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La Scena Musicale - Vol. 21, No. 1 September 2015

Music Theater Fall Picks

by Naomi Gold / September 1, 2015

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Fresh off its hugely successful foray into producing large scale musicals, Montreal’s Segal Centre will stage another iconic production with Funny Girl. The true tale of aspiring singer/ comedienne, Fanny Brice, who dreams of becoming a superstar with New York’s Ziegfeld Follies, premiered in 1964. Florenz Ziegfeld’s ‘Follies’ were theatrical shows on Broadway, circa 1907-1931, originally inspired by Paris’s Folies Bergères. Composed by Jule Styne with lyricist Bob Merrill, this show is directed by Peter Hinton. Isobel Lennart’s book also became a hit film in 1968. And Barbra Streisand, who starred in both versions, won a shared Best Actress Academy Award, tying with Katharine Hepburn. It runs from Oct. 11-Nov. 1. www.segalcentre.org.

Montreal’s Centaur Theatre and Ottawa’s National Arts Centre are co-producing Djanet Sears’ The Adventures of a Black Girl in Search of God. Protagonist Rainey is grief-stricken by her daughter’s death and facing her father’s terminal illness. She has stopped working and is divorcing. Despairing of the powerlessness of God, Rainey is led to spiritual salvation by the people of Negro Creek, a 200-year-old proud Black community in Western Ontario. This play, Centaur’s largest production ever, features 22 performers. Among them are singer-dancers whose haunting acapella songs and dance sequences invoke classic African storytelling traditions. At times the chorus of “Ancestors” transforms into the landscape itself in this ultimately tragicomic tale. Written/directed by Djanet Sears and choreographed by Vivine Scarlett, the show is presented in association with Montreal’s Black Theatre Workshop. Co-composers are Alejandra Nuñez & Djanet Sears. Sept. 22-Oct. 18 (Montreal); Oct. 21-Nov. 7 (Ottawa). www.centaurtheatre.com, www.nac-cna.ca.

Broadway Across Canada traverses through Ottawa this fall – post-election – with a Disney musical that debuted on the Great White Way in 2012. Newsies is the true story of a group of New York City newspaper boys who confront Gotham’s most powerful men in 1899. The unlikely band of underdog cum hero protagonists fight for what they believe is right in this rousing tale that imparts valuable life lessons. Harvey Fierstein’s (La Cage aux Folles) book is set to the musical score of Alan Menken (Beauty and the Beast, The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz) and Jack Feldman’s libretti (The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride). Newsies features über-energy, with intricate dance performances from the ensemble cast and garnering a Best Choreography Tony for Christopher Gattelli (South Pacific). National Arts Center, Oct. 27-Nov. 1. www.nac-cna.ca.

Toronto’s Mirvish Theatre maximizes the musical mojo with Motown, a Broadway jukebox production that premiered in 2013. This show traces the founding of Motown Records in Detroit by Berry Gordy, and is based on his 1994 autobiography, To Be Loved: The Music, the Magic, the Memories of Motown. Music & lyrics are extracted from Motown’s catalogue of artists, which includes a who’s who of American pop from the 60s to the 90s. The play also explores Gordy’s personal and professional relationships with Smokey Robinson, Diana Ross, Stevie Wonder and numerous other performers. Motown-produced records eventually became synonymous with Billboard chart-toppers and Grammy winners, thus making mega-millions for Gordy and his clients. The Princess of Wales Theatre, Sept. 22-Oct. 25. www.mirvish.com.


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