BWW Interviews: David Mirvish Discusses the 2013-2014 Season
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by Kelly Cameron
Mirvish Productions is celebrating a very big anniversary as their 2013/14 season marks fifty years of producing and presenting theatre in Toronto. Their most ambitious season to date, it includes seven subscription shows, four bonus shows and the sophomore offering from the new Off-Mirvish series.
David Mirvish spoke to BWW prior to the official announcement about the landmark 50th season, as well as the importance of bringing Les Miserables back to Toronto and the necessity of diverse programming for the purpose of building a new generation of theatre goers:
Congratulations on fifty years of producing in Toronto! How does it feel?
I feel like it's a tremendous achievement but it also means that I'm older than fifty! I remember that first night at The Royal Alexandra with my father and my mother after we bought the theatre. All the critics came up from New York and I feel like they were all scratching their heads and wondering what we had done since my father had completely re-built it and restored it to what it had been in its heyday. I think everyone wished him well but also wondered if he would survive.
Do you think he questioned if he would survive?
To be honest I think he didn't know. For example, he wasn't aware that if you didn't have a show you should keep the theatre closed. He believed that going to the theatre should be a habit and you should be open every week so people could go - and I think that belief helped Toronto become a great theatre city because we have learned to expect to have live theatre all the time. But he was a storekeeper - he didn't know any better!
To celebrate you are launching one of your most ambitious seasons to date. How are you feeling about the 2013-2014 offerings?
We announced fourteen shows today - with seven at the core of our subscription. We're trying to keep building the 'theatre habit' and our subscription audience and we feel that this is our chance to engage and expand into different territory through our Off-Mirvish season as well. We also have four shows beyond our subscription season just to reward people for being subscribers and they will have the first chance to buy tickets for those shows.
It took fifty years to get to where we are, but I believe we are active, growing and healthy. For instance, as we announce our new season we have two shows running (Wizard of Oz and Clybourne Park) and once Book of Mormon opens we will have three simultaneously (combined with Oz and Dancing with Rage). That's pretty exciting! There are tons of possibilities here and we have a good healthy audience, and we want to keep growing that.
Les Miserables is going to kick off your new subscription season, and it has been heavily rumoured and anticipated for quite some time. How important was it to you to be able to include this show?
Including Les Miserables was very important. It's the 25th Anniversary Production and Cameron (Mackintosh) has done a fantastic job of re-thinking the show. I saw it in Paris and discovered that he had found ways to keep it fresh and alive even in its 25th year. I also think we have a brilliant cast for the Toronto engagement and I'm very pleased we are getting the chance to put the show on.
Les Miserables was one of the great turning points in the history of The Royal Alexandra and it was a monumental programming decision in its day because the only way we could do it was to suspend our subscription for a year. We had that previous opportunity with CATS and we passed on it, but when it came time to consider Les Miserables we felt it was so compelling and that people would want to see it so badly that we changed our policies to be able to do it. Now we can celebrate the show's 25th Anniversary and our 50th by presenting it on subscription.
You've also got a few Disney shows and Cameron Mackintosh collaborations this year...
Exactly. With Disney we have Aladdin which is going to start in Toronto and then go to Broadway and that is incredibly exciting. Cameron collaborated with Disney in the past on Mary Poppins and that was a great success so we can't wait to see Aladdin. We will also see The Lion King return and it's always popular with Toronto audiences.
This new season is incredibly diverse. Can you talk about some of the different programming choices?
We are thrilled to bring Once to Toronto, and excited that it just took home the Grammy Award this past Sunday for Best Cast Recording. This is a show which has won eight Tony Awards and hasn't been seen by Toronto audiences which is very exciting.
With Heartbeat of Home, both Brian Sewell and John Karastamatis went to see a workshop of it in Ireland and were incredibly taken with the production. I've just returned from speaking with those who were responsible for getting Metamorphosis off the ground and they've had wonderful notices and great success. Sergio Trujillo's Arrabal will play quite well to a younger audience because it is fresh and sexy and unlike anything we've seen before.
I think the best part of the season is how incredibly diverse it is, because with theatre you can never please everyone with one show. For example, it is very different from a sporting event. I go to see a game and I know that one team will win and one will lose but there will be joy in the subtlety of the game. With theatre, you're asking people to buy seven shows knowing that perhaps they only really want to see five of them. But the joy is in the moments when they fall in love with the show they didn't expect, or the show that they wouldn't have otherwise seen.
That's what makes theatre so incredible. It is this collaboration between the audience and the actors. The actors are reading the audience's body language and no single production exists in a vacuum. It's what makes it special and also what makes it dangerous. Of course, some of it is also luck. But I think the 2013-2014 season has something for everyone.
For more information on the 2013-2014 Mirvish Subscription Season or to purchase please visit www.mirvish.com or call 416-593-4225