Over the years, the Toronto-raised creative team of director Des McAnuff and choreographer Sergio Trujillo have collaborated time and time again on jukebox musicals – or, as they prefer to call them, musical biographies.
Jersey Boys, which was about the Four Seasons, was their biggest; it ran for almost 12 years on Broadway and had grossed more than U $2-billion worldwide when I last chatted with McAnuff and Trujillo. Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of The Temptations, which played Toronto on its way to opening in New York a little over a year ago, isn’t doing too badly on Broadway either – it’s grossing over a million dollars there most weeks (and won Trujillo a Tony Award for best choreography).
Tonight, Summer: The Donna Summer Musical, a McAnuff and Trujillo collaboration that played on Broadway in 2018, begins a stint in the artists’ hometown at the Princess of Wales Theatre (until March 22) as part of the Mirvish season. Look for my review later this week to find out if this disco biography is Hot Stuff or not.
In Regina, I Call Myself Princess, Jani Lauzon’s play with an opera inside of it, is on at the Globe Theatre (to March 22). It’s about a fascinating real-life case of cultural appropriation from a century ago involving a Native American opera singer and the Metropolitan Opera premiere she collaborated on. I saw Lauzon’s show at Native Earth in Toronto in 2018 – and 60 per cent of the cast remains the same in Regina. Here’s my review from then; well worth checking out.
A major Canadian opening this week is the North American premiere of Room, Emma Donoghue’s stage adaptation of her bestselling novel about a boy and his mother being held in captivity, at the Grand Theatre in London, Ont. (to March 28). An earlier version of this show, which includes songs by Cora Bissett and Kathryn Joseph, was produced by Theatre Royal Stratford East and the Abbey Theatre in Dublin in 2017 – and this rejigged version, directed by Bissett, will travel from the Grand to the CAA Theatre in Toronto as part of the Off-Mirvish season in April. I’ll be reviewing it then.
If, like me, you’re unable to tear your eyes away from the race to be the next president of the United States, Ottawa’s Great Canadian Theatre Company is opening an intriguing-looking play this week about one of the most famous political ads of all time. Daisy (running March 10 to 29) is named after the chilling Lyndon B. Johnson spot that played on fears that his opponent Barry Goldwater might lead the country into a nuclear war, and Sean Devine’s play is about the Madison Avenue advertising team that created it. Though Devine is Canadian, his play has so far been produced only south of the border in Seattle and Houston; this is its eagerly awaited Canadian premiere.
The transgender community has had to put up with a lot of titular puns over the years. First there was the film Transamerica, then the TV show Transparent. A verbatim theatre piece called Trans Scripts was inevitable no?
Trans Scripts, Part I: The Women, in which American playwright Paul Lucas shares “real-life stories of transgender women in their own words,” opens in Vancouver this week (and runs to March 21) in a co-production between the Frank Theatre and Zee Zee Theatre at the Firehall Arts Centre. Its cast is comprised of seven local transgender women including the multidisciplinary artist Josie Boyce, the two-spirit recording artist Quanah Style and YouTube star Julie Vu.
I’d check it out if I were on that side of the country, but I’m headed in the other direction next week – to Montreal. More on what I’m seeing there in next week’s newsletter.
Find out what’s new on Canadian stages from Globe theatre critic J. Kelly Nestruck in the weekly Nestruck on Theatre newsletter. Sign up today.