Skip to main content

Tell Tale Harbour is a new musical adaptation of the 2013 Canadian film The Grand Seduction, which starred Taylor Kitsch, left, and Liane Balaban.Marlène Gélineau Payette/The Canadian Press

The Charlottetown Festival sent out a press release on Tuesday announcing that Anne of Green Gables: The Musical will be returning next summer as one of its two mainstage productions in its 2022 season.

That’s like sending out a press release that ice cream is wonderful on a summer’s afternoon, in my opinion. Then again, the Anne musical does have a whole number about that – so I guess it’s still news to some.

I’m much more interested in the other mainstage production that will be at the Charlottetown Festival in 2022. Artistic director Adam Brazier declined an interview about it ahead of an upcoming press conference two weeks from now, but I don’t see any reason to hold off any longer writing about the worst-kept secret in Canadian showbiz.

Tell Tale Harbour, a new musical adaptation of the Canadian film The Grand Seduction, is set to undergo a final workshop in Charlottetown this January before running at the Confederation Centre for the Arts from May 9 to Sept. 24, according to a recent audition notice that came to my attention. That notice also says a “potential tour” may follow.

You may recall that 2013 movie penned by Ken Scott and Michael Dowse (or perhaps the earlier even-better 2003 French-language film it was based on, La grande seduction – also written by Scott).

The story concerns a small fishing village called Tickle Head in Newfoundland and Labrador, which concocts all sorts of schemes in order to “seduce” a doctor into becoming a resident – and land a new factory in the process.

It’s become a classic Canadian story – and, while it’s a comedy, it’s inspired by the real, serious doctor shortages that the province continues to experience. As The Globe and Mail’s Greg Mercer reported earlier this week, roughly 98,000 people in Newfoundland and Labrador don’t have a family doctor.

Tell Tale Harbour has been adapted from Scott’s screenplay by major artists from or based in Atlantic Canada, including Brazier, Great Big Sea’s Alan Doyle, Come From Away musical director Bob Foster and playwright Ed Riche. Siminovitch Prize-winning director Jillian Keiley has been on board in workshops of the show.

The project seems like an inspired idea to me. There’s a whole host of musicals about factory towns, from The Pajama Game to Kinky Boots and, of course, Come From Away has shown how widely a show with East Coast-inspired music can travel if it’s good. It’s certainly a musical more likely to lure me to Charlottetown this summer than the return of a certain red-haired girl and her Island exploits.

Speaking of Newfoundland musicals, No Change in the Weather is back on tour this month – with upcoming shows at the Arts and Culture Centre in St. John’s from Nov. 12 to 14 and a run at Toronto’s CAA Theatre from Nov. 19 to 27.

The Globe and Mail reviewed this jukebox show in Winnipeg in 2019, critic Neil Weisensel calling it “a political cautionary tale with former Newfoundland premier Joey Smallwood as the anti-hero and (Hydro) Quebec as the villain.” I look forward to getting a chance to see the new, updated version in my neck of the woods.

Speaking of Newfoundlanders, Tell Tale Harbour’s likely helmer Keiley – who is also the outgoing artistic director of the English Theatre at the National Arts Centre – is directing a new production of Michael Frayn’s classic quantum physics-inspired play, Copenhagen, in Ottawa this week from Nov. 4 to 7. You can also watch a video of the show online for free, on Nov. 6.

Copenhagen is part of a Theatre and Physics Symposium at the NAC that includes other plays and panel discussions – much of which you’ll be able to stream from anywhere in the country.

To Winnipeg, where Darla Contois’s The War Being Waged marks a return to live, in-person performance at Prairie Theatre Exchange. This new play, presented in partnership with Native Earth Performing Arts, is about three generations of Indigenous women and stars the great Tracey Nepinak, last seen (by me, anyway) on stage at the Stratford Festival in The Rez Sisters.

Winnipeggers and visitors can see The War Being Waged on stage Nov. 3 to 21 – and then there will be a digital run from Dec. 2 to 12.

The Toronto Fringe has launched a new spin-off called Primetime, an online performance festival featuring digital experiences from across Canada. It started over the weekend and continues to Nov. 28 – and a highlight this week should be an audio production of Julia Lederer’s With Love and a Major Organ.

An early version of Lederer’s lyrical romantic comedy was seen at the Toronto Fringe in 2012 – and has since gone on to be produced in finished form in the United States and France (but not in Canada). Its production at the Boston Court in L.A. competed with Hamilton for best production at the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle back in 2018.

The audio play is available to stream as of Nov. 3.

I’m in Toronto this week as per usual where there’s suddenly a fair bit of in-person theatre going on – or, at least, more than before.

Tonight, I’m headed to Soulpepper – which I just belatedly learned is searching for a new executive director following the departure of its U.K. import, Emma Stenning, who arrived there to clean things up after the scandals that left the company leaderless in 2018.

Draw Me Close, Jordan Tannahill’s virtual reality performance, is having its Canadian premiere there until Dec. 12. Look for my review later this week.

I’ll also be seeing The Spectators’ Odyssey o dell’Inferno, an immersive choose-your-own-adventure show at the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts, and A Tonic for Desperate Times, a new creation from Theatre Gargantua. Both run through the end of next week.

Keep up to date with the weekly Nestruck on Theatre newsletter. Sign up today.