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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

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Segal unveils most innovative season in years

Tags: Arts
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CEO Manon Gauthier and artistic producer Paul Flicker announced the coming season of the Segal Centre for Performing Arts.

MONTREAL — The Segal Centre for Performing Arts is going out on a creative limb next season with four of its six main-stage plays being original works drawing upon local talent.

Four are in-house productions, and two co-productions.

The Segal has also snagged two hip young Montreal-based performers, actor Jay Baruchel and musician Josh (Socalled) Dolgin, who will make their theatrical debuts, the latter in Yiddish.

This is the first season under the team of CEO Manon Gauthier and artistic producer Paul Flicker, and they appear ready to take chances.

The 2012-2013 season, unveiled March 29, will open with a tried-and-true crowd-pleaser, the splashy Broadway musical Guys and Dolls (Sept. 30-Oct. 28), produced by the Segal and directed by two Segal favourites, Diana Leblanc and (the musical side) John Gilbert.

Flicker confided that Gauthier asked him, if he could have any wish granted, what play would he like to do for the opener. Since it was only a pipe dream, he responded that it would be a really big classic, namely, this tale of sin-and-redemption in Prohibition-era New York.

Flicker said he was astounded when Gauthier gave her assent to the expensive production.

Guys and Dolls will be followed up by the Montreal premiere of Red (Nov. 25-Dec. 16) by American John Logan, directed by Martha Henry, a veteran of the Stratford Festival and companion of the Order of Canada.

First produced in December 2009 in London, Red is about New York abstract artist Mark Rothko and set in the late 1950s.

The season’s first world premiere is an international co-production. The Segal is partnering with Maurice Podbrey, founding artistic director of the Centaur Theatre from 1969 to 1997, now living, but far from retired, in his native South Africa.

With the Cape Town-based Baxter Theatre Centre, the Segal is co-producing Waiting for the Barbarians, based on the Nobel Prize-winning South African author J. M. Coetzee’s novel.

This first dramatic adaptation is by Russian-born, Montreal-based Alexandre Marine, who is also directing (Jan. 27-Feb. 17).

Podbrey said a multiracial cast of eight will perform this political thriller set in a colonial frontier town. Coetzee, he said, has approved the adaptation.

Gospel music will ring out from the Segal March 3 to 24 when the next world premiere takes the stage. Veteran Montreal theatre personality Roger Peace’s The Mahalia Jackson Musical will star celebrated Montreal jazz singer Ranee Lee (the official spokesperson for the Segal’s 2012-2013 season), accompanied by the Imani Gospel Singers. The show will follow Jackson’s illustrious career and civil rights activity.

Baruchel, 29, who has played in Hollywood movies including Million Dollar Baby and this year’s hockey comedy Goon, which he co-directed, stars in the third world premiere: Sherlock Holmes (May 5-26, 2013).

This fresh take on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s irascible detective is by Greg Kramer and directed by Andrew Shaver, both young Montrealers.

Even the Dora Wasserman Yiddish Theatre production Tales From Odessa (June 16-July 7) is a global first. Dolgin, best known for his funky fusion of klezmer and hip hop, is writing the music and lyrics for this show based on the stories of Isaak Babel.

Dolgin said his family roots are in Ukraine (and possibly the Odessa mafia) and he has visited the country several times in recent years.

The musical will be directed by the Segal’s new Yiddish artistic programming co-ordinator Audrey Finkelstein, and have English and French subtitles.

There’ll be no international Yiddish theatre festival in 2013, but year-round programming will be announced in September.

The Segal’s second stage, the Studio, will host six plays next season by six local independent companies, including the resident Scapegoat Carnivale Theatre, as well as the venerable Black Theatre Workshop. One of the plays is in French.

A fourth language – Hebrew – will soon be regularly heard at the Segal. The Hebrew Theatre of the Jewish Public Library is becoming a resident company. Co-founded in 2000 by its artistic producer Nitza Parry, the theatre stages contemporary Israeli productions with English subtitles.

For 2012-2013, the Segal is continuing to develop into a full-fledged performing arts venue. As Gauthier noted, the Segal has become “the second-largest multilingual performing arts centre in Canada.”

Five different music series are scheduled for next season, encompassing classical and jazz, female artists, and a new “indie” series showcasing emerging Canadian musicians who defy traditional genres.

Contemporary dance returns to the Segal under a collaboration with Danse Danse. Four local choreographers will present their works-in-progress free of charge.

The 77-seat CinemaSpace will continue offering avant-garde and experimental films, as well as collaborating on more conventional cinema screenings. A new series, “Echoes of the Planet,” is designed to raise awareness of ecological issues.

The Segal is adding to its growing lecture series next year, welcoming the St. James Literary Society and Le Café Littéraire Aleph.

For those who like the cabaret scene, the Segal’s ArtLounge is home to regular standup comedy and Broadway singalongs. New next season is Waterfield’s Follies: four vaudeville revues in The Studio, MCed by the Segal’s Keith Waterfield and featuring everything from burlesque to circus acts to puppetry.

The Segal’s increasing educational role, which reaches thousands of Quebec schoolchildren, gets even bigger with “Segal Goes to School.” Music-related programs will be customized and integrated into the curriculum.

This article appears in the April 12 print issue of The CJN

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