Two Canadian regional premieres. A gripping mystery. A door slamming farce. A Christmas classic. A summertime performance. A heartwarming First Nations comedy. A fish out of water Canadian play. One of the most popular Broadway musicals of the past twenty years. These are what Thunder Bay audiences can expect from Magnus Theatre in the next 18 months. And this is just the tip of the iceberg, says Magnus artistic director Thom Currie.
“We have an incredible lineup for next season,” Currie says. “This is a time of growth for Magnus. Not only are we putting together a season of fantastic theatre, we will be expanding our Theatre In Education Department, touring schools, offering new and exciting classes for adults and youth. This is a great time to be an artist in Thunder Bay.”
While Currie has designed programming at theatres across Canada, 2017-18 will be his first season at Magnus, although he has been with Thunder Bay’s professional theatre since September 2016. The 2016-17 season has been a transition year, with Currie taking over a season set by the previous artistic director, Mario Crudo. “I’m very excited,” he says. “It has been wonderful, getting to know Thunder Bay and the Magnus patrons over the past six months, so that we can deliver a season to knock their socks off.”
Magnus Theatre will kick off the 2017-18 season with the regional premiere of a major Broadway musical. Currie is currently in deep negotiations for this show, which will be the first time that the show will be produced by a regional Canadian theatre. Details to follow. Suffice to say that this is one of the biggest broadway hits of the past 20 years. The show runs September 7 – 30, 2017.
The second offering for the upcoming season is a play by Drew Hayden Taylor, Only Drunks And Children Tell The Truth. “On the success of last years’ hit, Crees In The Caribbean, I felt our audience would enjoy another of Drew’s plays,” said Currie. “It is crucial in this community that we present the work of First Nations artists, and Drew is one of the best.” Only Drunks And Children Tell The Truth runs at Magnus Theatre from October 26 to November 11, 2017.
The holiday season will see a Christmas classic brought to the stage. Miracle on 34th Street is the timeless story of a department store Santa who professes to be the actual Saint Nick, and winds up defending his claims in court. This new adaptation is by Caleb Marshall, artistic director of the Sudbury Theatre Centre. Suitable for family audiences, Miracle on 34th Street will light up the Magnus stage from December 7 – 23, 2017.
Magnus will kick off 2018 with Jez Butterworth’s mystery play, The River. “I saw this mesmerizing play in New York two years ago,” says Currie. “It’s an engrossing mystery that will have audiences on the edge of their seats, about a man who brings his new girlfriend to his cabin in the woods. It becomes evident that she is not the first woman he has brought here, and probably won’t be the last.” The River, staged as theatre in the round, will run at Magnus from January 30 to February 17, 2018.
Next, Magnus will perform the Canadian comedy Bed and Breakfast from March 22 to April 7, 2018. “I love this play,” declares Currie. “It’s written by Mark Crawford, who Magnus audiences will remember from our production of The 39 Steps. It’s a smart, funny comedy about a couple who decide to leave the Toronto rat race to open a B&B in a smaller city, but discover that the simple life is more complicated than they thought. It’s a smart and witty show from a great young playwright.”
The 2017-18 season will wrap up with Perfect Wedding, a raucous farce by Robin Hawdon. A bridegroom wakes on his wedding morning to find a strange girl in bed beside him. In the depths of his hangover, he enlists the best man to help him cover up something he can’t remotely remember. By the time the bride, the bride’s mother and the hotel staff get in on the act, the chaos reaches epic proportions. “This is one of the funniest plays of the past twenty years!” says Currie. Perfect Wedding runs from May 3 – 19, 2018.
In addition to The Main Stage Series, Magnus Theatre will start producing a single show in the summertime. “It’s been quite some time since Magnus has produced a summer show,” Currie continues. “There is a lot going on in Thunder Bay in the summer months, and we want to be a part of that scene.” This summer, Magnus will produce Mama’s Country Record Collection, a musical featuring some of the best known country and western hits made famous by artists like Dolly Parton, Kenny Rogers, Loretta Lynn, John Denver, Roger Miller, and many others. Written by Currie, Mama’s Country Musical Collection has been a runaway hit across Canada, and will run from July 11 – 22, 2017.
For the summer of 2018, Magnus will produce another of Currie’s works, Back in ’59. A musical featuring over 60 top ten rock and roll hits from 1959 to 1963, the production is characterized by incredible harmonies, wonderful medleys, hilarious mashups and heart stopping choreography that keep the audience cheering, singing and clapping throughout the show. Back in ’59 will run from July 10 – 21, 2018.
In addition to the Main Stage and Summer Series, Magnus will also be reintroducing their Theatre For Young Audiences tours, servicing schools across Ontario. “For the past two seasons, we have been forced to cancel our school tours, due to funding cuts,” Currie says. “For 2018, we will be moving forward with our tours. Keep in mind that Magnus is the only theatre in Canada that tours to schools in the far north, off the highway system. It is absolutely crucial that the young people of those northern communities get the same access to performing arts that every other school in the province has. We are endeavouring right now to lock down funding to take two shows on tour across Ontario, with special attention paid to the north.” Tales of Ti-Jean, a musical celebration of all of our Canadian cultures for grades Kindergarten to grade 6, and Tagged, a play about social media awareness for grade 7 and up, will be available to schools across Ontario in April and May of 2018.
“It’s a huge season,” says Currie. “A lot of firsts, for Magnus and for Thunder Bay. It’s really exciting. Watch for announcements about our revamped Theatre In Education classes, and about other partnerships with the community. Magnus Theatre has been an important part of the Canadian Theatre scene for over 45 years. My job here is to present a season that will kick off the next 45. I can’t wait to roll up my sleeves and get started.”