Citadel Theatre artistic director Daryl Cloran has landed the Canadian premiere of another pop musical with its sights on Broadway.
Six: Divorced. Beheaded. Live in Concert, a hit on London’s West End that reimagines Henry VIII’s wives as a Spice Girls-style group on a reunion tour, will play Edmonton in November of 2019 in between a summer run at Chicago Shakespeare Theatre and an expected New York debut.
“It’s a pretty spectacular production and the music is fantastic,” says Cloran, who announced the Citadel’s full 2019-20 season on Monday. “I was at a packed matinee surrounded by 20-year-olds having the times of their lives.”
Cloran got his chance to see Six, which is written by Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss, while he was visiting Britain’s National Theatre in November to check in on another show the Citadel had a hand in developing: Anais Mitchell’s Hadestown.
That myth-inspired musical, which played at the Citadel in 2017 and now has a March opening set for Broadway, helped boost the Edmonton regional theatre’s profile and opened the door to more international collaborations, Cloran said.
As with Hadestown, Six will star both American and Canadian actors, who will perform in Chicago ahead of Edmonton. Also, as with Hadestown, there’s no guarantee that the binational cast will then move with the show to New York - and the not-for-profit Citadel will not have a financial stake in a future commercial production. (Broadway producers on Six’s North American production include Kevin McCollum, the American who produced Canadian hits such as The Drowsy Chaperone, Blind Date and Ride the Cyclone internationally.)
The partnering of not-for-profit theatres such as the Citadel with commercial producers can be controversial – most recently in Ireland, where 300 theatre artists wrote to the country’s Minister of Culture to express concern about the Abbey Theatre’s increasing reliance on co-productions. That complaint came amid a seven-week Dublin presentation of the West End-bound production of the Canadian musical Come From Away at the Abbey, which, in what the letter writers called “the final straw”, did not feature any Ireland-based actors.
But Cloran says Six is a different story, a positive collaboration for the not-for-profit Citadel - and not just because it will have Canadian actors in the cast. The theatre’s production team will get another chance to work with international designers as it did with Hadestown - and Edmonton audiences will get to see a buzzworthy show ahead of New York with production values that the regional theatre couldn’t afford on its own.
Six isn’t the only hit musical production coming from elsewhere to the Citadel’s 2019-20 season - another is one Cloran himself created.
Last summer, the Citadel’s artistic director mounted a production of Shakespeare’s comedy As You Like It filled with songs by the Beatles that was a major success at Vancouver’s Bard on the Beach (and received a four-star review from The Globe and Mail’s Marsha Lederman). He’ll be remounting it in Edmonton in February, 2020, with a mostly new cast.
That won’t be the end of his Fab Four-infused As You Like It, either: Other Canadian theatres have also expressed interested in the Beatles/Bard mash-up for future seasons – and it’s even attracted attention in the United States where the director will be conducting a reading of his adaptation in a few weeks. “There’s something about that combination of the Beatles music with that particular story that really, really worked,” Cloran says.
The Color Purple, a 2005 Broadway musical based on the book by Alice Walker, will properly kick off the Citadel’s season in September, 2019, in a production directed by Kimberley Rampersad (who is also directing a production of the show at Neptune Theatre in Halifax in the spring.) And, of course, not all of Cloran’s planned season for 2019-20 is musical theatre. Most intriguing of the plays he’s programmed is the world premiere of Edmonton playwright Belinda Cornish’s adaptation of local author Todd Babiak’s novel The Garneau Block. Its March 14 to April 5, 2020, run will be a centrepiece of a new two-week festival of new work called the Collider Festival that Cloran hopes will attract presenters and producers from across the country.
Other plays in Citadel 2019-20 season: Cost of Living by Martyna Majok, which won the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for drama, is a co-production with Vancouver’s Arts Club to be directed by its artistic director, Ashlie Corcoran; After the Fire, Alberta playwright Matthew MacKenzie’s dark comedy set in Fort McMurray, in association with Edmonton’s Punctuate! Theatre and Alberta Aboriginal Arts; Peter Pan Goes Wrong, by the team behind the international hit The Play that Goes Wrong; and a new adaptation of A Christmas Carol by Edmonton playwright David van Belle.