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Half Time Gets to Center Court

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Nancy Ticotin, Donna McKechnie, and Lillias White

Half Time, the Broadway-bound musical that opened at Paper Mill last night, is reminiscent of A Chorus Linefor seniors, Bring It On and Ballroom.Based on Dori Berinstein’s 2008 documentary, “Gotta Dance,” we learn about the NBA’s first senior hip-hop dance team, who really had no professional dance training, but went on to win the hearts of their fans. This show with a message misses some key moments, though it has the potential for a Broadway hit. In a strange way, Half Time doesn’t really kick in until the midway point. That is because we never really get to know these nine geriatric wannabe performers until after they have already made the team. The show is missing the “Gee I hope I get it” beginning. We need to be invested in these people, who may be of a certain age but have not given up on life, and it needs to start at the audition.

Georgia Engel, Andre De Shields

Georgia Engel, Andre De Shields Photo by Jerry Dalia

Directed and choreographed by Jerry Mitchell (Kinky Boots) with spirit, and co-choreography by Nick Kenkel, with a book by Chad Beguelin and Bob Martin, score by Nell Benjamin (lyrics) and Matthew Skylar (music), with additional music by the late Marvin Hamlisch and Ester Dean, this underdog show will leave a smile on your face by the end.

Nancy Ticotin, Donna McKechnie, and Lillias White

Nancy Ticotin, Donna McKechnie and Lillias White Photo by Jerry Dalia

This talented troupe of television and stage veterans has been nicknamed “Nifty Shades of Grey,” with a running gag of “It sounds like a bunch of seniors dressed in leather, spanking each other.” We find out that the marketing director (Kimberlee Garris) for the “New Jersey Cougars” – the regular dance team – has decided seniors would be a good PR angle. Meet Dorothy/Dottie (“Mary Tyler Moore Show” vet, the surprisingly good Georgia Engel), a kindergarten teacher by day, but by night has a taste for rap. Ron (The Wiz‘s smooth Andre De Shields), “The Prince of Swing”, is a reclusive widower who wants to take his grandson to Sea World but needs to prove himself to his uncaring daughter in law. Bea (the soulful Lillias White, The Life) wants her granddaughter, Kendra (Nkeki Obi-Melekwe), a current dance squad member, to honor herself and stop running around with her married basketball boyfriend. Joanne (A Chorus Line‘sgraceful Donna McKechnie) gave up her one-show Broadway career for her doctor husband and now that he has left her for a younger woman, she wants her moment in the sun returned, no matter the cost. Camilla (the seriously fabulous Nancy Ticotin, “Orange is the New Black”) is a salsa dancer with a boyfriend half her age, who is not a fan of being “age appropriate.” Her samba/salsa infused “Como No” dance solo is the stand out of the night. Then there is Mae (the perky Lori Tan Chinn, “Orange is the New Black”), whose dancing is not so much on point, but brings joy and heart to the show as she deals with her husband’s Alzheimers in the wonderful “The Waters Rise.”

Nancy Ticoti

Nancy Ticoti Photo by Jerry Dalia

The remaining team members are Fran (Lenora Nemetz), a Mary Kay saleswoman hoping to expand her business; Muriel (Kay Walbye) who is insecure about losing her senses, so she’d rather be blind than wear her glasses; and Estelle (Madeleine Doherty) who is the least fleshed out of the crew.

Garrett Turner, Georgia Engel, Alexander Aguilar, Lori Tan Chinn

Garrett Turner, Georgia Engel, Alexander Aguilar, Lori Tan Chinn Photo by Jerry Dalia

After three weeks of intensive training these seniors aren’t making the grade and now the PR team wants to make a joke out of them. Not having it is Tara (the wonderful Haven Burton), their coach, who at just 27, has also been aged out of being a cheerleader. She has been reduced to coaching or face unemployment.

Donna McKechnie

Donna McKechnie Photo by Jerry Dalia

Five-time Tony Award-nominee, David Rockwell provides the scenic design. Costumes are from Tony Award-winner, Gregg Barnes. Jason Lee Courson’s background projection design impressed, and Tony Award-winner Kenneth Posner delivers a show- stopping lighting design.

Madeleine Doherty, Nkeki Obi-Melekwe, Lenora Nemetz

Summerisa Bell Stevens, Madeleine Doherty, Nkeki Obi-Melekwe, Lenora Nemetz Photo by Jerry Dalia

Loosely based on the lives and journey of the real team, this show fictionalizes many details. Like the hard-working old-timers, this show has been around for at least 10 years, with its last incarnation in 2015 billed in Chicago as Gotta Dance.

Sydni Beaudoin, Lori Tan Chinn, Garrett Turner

Sydni Beaudoin, Lori Tan Chinn, Garrett Turner Photo by Jerry Dalia

Getting old, putting a stop to ageism, loss of respect, and not giving up are things that happen to most of us and is a message we all need to hear.

Half Time

The seniors Photo by Jerry Dalia

Half Time: Paper Mill Playhouse, 22 Brookside Drive, Millburn, NJ until July 1 papermill.org/show/half-time

Suzanna, co-owns and publishes the newspaper Times Square Chronicles or T2C. At one point a working actress, she has performed in numerous productions in film, TV, cabaret, opera and theatre. She has performed at The New Orleans Jazz festival, The United Nations and Carnegie Hall. She has a screenplay and a TV show in the works, which she developed with her mentor and friend the late Arthur Herzog. She is a proud member of the Drama Desk and the Outer Critics Circle and was a nominator. Email: suzanna@t2conline.com

Out of Town

Another Barricade Visit for Mirvish Toronto’s “Les Misérables”

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I was apprehensive and excited, all at the same time, as I entered the touring company staging of Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schonberg’s  Les Misérables, now taking form at the Princess of Wales Theatre, Toronto. The production, brought to us by Mirvish Productions, transported me back to that time, about forty years ago, when I first saw this glorious musical over in London’s West End. Twice actually, with the magnificent Patti LuPone. Lupone was divine, broking my heart at every moment given. This might have been the show that somehow created this theatre junkie, so much so that I had to return again a few weeks later, spending more than this young man could really afford. And I believe I also returned to see that same beautiful revolving stage design when it made its award-winning debut on Broadway, about two more times before it closed.  It was heavenly and forever memorable.  I remember being swept away by the intensely moving story, and sumptuous music and songs. Tears were in my eyes at so many emotionally heart-breaking moments, that I left fully satisfied and happy each and every time.

The staging this time around, with set and projected image design created by Matt Kinley (25th Anniversary Production of Phantom of the Opera) is said to be “inspired by the paintings of Victor Hugo”, and with a stunning musical staging by Geoffrey Garratt and directed most beautifully by Laurence Connor (Mirvish’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat) and James Powell (London’s The Witches of Eastwick), the production still found its way into my emotional heart. It carried forth all of the same powerful moments, even without that famous revolve. It was different, and in some ways, it felt smaller and not as expansive and connecting, but maybe, with time and an awareness that I didn’t have when I first saw the same touring revival on Broadway back in 2016, this familiar staging fully engaged, taking me happily on that same emotional journey, even while missing the expansive previous revolving set design.

The music and those powerful tragic moments still deliver with a vengeance, mainly because of the incredible vocal performances of this touring cast. Tears came to my eyes at numerous moments, and I knew that I would enjoy myself from the moment the Bishop of Digne, played by a wonderful Randy Jeter (Public’s Parable of the Sower) told the constables that he had in fact given Jean Valjean, embodied by a magnificent Nick Cartell (Broadway’s Paramour) the church’s silver (that he, in fact, had stolen). And furthermore, he had forgotten to take the more valuable pieces of silver during the epic Prologue and ‘Soliloquy’. That and each subsequent moment, lasting all the way from the beautiful ‘I Dreamed a Dream’ sung with such loving sadness by Haley Dortch, the saddest of all sad songs; the engaging ‘On My Own’ by the powerful voiced Mya Rena Hunter; to Valjean’s stunningly rendered of ‘Who Am I?’ and all points in-between, moved me most generously. The songs, delivered graciously by these glorious-voiced actors brought it all back to life, and embedded itself inside my soul once again.

The glorious “Bring Him Home“, sung with incredible intensity and love by the gifted Cartell, felt as tender and angelic as ever. Understudy Cameron Loyal (Broadway’s Bad Cinderella) as the determined Javert couldn’t match the heightened level of expertise that Cartell climbed himself up to and was maybe the weakest link in this beautifully performed construction, but it never tarnished the overall effect. The Thenardier husband and wife team, gorgeously well-played by Matt Crowle (Mercury Theater’s The Producers) and Victoria Huston-Elem (Goodspeed’s Gypsy), performed the wonderfully crafted ‘Master of the House’ number with great comic timing and delivery, and the Student’s songs, ‘The People’s Song’ and ‘Drink With Me to Days Gone By’ were also lovingly performed, although there were a few over-done attempts of humor and inauthentic drunkenness. Marius, lovingly portrayed by the handsome Jake David Smith (Off-Broadway’s Between the Lines) delivers a tender (but not so well stage-designed) version of one of my favorite songs, ‘Empty Chairs at Empty Tables’.  His voice graced us with its loving tones, lifting us in its softness, and working well our emotional heartstrings with this sad sweet song.

All in all, my friend and I had gathered together to hear all these aforementioned, beautifully crafted, and much-loved songs, sung with care, expertise, and love. Les Misérables sounds as glorious as ever, and I must add that I was happy to have had the chance to insert these songs back into my head. I’ve been humming these numerous melodies, all of which brought me great joy and happiness, all weekend long.  This small simple staging still packs a musically beautiful and powerful punch, and I’m forever grateful for that gift, revolving or not.

For more go to frontmezzjunkies.com

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Out of Town

Ibsen’s “Hedda Gabler” Burns Hot and Cool at Coal Mine Theatre

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With homecoming flowers and the sound of strings, Coal Mine Theatre‘s revival of the classic Hedda Gabler gets underway. It’s a captivating runway set-up, giving intimacy to the struggles of Henrick Ibsen’s anti-hero and namesake by placing the audience on three sides of its wood-planked rectangle. Played with wild abandonment by Diana Bentley (Coal Mine’s Detroit), her Hedda finds herself sitting in the moonlight at the piano, hunched over in some complicated state of anguish, trapped and caged in a backless gown. It’s clear, from that first image and the music that comes, that this production, adapted with tinges of modernity by Liiisa Repo-Martelli (Crow’s Uncle Vanya), is aiming itself directly at the naked soul of Hedda Gabler, now Hedda Tesman, the married woman who had once enchanted the men of this town with her beauty and cool exterior. But in what time frame does she come from and live within? That is a complex question that doesn’t actually have to be answered because as directed by Moya O’Connell (Actor: Coal Mine’s The Sound Inside) with a fierce passion that sometimes overflows the sparsely-used space created by set and costume designer Joshua Quinlan (Crow’s Theatre’s The Master Plan), this Hedda is from no distinct era, floating and fighting against her position and place in the world that never fits her frame.

Fiona Reid and Diana Bentley in Coal Mine Theatre’s Hedda Gabler. Photo by Elana Emer.

When the sweet Auntie Julia, played lovingly by Fiona Reid (Shaw’s Dance of Death), is ushered into the living room by an overwhelmed nervous Berta, played quietly by Nancy Beatty (“The Shipping News“), it is clear that there is tension in this newly acquired home of Hedda and her newlywed husband, Jorgen Tesman, played a bit too obviously by Qasim Khan (Canadian Stage’s The Inheritance). Jorgen is forever oblivious, even when prompted by the sweet maternalness of Auntie Julia. He doesn’t seem to see much beyond his books and personal interests, even when addressing the woman he has married and is completely spellbound by. Khan’s Tesman is a bit dense about marriage and what comes next, sailing in worlds that are oceans apart from his wife, especially when it comes to sensuality and seduction. It all flies over his head, but not ours.

Trapped in a marriage and a house that she does not want, Bentley’s Hedda is a heap of contradictions, struggling with her new life and the timeframe she must live in. Devoid of any excitement or enchantment, she battles with an inner demon that only comes out when she finds herself alone on that stage. Her fighting spirit erupts in those moments, making it clear that when she is in the room with others, she is mostly insincere and putting on whatever face is required. This is especially true when it comes to her interactions with the timeframed women who float in and out of the room in a more traditional tone. She belittles them, slyly, for no other reason than knowing how. Playing nice, when she needs security or information, but shifting gears the moment she is no longer in need. Hedda’s tragic flaw, as we all know, is her willful narcissism that latches itself on to a destructive force within. Her only focus is getting whatever she wants at any given moment, even if it comes at the expense of another person’s feelings.

Diana Bentley in Coal Mine Theatre’s Hedda Gabler. Photo by Elana Emer.

This Hedda, passionately portrayed by Bentley, needs to manipulate others as an undercurrent form of power and control, forcing those frameworks forward, most likely, because of societal expectations and norms. Ideals Hedda can’t abide by. Bently does a fascinating job at flinging herself into the role, flipping back and forth from insincere politeness and care to manipulative and suggestive power dynamics, usually involving one particular way of sitting on that lounge chair. Unfortunately, those two aspects get used repeatedly without much variance or subtlety added. Where is the steady climb to destruction? And where is the fall from grace? She is supposed to be a woman born into a higher class than the one she finds herself in; more her regal father’s daughter than her intellectual husband’s wife. Thus the play’s focus on her maiden name. But rather than class consciousness, she simply comes off as a hungry smooth sociopath, with no empathy and an impulsive streak that stings all that get too close. This Hedda sometimes falls into the form of a one-page, two-sided narcissist without a soul, and with nowhere to go, she doesn’t hold our interest as sharply as she is supposed to.

A sense of subtlety seems to be the key that is missing in much of this production of Hedda Gabler. Everyone is hitting their marks, doing what is required of them at any given moment, raising their voice when they are told to, but the deeper depiction of the manipulative nature feels a bit hurried, as we watch the characters move with urgency around the space. Within this patriarchal society, Hedda pushes a bit too hard and obviously, trying to gain some agency or control over her existence. It’s clear that she is forever disturbed by her marriage to the boring Tesman, now that she has found herself caged in a new house that, while being more extravagant than they can really afford, “smells like old lady” and death. And it will never bring her any contentment unless she seizes control.

(L to R) Andrew Chown, Diana Bentley (back), and Leah Doz in Coal Mine Theatre’s Hedda Gabler. Photo by Elana Emer.

So when she hears from a former classmate Thea Elvsted, portrayed tense and uncomfortable by Leah Doz (Coal Mine’s The Effect), that a former lover, Eilert Lovborg, handsomely portrayed by Andrew Chown (Crow’s Bad Roads) has resurfaced, her focus shifts. “He’s nothing to me“, Hedda delivers, but a shaking, dynamic need has been awakened. A spark has been lit inside this trapped animal, and this spark leads all to chaos and a sea of drunken madness and despair. “No one trusts a tea toddler,” Hedda says, tempting and creating her own manifesto for the future, one of manipulation, deviance, and a roaring fire of pages destroyed. Why, we may ask? Because something must happen in this woman’s new world order, and she must find a way to take control. “This night will be the making of him,” she says, for someone, or herself.

Hedda is smug and cruel, out of boredom and shallow emotional connection to others. She moves through the space like a caged lioness, under captivating lighting by Kaitlin Hickey (Factory’s Wildfire) with a strong sound design by Michael Wanless (Coal Mine’s Appropriate). Hedda initially only finds excitement in the eyes of their family friend and helper, Judge Brack, played suggestively and a bit overtly by Shawn Doyle (Canstage’s A Number). But that triangle only works with one rooster in it, the Judge tells the woman he wants to control, and once he sees the glint in Hedda’s eyes for the firebrand that is Lovborg, a different tension climbs up and out of its box. And like any caged animal unleashed, destruction must come for all those who get too close and demand too much.

Diana Bentley (back) and Shawn Doyle in Coal Mine Theatre’s Hedda Gabler. Photo by Elana Emer.

The ending is legendary, complicated and raw. A different fuse has been lit, as we witness what happens when Hedda discovers that the intended destruction did not go how she had conceptualized it. She must take control of something, but unfortunately, after such a solid buildup, the end disappears into the depths in a far too quick undynamic fashion with an inauthentic mayhem following soon after the firing. The symbolic bodily unleashing is fascinating, but doesn’t actually carry the emotional weight and magnitude that is intended. It’s overwrought and disconnected from the heart, even with the thought-provoking physicality thrown out with wild abandonment. The tragedy doesn’t connect to the desperation that is underneath in Coal Mine‘s Hedda Gabler. It’s distinct and electric, but doesn’t manage to shoot itself deep into the soul.

Qasim Khan and Shawn Doyle in Coal Mine Theatre’s Hedda Gabler. Photo by Elana Emer. For tickets and more information, click here.

For more go to frontmezzjunkies.com

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Out of Town

Studio 180’s Four Minutes Twelve Seconds Ignites Tarragon Theatre’s Extra Space

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The sharpness and pointedness of this new play, Four Minutes Twelve Seconds is signaled quickly within the first few minutes and unknown seconds when the first of many lies are told from one partner to another. The lie, once revealed, seems simple enough, protective even, but as directed with a diligent focus to detail by Mark McGrinder (Studio 180’s Oslo), the unpacking that follows is anything but simple. This play, written to make us sit up and take notice by James Fritz (Parliament Square, Start Swimming), is as unrelenting as peeling an onion in tight quarters. It seeps inside, igniting a myriad of emotions that will stay with you long after the 85-minute play comes to its final resting place.

Megan Follows and Sergio Di Zio in Studio 180 Theatre’s Four Minutes Twelve Seconds. Photo by Dahlia Katz.

Do you really want to do this now?” asks the husband as he watches anxiety grow in his concerned wife and mother. The production, by Studio 180 Theatre in association with Tarragon Theatre, revolves with intent around the actions or inactions of a couple around the unseen son’s state that starts with a nosebleed, which isn’t exactly a nosebleed. “It’s the circle of [bloody] life in Scarborough.” But it’s not just teenagers being teenagers. Nor is it “kid’s stuff” that ignites the forever-shifting dynamic. Their teenage son has either found himself, or placed himself in an unforgiving framework of sexual assault rumors, that are seen one way and then another as the plot thickens.

His parents, Di and David, expertly portrayed by Megan Follows (Soulpepper’s Top Girls) and Sergio Di Zio (Coal Mine’s Between Riverside and Crazy), find themselves at a crossroads, faced with a dilemma of the highest, most complicated order. Forever fencing with one another, skirting the formalities of truth and deception, they must come to terms with actions that are hard to take in, let alone process or understand. Impossible, in a way. They have devoted their whole lives to the care of their prized son, Jack, ushering their “good boy” through the world so that he may have every opportunity they never had. He must succeed, they think, after all they have done for him, but within an instant, some Four Minutes Twelve Seconds, a startling incident outside of school escalates into something they can’t quite seem to wrap their heads around. The gravity is huge, threatening everything they have tried to achieve, while also, more importantly, possibly destroying their faith in each other and the family unit.

Jadyn Nasato and Megan Follows in Studio 180 Theatre’s Four Minutes Twelve Seconds. Photo by Dahlia Katz.

Who are they to trust, inside and out of their family unit? “Are people always gonna believe her?” they ask, and as the play sharply progresses forward, questions of a huge magnitude are asked; to us, to them, and to those around them. The framing thrusts Follows’ concerned and confused Di into a number of possibly ill-advised one-on-one interactions with both Jack’s “idiot” friend, Nick, played beautifully by a tender Tavaree Daniel-Simms (New Harlem’s The First Stone), and Jack’s now-ex girlfriend, Cara, powerfully embodied by a wonderful Jadyn Nasato (Canadian Stage’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream), who represents everything the parents have tried to keep Jack away from. She makes regrettable accusations one after the other, and the interactions dig deep holes in the outlook of almost everyone around. It’s tense powerful stuff, beautifully played out in two angled pathways to light and understanding, orchestrated with distinction by set and costume designer Jackie Chau (NEPA’s HUFF), with precise lighting by Logan Raju Cracknell (Bad Hats/Soulpepper’s Alice in Wonderland) and a solid sound design by Lyon Smith (Soulpepper’s Pipeline).

Tension lives and breaths in this production, deftly produced by Studio 180 Theatre, with important ideas and questions hanging in the air just long enough for us to breathe them in and sit inside them. The answers aren’t easily given, as we watch these two parents lie to one another for purposes unknown at the time. Each moment meticulously unveils more problematic ideas that lead to larger questions of morality and responsibility, while also shining a harsh light on how we engage with one another, and maybe on how we try to use each other. There are no easy straightforward answers to be had in Four Minutes Twelve Seconds, but it sure will linger in your head and heart for a much longer time than that.

Megan Follows and Tavaree Daniel-Simms in Studio 180 Theatre’s Four Minutes Twelve Seconds. Photo by Dahlia Katz.
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Cabaret

M is for the. . . 

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Many ways you can show your mother, or the mother of your children, or anyone who is like a mother to you, just how much you appreciate and love them. Here are a few suggestions that will make you the hero of Mother’s Day! 

Back by popular demand is Jessica Sherr in her sold-out one-woman show entitled Bette Davis Ain’t for Sissies.  Sherr is a joy to watch as she reveals faces of this legendary actress you’ve never seen—her disappointments, her sorrows. 

Her characterization is so spot on that you’ll want to hug her when Bette is hurt and cheer for her when she’s on top of the world. Sherr’s ability to convey the mercurial nature of this iconic star is a marvel to behold.   

Don’t miss her this time around—it’s a real tour de force performance and one every mother will love. Sherr will be performing this well-written and gorgeously performed piece at the Triad on West 72nd Street on May 15 only.   If you’re in a sentimental mood this year, you’re invited to an Unveiling of The Baby Promise, An Elegant Collection of Mother’s Promise Rings, by Shana Farr on Thursday, May 9th from 5 – 7 pm at The Players, 16 Gramercy Park South. You may recognize Shana from her many cabaret appearances both here and abroad. Not only is she an accomplished actress and singer, but a mother and accomplished jewelry designer as well.   

Shana and Austin

What is the Baby Promise? It’s a vow she wrote when her son, Austin, was born and it lovingly expresses what every mother wishes for her child, and for herself, but never fully articulates. The complete version is available in a book she wrote of the same name, featuring artwork by–who else?–Austin. The Baby Promise Ring is a reminder of that sacred bond between a mother and child, exquisitely executed and available through Amazon.  Check it out at Thebabypromise.com.   

The ring is the quintessential way to express gratitude to the mother of your children; it comes with a copy of the book and is a perfect gift for any expectant mother.   

John Bolton

John Bolton

And if the lady you wish to honor is a fan of road trips, take her to the Bucks County Playhouse in Doylestown, PA for Noises Off, starring John Bolton.  It’s a quick ride from New York by car, with lots of interesting see there, like the Hammerstein home Highland Farms, or the shops in nearby Lambertville. Lots of fresh produce is available from roadside farmers. Or go in the other direction up to the Goodspeed Opera House in Connecticut, about two hours from the city. There you’ll have your choice of The Mystery of Edwin Drood starring Lenny Wolpe or A Complicated Woman with Klea Blackhurst.  You can’t miss! 

And if you insist on staying close to home, Lucky Stiff  by Flaherty & Ahrens is being brought to us by J2 Spotlight performing on West 45th Street. You can take her on Mother’s Day for the 3 pm matinee.    

As for me, my son and I play to celebrate by singing along to our favorite Broadway CDs while we play Scrabble. I just hope he lets me win at least once. 

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Out of Town

Tarragon Theatre Announces Their 2024/25 Season

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TORONTO – Artistic Director Mike Payette and Managing Director Andrea Vagianos excitedly announced Tarragon Theatre’s 2024/25 season earlier today. The 53rd season, they stated, will embrace the impact of coming together while celebrating the rich scope of bold Canadian storytellers. It’s a diverse season that focuses on collaboration, featuring stories of revitalization and courage, unveiling an electric year of new works that hopefully will inspire, move, and completely delight.

It’s an exciting moment for Tarragon as we champion the breadth of powerful artists that create, explore, and premiere beautiful stories that speak to today’s world. In the 24-25 season, we are steadfast in our mission of inviting audiences to undiscovered worlds in a season that welcomes back and introduces groundbreaking Canadian storytellers on and off the stage. We look forward to a year of laughter, passion, and heart in this unforgettable collection of stories,” reflects Artistic Director Mike Payette.

Tarragon’s season begins with the Toronto Premiere of GOBLIN:MACBETH, a Spontaneous Theatre Creation from Rebecca Northan and Bruce Horak. Having wowed audiences in Stratford and Calgary, the Goblins make their home in “the Six”, bringing their hilariously unique, partly improvised, and entirely immersive take on Shakespeare’s text of Macbeth. From the team that brought smash hits Blind Date and Undercover to Tarragon, it’s the perfect way to begin, as we enter the season of wicked delights. This Toronto premiere is onstage October 3  – 27, 2024.

Across the lobby, Tarragon welcomes back Governor General’s Award finalist Rosa Laborde (Léo, Light) for the world premiere of Interior Design. Directed by Dora Award-winner, Kat Sandler (Mustard, Yaga), Interior Design is a fast-paced and timely comedy where an attempted intervention leads to a series of messy truths between a tight-knit group of girlfriends. Featuring four powerhouse performers, including Sara Farb (Fun Home, Musical Stage Company) and Anita Majumdar (Boys With Cars, Nightswimming/YPT). The world premiere of Interior Design will be onstage from October 15 – November 10, 2024.

Next, a co-production with Modern Times Stage Company, innovators supercharging the voices of marginalized communities. Written by Rouvan Silogix (Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo, Modern Times/Crow’s) and Rafeh Mahmud(Daytime Emmy Award-winner) with direction from Tarragon Artistic Director Mike Payette (Cockroach 曱甴; Choir Boy, Canadian Stage), Craze is a sexy, surrealist, laugh-out-loud comedy, featuring an outstanding cast including Augusto Bitter (Year of the Rat, Factory Theatre), Ali Kazmi (Behind the Moon), Kwaku Okyere (Choir Boy, Canadian Stage), Lisa Ryder (Orestes – Online) and Louisa Zhu (Lady Sunrise, Factory Theatre). The biting Craze evokes the traditional living-room comedy into a sensorial feast for a modern audience. This world premiere is onstage November 19 – December 15, 2024.

The new year starts by welcoming Nightswimming Theatre, as an in-association partner for an intimate and exciting world premiere offering. An engaging and powerful theatrical exploration, The Wolf in the Voice invites performers Neema Bickersteth (Treemonisha, Volcano in association with Canadian Opera Company/Soulpepper/Luminato/Movable Beast), Jane Miller (These Are The Songs I Sing When I’m Sad, Nightswimming) and Taurian Teelucksingh (My Fair Lady, Shaw Festival) to share their stories of vocal artistry through song, and asks audiences “Is your voice warmed up?” Created by Martin Julien and Brian Quirt (Why We Are Here!, High Performance Rodeo – Calgary) in collaboration with the performers, The Wolf in the Voice will have its world premiere February 4 – February 23, 2025.

Next, the thrilling Toronto Premiere of Guillermo Vedecchia’s Feast. Directed by Dora Award-winner, Soheil Parsa (Wildfire and Monster, Factory Theatre), Feast is a charged look at the globalized world in which some are movers and some are moved, and how long we can last when family falls apart. Featuring Rick Roberts (The Goat, or Who is Sylvia?, Stratford) in a powerful return to Tarragon’s stage. This Toronto premiere is running from April 1 – April 27, 2025.

From the lauded creative mind of Kevin Matthew Wong (The Chemical Valley Project) comes the world premiere of Benevolence. Developed in part during our inaugural Greenhouse Festival, this intimate and revelatory story speaks to intergenerational legacy and heritage; opening a world into the experience of a thriving Hakka community. Guided by Mike Payette’s direction, Wong makes his Tarragon mainstage debut in this world premiere run from April 8 – May 4, 2025.

Closing the season is the highly-anticipated co-production of Tarragon‘s 2023 Bulmash-Siegel Award Winners Rose Napoli (Mad Madge, Nightwood Theatre) and Suzy Wilde’s (Retold, Musical Stage Company) new musical After the Rain. In partnership with Musical Stage Company – the first time Tarragon and Musical Stage Company have partnered on a project – this premiere is based on a heartwarming true story that unflinchingly embraces the throes of growing up and growing together through the exceptional healing power of music. Directed by Marie Farsi (15 Dogs, Crow’s) and featuring Eva Foote (Fall On Your Knees, Canadian Stage/NAC/Grand/Neptune) in her Tarragon Theatre debut, After the Rain is sure to be an unforgettable spring treat. This world premiere is onstage May 27 – June 22.

Tarragon is also excited to welcome dance Immersion as 24/25 Company-in-Residence, which will invite unique mentorship opportunities to artists, as well as the Toronto premiere of the acclaimed touring presentation Black & Rural; an artistic inquiry into the hearts and minds of Black folks tucked away on Canada’s countryside. With 30 years of experience producing, promoting, and supporting dancers and dances of the African Diaspora, dance Immersion is one of the city’s most dynamic dance companies that will bring an exciting disciplinary and new creation bridge to Tarragon.

For the past year, Tarragon has been proud to offer programming that invites young people and the young at heart to experience the magic of theatre together. We look forward to furthering this mission with the continuation of The Sally Stavro Family Series. Welcoming programming for a variety of artists with a youth focus to Tarragon, this initiative is supported through the Steve and Sally Stavro Family Foundation.  The series offers free tickets to youth under 12 years old on select Saturday mornings throughout the season and beginning in October.

Closing the series, Tarragon looks forward to hosting the 11th edition of the Wee Festival, a unique curated offering of presentations inspired by theatre and performing arts from around the world created for children 0-6 years and their families.

Tarragon’s 2024/25 season emboldens the scope of Canadian voices and their stories within an ever-shifting world, bringing communities and theatre-goers together in celebration of the breadth of artistry and generations. We hope you’ll join us.

TARRAGON THEATRE’S 2024/25 SEASON AT-A-GLANCE

GOBLIN:MACBETH (Toronto Premiere)
A Spontaneous Theatre Creation
by Rebecca Northan & Bruce Horak with music by Ellis Lalonde

October 3 – 27, 2024
Mainspace

When three Goblins come across a copy of the Complete Works of William Shakespeare, they’re eager to take over a theatre and take a stab at Macbeth. A unique blend of comedy and tragedy, with a spatter of improvisation, GOBLIN:MACBETH is a fresh-blood take on a Shakespearean classic.

Created by Spontaneous Theatre, who brought you Blind Date, and Undercover, this is like no Macbeth you’ve ever seen.

INTERIOR DESIGN (World Premiere)
A Tarragon Theatre Production
Written by Rosa Laborde
Directed by Kat Sandler

October 15 – November 10, 2024
Extraspace
Tarragon commissioned

True friends stab you in the front. – Oscar Wilde

An attempted intervention between a group of girlfriends backfires spectacularly in this new play from award-winning playwright Rosa Laborde (Léo, Light), directed by Tarragon favourite Kat Sandler (Mustard, Yaga), Interior Design is a comedy of messy renovations and even messier truths.

CRAZE (World Premiere)
A Tarragon Theatre and Modern Times Stage Company Co-Production
In Association with Theatre ARTaud
Written by Rouvan Silogix and Rafeh Mahmud
Directed by Mike Payette

November 19 – December 15, 2024
Mainspace

Out of the storm and straight into the inferno.

Two couples shelter from an epic storm for a late-night drinking session where technological mayhem and sexual frivolity may turn into something more… At times surrealist, dangerous, and laugh-out-loud outrageous, Craze is sure to keep you right on the knife’s edge.

THE WOLF IN THE VOICE(World Premiere)
A Tarragon Theatre production in association with Nightswimming
Created by Martin Julien & Brian Quirt

February 4 – February 23, 2025
Extraspace

An exploration of the very first musical instrument…the singer’s voice.

From Nightswimming (These Are The Songs I Sing When I’m Sad, Tarragon Greenhouse Festival) comes a trio about trios. Join Neema Bickersteth, Jane Miller, and Taurian Teelucksingh for an intimate and uplifting evening as they swap stories and songs about their struggles and triumphs as singers, and the mystery of The Wolf in the Voice.
FEAST (Toronto Premiere)
A Tarragon Theatre Production
Written by Guillermo Verdecchia
Directed by Soheil Parsa

April 1 – April 27, 2025
Mainspace

A culinary tour, a global crisis, and yet, still always hungry.  Can one ever be truly full? From celebrated artist Guillermo Verdecchia, Feast is a biting look at a world where some are movers and some are moved, chaos, and how long we can last when your family is falling apart.

Mermaid or siren? Paradise or dystopia? Travel the globe, just don’t forget your loved ones…or your soul.

BENEVOLENCE (World Premiere)
A Tarragon Theatre Production
Created and Performed by Kevin Matthew Wong
Directed by Mike Payette

April 8 – May 4, 2025
Extraspace

Kevin is a theatre creator. Kevin is Hakka (客家)…he thinks. Out of the blue, he gets a phone call asking him to write a play about Hakka identity. For seniors. In Markham.

From creator and performer Kevin Matthew Wong (The Chemical Valley Project) comes a charming and intimate story that transforms into a layered Chinese-Canadian tale spanning continents, migrations, and generations.

AFTER THE RAIN (World Premiere)
A Tarragon Theatre & Musical Stage Company Co-production
Supported by the Bulmash-Siegel Foundation
Written by Rose Napoli & Suzy Wilde
Directed by Marie Farsi

May 27 – June 22, 2025
Mainspace

Tarragon and Musical Stage Company co-commission

Her parents are famous. Her boyfriend is stupid. And Suzie is a mess.

When she accepts a mature piano student obsessed with mastering only one song, Erik Satie’s “Gymnopedie No. 1”, struggling songwriter Suzie’s life takes an unforeseen turn. Full of family turmoil, life’s complexities, and centred around a devastating discovery, After the Rain is a musical based on a true story about the healing power of music.

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HOW TO GET TICKETS TO TARRAGON SHOWS:

Subscriptions and tickets can be purchased online at www.tarragontheatre.com, by phone at 416-531-1827 or in person at the Tarragon Theatre Box Office at 30 Bridgman Avenue.

SUBSCRIPTIONS: Tarragon Theatre continues to offer the most flexible subscription packages in the city, allowing patrons to choose their productions and change their dates free of charge, and offering many different price points to suit all schedules and budgets.

2024-25 Earlybird Subscriptions

7-Play, 5-Play and 3-Play subscriptions are currently on sale, with discounted subscriptions for Students and Artsworkers. Early bird Subscriptions are available until June 30, 2024.

ABOUT TARRAGON THEATRE

Tarragon Theatre is a creation and playwrights’ theatre. We seek to create theatre that investigates artistic form, which may incorporate non-traditional practices and methods of storytelling, and may integrate other disciplines such as movement, music or non-text based performance – all toward creating enriching and provocative theatre experiences for the artist and audience. Our philosophy is to create an environment that fosters artistic discourse within the ecology of Canadian theatre, new play development and dramaturgy practice. We open our doors to celebrate and learn from the scope of voices that make up our country and the various artistic practices that resonate within them. To that end, Tarragon is equally a hub for creation and development as it is a production company, with the ultimate goal of creating a meaningful experience for our artists to thrive and bridge their ideas from concept to realization. Mike Payette has been the Artistic Director since September 2021.

For more information visit www.tarragontheatre.com.

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