We’re proud of our reputation for presenting tried-and-tested Broadway musicals, but we also have a fine legacy of developing new musicals that have enjoyed critical success with runs on our stages and also on tours across Canada. Creating new works is not for the faint of heart. It’s a lengthy process and musicals are especially risky and complicated. We’ve a number of new musicals currently in the works, and we’re excited to share a new venture with you.
As part of this past month’s ReACT: New Plays in Progress, one of the new musicals we’ve introduced is Onegin, and the hope is to stage this production in an upcoming season. This full-length musical is inspired by the classic Russian poem by Pushkin and the opera by Tchaikovsky. We’ve launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise just a portion of funds to continue the process of composing, redrafting, and workshopping it for final staging. Watch the video below for a sneak peek at the production, and visit the Indiegogo page to contribute to Onegin today!
To understand more about the process of new play development, we asked our Artistic Managing Director, Bill Millerd, to fill us in on a few of the new musical enterprises he has been involved with during the last 35 years:
Reflections on Crooked Walking
The first original musical we produced was Ann Mortifee’s Reflections on Crooked Walking, which premiered at the Granville Island Stage in 1981. Ann’s show started as a recording and upon hearing it, I was convinced this would make a terrific family show. It was a large production for us at the time with a multi-purpose set designed by Alison Green, fantastic costumes by Marti Wright, lighting design by Marsha Sibthorpe, with choreography by Judith Marcuse, and directed by Mario Crudo. It brought to life on stage the world that Ann had created musically. The production was an instant hit and was re-mounted several times in the ensuing 15 years. We still get requests for a revival.
Simon Webb, Sharon Timmins, Bernard Cuffling, Rick Scott, Jane Mortifee in Reflections on Crooked Walking. Photo by Glen Erikson
In 1987, at our old home on the Seymour Street stage, we premiered Joe’s Cafe by Wyckham Porteous and Patti Fraser. It was a very different type of production—essentially a one person show with Wyckham on stage singing his own songs about this popular drop-in coffee spot that’s still open for business on Commercial Drive (long before the advent of Starbucks and the like). It was all very personal, as if Wyckham was at Joe’s Cafe performing for us sitting there drinking coffee. Janet Wright directed it and there were no workshops involved prior to the premiere; just a faith in Wyckham’s work.
A Closer Walk with Patsy Cline and Red Rock Diner
In 1991 and 1997, two new musical revues were created by Dean Regan using existing material: A Closer Walk with Patsy Cline (1991) and Red Rock Diner (1997). Dean would bring me his ideas in the form of an outline and a tape or CD with the songs he wanted to use. With A Closer Walk with Patsy Cline, he had a singer, Colette Wise, in mind to do the role and he did a couple of versions in various venues before we opened it at the Revue Stage which had a cabaret set up at the time—so it went through a workshop of some sort with contributions coming from the musicians and Mark Weatherly, the actor playing the DJ/Little Big Man role. Red Rock Diner started as a tribute to Red Robinson and the 1950’s. Dean and Red attended high school together and Red’s popularity as a DJ inspired Dean to put together this musical revue. We did a presentation of a draft of the show before we opened it at the Granville Island Stage. Like A Closer Walk with Patsy Cline, contributions came in from everyone involved in the original production, including Michael Bublé. Another Dean Regan creation, also featuring Michael was Swing which opened the Stanley Theatre in the fall of 1998.
In the spring of 1999 we premiered a musical by Bruce Kellett and Mark Leiren Young: Easy Money. Bruce wrote the music, Mark the libretto, and together they wrote the lyrics. This original piece was inspired by the life and times of Murray Pezim—a controversial but colourful Vancouver stock promoter. Bruce had written music for us previously with the revues Only in Vancouver (1986) and Only in B.C. (1988), with lyrics by Daphne Goldrick, which were produced at the Revue Stage cabaret. For Easy Money, Mark fashioned a snappy book and Bruce added the mostly upbeat music. The show opened with no workshops or readings, but during the week long preview period scenes were shifted and songs re-written: a sort of crash course in putting together a musical with limited time.
Since the start of the ReACT series of workshops and readings, the development of new work, under the guidance of Literary Manager Rachel Ditor, has been significantly more structured. Today we’re more focused and can give the creators significantly more time to develop their works.
Don’t miss your chance to make some musical theatre history by taking part in our crowdfunding campaign for Onegin. Participation starts at $5, with lots of exclusive rewards on offer!