Arriving the same day that Rick Miller hit town this week to perform his signature one-man show MacHomer was the 2012 Stratford Festival program outlining its 60th season.
Included in the Shakespearean festival's landmark playlist among the Bard's Much Ado About Nothing, Henry V and Cymbeline is MacHomer, the scrappy The Simpsons-do-Macbeth fringe circuit hit. The show has come a long way from its local debut at The Shop, the best-forgotten Alexander Avenue venue, at the 1996 Winnipeg Fringe Festival to next May when it takes its place on the thrust stage along the swan-filled Avon River in Stratford.
"They came to me wanting to do MacHomer," Miller says. "I don't feel vindication, I'm just delighted they are recognizing the show.
"MacHomer, some would say, is a silly show for Stratford and yet they recognize Shakespeare would have liked it more than some of the productions they've done over the years."
Miller is sure that artistic director Des McAnuff is hearing accusations in the Twitterverse of the dumbing down of the Stratford playbill.
"I don't think the show is dumb," the 41-year-old McGill graduate with degrees in architecture and theatre says. "It pays tribute to two very undumb sources and does it cleverly. Like the comic guy would say about Shakespeare, 'best writer ever.'"
His Bart-meets-the-Bard creation has been widely popular. Miller's 700-plus performances have been seen by more than 500,000 people in 170 countries. The seed of MacHomer was planted while Miller was playing murderer #2 in a Montreal production of Macbeth. One night he could have sworn that the actor playing Macduff, Sean Lynch, who was shouting "Oh horror! Horror!' sounded like Barney from The Simpsons. Then King Duncan started sounding like Mr. Burns. The first MacHomer was a cast party joke in 1995 before it won fame on the fringe circuit with Lynch as director.
Prior to Stratford, Miller will debut MacHomer in New York City for the first time along with Bigger Than Jesus, his 2003 multimedia exploration of Christianity co-written by Daniel Brooks.
"I'd love to get to the West End at some point," says Miller who enjoyed success with MacHomer at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2000. "This Stratford run could unlock that door."
The Toronto resident, who starred as Brian Mulroney in the satirical film Mulroney the Opera, is reprising MacHomer at the Manitoba Theatre for Young People, where he last played it in 1999. Most of his shows during this Winnipeg stopover will be for school audiences. There are four public shows, Friday at 7:30 p.m., Saturday at 4 and 7:30 p.m. as well as 7:30 p.m. March 2.
"It's something I still delight in doing after all these years, especially for school kids," says the father of two pre-teens. "It seems like a good way to be spending my time. If MacHomer is one way for kids to hate Shakespeare a little less, I'll keep doing it. I think MacHomer has brought a lot of kids to Shakespeare."
If all goes to plan Miller will be back at Stratford next season, perhaps with a new commission. He is also talking with MTYP about developing a new show, also for 2013. That's not going to leave a lot of time for more MacHomer runs.
"I'm going to places I probably won't again with it," he says, about this tour. "I'm bringing it back to Winnipeg in my mind because it is a place where the show got its first legs. MTYP specifically helped me re-work it in 1999 to launch the world tour."
Manitoba Theatre for Young People
Opens Friday at 7:30 p.m., to March 2
Tickets: $15. 38 at 942-8898 or www.mtyp.ca