English theatre shines in Montréal in winter and spring 2019

Theatre-goers will enjoy Broadway blockbuster Beautiful - The Carole King Musical, Kinky Boots and Rock of Ages, as well as many other award-winning dramas and comedies, produced by some of Montréal’s most exciting professional and independent English-language theatre companies, in the winter and spring of 2019.

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From Broadway to Montréal!

Beautiful – The Carole King Musical tells the story of Brooklyn girl Carol Klein who fought her way into the record business as a teenager and, by the time she reached her twenties, had the husband of her dreams and a flourishing career writing hits for the biggest acts in rock ‘n’ roll. But it wasn’t until her personal life began to crack that she finally managed to find her true voice. Beautiful tells the inspiring true story of King’s remarkable rise to stardom, from being part of a hit songwriting team with her husband Gerry Goffin, to her relationship with fellow writers and best friends Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann, to becoming one of the most successful solo acts in popular music history. Along the way, she wrote the soundtrack to a generation, including “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman.

The Tony and Grammy-winning Broadway jukebox musical production Beautiful – The Carole King Musical plays at Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier for eight performances from February 12 to 18.

Nominated for five Tony Awards, including Best Musical, the all-new tenth anniversary touring production of the crowd-pleasing jukebox musical Rock of Ages headlines Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier for one night only, on March 22.  Set in 1987 on Hollywood’s Sunset Strip when a small-town girl meets a big-city rocker, Rock of Ages features some fun renditions of classic hits by such iconic bands as Styx, Journey, Twisted Sister and Whitesnake, among many others. This show promises to be headbangers central!

Meanwhile, the hugely popular Tony-winning Broadway musical Kinky Boots – with music and lyrics by Cyndi Lauper and a book by Harvey Fierstein – returns to Montréal for two nights only, at Théatre St-Denis, on April 26 and 27. Inspired by true events, Kinky Boots tells the story of Charlie Price, who teams up with cabaret performer and drag queen Lola to save a shoe factory that Charlie inherited from his father. Kinky Boots is a celebration of our differences, with plenty of heart and soul.

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Centaur: 50 years young

Kick-starting the New Year at the Centaur Theatre is Torquil Campbell, front man for Montréal indie rock band Stars, who returns to his acting roots for the Québec premiere of his acclaimed solo show True Crime, a labyrinthine journey to the dark side when he slips into the skin of notorious con man Christian Gerhartsreiter. True Crime runs from January 8 to 27.

Next up is the Stratford Festival hit and Governor General Award-nominated play The Last Wife by Canadian playwright and Shaw Festival’s Associate Artistic Director Kate Hennig. Montréal-born actor and Shaw veteran Diana Donnelly plays Catherine Parr, Henry VIII’s last wife who adeptly negotiated her rise through the halls of power. The Last Wife runs from February 12 to March 3.

Then, Canadian theatre legend Morris Panych – famous for his biting satire and witty dialogue – takes a look at the differences between the haves and have-nots in a world driven by corporate greed and profit in his play The Shoplifters. Panych is creating a new version just for Centaur’s 50th anniversary season, adapting two of the four English-speaking characters into Francophones, making this production as Montréalais as a two-cheek kiss. Panych will also direct a superb cast: up-and-comer Laurent Pitre, Marie-Ève Perron, Michel Perron and national treasure Ellen David. The Shoplifters runs from March 19 to April 7.

Centaur Theatre’s 50th season winds down with Blind Date, Rebecca Northan’s entirely improvised play, in which Northan or another cast member chooses a different audience member each night to go on a date. This show has been wowing audiences worldwide – including off-Broadway and in London’s West End – since its debut in 2007. This run includes queer (April 11, 18 and 25) and French date nights. Blind Date runs from April 9 to 28.

Last but not least, the 22nd edition of Centaur Theatre’s raucous Annual Wildside Theatre Festival runs from January 8 to 20, showcasing Centaur Theatre’s pick for Best of the Montréal Fringe Festival as well as new works by emerging and established artists from across Canada and beyond, as well as tributes to rock stars Kate Bush and Patti Smith.

The world comes to the Segal

Over at the Sylvan Adams Theatre at the Segal Centre for Performing Arts, the new year kicks off with Corey Payette’s critically-acclaimed musical Children of God celebrating the resiliency and power of the Indigenous cultural spirit. In this musical, the children of an Oji-Cree family are taken away to a residential school in Northern Ontario. A haunting story of redemption for a mother who was never let past the school’s gate, and for her kids, who never knew she came. Children of God runs from January 20 to February 10.

Next up is Montréal native Rick Miller starring in Boom X, which picks up where his smash hit show BOOM left off – at Woodstock in August of ’69. Rick time travels by way of multimedia up to 1995, weaving together the history, politics and pop culture of the era he grew up in. Some classic characters reappear (Elvis gets fat, Lennon gets shot and Reagan gets elected) as Gen X-ers navigate the tangled legacy of the baby boom. BOOM X runs from February 14 to March 10.

Then, Paula Vogel’s Tony-winning play Indecent looks at the incredible true story of the original artists involved in Sholem Asch’s production of God of Vengeance, the 1907 drama that was busted by authorities when it was staged on Broadway in 1923. Directed by Lisa Rubin, Indecent examines an explosive moment in Yiddish Theatre and Jewish culture and tackles issues still relevant today, such as immigration, censorship, anti-Semitism and homophobia. Indecent runs from April 28 to May 19.

To close out the season, the Segal’s Dora Wasserman Yiddish Theatre remounts the hugely successful A Century Songbook, a musical retrospective of 100 years of the Montréal Jewish community. A Century Songbook runs from June 16 to June 30.

Strong Black women

Canada’s oldest professional Black theatre company, Black Theatre Workshop winds down its 48th season with the Montréal premiere of How Black Mothers Say I Love You, by playwright Trey Anthony, the first Black woman in Canada to have her own TV series (da Kink in my Hair, based on the hit play of the same name). Directed by Tamara Brown, this production is an introspective look at mother-daughter relationships, separation and reconciliation. It tells the story of Daphne, a Caribbean mother who leaves her two daughters behind in Jamaica for six years to work in Canada, in a bid to seek a better life for her family. How Black Mothers Say I Love You runs at the Centaur Theatre from February 27 to March 16.

Uprising! Black history in Montréal

Montréal’s award-winning Tableau D’Hôte Theatre will mark the 50th anniversary of the Sir George Williams Riot, the largest student uprising in Canadian history, with the much-anticipated world-premiere of the play Blackout: the Concordia Computer Riots, which runs from January 30 to February 10, during Black History Month.

The play tells the story of students who occupied the computer centre on the 9th floor of the Hall Building of Sir George Williams University (which is now Concordia University) to protest the university’s mismanagement of a racism complaint lodged by West-Indian students against their biology professor in 1969. Riot police were called in when an agreement to end the occupation fell through, resulting in widespread damage, a mysterious fire, and more than 100 arrests.

Created by some of English Montréal’s most talented artists, including lead writer Tamara Brown, with an all-star cast of 12 actors of colour, Blackout re-examines the events that led to the occupation and protests. Adding to the authenticity and experience, the production is being mounted during the same dates and in the same building – in the state-of-the-art D.B. Clark Theatre – where the events took place fifty years ago.

The kids are alright

The two-week Geordie Theatre Fest presents theatre for young audiences from January 30 to February 10 at Le Monument-National. Productions include Little Witch. This is a great way to introduce children to the power and beauty of theatre.

Geordie also presents the much-anticipated world premiere of the play Reaching for Starlight, about a young girl’s journey breaking barriers, illustrated through theatre and ballet, contemporary and hip hop dance. Reaching for Starlight runs from April 26 to May 5 at the gorgeous D.B. Clark Theatre downtown.

Disney on Ice

Children of all ages will enjoy Disney On Ice presents Mickey’s Search Party at the Bell Centre. Joined by Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse, live hosts will welcome you into the magical world of Disney On Ice, setting the stage for a participatory adventure. Guests will embark on a search for clues to find Tinker Bell after Captain Hook tries to capture her magic. Each scene unfolds via multi-level production numbers by skaters, performers and acrobats. Multiple English and French-language shows run at the Bell Centre from March 7 to 10.

Richard Burnett

Richard Burnett, blogger

Richard “Bugs” Burnett is a Canadian freelance writer, editor, journalist, blogger and columnist for alt-weeklies, mainstream and LGBTQ publications. Bugs also knows Montréal like a drag queen knows a cosmetics counter.

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