Meanwhile...Our Online Magazine
We welcome you to Meanwhile #9 with a heavy heart.
Although we had an issue ready to go out last Tuesday, we decided not to publish. We felt it was inappropriate to do so. It was too soon after, as Royson James described it in the Toronto Star, “the daylight Main Street modern lynching of George Floyd, a cop kneeling on the man’s neck for nearly 9 minutes, even as citizens voice their horror and three other cops watch the murder, unmoved.”
This harrowing event has galvanized people around the world, with millions taking to the streets to protest and millions and millions more looking inwards to examine their own internal racism and discrimination. As Desmond Tutu said, “If you are neutral in times of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”
While we may not be citizens of the country where this gut-wrenching crime took place, Canada is not immune to racism, intolerance, discrimination, inequality, hatred and violence. Anti-black racism is also raging here, and our reprehensible treatment of our indigenous communities is centuries old and shameful. These are only two examples of the discrimination that is also waged on many other communities.
Theatre has always held up a mirror to the world, often exploring issues of the here and now. We didn’t plan it this way, but the Meanwhile issue we had ready to publish last week, and which we bring you today, just happens to be about Hamilton — which in its own brilliant way examines the themes that are once again at the forefront at this troubling time.
Inarguably the greatest musical of this century, Hamilton never mentions the words racism or inequality, even though they are absolutely among the themes it examines. By casting Black, Hispanic and Asian actors to play the historical roles of the founding fathers of the United States, and by using the style of music that these communities have created, the show says so much.
Works such as Hamilton help us to examine our own prejudices and to look at history through new prisms of understanding.
Many of us are searching our own hearts and examining our own privileges and misconceptions about injustice and racism. We are also having conversations with family, friends, work colleagues and neighbours. It’s not easy, but it must be done.
Finally, here is a clip we found online of Muhammad Ali being interviewed on British TV in the 1970s. He reminisces about his childhood in Kentucky in the 1940s. He remembers asking his mother a series of questions about the world he saw around him. These questions demonstrate how racism is so entrenched in our culture and language that we may not even realize it. The clip is very short and worth watching. Here it is.
CHECK IN FROM AWAY - EPISODE #5
When SnL checked in with the incredibly talented Warren Egypt Franklin, who plays Lafayette in the Philip touring company of Hamilton, the world was only dealing with the pandemic that cut the show’s run in Toronto short. SnL engaged with Warren on all manner of Hamilton topics, including trivia about the show’s creation and its songs. They even coaxed him into teaching them some of the show’s choreography. (You can probably follow along and learn the choreography yourself at home.)
NAME THAT (SHOW) TUNE WINNERS
We’ve got a reason to sing today for 5 lucky participants of our Name That (Show) Tune trivia contest. Congratulations to Eileen M., Sherene D., Gloria Jean B., Becca A., and Elaine B.
Did you miss the opportunity to play? Take the challenge and play for fun!
Over 2000 of you put your theatre skills to the test last week with our Emoji Challenge. We’re excited to announce the winners: Hannah Cruddas and Tracy Ip! They have each received a $100 Mirvish Gift Card. Thank you to all those who participated in this fun little contest. As a treat, we thought we would share some of the funniest entries with you.
1) Guys and Dolls
Havanna Music Hall
Rolling the Dice on a Cuban Wedding
Flying Money Die Texas Bride
My ex GF when we went to Cuba?
2) Dear Evan Hansen
Take me out to the ball game
I wish the Blue Jays would win again
There's no Crying in Baseball
Taking Note: You'll Get Ice Cream on Your T-Shirt if You get hit by a baseball?
King of France travels to the Netherlands?
The Train King
Queen on the run
The Railway Children
4) Jesus Christ Superstar
Praying to Speak as a Star in Church
Finding god on Broadway
Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Cricket"
Don't Play Cricket After Soda
The call of the cricket
I am stumped
6) Kinky Boots
Devil Wears Prada
More high heels please
Fighting to dance in heaven
Omg this is tricky!
7) Into the Woods
Glinda the Green Witch
The Witch in the Forest
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
Rags to Riches
Girl of the Golden West
Moses (The Musical)
Waiting to love at sunrise
Laundromat Love in a Wheat Field
9) Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
The Great Train Robbery
The three wise men
The Owl and the Pussycat
The one about Harry Potter
10) Sweeney Todd
Life of Pi
Who baked the pie
11) Mean Girls
Dixe Swim Club
Lips Together, Teeth Apart
Love, Loss and What I Wore
12) 9 to 5
Rat Lipstick Bag - The Musical
Lulu the broadway mouses
These are tough: The Musical
How to Get Ahead in Advertising
Oh god am I a fake theatre fan
13) Come From Away
A Pioneering Pilot
Who moved the cheese?
Brexit through the gift shop
110 in the Shade (the European Tour? That ended badly?)
No Sex Please, We're British
It's Dang hot in England!
Can you describe a show in 4 emojis? Email us at email@example.com or text us at 416-872-1212 with your ideas for a chance to be included in the next Emoji Challenge. Be sure to include your emojis, answer, name and email address.
By Antonio Tan
For this edition of Did You Know?, we’ll continue our focus on Hamilton. Our correspondent shares tidbits of information about the musical, its creators and the cast members of the Philip company that played in Toronto.
The Company – HAMILTON National Tour (c) Joan Marcus 2018
First of all, you’re probably wondering: “What is the Philip Company?” When a show as popular as Hamilton decides to launch a tour the demand from the public may be so great that the producers are forced to mount many different companies. It’s customary for each of these companies to be given a nickname associated with the show. For instance, Wicked had two tours – Emerald City (the first national tour which began in Toronto at the Ed Mirvish Theatre) and Munchkinland (which is the current production on the road). With The Lion King, Disney named the current road production the Rafiki tour. With Hamilton, there are no less than four – that’s right, FOUR – North American companies of the show outside of New York right now. The Eliza company is the one that played at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre in Los Angeles. Named after Hamilton’s wife, it was actually the long-running Chicago production that recently ended a three-year engagement in the Windy City. The Angelica tour, named after Eliza’s older sister, is the second company after Chicago and was actually the first touring company to criss-cross the United States. The Philip company – named after Alexander Hamilton and Eliza Schuyler’s son – is the second production that tours the country, and is the one that came to us in Toronto. And last – but not least – is the And Peggy company, named after Eliza and Angelica’s youngest sister and makes reference to the song “The Schuyler Sisters.” This production opened in Puerto Rico then immediately transferred to play a year-plus run in San Francisco (where it was playing before the crisis struck).
The show’s author and original star Lin-Manuel Miranda has never performed in a show here in Toronto (although both of his previous two shows, In The Heights and Bring It On, have played here). However, Andy Blankenbuehler – Hamilton’s three-time Tony Award-winning choreographer – has. Long before becoming a choreographer, he was a performer in Broadway shows and in national tours. One of his earliest credits was the touring production of Jerry Zaks’ revival of Guys and Dolls, which came to the Royal Alexandra Theatre in June 1993, where he appeared in the ensemble. Lorna Luft played Miss Adelaide. Then Toronto audiences saw him again in July 1995 in a concert tour of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s music called The Music of the Night which played at Roy Thomson Hall. However, it was the world premiere pre-Broadway run of Fosse – the Tony-winning Best Musical celebrating the work of Bob Fosse – in July 1998 at the Ford Centre for the Performing Arts (now called the Meridian Arts Centre) in North York where he was one of the standouts in the show. Not only did he dance in the show, but he also sang – he was the “Mr. Bojangles” vocalist who accompanied future Tony Award-winning choreographer Sergio Trujillo’s dance solo. Blankenbuehler would later put his Fosse expertise to use when he recreated some of the choreographer’s most iconic dance numbers in the first three episodes of the FX series Fosse/Verdon, on which he was also a co-producer with Lin-Manuel Miranda and Hamilton’s director Thomas Kail.
Joseph Morales (who played Alexander Hamilton in the Mirvish run) appeared on the Princess of Wales Theatre stage in April 2016 as a Swing in the national tour of If/Then. Later on he would play Alexander Hamilton as the Alternate A.Ham in the original Chicago production before opening the Philip tour in 2018.
You also may have recognized Jared Dixon, who played Aaron Burr. Last summer he starred as Simba in the sold-out return engagement of Disney’s The Lion King that played the Princess of Wales Theatre for two months.
Marcus Choi (George Washington) was born in Toronto, however he grew up in California, and was making his home town debut with Hamilton.
Ta'rea Campbell (Angelica Schuyler) had previously appeared on the Ed Mirvish Theatre stage in March 2003 in Elton John and Tim Rice’s Aida, where she was in the ensemble and also understudied the title role. After that, she would return to the Ed Mirvish Theatre playing the lead Deloris Van Cartier in the national tour of Sister Act The Musical when it launched in our fair city in October 2012.
Buffalo native Neil Haskell (who played King George III) had also appeared on the Ed Mirvish Theatre stage before when the pre-Broadway tour of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Bring It On: The Musical came here in May 2012. He was also in the original Broadway cast of Hamilton and, more famously, was a top three finalist in season three of the hugely popular TV competition So You Think You Can Dance?
Did you miss Hamilton in Toronto because of the pandemic? Don’t worry – the show’s producers intend to bring it back to us at their earliest opportunity once it is safe enough for theatres to reopen.
Check future Meanwhile issues for more theatre and showbiz DID YOU KNOW? trivia by Antonio Tan.
The Royal Alexandra Theatre has had a who’s who of theatre stars from the 20th and 21st century perform on its stage.
In its early years, the Royal Alex was strictly a “road house” for legitimate theatre – meaning, it presented touring productions. Sometimes, these shows were brand new and played Toronto to “tryout” before they went to Broadway. Most often, though, they were replica tours of shows that had already proven themselves in London, New York, European capitals and in other cities across Canada.
Recently we’ve unboxed thousands of show programmes. More than any other items, these programmes are a testament to the thousands of shows that have played here and the tens of thousands of performers who played in them.
We’ve assembled a broad range of programmes – more than a hundred, beginning in 1907 and ending in 1988. You can view all of them as a slideshow. There are captions with background info for each programme.
Sweet Charity starred Donna McKechnie and played here July & August 1987. It was the final production directed by the brilliant Bob Fosse, who spent a lot of time in Toronto rehearsing the show before its Broadway run. After Toronto and before New York, it played Washington. On the opening night there, on the way to the theatre with his ex-wife Gwen Verdon, Fosse suffered a heart attack and died on the street.
One of the giants of English-speaking theatre, John Gielgud has had 11 productions at the Royal Alex, for which he either starred in or directed. Gielgud starred in Julian Mitchell’s Half-Life November & December 1978, following a West End run of the show.
Hair was the Hamilton of its time. It had its Canadian premiere in an all-Canadian production in 1969 that played here for a year. In 1971 it returned for a summer run. A revival played the Royal Alex in 2011.
The production of Gypsy starred Angela Lansbury and began its life here in March and April 1974 before transferring to Broadway.
Sweet Bird of Youth starred Joanne Woodward and played April & May 1988. During the show’s rehearsals and performances, Ms. Woodward’s husband, Paul Newman, was in town. He would often stand at the back of the theatre at each performance.
Spring Thaw was an annual satirical review of society, especially of politics. It was a mainstay at the Royal Alex throughout the 1960s. Dave Broadfoot and Barbara Hamilton were in almost every show. This one played in April & May 1964.
Spoils of War starred Kate Nelligan and played here in September & October 1988 on its way to Broadway. Ms. Nelligan, a stage and film star, was born and raised in London, ON. But she had never performed professionally in Canada before.
Spellbound was a all-Canadian magic show written by David Cronenberg and directed by Ivan Reitman, both would become major film directors. It starred Doug Henning. It played here January 1974. In May a reworked version of this show, now with songs by Stephen Schwartz, opened on Broadway and ran four years under the title The Magic Show.
Say Hello to Harvey was a musical adaptation of the play, Harvey, about a drunk and his invisible 6’2” rabbit. The musical starred Donald O’Connor (Singin’ in the Rain), Dame Patricia Routledge (Keeping Up Appearances), and Canadian theatre favourites Sheila McCarthy and Cynthia Dale. Its world premiere here in September 1981 was also its pre-Broadway tryout. It never made it beyond Toronto.
Rose Burke was a translation of a French play by Henri Bernstein and starred one of the great actresses of the American stage, Katharine Cornell, and English actor Philip Merivale. The play was directed by Guthrie McClintic, who was married Cornell in what may have been a “lavender marriage” to cover up his homosexuality. Rose Burke played March 12 to 14, 1942.
Noel Coward’s famous comedy Private Lives is considered one of the 20th century’s finest plays. It has played the Royal Alex 10 times, from 1931 to 2011. This production played in 1940.
Odyssey was one of the most notorious flops in Broadway history. Starring Oscar winner Yul Brynner, this pre-Broadway engagement played here February & March 1975 and was plagued with problems. It was renamed Home Sweet Homer and closed in its opening night on Broadway.
Cornelia Otis Skinner was a writer and actor. She wrote and performed monologues and she starred in plays by others. In September 1941 she was here as the star of Theatre, a backstage drama by Guy Bolton.
Jose Greco and his Spanish Ballet was a popular flamenco company that toured internationally. It played the Royal Alex six times from 1952 to 1964.
Irene was a new musical that played the Royal Alex in December 1972 prior to Broadway. It starred Debbie Reynolds and was directed by John Gielgud. Also in the cast, making her professional debut, was Carrie Fisher, Ms. Reynold’s daughter.
Hedda Gabler programme cover. See next slide for comments on the production.
Hedda Gabler starred Glenda Jackson. It came to Toronto from London for a May 1975 run. It also starred two actors whose fame was not yet established – Patrick Stewart and Timothy West. The production was filmed and earned Glenda Jackson an Oscar nomination.
British comedians and satirists Peter Cook and Dudley Moore brought their acclaimed comedy Good Evening for a three-week engagement in March 1975.
Stephen Schwartz’s Godspell was a massive hit, playing from May to September 1972 The production featured a cast of budding young talent that included Victor Garber, Eugene Levy, Andrea Martin, Gilda Radner, Dave Thomas and Martin Short. The show’s musical director was Paul Shaffer, who would go on to be Dave Letterman’s musical director on The Late Show.
Luigi Pirandello’s Henry IV starred Rex Harrison in January 1973.
Dancin’ was a Broadway musical review that featured Bob Fosse’s distinct choreography. A Broadway hit, it toured here in winter 1980.
Barnard Hughes reprised his Tony-winning performance in Hugh Leonard’s Da, the 1978 Tony Award winner for Best Play. It launched its tour here in September 1979.
Cyrano, a musical adaptation of the famous classic French play, played here in February & March 1973 on its way to Broadway. Although the musical was not a success, it won Christopher Plummer a Tony for Best Actor.
Clarence Darrow was written for and starred Henry Fonda late in his career. This one-man play opened on Broadway in 1974 and then toured, playing here in April 1975. The revival production starred Leslie Neilsen and played the Royal Alex in 1996.
Captain Brassbound’s Conversion was a B. Shaw play in which Ingrid Bergman starred in prior to Broadway in April 1972.
Candida has had six productions here. This production in July 1940 one starred Peggy Wood, who would later play the Baroness in the film version of The Sound of Music.
Long-running Broadway hit Call Me Mister played here March 1947. It starred a young Elaine Stritch in the title role, a part that was played by Ethel Merman on Broadway and which Miss Stritch understudied.
Cabin in the Sky was the first Broadway musical the legendary ballet choreographer George Balanchine staged. The jazz standard “Taking A Chance On Love” was first sung by American blues singer Ethel Waters in the show. She reprised her performance in the 1943 film version directed by Vincente Minnelli. Cabin in the Sky played the Royal Alex in March 1941.
Gloria Swanson was one of the biggest film and stage stars. She began on stage and then starred in silent movies. Her career was revived by the film Sunset Boulevard, which was almost the story of her life. She played the Royal Alex three times – 1942, 1946 and 1971. Butterflies are Free was her final appearance here and played March & April 1971.
The legendary Elaine Stritch starred in the Royal Alex’s own production of Annie Get Your Gun in 1965. Stritch also played here in Call Me Madam in 1952 and Company in 1971.
Toronto-born Oscar-nominated actor Raymond Massey was part of the famous Massey family. He starred in Abe Lincoln in Illinois here in November 1939. A year later he reprised the role in the film version of the same name, which earned him an Oscar nomination.
The first national tour of the original A Little Night Music played the Alex from April 16 to May 11, 1974. The production starred Margaret Hamilton – the Wicked Witch of the West in the MGM film The Wizard of Oz – as Madame Armfeldt.
Film star Claudette Colbert starred in the comedy A Community of Two in May 1974. The show was on its way to Broadway but was not a success and closed in Toronto.
The original production of A Chorus Line played Toronto on two separate occasions. The first time in April 1976 was the international touring company that became the original London production. The second time in July 1979 was the North American touring production that featured Bebe Neuwirth.
Gigi began as a 1945 novel, became a Broadway play, then a 1958 Oscar-winning film and finally in 1973 a Broadway musical. This revival which played here in February & March 1985 starred Louis Jourdan, reprising his film role.
The Stratford Festival has played the Royal Alex many times. This production of Separate Tables starred John Neville and Domini Blythe and played here in November & December 1984.
Singin’ and Dancin’ Tonight was a musical review from the Charlottetown Festival that played here in January & Fenriary 1983.
Crimes of the Heart was a Pulitzer Prize-winning Broadway play from 1981 that toured here in fall 1983.
With a Touch of Burlesque, which played here in June 1981, starred comedy greats Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca who recreated some of their acts from their pioneering television show Your Show of Shows.
Ralph Richardson, one of the greats of the British stage, starred in this National Theatre production of David Storey’s Early Days in April 1981.
Children of a Lesser God was a startling drama about the deaf community that became a big Broadway hit and then toured here in fall 1981.
Tommy Tune’s production of A Day In Hollywood/ A Night In the Ukraine was an unlikely musical comedy review that was a big Broadway hit. The tour played here in December 1981
Bernard Slade was a Canadian playwright and screenwriter who had a slew of successful Broadway romantic comedies. Romantic Comedy played here in fall 1980.
13 Rue de l’amour, a farce by Georges Feydeau and starring Glynnis Johns and Louis Jourdan, played February 1976.
This production of Private Lives by Noël Coward – starring Maggie Smith and John Standing and directed by John Gielgud – came here from London and was the last major revival during the playwright’s lifetime. The production played here January 1975, just prior to its Broadway run.
The Broadway national tour of Alan Acykbourn’s comedy Absdurd Person Singular played here October 1975. It starred Patrick MacNee (from the TV series The Avengers) and Sheila MacRae (The Honeymooners).
Theodore Bikel – famous Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof – took on the Mayer Rothschild in another Bock and Harnick musical The Rothschilds when it played the Royal Alexandra Theatre from September 11 to 30, 1972. The production was directed by Michael Kidd.
Jean Anouilh was a French dramatist whose plays were done internationally after WWII. Traveller Without Luggage is a 1937 play that was translated into English and played here in August 1964 prior to Broadway.
Operettas and comic operas such as Tom Jones were popular at the Royal Alex, with Louise Gunning reprising her Broadway performance in May 1923.
In 1968 a new acting company called Theatre Toronto was founded to present classic and modern plays with Canadian stars. Sadly, after its second season in 1969 the company was folded.
The Visit was produced by the New York-based New Phoenix Repertory, was directed by the legendary Hal Prince and starred the Oscar-nominated British stage and film actress Rachel Roberts. It played February 1974.
Paul Osborn was a successful Broadway playwright and Hollywood screenwriter. The Vinegar Tree was his first success and played here in June & July 1943.
Programme cover for The Sunshine Boys by Neil Simon. The tour starred its original Broadway leads Jack Albertson and Sam Levene and was directed by Alan Arkin. It played the Royal Alexandra Theatre January 7 to 26, 1974.
Sadler’s Wells Ballet played twice, in 1949 and 1951.
This isn’t a programme from 1950 for a show called The Perfect Foundation. It is included to illustrate how advertising would sometimes take over the front cover of a show programme.
The Male Animal, a Broadway comedy that played here in August 1941. The following year it was made into a film starring Henry Fonda.
Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes, featuring Tallulah Bankhead’s legendary performance, played here April 1940.
The Gingerbread Lady, a comedy by Neil Simon, played here in March 1972. Mr. Simon has had 25 productions of his plays at the Royal Alex since his very first success in 1964, Barefoot in the Park.
Film star Deborah Kerr (Anna Leonowens in The King and I) played the Royal Alexandra Theatre on three separate occasions. Her appearance in Frank Harvey’s play The Day After the Fair marked the Oscar-nominee’s second engagement at the theatre.
Emlyn Williams’ The Corn Is Green opened Broadway in 1940. The legendary Ethel Barrymore (the New York theatre named after her is still in use) starred and proved so successful in it that she toured it across North America. It played here in April 1942.
Promises, Promises, a musical by Neil Simon, Burt Bachrach and Hal David, is an adaptation of the film The Apartment. It features such songs as “I Say a Little Prayer” and “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again.” It played here in February 1972.
And Miss Reardon Drinks A Little, a drama from Broadway, starred Julie Harris and Kim Stanley and toured here in January 1972. Miss Harris, one of the greatest actors of her generation, played five times at the Royal Alex. The first time was in The Member of the Wedding in which she played 12-year-old Frankie (Miss Harris was 25 at the time). Ethel Waters was her costar.
This Was Burlesque was a Broadway musical based on the memoir of a former strip-tease artist. It played the Royal Alex twice, in 1965 and 1971, both times starring its author, Ann Colio.
Anthony Shaffer’s whodunit Sleuth, a massive hit in London and New York, had its Canadian premiere here in October 1971.
The Royal Alex has always had diverse programming, including magic shows such as this one, The Great World Festival of Magic and Witchcraft, in June 1971.
Company’s first tour played here in November 1971 and starred many of the show’s original Broadway cast, including Elaine Stritch and Donna McKechnie.
Borstal Boy was a play based on Brendan Behan’s famous novel. It opened on Broadway in 1970 and played here in January 1971.
Applause was a Broadway musical based on the film All About Eve. It starred Lauren Bacall and was a massive hit at the Royal Alex in November & December 1971, selling out its six-week run in advance of opening.
Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House starred Claire Bloom in September 1971.
The Second City company, based in Chicago, would often tour to the Royal Alex in the 1960s. This production from February 1967 starred two young performers who would go on to stardom, Valerie Harper and Linda Lavin.
The Mad Show was an Off-Broadway musical review based on the famous magazine. Among its various lyricists was Stephen Sondheim. It played here in February & March 1967.
The Fantasticks was a musical from1960 that holds the record of the longest run of a musical in theatre history. It toured often and played here in October 1967.
Like Father, Like Fun was a Canadian comedy that had been a hit in Vancouver. The Toronto production played in July & August 1966 and did well enough for the play to be retooled for Broadway. It opened there as A Minor Adjustment on October 6, 1967. It closed October 7, 1967.
Royal Flush, a musical review starring Kaye Ballard, played here in January 1965 prior to Broadway.
A Raisin in the Sun was a ground-breaking drama that is now considered among the best of the 20th century. It opened on Broadway in 1959 and the tour came here in November & December 1960.
The October 1959 season was the last one the Canadian Opera Company presented at the Royal Alex before moving to the O’Keefe Centre.
Another of the opera festivals that in the 1940s and 1950s played annually. This one is from October 1958.
Long before the Mirvish family owned the Old Vic Theatre, there has been a long tradition of plays coming over from London, such as when the Old Vic Company presented a series of Shakespearean plays for this engagement in November 1958.
Programme cover for British playwright Terence Rattigan’s Separate Tables which played the Royal Alex stage in November 1957 during the theatre’s 50th season.
The King and I opened on Broadway in 1951 but it didn’t tour until 1954, and it arrived here in July 1955.
South Pacific opened on Broadway in 1949 and began touring in 1950. But it didn’t play here until August to October 1953.
Diana Barrymore was yet another member of the famous Barrymore acting dynasty. She was the daughter of John Barrymore. Although known mostly for her films, she was also a stage actress. She starred in Pajama Tops here in April 1955.
This programme from the 1939-40 season is included to illustrate the importance of the theatre’s royal patronage. The crown would often be used in programmes and advertisements.
Paris ’90 was another play starring the popular Broadway star Cornelia Otis Skinner in September 1952.
Guys and Dolls, considered by many critics the quintessential American musical comedy, had its Canadian premiere here January 1952. The original production with staging by the legendary George S. Kaufman would return another two times.
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes was a 1949 Broadway musical that is famous for introducing Carol Channing. The touring production played here in September 1952.
One of the great actresses of the American stage, Katharine Cornell starred in this pre-Broadway engagement of That Lady that played here in 1949.
Oscar and Tony Award-winning actor Jose Ferrer reprised his Broadway performance in The Silver Whistle in October 1948. Toronto audiences also saw him at the Royal Alex in his acclaimed performances in Othello in 1944, and Cyrano de Bergerac and Richard III, both in 1946.
The Glass Menagerie opened on Broadway in 1945 and was instantly acclaimed as a masterpiece. The original touring production played here in 1948.
Maurice Evans was a noted British classical theatre actor who appeared several times at the Royal. Man and Superman in November 1948 was the fifth occasion he played here.
Comedian Bert Lahr was famously the Cowardly Lion in the MGM film The Wizard of Oz. He made his second appearance at the Royal Alex in the Broadway national tour of the play Burlesque in May 1948.
Maurice Evans was a noted British classical theatre actor who appeared several times at the Royal. He played Hamlet here October 1946.
The House in Paris, a drama that played here in January 1944, had a young man from the USSR named Youl Bryner. He would soon change the spelling of his first name to Yul and become a massive star in The King and I. He would return to the Royal Alex in 1975 in a new musical of the
Paul Robeson, Jose Ferrer and Uta Hagen reprised their Broadway performances in Shakespeare’s Othello here in September 1944. This production marked a breakthrough for African-American actors in U.S. theatre. Paul Robeson was already famous for playing the role in London UK in 1935. The role had always been played by a white actor in blackface, except for one time when another African-American actor, Ira Aldridge, who left the U.S. for England because racism kept him from performing in serious plays, famously played it London in 1825. Mr. Aldridge's performance was so astounding, he toured Europe performing in many different plays to great acclaim. He died in Poland, never returning to the U.S. Mr. Robeson’s performance in 1935 was equally acclaimed. Returning to the U.S. he reprised his role of Othello at the Shubert Theatre in 1943, becoming the first African-American to play the role with a white supporting cast on Broadway. That production toured across the continent and was the one that came to the Royal Alex. Although, he would play Toronto other times, mostly in concert, because he was also a remarkable singer, this was the only time he appeared in a play here.
Noel Coward’s popular comedy Blithe Spirit first played the Royal Alexandra Theatre November 22 to 27, 1943, with most of the original Broadway cast direct from New York run.
B. Shaw plays were often produced at the Royal Alex. There have been 25 different productions of his plays in the theatre’s history. This Pygmalion played in June 1941 and starred Ruth Chatterton.
Ballet Russe was a famous touring company performing the repertoire of Russian ballet classics. It played the Royal Alex 12 times, from 1941 to 1955.
This programme from the 1939-40 season is included to illustrate the importance of the theatre’s royal patronage. The crown would often be used in programmes and advertisements.
Yes, My Darling Daughter was a Broadway comedy that played here in April 1938.
Room Service was a hit Broadway farce. It toured here in January 1938. A few years later it was adapted into a film as a vehicle for the Marx Brothers.
Victoria Regina was a notable vehicle for Helen Hayes – dubbed “The First Lady of American Theatre” and one of a select few who have won an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar and a Tony ( an EGOT). It played the Royal Alex in November 1937.
Maurice Evans starred in King Richard II here in December 1937.
Three Men on a Horse was a farce co-authored by John Cecil Holm and legendary Broadway director George Abbott who also directed. It played the Royal Alex in February 1936.
More than 50 years later, a new production of the show was among the first to mark the beginning of Mirvish Productions, the company founded by David Mirvish, who took over management of the Royal Alex from his father, Ed Mirvish. David chose John Hirsch to direct the first play under his stewardship and Mr. Hirsch chose Three Men on a Horse. With an all-Canadian cast headed by Stephen Ouimette, the production played September and October 1987. Remarkably enough, author George Abbott was still alive — he was 100 years old; when he wrote and directed the original production he was 48; he died at age 107 in 1995 — and he came to see the show.
At Home Abroad marked the first Broadway musical that Vincente Minnelli directed. The show starred Toronto-born British actress Beatrice Lillie and American blues singer Ethel Waters. It played the Royal Alex in March 1936.
Tillie’s Nightmare, a musical with a cast of 79 and a 19-piece orchestra, starred Ontario-born silent film star Marie Dressler and played here in January 1911. It would play a return engagement a year later then be made into a film starring Charlie Chaplin and Mabel Normand.
Daddy Dufard was an English music hall show that starred Albert Chevalier and played here February 1911.
Of special interest may be the programme for A Raisin In The Sun. This landmark play by Lorraine Hansberry debuted on Broadway in 1959. The title comes from the poem "Harlem" by Langston Hughes (see below for another poem by this insightful and powerful poet).
The story tells of a black family's experiences in south Chicago, as they attempt to improve their financial circumstances with an insurance payout following the death of the father. Among the investments they want to make is the purchase a house. The property they choose is located in a white neighbourhood and the neighbours are fearful that the property values of the area will drop if black families move in. That’s just one of the plot points of this brilliant play that examines the lives of ordinary black citizens in ways that had not been seen on Broadway or in mainstream theatre before.
The show was a resounding success and a tour was launched that played the Royal Alex in November and December 1960.
More than 50 years later, Bruce Norris took elements of the play’s plot and wrote a new play that examined similar themes. That play is Clybourne Park and it played in Toronto as part of the first Off-Mirvish season in a local production by Studio 180 Theatre.
Clybourne Park clearly showed that while many elements of society have changed, racism, discrimination and injustice are still with us.
If you have any old programmes from years gone by and you no longer want to keep them, we’d love to add them to the archives. Please mail them to us at: Programme Archives, Mirvish Productions, 322 King St West, 4th floor, Toronto, ON, M5V 1J2
LANGSTON HUGHES' 1935 POEM FOR TODAY
In 1935, in the midst of the Depression, Langston Hughes, an African-American poet, social activist, novelist and playwright, wrote a powerful poem that he titled Let America Be America Again. The title is misleading, especially as it may be interpreted in today’s divisive world in which “America” can mean many different things to different people. But Hughes used “America" to mean the land of equal opportunity. Of course it never really was that, as he points out in his courageous and hopeful poem. Hughes emotes over how his country has never been the nation it promises to be.
Today, in the midst of the injustice, pain and turmoil of the present circumstances, his brilliant poem demands to be read again.
Despite the fact that this poem is about “America,” the themes it raises are also relevant to us in Canada. We, too, struggle with racism and intolerance. And we, too, have yet to resolve these issues.
Here is the entire poem. Or, click here to hear it read by Danez Smith, a poet and performer from St. Paul, MN. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b6Im4b3kdfc
Let America Be America Again.
Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.
(America never was America to me.)
Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed—
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.
(It never was America to me.)
O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.
(There's never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this "homeland of the free.")
Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?
I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery's scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek—
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.
I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one's own greed!
I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean—
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today—O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.
Yet I'm the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That's made America the land it has become.
O, I'm the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home—
For I'm the one who left dark Ireland's shore,
And Poland's plain, and England's grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa's strand I came
To build a "homeland of the free."
Who said the free? Not me?
Surely not me? The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we've dreamed
And all the songs we've sung
And all the hopes we've held
And all the flags we've hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay—
Except the dream that's almost dead today.
O, let America be America again—
The land that never has been yet—
And yet must be—the land where every man is free.
The land that's mine—the poor man's, Indian's, Negro's, ME—
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.
Sure, call me any ugly name you choose—
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people's lives,
We must take back our land again,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath—
America will be!
Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain—
All, all the stretch of these great green states—
And make America again!
So, you've been participating in all our trivia challenges and you've been doing pretty well. Perhaps today is the day where you'll meet your match. Check out the images of actors in costume and match them with the role and show and be entered to win a $100 Mirvish Gift Card.
This is the time of year when we would be celebrating the end of the 2019-20 season. One ritual of these celebrations is the handing out of awards.
This year, due to the disruption caused by Covid-19, these awards are being handled differently.
First out of the gate are the TTC Awards. No, these are not about the Toronto Transit Commission. The acronym stands for the Toronto Theatre Critics. This is their 10th year. They announced their choices for the best of the season last week.
Mirvish Productions was honoured with Outstanding Musical Production — The Band’s Visit, Outstanding Performance in a Leading Role — Chilina Kennedy, The Band’s Visit (tied with Jully Black in Caroline, or Change from the Musical Stage Company and ObsIdian Theatre) and Outstanding Director for a Musical for Conor McPherson, Girl From The North Country (shared with Marie Farsi for Crow’s Theatre and Eclipse Theatre Company’s co-production of Ghost Quartet).
Next up are the Dora Awards, which have just announced their nominations. Mirvish received 10 nominations:
Outstanding New Musical — Erin Shields
Outstanding Direction — Gordon Greenberg
Outstanding Musical Direction — Jonathan Monro
Outstanding Achievement in Design — Michael Gianfrancesco
Outstanding Performances in a Leading Role — Jayne Lewis
Outstanding Performances in a Leading Role — Louise Pitre
Girl From The North Country
Outstanding Performance in a Featured Role — Gloria Obianyo
Outstanding Musical Direction — Ian Ross
Outstanding Touring Production
The Tony Awards in New York were to be held at Radio City Music Hall on Sunday, June 7. But because many of the shows that would have been eligible did not have a chance to open before Covid-19 shut down the theatres, the Tony committee is postponing the 2019-20 awards until sometime in the future. Here is the website for more info: https://www.tonyawards.com/
The Olivier Awards in London actually announced their nominees on March 3 and had planned to announce the winners at Royal Albert Hall on April 5. That event has been postponed until it is safe for people to gather again in a theatre, or it may become a virtual event, like the Doras. Here’s the website to check for more info: https://officiallondontheatre.com/olivier-awards/year/olivier-awards-2020/