Hobson's Choice: Local theatres all singing the same tune with musicals this month

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June is shaping up to be a tune-filled month with Rosebud’s Little Women The Musical, Front Row Centre’s Something Rotten, and Untold Stories’ The Prom joining Theatre Calgary’s Beaches The Musical, and Stage West’s Beautiful The Carole King Musical.

Set during the American Civil War, Little Women, Louisa May Alcott’s story of the adventures, loves and losses of the four March sisters, has been an enduring classic for more than 150 years. The novel has been turned into numerous films, TV series and stage plays. This musical version by Allan Knee, Mindi Dickstein and Jason Howland opened on Broadway in 2005 with actress/singer Maureen McGovern as the girls’ mother Marmee. McGovern also sang the Oscar-nominated songs The Morning After from The Poseidon Adventure and We May Never Love Like This Again from The Towering Inferno.

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For Rosebud’s version of Little Women, under the direction of Morris Ertman, Cassia Schmidt plays Jo, the wild, rebellious writer. Last summer, Schmidt starred as Maria in Rosebud’s hit production of The Sound of Music which played to turn-away crowds. Jo’s older, more traditional sister, Meg, is played by Jocelyn Hoover Leiver, with Karyssa Komar as the flighty, romantic Amy, and Grace Fedorchuk as the timid Beth. Glenda Warkentin plays their protective, self-sacrificing mother Marmee.

The cast also includes Grant Tilly, Steven Morton, Griffin Kehler, Tim Dixon and Annette Loiselle, with musical direction by Bill Hamm and choreography by Deanne Bertsch.

There are matinee performances Wednesdays through Saturdays at 1:30 p.m. with evening performances Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. until Aug. 31.

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Haley Dorais as Portia and Andrew Russell as Shakespeare in Front Row Centre’s Something Rotten. Courtesy, Fred Amdur cal

SPOOFING SHAKESPEARE AND MUSICAL THEATRE

It seems everyone is doing the hit Broadway musical Something Rotten this year.

The Shakespeare Company and StoryBook Theatre teamed up for a production of this ribald spoof of Shakespeare and Broadway musicals back in April, and it’s currently running at the Stratford Festival in Ontario. Now Front Row Centre is unleashing the laughter and songs at the Beddington Theatre Arts Centre from June 7-22.

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Time warping back to Renaissance London, Something Rotten is the story of the Bottom brothers who are desperate to write and produce a hit play, but are consistently overshadowed by the rock star playwright known as The Bard. When Nick Bottom consults a soothsayer, she tells him there will come a time when musicals will upstage anything Shakespeare has written, so they set out to create the first musical. Shakespeare is working on a play called Hamlet, so, for hilarious misguided reasons, they call their musical Omelette.

In Front Row’s version, under the direction of Josef Vermeulen, the hapless Bottom brothers are played by Jeremy Walker and Parker Sinclair, with Danica Powersmith and Haley Dorais as their love interests. Andrew Russell plays Shakespeare with Lindsay Kurtze as the soothsayer, Nostradamus, backed by a 20-member chorus. The production also boasts a 19-member orchestra under the supervision of Neil West, with Stephen West providing the choreography for the show’s numerous production numbers.

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Emma (Ranelle Huwald) and Alyssa (Aislyn Rickard) in Untold Stories Theatres The Prom.

WHOSE PROM IS IT ANYWAY

The Prom, which debuted on Broadway in 2018, is based on an actual controversy that happened in Mississippi in 2010 when a graduate was denied permission to take her girlfriend to their high school prom. Lance Bass, Cat Cora and Green Day were among the celebrities who rallied to create a Second Chance Prom for the young couple.

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The Prom was a minor hit on Broadway, but a major splash when Ryan Murphy turned it into a Netflix film in 2020 starring Meryl Streep, James Cordon, Nicole Kidman, Kerry Washington, Keegan-Michael Key, Ariana DeBose and Andrew Rannells.

Untold Stories is presenting the Calgary premiere of this upbeat little musical, in the Pumphouse Theatre from June 14 to 29. Gad Gijon and Jason Bakaas are co-directing, with musical direction by Allie Pompu and choreography by Danielle Desmarais.

Ranelle Huwald and Aislyn Rickard play the couple at the centre of the controversy, with Shandra McQueen, Scott Watson, Mitch Lukinuk and Joanna Murphy as the washed-up Broadway actors who make it their mission to save the day for the crusading graduates, and perhaps revive their own careers at the same time.

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