Last week David Mirvish sent out a cryptic invitation to members of Toronto’s media, teasing them with the promise of a special announcement of something ‘new and different’ and insisting that all ‘pre-conceived notions be left behind.’ The Twitter world buzzed with speculation of what Mirvish could be announcing, with possibilities ranging from the plausible to the outlandish. What he had in store however, was indeed something both unexpected and refreshingly different which could forever change the way Toronto views the theatre giant.
Musicals have long ruled the roost at Mirvish Productions, being the bread and butter of their subscription series and making up most of the offerings in any given season. In fact, after their 2012-2013 Season was unveiled earlier this year, more than a few people commented on the lack of plays being offered. Today’s announcement changes all of that.
The Mirvish Second Stage Series will bring four exciting plays to Toronto audiences over the next year, and will be offered in a unique subscription series all its own. The inaugural season will feature three Canadian productions and a critically acclaimed one-man show fresh off The New York Musical Theatre Workshop and Edinburgh Fringe.
The four plays being presented are Mitchell Cushman’s critically acclaimed Summerworks success Terminus, Studio 180’s sold-out production of Clybourne Park, Mary Walsh’s hotly anticipated Dancing with Rage and Anthony Rapp’s poignant memoir Without You.
The Second Stage Series kicks off with Terminus, arguably the runaway favourite of this year’s hugely successful Summerworks Festival and took home the Best Production Award. Directed by Mitchell Cushman, the show is set in Dublin and tells three interconnecting stories in an innovative and fresh manner. The audience is a part of the action, seated on the stage where the stories are told as each actor takes turns delivering brilliant written and carefully crafted monologues. Due to its limited run this past summer and intense word of mouth, many people missed the opportunity to see this brilliantly original piece of theatre. They will get a second chance as Terminus takes over the storied stage of The Royal Alex.
Just in time for the holidays comes the only non-Canadian offering in the inaugural season. Anthony Rapp’s one-man show Without You, based on his best-selling memoir that deals with ‘Love, Loss and the Musical RENT’ will play The Panasonic from Dec 13 to Jan 6th. Anthony Rapp is well known to Toronto audiences for his role as Mark Cohen in the hit musical RENT, and will be returning to our city to present this emotional and heartfelt autobiographical tale of grief, hope and triumph. Backed by a five-piece rock band, Without You uses a mix of original music and songs by both Jonathan Larson and R.E.M. to frame a story not just of Larson’s untimely passing, but of the death of Rapp’s mother and how the musical RENT helped him deal with the grief that came out of both those events.
The spring brings Studio 180 Theatre’s production of Clybourne Park which was both a critical and audience favourite this past year, selling out its limited run at the Berkeley Street Theatre. One of the most influential and buzz-worthy plays of this century; Bruce Norris’s work won an Olivier, a Tony and a Pulitzer Prize. Billed as an ‘unsettling comedy inspired by A Raisin in the Sun’, Clybourne Park examines a battle over race and real estate that spans two generations in a suburban Chicago neighbourhood. The Canadian production was deemed by many to be superior to the critically acclaimed Broadway production that ran this past summer, and will be revived by Mirvish Productions as part of this exciting new initiative.
Rounding out the inaugural season is Mary Walsh’s Dancing with Rage, which enjoyed a sold-out run at the RCA in Newfoundland before being announced for a limited run at Theatre Passe Muraille this past March. Unfortunately that show was cancelled due to unforeseen circumstances, leaving Toronto audiences eager for another opportunity to see Ms. Walsh tackle pop culture, politics and capitalism with her unique blend of wit, sarcasm and humour. Mirvish’s Second Stage Series will give Toronto audiences that opportunity, as Ms. Walsh brings some of her most familiar characters to the Toronto stage. Marg Delahunty, a Warrior Princess, Dakey Dunn, Miss Eulalia Turpin, Connie Bloor and many more will take to the stage of The Panasonic Theatre.