Smash hit The Book of Mormon — the comic send-up from the raunchy minds behind South Park and Avenue Q — is coming to Canada as part of a new Mirvish Productions season that mixes Broadway theatre with movie-musical adaptations and new productions.
David Mirvish announced a season dominated by musicals at a downtown Toronto event on Monday, gamely donning a variety of costumes from The Wizard of Oz — one of the season's highlights.
Mirvish 2012-2013 season
- Backbeat - July-August 2012
- Flashdance - August-September 2012
- Bloodless - October 2012
- La Cage aux Folles - October-November 2012
- Sister Act - October-November 2012
- Honeymoon in Vegas - December 2012-January 2013
- The Wizard of Oz - January-February 2013
- The Book of Mormon - May-June 2013
The most eagerly anticipated show will be The Book of Mormon. The toast of New York theatre in 2011, it was created by Avenue Q co-writer Robert Lopez and South Park's Trey Parker and Matt Stone.
Following two missionaries who travel to Uganda attempting to convert the locals, the musical mocking Mormons and Broadway itself picked up awards from various critics groups before dominating at the 2011 Tony gala, where it earned nine trophies — including best musical.
"It's a show that you might think that it's a satirical show, that sort of takes the mickey out of something, but actually it's not that. It's very heartfelt and warm and it's very funny," Lopez told CBC News. "The surprising thing about it, that people always walk out of the theatre not having expected, is that it makes you feel good. It's sort of a warm message about religion. It's a pro-religious message, if you can believe that."
Mormon producer Anne Garefino (who also executive produces Parker and Stone's satirical show South Park) said there was a bit of head-scratching over how best to describe the musical in its early days.
"These are people and we're writing about a situation that is very far removed from South Park.[However], the humour and the sensibility and the approach — anyone who loves South Park with find that in there," she said.
"Matt and Trey have a way of putting stuff in your face that might be offensive, but they do it in a very sweet way, in a very palatable way. I also think there's a part of us [that wants] a guilty pleasure. We all kind of want to laugh, even though we know we're not supposed to be laughing."
Toronto-based Mirvish has also added a pair of recent Broadway musical comedies to the bill: La Cage Aux Folles, 2010's best musical revival Tony-winner, and feel-good tale Sister Act, based on the Hollywood film starring Whoopi Goldberg.
Another movie-inspired-musical — Honeymoon in Vegas — will make its world premiere in Toronto as part of the 2012-2013 season.
Starring Tony Danza, who offered a sample of the musical's music at Monday's event, Honeymoon features a book by the film's original screenwriter (Andrew Berman), music and lyrics by award-winning composer Jason Robert Brown and direction by Gary Griffin. It is based on the 1992 film starring Nicolas Cage, Sarah Jessica Parker and James Caan.
"There's nothing like having a play, doing eight shows a week and, it takes over your life a little bit, but there really isn't anything like it. I feel the most comfortable up there," Danza said.
Toronto has "a tremendous vibrant community that appreciates [musical theatre]," he added, explaining why the city is becoming a popular location to premiere new shows. "There are a lot of people who are very interested in it, in the form."
Following its U.K. debut, a new production of golden Hollywood classic The Wizard of Oz will come to Toronto in early 2013, with new songs by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice bolstering the reconceived tale.
Rounding out the lineup are:
- Backbeat, a musical about the Beatles' early days playing gigs in seedy German clubs. It comes to Canada after its U.K. premiere. Helmed by British theatre director David Leveaux, it also draws inspiration from a 1994 film of the same name.
- The pre-Broadway debut of Flashdance, choreographer-director Sergio Trujillo's musical adaptation of the cult hit 1980s dance film.
- The Toronto premiere of Bloodless, a macabre musical comedy by Winnipeg playwright Joseph Aragon, based on the real-life West Port serial murders in 19th century Scotland. Irish performer Colm Wilkinson will make his directorial debut.
The 2012-2013 season gets underway in July with Backbeat.