christian Barry, is now at the Harold Green Jewish Theatre from Nov. 12 to 24. Martin Morrow reviewed it in 2019. (Note: Some of the cast has changed.)

Meanwhile, Sexual Misconduct of the Middle Classes, Moscovitch’s #MeToo two-hander, is getting a new production at the Centaur Theatre directed by Eda Holmes form Nov. 8 to 27. Martin Morrow reviewed the play’s premiere at the Tarragon Theatre in 2020. (Note: This is a totally different production with a separate cast and creative team.)

What’s else is on stage this week across the country

  • The Sound of Music is back at the Arts Club in Vancouver from Nov. 10 to Dec. 24. Ashlie Corcoran’s production, originally staged in 2019, now stars Chelsea Rose (of the symphonic metal band Ophelia Falling) as Maria this time around and Damien Atkins (regularly of late the Shaw Festival) as Captain von Trapp. (No, I’d never heard of Ophelia Falling before but now that I’ve listened to a song or two I’m intrigued by the idea of a metal Maria.)
  • The Importance of Being Earnest opened at Theatre Calgary last week in a production directed by Bronwyn Steinberg that runs to Nov. 19. For me, the big draw would be seeing Valerie Planche, who was most recently so great in Where the Blood Mixes at Soulpepper last spring, as Lady Bracknell.
  • #34, Munish Sharma’s new play about the legendary Saskatchewan Roughrider George Reed, has its world premiere at the Globe Theatre in Regina this week. It runs Nov. 9 to 27, so a play not for locals but any CFL fans headed into town for the Grey Cup on Nov. 20.

What the Globe and Mail is reviewing this week

I’m not personally reviewing anything – I’m on holiday this week, so I’m passing this section over to Arts editor Aruna Dutt to tell you what she’s commissioned while I’m out of commission:

Playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney, best-known as Moonlight co-writer and Academy Award-winner, recently spoke with Kelly Nestruck for a Q&A about writing (and rewriting) Choir Boy, opening on Friday at Toronto’s Canadian Stage. The production, starring Andrew Broderick and directed by Mike Payette, will be reviewed by Mira Miller ahead of the premiere.

In Edmonton, The Citadel Theatre rings in the beginnings of holiday spirit with Almost a Full Moon, a new Hawksley Workman-inspired Christmastime musical by playwright Charlotte Corbeil-Coleman. Carly Maga will be reviewing the Thursday performance.