Monday, February 20, 2012

Theatre: Mirvish 2012 Season

 David Mirvish presented his 2012 season in style, starting off by showing a black and white film clip in which the Ed Mirvish Theatre is swept up by a tornado.  As it spins in the air, past shows such as Les Mis, Phantom of the Opera, Private Lives, and War Horse floated by the window.  Then as he proceeded to announce the new shows one by one, he came out dressed as a Lion, then a Scarecrow, then a Tin man and finally brought a little white terrier onto the stage.  By that point, only the culturally illiterate would not have realized that "The Wizard of Oz" was going to be one of the new shows.

A new musical version of The Wizard of Oz is being staged, with an expanded story and new songs by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice.  It was noted that the beloved movie has not been successful in its transition to stage in the past because there were not enough songs to support the major characters like the Witch and the Wizard, and there was no intro or the proverbial "11'O Clock" number.  All that will be rectified with the new production.  Dorothy came out to sing "Over the Rainbow" initially holding onto Toto, but he barked so incessantly that he had to be removed from the stage.  There are rumours that the Canadian Dorothy will be cast in a reality show like they did for the Sound of Music.  In that show, they ushered out the cast-off would-be Marias to the singing of "So Long, Farewell".. I wonder if they would sing "Ding, dong the Witch is Dead" on this new show?

By the time the smoke cleared on the season's lineup, it was revealed that all six shows in the subscription series would be musicals.  This is surprising since Mirvish usually provides a more eclectic mix that includes dramas and comedies.  My theory is that he is trying to compete with Dancap who scored some major musicals lately including the Tony award winners from 2010 and 2008 (Memphis,  In The Heights) and nominees including American Idiot and Next to Normal.  While I'm personally thrilled since I LOVE musicals, David Mirvish needs to be careful that he doesn't annoy his subscription base who may be expecting more variety in their theatre experience.

 This year Mirvish won the Tony award jackpot with the 2011 winner Book of Mormon, a collaboration by the creators of South Park and Robert Lopez, the writer of Avenue Q.  Lopez showed a film clip of the Broadway production, then described how he met Trey Parker and Matt Stone and found out that like himself, they also had the idea about making a musical comedy about Mormons.  I've heard the soundtrack for Book of Mormon, and I can say that prudes who disapprove of the type of language or topics discussed in South Park should stay away!

Similarly video was used to present the next two musicals.  Backbeat is based on the early days of the formation of the Beatles.  I'm concerned about whether I will be able to understand the strong Liverpool accents (which strangely don't show up when the Beatles sing) and wish there were subtitles for heavily-accented English shows.  I remember with dread a previous Mirvish show called The Harder They Come where the Jamaican accents were so thick and the idioms used so foreign that Mirvish held a members talk beforehand to educate patrons on the storyline and the lingo.. and still I had no idea what was being happening throughout the first act (we left before the second half).

 La Cage Aux Folles was appropriately introduced by a brash, sassy transvestite (with long beautiful legs, just like the actors from Priscilla Queen of the Desert).  George Hamilton will play the gay father who tries to hide his effeminate drag queen lover from the ultra-conservative parents of his son's fiancee.  Hamilton and his costar Christopher Sieber filmed a video conference to promote La Cage Aux Folles and their quick banter and chemistry bodes well for the show.

After all those taped introductions of the shows, we finally got some live performances for the final two musicals (which, other than wanting to find out first hand what was in the new season, is the main reason to attend this announcement).

The first was Sister Act, based on the Whoopi Goldberg movie.  The cast was on hand to perform a couple of song and dance numbers.  I did not find these songs to be very memorable so I'm hoping for more from the rest of the show.

Finally, there will be a brand new musical premiering in Toronto, based on the movie 1992  Honeymoon in Vegas.  The only thing I remember about this movie is Nicolas Cage jumping out of a plane with a bunch of flying Elvises.  The composer (Jason Robert Brown) came out to sing a couple of the songs, describing the plot leading up to each.  After hearing only a few notes from the first song, I was able to identify him as  the same one who wrote "The Last Five Years", since he more or less repeated bars of melody from that musical.  Finally Tony Danza appeared to sing his big number from the show.  I guess he represented the "big named celebrity" for this season.

 I was already in musical heaven but there was more!  Two bonus shows are being offered and again, they are musicals!  Now even I'm thinking that Mirvish has a one-track mind this year.  Bloodless, directed by Colm Wilkinson, has a dark Sweeney Todd-esque plot, score and lyrics including a deliciously morbid song called "He's Better Off Dead" which was performed on stage.   The second is Flashdance, based on the 1983 movie about the female welder who wants to be a ballerina.  Although it didn't happen during this preview performance, we are promised that in the live show, the star will indeed be doused with water like in the movie... suddenly the males in the audience were interested!  I'm actually more excited about the bonus musicals than some of the ones within the subscription - but maybe that's the whole point, since it prompted me to buy more shows.  Well played, David Mirvish!

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