I was invited to an exclusive, open dress rehearsal of “Souzatzka,” the new Garth Drabinsky musical. Previews begin Feb. 25th and the show is slated for a Broadway transfer.
The open rehearsal was in a small rehearsal room, on the 4th floor of the Elgin Theatre.
I arrived with a mix of delight and trepidation.
Delighted by the anticipation of seeing Tony award winning performers in an intimate setting.
Trepidation due to the nefarious financial activities that have left many people who worked for Mr. Drabinsky, in Canada and abroad, unpaid. The former co-founder of Livent served jail time in Canada for fraud and forgery.
Drabinsky can’t enter the United States where arrest warrants are outstanding.
As I took my seat among the journalists, we wondered out loud if people working on this production are getting paid in advance.
It wasn’t long ago that Drabinsky’s Black Creek Festival fell into such financial ruin that members of the local musicians union reported that they weren’t paid for their work and some creditors took the festival to small claims court.
So there’s that.
Soon enough the lights dimmed and the music roared.
Under the direction of Brad Haak, the five piece band was powerful and vibrant.
Most recently Haak was the music director for Broadway’s “An American in Paris,” early in his career Haak was the assistant conductor for the first national tour of Disney’s “The Lion King.” And with with South African composer Lebo M., best known for his work on “The Lion King,” also contributing to “Sousatzka,” the music by David Shire, with lyrics by Richard Maltby, Jr., was fabulous.
Set in London, England, “Sousatzka,” tells the story of a musical prodigy (Jordan Barrow) torn between two powerful women from vastly different worlds: his mother, a political refugee from South Africa and his piano teacher, a brilliant eccentric with a shattered past. These two proud, iconoclastic women must ultimately cross cultural and racial divides to find common ground, or else jeopardize the young musician’s destiny.
One of the best numbers of the day was “All I Wanna Do (Is Go Dancin’).”
As you’ll see in the videos, the number begins with Sara Jean Ford and Jordan Barrow in an intimate scene before they are joined by the company. Graciela Daniele choreographs. Daniele has won numerous Tony Awards for Best Choreography including Livent’s “Ragtime.”
Journalists weren’t attending the open dress rehearsal to review performances, however I can say that all the performances were top notch.
“Souzatzka” deals with themes of race, refugees and exile.
Speaking about the play’s politics, Drabinsky said “I was able to place the musical in the context of the political upheaval of certain periods of the 20th century.” Citing England under Margaret Thatcher, and the right wing’s “hatred and antipathy towards Nelson Mandela,” Drabinsky said that “the miracle is that the South African people never gave up hope, never stopped fighting for justice.”
“Souzatzka” is directed By Adrian Noble, the former artistic director of the Royal Shakespeare Company. Noble has worked with Drabinsky in the past, including a stint as a judge on the CBC TV show “Triple Sensation,” which Drabinsky produced.
Noble isn’t the only one from CBC’s “Triple Sensation” participating on “Sousatzka.” Richard Stursberg, who was executive vice president of CBC at the time of “Triple Sensation,” is the CEO of Teatro Proscenium Limited Partnership which is raising funds for “Sousatzka” and two other Drabinsky projects.
Costume designer is Paul Tazewell, the Tony Award-winning costume designer of “Hamilton.” Preliminary sketches featuring costume and set design were available for viewing.
Book By Craig Lucas
Score By Richard Maltby, Jr. & David Shire
Choreographed By Graciela Daniele
Directed By Adrian Noble
Starring Victoria Clark
And Introducing Jordan Barrow
Principals are Ryan Allen, Rebecca Eichenberger (Alternate Sousatzka), Sara Jean Ford, Fuschia!, John Hillner, Virginia Preston, Christianne Tisdale and Nick Wyman.
The ensemble includes Jewelle Blackman, Ben Bogen, Karen Burthwright, Mark Cassius, Janelle Cooper, Réjean Cournoyer, Alvin Crawford, Saccha Dennis, Bernard Dotson, Shiloh Goodin, Kira Guloien, Mary Gutzi, Tevyn Hill, Jordan Fife Hunt, Erin Lamar, Eryn LeCroy, James Levesque, Hailey Lewis, David Lindo-Reid, Monique Lund, Alison Mccaughney, Cory O’Brien, Travis Pratt, Mya Puryear, Jack Rennie, Tim Shew, Jamal Shuriah, David Silvestri, Kaden Stephen, Eva Tavares, Tryphena Wade, Charles Wallace, J.D Webster and Jonathan Winsby.
The band for the event:
Jihwan Kim, Piano: Talu Green, South African Drums: Jimmy Mngwandi, Bass; Andy Colloy, Synthesizer; Jamie Drake, Drums.
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