The Times They Are A Changin’ is a new musical that celebrates Jewish voices of the 1960s whose music and lyrics echoed the thoughts of that generation.
Some of the singers featured include Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Carole King, Arlo Guthrie, Simon and Garfunkel and Laura Nyro.
Running until Oct. 29, it stars theatre veteran W. Joseph Matheson (Jersey Boys), and his wife, Tony nominee and four-time Dora award winner, Louise Pitre (Mama Mia!, Les Miserables).
“I, at first thought, me singing ’60s songs, do I want to do that?” Pitre wondered. “So Joe (Matheson) and I took some time to look into it and did a lot of research. As we got looking at this wealth of material, we said yes we want to do this.”
Pitre feels although the title of the show comes from Dylan’s famous song in fact times haven’t changed, but she passionately feels there is hope through beauty, music, art and love. Pitre wants audiences to truly listen to the lyrics because the words still resonate today.
“The thing that really made me decide to do it was that I found it heartbreaking to read these lyrics that were written in the ’60s and to realize that right now the way things are in the world, all these songs could have been written today. I find it more touching and deeper than I thought it would be.”
She says the show came about because Harold Green Jewish Theatre Company co-artistic directors, David Eisner and Avery Saltzman, who will be directing the production, approached them and asked to have a meeting over coffee.
“They had the idea of doing something about the music of the ’60s because so many songwriters and singers were Jewish, who did some of the most important music of the ’60s,” explains Pitre. “David and Avery had an idea to do a show specific about protest songs.”
The fact that these songs come from Jewish artists is a component of the show but not something that Pitre and Matheson totally focused on. “There was so much happening everywhere at that time, the show is about the people in general,” says Pitre. “We didn’t want it to feel like a lesson because then it stops feeling like a show. Joe wrote the script, and there is so much about the songwriters and what was happening at the time that we wanted to put in the narrative instead of just singing one song after another.”
From this experience, Pitre says she learned Dylan’s real name was Robert Zimmerman and Carole King was a Klein. Something that strikes Pitre is that in the ’60s, there was a lot of poetry being written and set to music, but she says today songs don’t ask you to work very hard, the lyrics too often seem banal.
It is not the first time the much sought-after, Toronto-based couple have worked together, which they love doing. Matheson and Pitre performed in a Second World War love story called Could You Wait penned by Matheson, and performed in productions of The Little Prince and Company.
Mark Camilleri is the musical director working with Pitre, Matheson and a five- piece band, along with Daniel Bowman, who created visuals to enhance some songs.
The Times They Are A Changin’ runs until Oct. 29 at The Greenwin Theatre at the Toronto Centre for the Arts www.hgjewishtheatre.com or Ticketmaster at 1-855-985-2787, or in person at the box office of the Toronto Centre for the Arts.