After one and a half years in the dark due to the pandemic, the Segal Centre for Performing Arts is presenting an in-person theatre season—with a bark.
These extraordinary times call for a reset that is a bit different, a little bolder, said artistic and executive director Lisa Rubin at the virtual 2021-2022 season unveiling.
The six scheduled shows include 24 dogs performing stunts, an adults-only “steamy rock cabaret,” and the highly charged issue of police brutality and racism as the subject of a musical.
The canines are the stars of SuperDogs: The Musical, which will make its world premiere at the Segal from Nov. 28-Dec. 19. The President’s Choice SuperDogs have been entertaining for 40 years, but Rubin stressed this will be “a Segal Centre show, not a Bell Centre show.”
SuperDogs: The Musical will have a cast of human singers and dancers as well and a story line about the relationship between a girl and her dog that will appeal to all ages, director Sara Rodriguez explained.
Since July when Quebec’s COVID rules were eased, theatres have been able to admit larger audiences, which Rubin said means about half of its 300-seat main theatre can be filled, depending on how many are from the same household. Those coming with friends will only have to sit one vacant seat apart.
Everyone will have to present their vaccine passport, which the province introduced on Sept. 1, and masking and sanitation rules will be enforced.
The season actually kicks off with a remount of Every Brilliant Thing by Duncan Macmillan and Jonny Donahoe, from Oct. 24-Nov. 14, in association with the Hudson Village Theatre.
This one-man (Daniel Brochu) play had a brief run in May, the first in-person theatre at the Segal since its 2019-2020 season was abruptly cut short.
Although the play deals with depression, director Dean Patrick Fleming said it is ultimately about resilience and hope, a message audiences will appreciate now.
The new year starts on a definitely lighter note when YidLife Crisis, the zany, irreverent duo of Jamie Elman and Eli Batalion are back with their new “love letter to Montreal” Pandemish in January.
“It’s a mechayeh for us, a kavod. Sorry, bad choice of words,” quipped Elman. Certainly, it’s meshugge for someone who has lived in California for 20 years to be returning to his hometown in the depth of January.
As the Segal anticipates many patrons will be away that month, a livestream of select performances of Pandemish will be available.
The following month is the world premiere of Black and Blue Matters, a production of Montreal’s Black Theatre Workshop. In development for three years, director Diane Roberts described this satirical hip hop musical by Omari Newton as painfully relevant since the police killing of George Floyd last year.
“The tensions with police is an issue marginalized communities have long known. Now the mainstream has woken up, they know this is not just a special interest or something that happens in the U.S.” Roberts said.
After a black teen is shot (non-fatally) by a white officer, a trial is held that takes the form of a rap battle.
Only those 18 and older will get a chance to see the English-language debut in May of One Night in April, another unconventional musical, this one from Israel. Using their mobile devices, audiences can voyeuristically follow the raw emotions text-messaged between a married woman and the man she is having an affair with.
One Night in April was created by Israeli pop star Keren Peles.
The season ends—“fingers crossed”—with a Dora Wasserman Yiddish Theatre (DWYT) favourite: Abraham Shulman’s The Sages of Chelm. The resident DWYT has not put on a full-scale, all-Yiddish production in several years, and was supposed to have been staged in June 2020.
Rubin’s fingers are crossed also for the entire season, as no one knows what direction the pandemic will take. In the event of another forced closure, the Segal will refund tickets, she said.
It was no doubt appropriate that Rubin, alone on the stage for the livestreamed launch, recited the Shecheyanu, the blessing of gratitude for having been sustained to this day.
The Almighty was assisted in keeping the Segal going through this “long intermission” with support from three levels of government and generous philanthropists, starting with Alvin Segal, she acknowledged.