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This article was published 27/8/2010 (2406 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Dry Cold Productions will celebrate its 10th birthday next May with the city's first professional production of Stephen Sondheim's blood-stained musical Sweeney Todd.
The pitch-black tale about the demon barber of Fleet Street is the show Donna Fletcher and Reid Harrison aspired to one day produce when in 2002 they founded in their new company dedicated to Manitoba premières of great, overlooked musicals.
"It is one of the pieces that created Dry Cold," says Fletcher, who will direct the May 13-15, 2011 run at the Canwest Performing Arts Centre. "It was a pipe dream then, but now we are in a place we can do this show. It's perfect for us in terms of the journey of the company and has never been done here before."
Not only is it a seminal show in theatre history, but it was a personal revelation for Fletcher as a high school student. She remembers reading the liner notes on the cast album and discovering that the male lead was Winnipeg-born and -raised Len Cariou, who won a best actor Tony Award for his performance in Sweeney Todd.
"That's when I went, this is not something that just happens in New York but that you can be from Winnipeg and have a career in theatre," says Fletcher, an actress who assistant-directed a Calgary Opera Company version of Sweeney Todd starring Louise Pitre in 2004.
Sweeney Todd tells the story of a vengeful Victorian English barber who slits the throats of his customers and has them baked into pies by his adoring landlady.
"It has the tragic proportions of a Hamlet or the Scottish play (Macbeth) and the humour of some crazy Mel Brooks show," says Fletcher.
The musical opened on Broadway in 1979 directed by Harold Prince and starring Cariou and Angela Lansbury. A 2007 movie version featured Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter.
"It's a very technical show and Dry Cold has never done anything like this," says Fletcher. "We need a barber chair that can also serve as an instrument of death. We need razors that can ooze blood. I want it to be a bloody as it can possibly be."
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There's a strong rumour that Winnipeg is about to host for the first time one of the most popular touring stage musicals, Wicked, the Broadway hit which puts an unexpected twist on the famous Wizard of Oz story.
Centennial Concert Hall management has no comment but sources indicate there are ongoing negotiations to bring to town the 20th-longest-running show on Broadway.
Wicked will be the neighbourhood, relatively speaking, most of the fall. One of the two touring productions currently on the road is stopped in Minneapolis, where Wicked is running until Sept. 19 before heading for Wisconsin. It also plays Toronto from Oct. 20-Nov. 28 and moves on to Kalamazoo, Mich. and Chicago late in 2010.
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The 2010 Edmonton Fringe Festival ended last weekend with tickets sales of about 93,000, enough to retain its claim as North America's largest fringe festival.
Paid attendance for in the Alberta capital was up only slightly from the 92,279 of last year's edition. When ticket sales topped 52,000 at 169 shows in 39 venues through the opening weekend, organizers anticipated tickets sales would crash through the 100,000 mark. But the box office splurge slowed due to cool, rainy weather and forest fire smoke drifting in from British Columbia.
"We were gunning for 100,000, for sure," says Thomas Scott, the festival's program director, over the phone from Edmonton.
The 2010 Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival sold 86,717 tickets to 154 shows in 23 venues and as a result has closed the attendance gap from over 10,700 to about 7,000.
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Don't forget Winnipeg's newest theatre troupe, zone41, will debut Sunday at 7 p.m. with a workshop reading of Bruce McManus's adaptation of Three Sisters at the MTC Warehouse. An 11-member cast of local actors will bring to life Anton Chekhov's story, this version set in 1959 Saskatchewan on the Royal Canadian Air Force base in Moose Jaw. Free admission.