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Wednesday, 23 November 2016 17:05

Soulpepper’s in a New York State of Mind

Written by  Dennis Kucherawy
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Celebrating Its

20th Anniversary 

in Next Year’s Canadian

Sesquicentennial with Its

Big Apple Debut

Meanwhile, on Dec. 2nd theatre launches its annual Family Festival with Holiday Plays, Concerts and then “Winter Wares” Family Programming in early January

“Naughty, bawdy

Gaudy, sporty


Forty-Second Street

– 42nd Street, by Harry Warren and Al Dubin

And that’s just the Canadians!

It’s been said the world needs a little more Canada.  Now next June, sophisticated New Yorkers who think they have seen it all, will learn they could use a little more Corktown.

That’s when Toronto’s Soulpepper Theatre makes its debut on the Big Apple’s legendary 42nd Street for a month-long residency in The Pershing Square Signature Center, designed by acclaimed Toronto born and raised architect Frank Gehry.

Soulpepper On the Avenue Where “the Underworld Meet the Elite” – New York’s 42nd Street

Called the “Soulpepper on 42nd St.:  Canada Crosses the Border Festival, the company will present six plays and a series of its popular “docu-musical” concerts that mix music, narrative and visual design.

Soulpepper will occupy, in rep, all stages of The Pershing Square Signature Center.  It will also engage New York’s community in workshops, symposia, master-classes and outreach events throughout the month.

Soulpepper On the Avenue Where “the Underworld Meet the Elite” – New York’s 42nd Street

Soulpepper makes its month-long debut on “the crazy quilt that `Wall Street Jack’ built” on June 29th through July 29th. The engagement consists of some of its most successful hits:

·      “Kim’s Convenience”;

·      “Of Human Bondage,” Canadian playwright Vern Thiessen’s adaptation of W. Somerset Maugham’s classic novel, winner of a record seven Dora Awards (Canada’s Tonys);

·      “Spoon River,” an original musical based on “The Spoon River Anthology,” again adapted by Vern Thiessen;

·      “A Brimful of Asha”;

·      “(Re)Birth:  E.E. Cummings in Song”; an original Soulpepper collective, musical creation based on the legendary American poet, essayist, painter and playwright; and

·       “Alligator Pie,” a delightful piece of musical for children of all ages.

“It’s amazing how far we’ve come together,” said Albert Schultz, Soulpepper’s founding artistic director. “What began as a two-play summer season at Harbourfront Centre has become the largest and most active theatre company in Toronto, performing year-round at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts.”

Indeed, one of the pleasures of living in Corktown since Soulpepper was founded 20 years ago, is having such a dynamic and consistently excellent theatre just less than a half-hour stroll away in the neighboring Distillery District.  One of its greatest pleasures was its former Global Cabaret each October that featured fascinating and entertaining cabarets such as saxophonist Colleen Allen’s “Rebel, Rebel” dedicated to David Bowie’s music and a reading/sing-through of the musical “Oliver” starring the charismatic Brent Carver in the role of Fagin.  You were tempted to bring a sleeping bag and stay there all weekend lest you miss something great.

Soulpepper deserves its reputation as one of Canada’s largest and most celebrated theatres.  It entertains more than 130,000 theatregoers annually and tours across Canada from coast to coast, on its way to establishing itself as Canada’s “National Civic Theatre.”

Schultz announced that plan this June to build, over the next five years, “a national civic theatre, one in which the qualities of a civic theatre, which we have been creating here – engagement, involvement, commitment – will be explored on a wider canvas.”

The National Civic Theatre model is committed to taking its work to communities, large and small, throughout the country, and to represent Canada on the world stage.  It also will commit to sharing its work with the nation through broadcast and digital platforms, says Soulpepper.

An example of that is already happening with the debut of the critically acclaimed “Kim’s Convenience” sitcom on CBC-TV, based on Ins Choi’s play of the same title, one of Soulpepper’s greatest stage successes.

“Diversity and gender equity are…very important to us,” Schultz told the Toronto Star. He said Soulpepper will “explore what role a cultural institution can play in the civic conversation and to continue to examine how the performing arts can change people’s perceptions and lives.”

The five-year strategic plan to expand its work countrywide requires a $10 million creative capital campaign, 77 percent of which has already been raised.

December’s Soulpepper Family Festival

While plans for its New York premiere are in full swing, there are still plenty of attractions for Toronto audiences. Following the success of the farce “Noises Off” directed by Ted Dyskstra and Michel Tremblay’s classic “Hosanna” starring Damien Atkins in the title role, Soulpepper will present two plays celebrating the Hindu autumn festival of lights “Diwali” and the Soulpepper sold-out premiere of the Dora Award-winning “Chasse Galerie,” set in Québec and based on the renowned Canadian folk tale.  Now playing, it has been extended to Dec. 1st due to popular demand.

December’s Soulpepper Family Festival

In December, the theatre’s annual Family Festival returns.  Soulpepper calls it a “a holiday mix of theatre, concerts, and magic shows.”  Among the plays are the company’s beloved production of Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” adapted by Michael Shamata, beginning Friday, Dec. 2nd.  A week later, on Friday, Dec. 9th, previews begin at the St. Lawrence Centre of the Arts of “It’s a Wonderful Life,” a stage adaptation by Philip Grecian of Frank Capra’s classic film of redemption and love that starred Jimmy Stewart.

Other shows include Soulpepper’s Dora Award-winning  “Alligator Pie” for all ages, based on Toronto poet Dennis Lee’s poems; a return of last year’s wildly successful concert “A Very Soulpepper Christmas” led by the company’s gifted musical director, Mike Ross and featuring a company of some of Toronto’s best singers and musicians; “Hocus Pocus,” a new magical show with David Ben; and the debut of “Rose,” a whimsical musical presentation from Mike Ross and Sarah Wilson based on Gertrude Stein’s children’s book “The World Is Round.”

Cabarets will include popular singer/comedian Michael Hughes’ “Christmas Special” on Saturday, Dec. 3rd at 8:30 p.m.  It’s inspired by “The Judy Garland Christmas Special” and others from the 1960s and will feature guest stars.

Beginning Jan. 6th, Soulpepper will present the three-day Winter Waves family program that will transform the Young Centre through music, theatre and interactive experiences.

Soulpepper is located in the Distillery District’s Young Centre for the Performing Arts, 50 Tank House Lane, Toronto ON.

For more information, please visit soulpepper.ca or call  1-866-8666.

By Dennis Kucherawy

Last modified on Wednesday, 23 November 2016 17:20
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