RMTC's 2016-17 season brings the Queen, the King and Agatha Christie to the stage

We are amused. That, at least, is the hope for the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre’s just-announced 2016-17 season, which features the Queen, the King, a Tony Award winner and the queen of mystery writers. Here’s what’s coming up next season.

Tony Award winner for best play and The Audience highlight upcoming season

Alexander Sharp and Ian Barford perform in the Broadway production of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. The Tony Award-winning play opens the Royal MTC's 2016-17 season. (Joan Marcus/Boneau/Bryan-Brown via AP)

We are amused.

That, at least, is the hope for the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre's just-announced 2016-17 season, which features the Queen, the King, a Tony Award winner for best play and the queen of crime.

Here's what's coming up next season:

At the John Hirsch Mainstage:

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (Oct. 20-Nov. 12): A 2015 Tony Award winner for best new play, this adaptation of Mark Haddon's award-winning mystery novel is still running in London's West End, where its original production won a record-setting seven Olivier Awards. In short, it's been a winner elsewhere — we'll find out next fall if that success translates to Winnipeg.

The Audience (Nov. 24-Dec. 17): A West End and Broadway hit, largely thanks to the performance of Dame Helen Mirren as Queen Elizabeth II. The Royal MTC production will see some Canadian stage royalty step into the regal role — famed stage actor Fiona Reid will play Her Majesty here, in a play that sees the monarch meet with a succession of British prime ministers.
Fiona Reid (left) in the RMTC's 2015 production of Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike. She'll don a crown again to play Queen Elizabeth II in The Audience. (Bruce Monk)

Million Dollar Quartet (Jan. 5-28, 2017): It sounds too good to be true — a jam session with Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins. But it happened on Dec. 4, 1956, and this jukebox musical recreates the night. There'll be a Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On as the four music legends Walk the Line and hopefully create Great Balls of Fire on stage.

Celebrated as the 'queen of crime,' Agatha Christie will be the subject of next year's Master Playwright Festival.
Black Coffee (Feb. 9-Mar. 4): For just the second time in its 17-year history, RMTC's Master Playwright Festival will focus on the work of a woman. Agatha Christie fans will be pleased the world's most famous mystery writer (and the best-selling novelist of all time, according to Guinness) is the focus of the fest.

Her 1930 play Black Coffee, featuring the iconic detective Hercule Poirot, will be RMTC's entry in the festival — and the first time their production has played on the larger Mainstage rather than at the Warehouse.

Bittergirl: The Musical (Mar. 16-Apr. 8): Since premiering as a play in Toronto in the mid-2000s, Bittergirl has become something of a multimedia industry. The story of three women bonding over being dumped began as a play, became a book and has now become a musical — complete with '60s doo-wop songs.

Sarah Ballenden (Apr. 20-May 13): The first made-in-Manitoba play to premiere on the RMTC Mainstage since 2008's Shakespeare's Dog is very Manitoban indeed. Maureen Hunter's historical drama focuses on Sarah Ballenden, the Métis wife of a Hudson's Bay Company officer persecuted in the burgeoning Red River Settlement.

At the Tom Hendry Warehouse:

My Name is Asher Lev (Oct. 13-29, 2016): Based on Chaim Potok's novel, Aaron Posner's play explores the story of a man driven to pursue his love for painting at the expense of his family and tradition.

23.5 Hours (Nov. 17-Dec. 3): The 2014 play by American playwright Carey Crim explores the aftermath of a beloved high school teacher's conviction for a terrible crime.

Hand to God (Jan. 26-Feb. 11, 2017): Described as "an irreverent puppet comedy … about a possessed Christian-ministry puppet," Robert Askins' Tony-nominated 2011 play follows Jason and his trials in his mother's Christian puppet ministry, along with his foul-mouthed puppet Tyrone.

Kill Me Now (Mar. 30 - Apr. 15): It's been a while since we've seen a professional production of a play by bad boy Canadian playwright Brad Fraser here in Winnipeg — to the best of my knowledge, you'd have to go back to 1995 and the Warehouse production of Poor Super Man. Fraser's latest, a controversial story about a father dealing with his disabled son and sexuality, premiered last year in London, and comes to Winnipeg in a co-production with the National Arts Centre.

Tune in to the Weekend Morning Show on CBC Radio One — 89.3 FM and 990 AM — Saturday, Jan. 29, at 8:50 to hear Royal MTC artistic director Steven Schipper discuss the 2016-17 season.


Joff Schmidt

CBC theatre reviewer

Joff Schmidt is a copy editor for CBC Manitoba. Since 2005, he's also been CBC Manitoba's theatre critic on radio and online. He majored in theatre at the U of M, and performed in many university and Fringe festival productions along the way (ranging from terrible to pretty good, according to the reviews). Find him on Twitter @JoffSchmidt.


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