Theatre goers will enjoy blockbuster Broadway musicals Kinky Boots and Million Dollar Quartet, as well as many other crowd-pleasing Tony and Pulitzer-winning dramas and comedies, produced by some of Montréal’s most exciting professional and independent English-language theatre companies, including Black Theatre Worskhop’s much-anticipated drama Angélique about the real-life black slave woman who burnt down Old Montréal in 1734.
The year kicks off with the Broadway touring production of the Tony-winning musical Kinky Boots which headlines Salle Wilfred-Pelletier from Jan. 3 to 8. After winning Best Original Score at the 2013 Tony Awards, Cyndi Lauper told me, “I didn’t stop to think I was the first woman to win that award [solo because] there were a lot of men involved, people who understood me, like playwright Harvey Fierstein.”
The touring Broadway musical Mamma Mia! also headlines Salle Wilfred-Pelletier, for five performances only, from Feb. 17 to 19. British playwright Catherine Johnson wrote the musical about a daughter’s quest to discover the identity of her father on the eve of her wedding on the same Greek island paradise her mother visited 20 years earlier. Over the course of the play, the cast sings 22 ABBA songs that fit together uncannily, as if they’d been written for the narrative.
Upcoming highlights at the Segal Centre include British playwright Michael Frayn’s classic 1982 farce Noises Off from Jan. 29 to Feb. 19. Directed by Award-winning Montreal filmmaker Jacob Tierney (The Trotsky), this play-within-a-play follows the on and off stage shenanigans of a hapless director and his ragtag group of actors who must pull their act together to put on a show.
The Segal also presents the Tony-winning jukebox musical Million Dollar Quartet, inspired by the true story of the night four music icons—Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins—came together at Sun Records studios in Memphis on Dec. 4, 1956, for one of the greatest impromptu recording jam sessions in history. Songs include Blue Suede Shoes, Great Balls of Fire, Walk the Line and Hound Dog. Directed by the Segal’s Artistic and Executive Director Lisa Rubin, the Montreal premiere of Million Dollar Quartet runs from April 23 to May 14.
Over at the Centaur Theatre in Old Montréal, race and real estate take centre stage in Bruce Norris’ biting satire, the Pulitzer-winning Clybourne Park, which travels back to 1959 Chicago to tell the story of a white family upsetting the ‘social order’ of their all-white, middle class neighbourhood by selling their house to a black family. Act II fast-forwards to 2009 when a white couple attempts to buy and tear down the same house—now in an all-black neighbourhood—and is met with equal opposition. The Quebec English-language premiere of Clybourne Park is directed by Canadian theatre legend Ellen David and runs from April 4 to 30.
The Centaur also presents the Quebec premiere of the acclaimed Canadian comedy Bed and Breakfast, a heart-warming play about two gay men (played by Mark Crawford and Paul Dunn) who move from urban Toronto to a tiny tourist town to convert the family residence into a BB. Playing dozens of male and female characters—from narrow-minded rednecks to awkward high school boys—prejudice tests the couple’s resolve, with some unexpected comical plot twists. Bed and Breakfast runs from April 25 and May 21.
The Centaur also presents its 20th annual Wildside Festival, showcasing the best in Canadian indie theatre, from Jan. 5 to 15. This year’s edition features seven plays, including House of Laureen: Backdoor Queens, starring the resident drag artists from Montreal’s fabled Café Cléopatre Cabaret: Anaconda LaSabrosa, Connie Lingua, Dot Dot Dot, Uma Gahd and Noah in a backstage look at the reality of drag, performance and politics.
Other performances of note are Snowglobe Theatre’s large ensemble-cast production of Shakespeare’s classic comedy Much Ado About Nothing headlining Montréal’s uber-cool indie Mainline Theatre (also headquarters of the Montréal Fringe Festival) from Jan. 26 to 29; Infinitheatre’s production of playwright Oren Safdie’s Mr. Goldberg Goes to Tel Aviv, about a Jewish-Canadian gay author and Palestinian sympathizer held captive by a Palestinian terrorist, playing at the Théatre St. James in Old Montréal from Jan. 31 to Mar. 5; and the much-anticipated production of Angélique by Black Theatre Workshop, the oldest Black professional theatre company in Canada. Written by late Canadian playwright Lorena Gale, Angélique is based on real-life Black slave woman Marie-Joseph Angélique who was owned by Thérèse de Francheville, widow of wealthy Montréal fur merchant François Poulin de Francheville. After Angélique was sold to a Quebec government official for 600 pounds of gunpowder in 1734, she tried to escape and was publicly executed for allegedly setting fire to Montréal. Angélique runs at the Segal Studio from March 16 to April 2.
Last but not least, two student productions worth the admission are the double feature Lear and Exit the King performed by the graduating class of the National Theatre School under the direction of Brendan Healy, at the historic Monument National from Feb. 27 to Mar. 4; and Rebel Daughter—based on the autobiography of Canadian feminist icon and long-time editor of Chatelaine magazine, Doris Anderson—produced by the top-notch Dawson Professional Theatre Program in their state-of-the-art Dawson Theatre from April 18 to 29.
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