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Saturday, 05 November 2016 15:05

Brent Carver Celebrates 10th Anniversary of Harold Green Jewish Theatre Co. in Song

Written by  Dennis Kucherawy
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“Walk Me to the Corner”: 

Two-week North York Concert

Series Begins This Tuesday

You’ll never know what … or who … you can get if you just ask.  That has once again proven true for the Harold Green Jewish Theatre Company (HGJTC) as Brent Carver, the great, Canadian-born, international theatrical star has designed and will perform a special, world premiere show for them as his gift in celebration of its 10th Anniversary.


Titled “Walk Me to the Corner – An Evening with Brent Carver,” it’s a two-week engagement of 12 concerts in the Toronto Centre of the Arts’ Greenwin Theatre.  The title is derived from Leonard Cohen’s classic ballad “Hey, That’s No Way to Say Goodbye.”  The lyric is “Walk me to the corner / Our steps will always rhyme.”

In May 2014, Carver received a Governor General's Performing Arts Award, Canada's highest honor in the performing arts, for his lifetime contribution to Canadian theatre.

Avery Saltzman, the theatre’s co-artistic director, and an internationally accomplished veteran actor/singer himself, is beyond the moon with excitement, calling the 1993 Tony Award®-winner a “great spirit” with “great faith” and a “sense of giving.” He regards Brent as a friend of the Jewish community and believes their relationship fulfills mutual needs. (Carver has often opened his cabarets with an English version of “Tumbalalaika,” the Yiddish Russian-Jewish folk/love song.)  A native of Cranbrook, B.C., he has performed the show “Brent Carver in Concert” at Toronto’s Royal Alexandra Theatre and opened Vancouver’s Ford Centre for the Performing Arts with it.

During rehearsal for “Corner,” Avery recalled that Brent reminisced of the year 2000 when the Stratford Festival cast him as the milkman Tevye in its millennial production of “Fiddler on the Roof.”  It was unconventional casting as he was thin, not like the portly Tevyes of Zero Mostel and Topol.  Brent, who is of Welsh and Irish descent, told Avery about his focus on making his portrayal of a Jew meaningful to a Jewish audience.  In other words, a goy, as well as an actor, prepares.  Well, his much-loved performance was a universally acclaimed triumph!

Yet, 16 years later, his sensitivity and respect for another culture has stayed with him.  To prepare for “Corner,” Brent and Avery met with Rabbi Michael Dolgin and Cantor Charles Osborne of Temple Sinai.  “We had a great, sit-down and talked about faith,” Avery said.

In “Walk Me to the Corner,” Brent will sing, in a nostalgic moment sure to stir fond memories, two songs from “Fiddler” – “If I Were a Rich Man” and “Sabbath Prayer.”  He also intends to perform additional songs with a Jewish theme by Jason Robert Brown - “The Old Red Hills of Home” and “This is Not Over Yet.” They are from the musical Brown co-wrote with playwright Alfred (“Driving Miss Daisy”) Uhry, “Parade.” Directed by Hal Prince, the musical was originally produced by Toronto’s Livent Inc. It told the story of Leo Frank, a Jewish factory owner in Atlanta, Georgia, who was lynched in 1913, in an act of racism, for a murder he did not commit.

Carver played Frank on Broadway in 1998, receiving a 1999 Tony® nomination for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical, the category in which he won in 1993 for his memorable portrayal of the heroic window dresser, Molina, in “Kiss of the Spider Woman.”  It won a total of seven Tony® Awards including “Best Musical.”  “Parade” received two Tonys®, one for Uhry’s book and another for Brown’s score.  “Parade” did receive six 1999 Drama Desk® Awards, including Carver for “Outstanding Actor in a Musical.”

Carver has not sung or performed his cabaret in Toronto for a while, although he appeared with an all-star cast earlier this year at the Coal Mine Theatre in “The Winter’s Tale,” Groundling Theatre’s universally acclaimed inaugural production.

Now, lucky for us, he’s back.  Just this past Tuesday, he thrilled the opening night audience attending Acting Up Stage Co.’s 10th anniversary “Uncovered:  Queen & Bowie” concert at Koerner Hall with his moving performance of the former’s plaintive ballad “Who Wants to Live Forever?” and the latter’s “Life on Mars.” Reza Jacobs, “Uncovered’s” multi-talented pianist, arranger and music director, is also Brent’s collaborator and piano accompanist on “Walk Me to the Corner.”  They have worked together for the past six months.  Brent calls Reza “amazing… a musician extraordinaire.”  Another musician, Anna Atkinson, will play violin, viola and accordion.

Following “Walk Me to the Corner,” Brent will return to Koerner Hall in the New Year, on Feb. 24th, and reunite with the Art of Time Ensemble with which he had great success at Harbourfront Centre Theatre in May 2015.  Carver calls the ensemble, under the direction of its artistic director Andrew Burashko, “exquisite,” adding the program will be “music from the songbook we played together … with other newly arranged songs.”

Before then, Carver will travel to Edmonton’s Citadel Theatre’s “The Club” to perform his cabaret on Dec. 2nd and 3rd with Laura Burton, his long-time, “sublime” friend, music director and piano accompanist and a violinist and cellist.  It will include songs ranging from Joni Mitchell to Jacques Brel.

“It’s thrilling for me to work with so many special artists in each of these upcoming performances,” Carver said in an e-mail.  “I have been fortunate to work with each of these companies in some capacity over the years and the varied repertoire with each of them is such a privilege to be part of.  `Walk Me’ includes songs by the great Jason Robert Brown, Kander and Ebb, William Finn, Randy Newman, Carolyn Leigh, Jule Styne, Jerry Herman and Mr. Shakespeare.”

Brent’s song list for “Walk Me to the Corner” is yet to be confirmed.  More songs under consideration are “Man of La Mancha,” Kander & Ebb’s tongue-in-cheek tribute to “Sara Lee,” Jerry Herman’s “Put On Your Sunday Clothes” from “Hello Dolly,” “If I Only Had a Brain” from “The Wizard of Oz,” Jule Styne’s “Let Me Entertain You” from “Gypsy” and Nobel laureate Bob Dylan’s “Forever Young.”

Next year, Carver will return to the Stratford Festival in two plays.  He will portray Feste in Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night,” beginning May 29th and Rowley in “The School for Scandal,” by Sheridan, starting June 3rd.

Video of Brent Carver in Performance:

https://www.nfb.ca/film/brent_carver_home_through_the_night/ -- “Brent Carver: Home Through The Night,” a short film of Brent in performance with cellist George Meanwell, on the occasion of Brent being awarded, in May 2014, a Governor General’s Performing Arts Award.  It is Canada’s highest honor in the performing arts, recognizing his lifetime contribution to Canadian theatre.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tOGVntZZs8A - “Oceans Away,” by Elton John.  On this occasion, Brent sings in honor of Her Majesty the Queen’s long relationship with the Canadian Forces.  Published on May 17, 2016.

About the Harold Green Jewish Theatre Company:

The Company is one of two professional theatre companies in Canada that tell the Jewish story.  Winnipeg Jewish Theatre, founded in 1992 and led by artistic director Ari Weinberg, is the other.  It plays to a base audience of 2,500 Jews while Harold Green, with 2,500 subscribers, plays to a base of 250,000.

The Harold Green company embraces and celebrates the Jewish story – stories about our history, stories about our beliefs, stories about our struggles and triumphs.  More than 5,000 years in the making, these universal stories have to be told and need to be seen. It is our responsibility and privilege to share them with the world.

Visit Song & Script for CDs on which Brent is featured.  They include the original Broadway cast recordings of Kander and Ebb’s “Kiss of the Spider Woman,” with Chita Rivera and Jason Robert Brown’s “Parade.”

Also available is “Field of Stars – Vol. 1,” a collection of sheet music as well as an accompanying bonus CD from 17 Canadian musicals.  Brent’s glorious rendition of Canadian composer Leslie Arden’s “The World Is Changing,” from her musical “The House of Martin Guerre,” is a highlight.


The Greenwin Theatre

Toronto Centre of the Arts

5040 Yonge Street,

North York, ON

For tickets, please call 1-855-985-2787.

For more info, please call 416-932-9995,

or visit www.hgjewishtheatre.com.

Tues. Nov. 8th and Wed, Nov. 9th (Previews),

Thurs. Nov. 10th (Opening) to Sat. Nov. 20th       – 8 p.m.

(No performances on Monday, Nov. 14th or the Sabbath,

Fri. Nov. 11th and 18th.)

Wednesday matinees, Nov. 9th and 16th              - 1:00 p.m.

Sunday matinees, Nov. 13th and 20th                 - 2:00 p.m.

By Dennis Kucherawy

Last modified on Saturday, 05 November 2016 15:39
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