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This article was published 13/10/2010 (2326 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Four of the city's main theatres raise the curtain on their 2010-11 seasons today.
It's an intriguing, eclectic array of plays with widespread appeal.
Manitoba Theatre for Young People opens with the visual wonder whipped up by Italy's Compagnia Teatrale that takes audiences into the world of Butterflies. Manitoba Theatre Centre is bowing with the American counterculture classic One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, while Prairie Theatre Exchange is resurrecting a theological comedy called The Savannah Disputation, also popular south of the border. The Winnipeg Jewish Theatre hopes to make an early season splash with the Canadian premiere of Lenin's Embalmers, a comedy by ex-Winnipegger and Governor General Award-winner Vern Thiessen that may produce a major career lift.
All four artistic directors are confident they have each assembled a program of great plays. Have they? Hard to tell, although some titles stand out. The perfect season is as illusive in the arts as it in the sports world. No theatre will claim one this season but if ticket-buyers choose carefully they might come close to creating their own.
Here's one man's idea of the best play to see each month of the theatre season:
Oct. 14-24: Lenin's Embalmers, WJT -- The quirky story about two Soviet scientists tasked with preserving the corpse of the Soviet leader boasts an A-list cast headed by David Fox, Hardee Lineham and Arne MacPherson.
Nov. 27-28: Spamalot, North American tour -- And now for something completely overdue, the arrival of a road version of the 2005 Broadway hit full of Monty Python silliness and medieval merry-making to lift the spirits.
Dec. 2-18: The Seafarer, MTC Warehouse -- A poker game on Christmas eve draws a late-night visitor who shares the same letters in his name as Santa in Irish playwright Conor McPherson's tragicomedy that has been dubbed a thinking person's alternative to It's a Wonderful Life.
Jan. 6-29: Brief Encounter, MTC -- The same version of the Noel Coward play just opened on Broadway and was called by the New York Times "the most enchanting work of stagecraft ever inspired by a movie."
Feb. 6-13: Baobab, MTYP -- An exotic collaboration between Mali and Quebec companies relates a West African legend with stunning visuals and foot-stomping percussion.
March 3-20: Burnin' Love, PTE -- Winnipeg actress/playwright Sharon Bajer (Molly's Veil) revives a horrific event in her family's past and with the help of Elvis Presley unearths unexpected humour and humanity.
April 7-17: The Moonlight Sonata of Beethoven Blatz, Theatre Projects -- Armin Wiebe's first play wraps a folk tale in a rich blend of classical music and Russian revolutionary history.
May 13-15: Sweeny Todd, Dry Cold Productions -- It's bloody time. It's a blood-soaked musical about a demon barber who cuts the throats of his customers, and it's never been produced professionally in Winnipeg before.
New this season
-- PTE expands to a six-play adult season, a year after offering subscribers its usual five pack plus a bonus option to Where the Blood Mixes.
-- It's never happened before that two Winnipeg theatres (MTC Warehouse and MTYP) are presenting the same play (Jake's Gift) in the same season.
-- For the first time in 20 years artistic director Steven Schipper is not directing a MTC play.
-- MTYP is hosting international companies from Italy (Butterflies), Mali (Baobab), Glasgow (Jason and the Argonauts) and Edinburgh (The Man Who Planted Trees).
Running the show
-- Roland Mahé -- Cercle Molière, 42 years
-- Leslee Silverman -- MTYP, 28 years
-- Steven Schipper -- MTC, 22 years
-- Ken Peter -- Rainbow Stage, 12 years
-- Donna Fletcher/Reid Harrison -- Dry Cold Productions, 10 years
-- Bob Metcalfe -- PTE, 8 years
-- Ardith Boxall -- TPM, 6 years
-- Michael Nathanson -- WJT, 4 years
5 to watch
-- Fiona Reid (TV's King of Kensington) in MTC's Calendar Girls
-- David Fox (MTC's The Drawer Boy) in Lenin's Embalmers
-- Adrian Marchuk (played Frankie Vallee for two years in Toronto's Jersey Boys) in WJT's One of Ours
-- Lorne Cardinal (TV's Corner Gas) in PTE's Thunderstick
-- Viola Léger (MTC's La Sagouine) in Cercle Molière's Le chemin de la mecque
See it first
-- Burnin' Love -- Prairie Theatre Exchange (March 3-20): For the first time local playwright/actress Sharon Bajer (Molly's Veil) will draw on a personal family tragedy as part of a hunka-hunka comedy featuring not only an Elvis impersonator but an appearance by The King himself.
-- The Moonlight Sonata of Beethoven Blatz -- Theatre Projects Manitoba (April 7-17): Manitoba novelist Armin Wiebe (The Salvation of Yasch Siemens) has penned his first play, a folk tale about a refugee composer from the Russian revolution.
-- One of Ours -- Winnipeg Jewish Theatre (March 31-April 10): WJT executive producer Michael Nathanson (Talk) sets his new comedy at a West Hawk Lake cottage where a Jewish family welcomes home a son with a New York gentile actress.
-- Li R'venant -- Cercle Molière (March 11-April 2): Playwright Rhéal Cenerini (Laxton) writes in michif about a Métis militant who returns to rural Manitoba to find his community bereft of pride and decides to carry on the mission of Louis Riel.
-- The Shunning -- MTC revives Patrick Friesen play first produced at PTE in 1985.
-- The Fighting Days -- Tara Players replays the Wendy Lill hit which premiered at PTE in 1984.
-- Jake's Gift -- MTYP and MTC Warehouse are both hosting 2009 fringe festival hit.
-- Liars -- MTYP takes on tour the Dennis Foon teen play it first presented in 1988.
-- Dry Lips Oughta Move to Kapaskasing -- U of M's Black Hole Theatre reprises 1989 Tomson Highway classic.
Here's the deal
-- Adults who are keen to see quality theatre during the day can for the first time subscribe to MTYP's new Not Just For Kids package, which gets you into Jake's Gift, Jason and the Argonauts and The Man Who Planted Trees for $45.
-- Theatre Projects Manitoba has partnered in a opening show ticket exchange with Contemporary Dancers. The first 100 season-pass purchasers of each company gets a free ticket to the other's season opener. TPM debuts with Almighty Voice and His Wife while CD bows with Shuffled.
-- WJT is offering under 30-year-olds a season subscription for $24.
See the movie on stage
Plays you first saw on film:
-- One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (MTC, opens today) became a 1975 movie.
-- Spamalot (Touring company, Nov. 27-28) was "lovingly ripped off from" the 1975 film Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
-- White Christmas (MTC, Nov. 25) is based on 1954 Paramount Pictures film.
-- Sweeney Todd (Dry Cold, May 13) spawned two movies in 1982 and 2007.
-- Brief Encounter (MTC, Jan. 6) is adapted from the 1945 classic flick.
-- Calendar Girls (MTC, March 17) is a remake of the 2003 film.
-- The 39 Steps (MTC, April 21) is a homage to Alfred Hitchcock's 1935 movie.