New Commercial Producer in town …

I, for one, am very excited.

Yesterday I was invited to the press launch of DanCap Productions – the new commercial theatre producer in Toronto. It was quite the event, let me tell you. No expense was spared. Held at the gorgeous Elgin Theatre at Yonge and Queen, DanCap wooed attendees with champagne, valet parking, Clores Leachman (as the “voice” of DanCap), musical numbers from their upcoming season with singers from New York and London in attendance, and lots of nibblies.

It was an event, and a great way to make a splash on the theatre scene here. Most of the media in the past few years have said that theatre is dying or in serious trouble in Toronto … which is not true. Sure, there haven’t been tons of commerical productions other than what Mirvish has brought us (this certainly isn’t the mid 90’s when Livent was around), but the mid-size to smaller theatres have been doing amazing work on our stages consistently with new companies cropping up every year, new and innovative work being produced in non-traditional stages, and a wealth of talent being used to showcase it all.

But – it’s the halo effect that we’ve been missing since the 90’s. When Livent was around, when Phantom was running for what seemed like forever, when Showboat and Sunset Boulevard and Ragtime were around, that’s when theatre was in the conciousness of the public – that’s when Torontonians went to the theatre because we were known as a “theatre town”. As such, the smaller venues and companies reaped the benefits of the theatre-going public. It was something we did rather than a special night out or an “event”. Mind you, we spent our time differently. Since the mid 90’s and the rise of the internet, we spend our time in a completely different way. There isn’t more of it, but we certainly spend the same amount doing more things. But I digress …

With the launch of DanCap, I think we’re going to see a revitalized commercial theatre sector, which can only help the rest of the industry – eventually.

I’ve heard some rumblings from insiders about the lack of Canadian content in the innaugural season – all the shows are tours being brought in from the States (or London’s West End). And yes, it would be great to have the premiere of a new Canadian work in the first season, but let’s be realistic here for a moment. Audiences in Toronto are conservative. They won’t necessarily go see something that hasn’t been proven elsewhere (and this is the average citizen, not the savvy arts-goer). I believe it’s a smart move for DanCap to bring in big names and then, as they said last night, eventually move towards creating new Canadian work and taking it to Broadway and the West End.

Their first seasons consists of:

  • My Fair Lady
  • 3 ‘Mo Divas
  • Spelling Bee
  • Jersey Boys
  • Avenue Q
  • The Drowsy Chaperone
  • Not a bad line-up at all. Most of these are Tony Award winners and have been very successful on Broadway. I’m very excited to see the return of The Drowsy Chaperone – a homegrown success which started in the back of the Rivoli as a wedding gift. It really is an extraordinary story and can’t wait to see it again!

    Theatre never died in Toronto … the marketplace changed. And it’s changing again, for the better.

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