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Saturday, September 5, 2015

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New musical Duddy coming to Segal next season

Tags: Arts
Jonathan Patterson, left, Chris Baril-laro, Gab Desmond and Michael Daniel Murphy harmonize in a number from Forever Plaid. [Janice Arnold photo]

A long, contemplated revival of a musical adaptation of Mordecai Richler’s classic The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz (TADK) will finally come to the stage next year – appropriately, in Montreal, this time – at the Segal Centre for Performing Arts.

Eight-time Academy Award-winning American composer Allan Menken, best known for his work on Disney animations and their Broadway versions, will write the score for this new TADK, which will make its world premiere on the Segal’s main stage in June 2015.

Menken is reuniting with fellow American entertainment veterans, director Austin Pendleton and lyricist David Spencer, in bringing TADK back to the theatre after a limited run of the first version in 1987 at Philadelphia’s Annenberg Center.

By video, Menken said: “To see the show where the story takes place is a dream come true. This show has been a long time in the making, and it means a great deal to be bringing it to you.”

At the unveiling of the Segal’s 2014-2015 season on March 27, the late writer’s widow, Florence, conveyed via video her delight at Menken’s role and that the Segal will be the venue.

“I hope that the younger generation will enjoy this illuminating portrait of a type of young man as much as we did, and I hope [the story] is lasting. I know the Segal will do a spectacular job.”

The book was the basis of a successful movie in 1974 and a less-than-successful play in 1984, which premiered at Edmonton’s Citadel Theatre.

The Segal’s Dora Wasserman Yiddish Theatre (DWYT) adapted TADK in that language.

Spencer, via video, noted that Richler himself had had a hand in writing the lyrics for “the experimental earlier version” in Philadelphia.

“I feel the spirit of Mordecai [who died in 2001] is still with us because he was so involved with that process,” Spencer said.

Casting has not yet taken place for this iteration of TADK.

This is one of two Canadian literary classics that will be turned into musicals at the Segal next season, along with the previously announced Belles Soeurs: The Musical, which will run from Oct. 19-Nov. 9. This is the first English musical inspired by Michel Tremblay’s iconic 1968 play set in east-end Montreal.

Co-producer Allan Sandler of Copa de Oro Productions did have news: the casting is complete after over 300 auditions in Montreal and Toronto. Astrid Van Wieren of Toronto will play the lead role of Germaine Lauzon, heading the 12-member all-female cast.

Belles Soeurs is directed by Richard René Cyr and rock musician Daniel Bélanger who helmed the hit 2010 French musical.

The rest of the Segal’s coming seven-play (up from six) subscription season also tilts toward the tried-and-true, opening, unusually early, on Aug. 31 with The Graduate.

Stratford actor Luke Humphrey will play the young swain Benjamin Braddock and the appropriately named Brigitte Robinson, of Shaw Festival fame, the older woman who seduces him.

Young Montrealer Andrew Shaver, who directed the very popular Sherlock Holmes at the Segal last season, will direct this comic love triangle set in the 1960s and featuring live music by Juno Award-winning folk artist Matthew Barber.

The off-Broadway Forever Plaid, another crowd-pleasing musical filled with 1950s pop hits sung by a clean-cut male quartet, starts off the new year in February. This Copa de Oro production will be directed by Montreal theatre veteran Roger Peace.

That’s followed later in the month by the world premiere of an original work, We Are Not Alone, written and performed by Damien Atkins, and co-produced with Crow’s Theatre of Toronto.

Atkins, who plays multiple characters in this solo show, explained via video that it’s the product of his “obsession with the phenomena” of UFOs.

He believes the government is covering up the true origins of mysterious sightings in the skies – or not. This play will be put on in the Segal’s second stage, the Studio.

In April 2015, the Segal mounts Tom Stoppard’s Tony-Award –winning Travesties, which imagines an encounter among Communist leader Vladimir Lenin, author James Joyce and Dadaist founder Tristan Tzara in Switzerland during World War I.

This “brilliant and riotously funny modern masterpiece” will be directed by young Montreal filmmaker Jacob Tierney (The Trotsky), in his theatrical directoral debut.

The 2014-2015 season closes in August with a seminal work of Jewish theatre, The Dybbuk, presented by the DWYT with English and French supertitles.

This 1914 “gothic masterpiece” by S. Ansky about a young bride possessed by an evil spirit will be directed by Bryna Wasserman and Rachelle Glait.

The DWYT first presented The Dybbuk in 1998 and then toured it in Vienna. After its Segal run, the troupe will take it to New York for an international Yiddish theatre festival at the Folksbiene, where Wasserman is executive director.

As in the last couple of years, Yiddish cultural programming will be presented throughout next season, as well as Jewish-themed programming in English. A gala marking the 10th anniversary of the passing of Dora Wasserman is planned for May 14, 2015.

New Segal executive and artistic director Lisa Rubin and artistic producer Paul Flicker, who is leaving the Segal in June, also unveiled a lineup of guest productions by independent companies, including Bunny Bunny, Gilda Radner: A Sort of Love Story starring Rosaruby Kagan in November.

As for the music season, acclaimed pianist Oliver Jones will celebrate his 80th birthday on Sept. 11, launching the seventh season of the Power Jazz Series, joined by singer Ranee Lee.

Lee will return in March for a four-night run of White Gardenia: The Billie Holiday Musical, written and directed by Roger Peace.


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