With his newest show, Aubrey Dan is bringing Dancap to the Danforth neighbourhood as part of his continuing quest to crack Toronto's downtown musical-theatre market.
The Canadian premiere of The Toxic Avenger, an off-Broadway musical based on the campy 1984 horror film of the same name, will open on Halloween at the Music Hall on Danforth Avenue, which will be freshly renovated for the occasion.
The team at Dancap Productions had been eyeing the Music Hall as a potential venue when Dan travelled to see The Toxic Avenger two months ago. Though wary at first, he found the show charming and thought it a good fit for the 998-seat Music Hall, even though the show is currently playing in a house roughly half that size at New World Stages in New York.
Dan calls the timing "serendipitous," and since then has rapidly negotiated a "long-term" agreement with the Music Hall, as well as the first licence to mount The Toxic Avenger outside New York. Dan said he expects that if all goes well, Dancap will continue to use the hall as a home for future productions.
"We see this as another home for Dancap," he said.
Dan is hoping that the hall will give Dancap a predictable, sustainable home in the heart of Toronto to help it compete with Mirvish Productions, which owns the Canon Theatre, the Panasonic Theatre, the Princess of Wales Theatre and the Royal Alexandra Theatre, giving it a virtual lock on available downtown venues. The Music Hall is primarily a stage for rock concerts, but will also play host to Secrets of a Black Boy by Trey Anthony, the playwright behind 'Da Kink in my Hair, starting in September.
Dan also said that because of the Music Hall's smaller size, this deal does not preclude his ambitions to cement a programming arrangement with the 3,200-seat Sony Centre for the Performing Arts, which has been tied up by renovation delays that forced Dan to cancel a run of Dr. Seuss's How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical, slated to open in November. Dancap has been staging the Tony Award-winning Jersey Boys since last August at the farther-flung Toronto Centre for the Arts in North York.
The renovations under way at the Music Hall are "pretty significant," Dan said, including the installation of new seats, cosmetic tweaks to the interior and renovations of everything from dressing rooms to washrooms. Dancap and the Music Hall are sharing the bill, which Dan said is "not tons of money, because they've got the infrastructure, so it's more cosmetic."
Dan was first attracted to The Toxic Avenger because of his links to, and admiration for, its creative team. The music is by David Bryan, the original keyboardist for Bon Jovi, and the book is by Joe DiPietro, of I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change fame. The duo also joined forces to create Memphis, a musical backed by Dan that will open on Broadway this fall. And director John Rando worked with Dan on a pair of past shows, Urinetown and The Wedding Singer.
"So right off the bat, the quality, the calibre of Broadway talent at an off-Broadway price was really attractive to me," Dan said, adding that he did not turn to an off-Broadway show because of a lack of options and calling his Broadway pipeline "phenomenal."
He is also hoping the show, which has yet to be cast, can attract a new audience from the ranks of fans of the original Lloyd Kaufman film, as well as its many spinoffs.
"You could see it appealed to a wide variety of young and old," he said. "And it was farcical. It was a night you could laugh and enjoy, which quite frankly, we need."