English theatre shines in Montréal in Winter and Spring 2018
Theatre goers will enjoy everything from the blockbuster Broadway musical Les Misérables to the critically-hailed Shaw Festival production of the South African drama ‘Master Harold’ … and the boys, in what is shaping up to be the strongest season in recent years by many of Montréal’s most exciting professional and independent English-language theatre companies.
Montréal’s venerable Centaur Theatre presents its 21st annual Wildside Festival from January 4 to 13, showcasing Canadian productions, plus Centaur’s Best of the Fest pick from last summer’s Montréal Fringe Festival.
This year’s line-up features Best of the Fest pick The Morning After The Life Before which explores marriage equality in Ireland; Idiot, part dance show, part rock concert and part hallucination inspired by rock icon Iggy Pop; Let’s Try This Standing is the autobiographical story of Gillian Clark, who survived being hit by an SUV; Pluck’d chronicles a queer, non-binary anarchist who returns home to their Chinese immigrant family; and Tragic Queens follows the capricious and passionate power games of three time-travelers stuck in a perpetual state of girlhood.
The festival also presents some of Montreal’s best and brightest sketch, stand-up and improv artists at Off-Side (free admission) on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. For more information and tickets, visit centaurtheatre.com.
Famed producer Cameron Mackintosh presents his new production of Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg’s Tony-winning musical Les Misérables, direct from an acclaimed two-and-a-half-year return to Broadway. This show features new staging and reimagined scenery inspired by the paintings of Victor Hugo. There will be nine presentations of Les Miz at Salle Wilfred-Pelletier from February 7 to 11. For more information and tickets, visit evenko.ca.
The iconic novel by Jules Verne, Around the World in 80 Days, comes to life in Geordie Productions’ all-new show featuring incredible physical performances, lightening-speed set changes, razor-sharp dialogue, and … an elephant. Travel across the globe with the clever Phileas Fogg and his astute partner-in-crime Passepartout as they encounter a cast of some 20 characters played by three actors. Around the World in 80 Days runs at the gorgeous D.B. Clarke Theatre downtown, from April 20 to 29. For more information and tickets, visit geordie.ca.
Black History Month
Canada’s oldest Black professional theatre company, Black Theatre Workshop, co-presents two much-anticipated productions during Black History Month:
BTW and the Segal Theatre present the Shaw Festival’s acclaimed production in association with Obsidian Theatre of South African literary legend Athol Fugard’s play “Master Harold”...and the boys, which is set in South Africa in 1950 during apartheid, and tells the story of 17-year-old Harold who demands deference from his two Black servants. The play was initially banned in South Africa but has since become an enduring, modern classic that continues to speak to inequality and injustice. Master Harold runs from January 21 to February 11. For more information and tickets, visit segalcentre.org.
Then BTW and Espace Libre co-present Black Boys, the Buddies in Bad Times / Saga Collectif production about the lives of three gay Black men seeking a deeper understanding of themselves, of each other, and of how they encounter the world. As they explore their unique identities on stage, they subvert the ways in which gender, sexuality and race are performed. Fresh from wowing audiences in Toronto, Black Boys plays in Montreal from February 13 to 17. For more information and tickets, visit blacktheatreworkshop.ca.
The Segal Theatre presents two productions this spring that showcase three of the most influential women of the 20th century:
The Angel & The Sparrow is a 20-song musical based on the true story of the fascinating friendship between showbiz icons Marlene Dietrich and Edith Piaf. The musical runs from April 15 to May 6. For more information and tickets, visit segalcentre.org.
The Segal then closes its 2017-2018 season with Golda’s Balcony starring Broadway star Tovah Feldshuh as Golda Meir, Israel’s first and only female Prime Minister. This one-woman tour-de-force – starring Feldshuh – is the longest-running one-woman show in Broadway history and earned Feldshuh one of her four career Tony nominations. Golda’s Balcony runs from May 22 to June 10. For more information and tickets, visit segalcentre.org.
Drama Queens in Old Montréal
Spend a leisurely evening in Old Montréal, enjoying fine dining and cocktails before heading over to the Centaur Theatre which is located in the historic former Montréal Stock Exchange building.
Highlights of the Centaur’s 49th season include:
The world-premiere production of playwright Pascale Rafie’s The Baklawa Recipe (which runs January 23 to February 18) which tells the tale of Lebanese immigrant mothers and their first-generation Canadian daughters dealing with the challenges of living between two worlds;
The world-premiere of Successions, written by Michaela Di Cesare and directed by Tamara Brown, a comedic family saga about two second-generation Italian-Canadian brothers, one an uptight upwardly mobile lawyer running for office, and his kid brother who’d rather party than work (runs from April 10 to May 6);
And a remount of Tableau D’Hôte Theatre Production’s superb 2015 award-winning English adaptation of Michel Tremblay’s landmark 1973 play Hosanna about a drag queen and her biker boyfriend, with Tableau D’Hôte’s original director Mike Payette directing his original cast, Eloi ArchamBaudoin and Davide Chiazzese (runs from May 15 to June 10).
For more information and tickets to all Centaur shows, visit centaurtheatre.com.
The Stars of Tomorrow
Montréal has several top theatre schools that present many outstanding student productions each season.
The city’s famed National Theatre School – graduates include actors Colm Feore (General Brockhart on House of Cards) and Sandra Oh (Cristina Yang on the ABC medical drama series Grey’s Anatomy) – will present The Threepenny Opera at the glorious and historic Monument National (February 26 to March 3). A landmark of 20th century musical theatre, it originally premiered in Berlin in 1928. Admission for this production is “pay what you think.”
Also, do not miss the student production of Jane Austen’s classic Pride and Prejudice produced by the top-notch Dawson Professional Theatre Program in their state-of-the-art Dawson Theatre from January 22 to February 3.
From the classics to classic one-liners
Montreal’s premiere classical theatre ensemble, Raise The Stakes theatre, presents Antigone, a tragedy written by Sophocles around 441 BC. This production features a large ensemble cast – including Alison Louder as Antigone – at the Westmount Park United Church from January 31 to February 17. For more information and tickets, visit www.rtsantigone.com.
Infinithéâtre presents Montreal playwright Alyson Grant’s searing new play Conversion which tackles entitlement, prejudice, inadequacy, status and family, during a ferocious dinner party described as “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf on steroids and Guess Who’s Coming to (ruin) Dinner.” The play runs at the multidisciplinary artist-run Espace Knox in NDG from February 6 to 25. For more information and tickets, visit infinitheatre.com.
Acts to Grind Theatre presents the Montreal premiere of True Love Lies, the dark comedy showcasing Canadian playwright Brad Fraser’s legendary wit and sharp dialogue. Two characters from Fraser’s internationally-acclaimed 1989 play Unidentified Human Remains and the True Nature of Love – Kane and David – meet up 20 years later. Kane is now straight, married and living in mortgaged suburbia with two kids. Will the reappearance of Kane’s male ex-lover ruin everything? True Love Lies runs at the Centre culturel Calixa-Lavallée in Parc LaFontaine, from February 8 to 18. For more information and tickets, visit lavitrine.com.
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.