From original mega-musicals to heart-rending one-woman-shows, 2016 was a lively and inspired year for Montreal English language theatre. In honour of the extraordinary efforts demonstrated by the creative individuals, companies, and organizations that we have been privileged enough to have come across over the past year since our own inauguration, we at the Hub have here compiled a “top picks” list in contemplative retrospect of our most cherished productions of the previous seasons.
My Name is Asher Lev
The Segal Centre for Performing Arts set the bar high by kicking off the 2016-17 theatre season with a riveting adaptation of Chaim Potok’s 1972 novel that proved to be an emotional and intellectual thriller in its Montreal premiere directed by Steven Schipper. David Reale, Alex Poch-Goldin, and Ellen David moved us in the story of a young gifted artist and observant Jew struggling with questions of authenticity, truth, and conflicted loyalty within his religious community and the artistic world. Thought provoking, profoundly human and thoroughly inspiring, it is unquestionably our top pick of 2016. We predict METAs all around for this one.
Another Home Invasion
In his final stint as Artistic Director of Tableau D’Hôte Theatre, Mike Payette (now AD of Geordie Productions) showcased the extraordinary acting chops of Deena Aziz in a one-woman show at the M.A.I. about the trials and tribulations of the twilight years. An ode to the forgotten, the fading, and the forlorn, this heart-rending production of award-winning playwright Joan MacLoad’s unsettling piece reaped 6 nominations at the 2016 METAs – including Outstanding Independent Production – and most deservedly so.
Since its production of Confiteor: Vol II last year, up-and-coming performance ensemble Obra anaïs has proven itself to be a powerful, game-changing player in Montreal English theatre with its intersectional feminist and eco-socialist contemporary pieces that are engaging, provocative, and unique in aesthetics. Amidst a tour de force performance from Alex Petrachuk – who received two individual METAs this year for Outstanding Emerging Artist and Outstanding Supporting Actress (Compleat Female Stage Beauty, Persephone Productions) – this adaptation of Friedrich Schiller’s 1800 play effortlessly secures its place in the ranking.
Last Night at the Gayety
Comically capturing the political, religious, social, and cultural transformations of Quebequois society that occurred during the nostalgic Golden years, Last Night at the Gayety was director Roy Surette’s and Centaur Theatre Company’s big, fun, glamorous gamble of a spankin’ new musical featuring original music, lyrics and book by Rick Blue and George Bowser. “A love letter to Montreal”, it paid off, making it indisputably our favourite show of the 2016 Spring season.
One of the most delightful surprises of the year was d² productions montréal‘s masterful stage adaptation of Stephen King’s 1987 psychological horror novel about a famous author taken prisoner by a crazed fan after being saved by her from a debilitating accident. For the exquisite performances by Max Laferriere and Caroline Fournier under the direction of Dale Hayes, this darkly humorous thriller also facilely secures a distinction as one of the most revered shows we serendipitously stumbled across at the MainLine Theatre.
Prom Queen: the Musical
It was the homegrown show we were most excited for in the fall season and it didn’t disappoint. Inspired by the famous true story of Marc Hall, the Ontario teen who took his Catholic school board to court when they prohibited him from taking his boyfriend to the prom, Prom Queen received its World Premiere at the Segal Centre for Performing Arts in a first-rate, high-value production directed by Marcia Kash. Featuring explosive choreography by Sean Cheesman, an upbeat score by composer-lyricist duo Colleen Dauncey and Akiva Romer-Segal, and energetic performances by an all-Canadian cast, it was impossible not to have been lovestruck.
Our other top picks of 2016 which here deserve a nod include the humorous drama Bad Jews (Segal Centre for Performing Arts), which marked Lisa Rubin’s directorial debut; the virtuous Beethoven Lives Upstairs (Geordie Productions), outgoing Artistic Director Dean Patrick Fleming’s last production with the beloved theatre company; the poignant Chlorine (creature/creature), Centaur Theatre’s 2016 “Brave New Looks” selection that branded creature/creature’s inaugural production as well as the performance unit’s Artistic Director Johanna Nutter‘s directorial debut.
Bar Kapra the Squirrel Hunter (Scapegoat Carnivale Theatre) enchanted with a visually stunning production and poetic script by Joseph Shragge; Leslie Baker’s Fuck You! You Fucking Perv! (The Bakery and La Manufacture) then thoroughly stirred us with a provocative piece on the traumas of sexual abuse; last but most certainly not in the least, the hysterical The Producers (The Dora Wasserman Yiddish Theatre in association with The Côte Saint-Luc Dramatic Society) reminded us of why we ever got into the magical, slightly dysfunctional, and wild world of theatre in the first place.
Read our article on what promising shows are on the horizon in Montreal theatre in 2017 here!
2016 was an extraordinary year for Montreal Theatre, notably for us as it marks the birth of our humble little website. The Hub is a labour of profound love, respect, and appreciation for the stage arts and for our local theatre family and it’s been an absolute privilege to have been a part of it. We extend a heartfelt thanks even to those that have not been mentioned here – you are too many to name! – for every show is a gift to our community. Here’s to 2017!
– Camila Fitzgibbon, Founder and Editor-in-Chief