Stage Door News
London: The Grand Theatre plans to return to live performances in October 2021
Thursday, May 27, 2021
The Grand Theatre is thrilled to announce plans to return to live performance for its 2021/22 Season – a joyous celebration of new spaces and new voices.
With a 10 month, $9 million renovation project drawing nearing completion, and COVID restrictions slowly lifting, Artistic Director, Dennis Garnhum and Deb Harvey, Executive Director are readying for a re-opening with tremendous Grandticipation.
“Throughout the last 16 months, we’ve said that we will be back, that the theatre will return, and when we do, we will be even better than before. And today, we are following through on that commitment. Not only have we used this time of being closed to public performances to renovate our physical spaces, but as a company we’ve embarked on a journey to grow, learn and work through a renewed Anti-Oppression lens, and we can hardly wait to welcome Londoners into the gorgeous space we have created, both inside and out.”
Deb Harvey clarified re-opening protocols as follows, “In consultation with our Board and health officials, we continue to monitor public health guidelines and work on safety protocols and procedures. We are also learning from our colleagues across North America in terms of best practices for re-opening. The health and safety of our staff, artists, volunteers and patrons have always been our top priority, and we are committing to clear communication for Londoners on what to expect once we are given the go-ahead to invite folks into our spaces. We are not putting tickets on sale yet until we have a clear direction about capacity levels. Subscribers and patrons with credits on account will be provided with first opportunities when tickets are available and we are encouraging everyone to check the Grand’s website, e-newsletters and social media channels for the most updated information.”
In October, the Grand will launch its 2021-22 programming with an innovative Grand Re: Opening Festival. Four London artists – Summer Bressette, Richard Gracious, Alexandra Kane, and Mark Uhre – have been commissioned to create multi-layered events that will take many forms – from concerts to art installations, from readings to new plays and more.
Artistic Associate and Festival Director, Megan Watson explains, “We have these beautiful, newly renovated spaces – clean and open canvasses – and so we’ve invited these four local artists to ‘come and play in our sandbox’! Come and make art. Come and celebrate with us. We’re delighted to be working with them and seeing how they’ll fill the Grand with their brilliance.”
For a total of 16 evenings of special events, each artist will make use of the various spaces throughout the Grand, from the Auburn Developments Stage to the Drewlo Lounge, from the BMO London Proud Floor to the Spriet Stage and throughout the main lobby – no space is off-limits to their imagination.
“We think this is a joyous way to welcome Londoners into our new spaces. A gorgeous new building with inspiring performers making art from top to bottom,” describes Dennis Garnhum.
As active member of London’s creative community, Summer Bressette is Anishinaabe from Kettle and Stony Point First Nation, and has previously worked with the Grand Theatre as a cultural consultant with the production of Honour Beat. She believes that the art of storytelling is both ceremonial and social, and serves as a link to build and strengthen kinship ties to land, language, and people.
Musician Richard Gracious has a background as a music educator, entrepreneur, and artist-in-residence with the London Arts Council. Richard worked with the Grand, writing an original song for Juno’s Reward – the Grand’s 100 Schools project – and his band, Bad Teeth, rocked us home from the Grand rooftop last December with their rendition of Guy Lombardo’s ‘Auld Lang Syne’.
A performing artist living in London, Alexandra Kane focuses on telling stories of Black joy through music and theatre. As a founding member of Black London Network and a lead activist for Black Lives Matter London, she advocates for racial equity and champions local Black culture. Alex was a valued member of the Grand’s general audition review team this past year, and served as musical director and performer in various segments on Comfort and Joy, the Grand’s 2020 Holiday on-line production.
Mark Uhre, a multi-talented actor, singer and performer has a long Grand history. A member of the original High School Project production of West Side Story, Mark has performed on many theatre stages across North America, including Broadway, at Shaw and Stratford Festivals and will be most recently recognized for his leading role as ‘Bert’ in the Grand’s 2019 production of Disney and Cameron Macintosh’s Mary Poppins. Mark is also an accomplished visual artist and is excited to showcase to audiences his passion for making art and the possibilities that art creates in the world.
Plans for the musical Annie to be presented at the holidays have been put on hold for another year. “We want the theatre to be absolutely bursting at the seams with children and families when Annie hits the stage, so waiting until the 2022 Holiday Season will get us that much closer to the true Grand Holiday experience that is such a rich tradition for Londoners. In its place, Garnhum is creating and directing a special holiday production - Home for the Holidays - that will run the month of December. “I have one goal in mind with this production - to uplift the hearts of our city and citizens. It will be a production for the whole family bursting with songs, laughter and joy,” an emotional Garnhum stated. The Grand confirmed its partnership with the London Food Bank that has seen over $300,000 raised from donations during its holiday productions over the past four years thanks to generous audience members and sponsors.
“I can’t wait to welcome everyone into our ‘home’ – the Grand – and to showcase the extraordinary work of our Grand Family. We have excellent artisans and craftspeople here at the Grand – from set builders and painters, to our props and wardrobe teams, and our lighting, sound and stage crews – you’ll get to see their work brilliantly showcased.”
January 2022 will mark the much anticipated return of Room, by Emma Donoghue, that never saw its official opening night in March of 2020. The award-winning novel comes to life on the Spriet Stage. Kidnapped as a teenage girl, Ma has been locked inside a garden shed in her captor’s backyard for seven years. Her five year old son, Jack, has no concept of the world outside and happily exists inside Room with the help of Ma’s games and his vivid imagination where objects like Rug, Lamp, and TV are his only friends. But for Ma the time has come to escape and face their biggest challenge to date: the world outside Room. Adapted to include music and lyrics, a cast of seven featuring Little Jack shadowed by his alter ego SuperJack, Room is a story about resilience, exploring the power of the imagination and a mother’s love.
“We managed to have three public preview performances, but never made it to Room’s opening night due to the pandemic. I can tell you from direct experience this is one incredibly powerful night in the theatre. And now that we are finally able to proceed with opening night, from here I know it will go on to many stages around the world. Londoner Emma Donoghue’s brilliant adaptation of her award winning novel will do us all proud. Our audiences and followers have been pleading with us to bring Room back on the stage as we re-open – we heard you and now you can say you saw it first.”
In February, Controlled Damage will be presented on the Spriet Stage. Award winning playwright Andrea Scott, who hails from London, Ontario, has created a wonderfully imaginative play that illuminates Viola Desmond - the Canadian Civil Rights Leader - in an original and vibrant way. This new production will showcase this extraordinary woman, also known as the face of the Canadian ten dollar bill.
"The first time I read this play, I was so struck by Andrea’s originality in telling the story of Viola Desmond in a detailed, honest and often heartbreaking way. This is much more than a play about a moment in time - Andrea connects it directly with the here and now - and makes the point very clear: Everyone should be welcomed in all places. It is powerful, uplifting and truthful and a story as relevant today as it was over 70 years ago,” stated Garnhum.
For the first two weeks in February, the renovated and re-named Auburn Developments Stage will showcase the brilliance of award-winning actor, singer, story-teller Andrea Menard in her original work - Rubaboo: Songs and Stories with Andrea Menard. Audiences will remember Andrea’s performance as ‘Anna-Rae’ in Honour Beat.
Rubaboo is the Michif word for 'leftovers stew' or 'big pot' and a fitting title for this musical feast. Accompanied by her long-time co-writer and guitarist, Robert Walsh, Andrea's beautiful voice and masterful storytelling will create an intimate, moving and joyous experience on the Auburn Stage, described by Garnhum as “a perfect setting for Andrea to take us on this very special and personal journey.”
Andrea describes Rubaboo as “a musical feast of my Métis culture that includes songs of reconciliation, songs of unity, love songs, drum songs, resilience songs, as well as some leftover feelings of frustration that so many Canadians still don't know our history. Can’t have a Métis rubaboo without all the flavours!"
“Andrea’s warm and bright heart will fill you up. I’ve been a huge Andrea fan for a few years now, and it’s a real honour to have her back with us,” notes Dennis.
Originally scheduled in April of 2020, Grow will have its long-awaited World Premiere on the Spriet Stage in 2022, with Dennis Garnhum directing. Written by Matt Murray with music and lyrics by Colleen Dauncey and Akiva Romer-Segal (the team that brought us Prom Queen now retitled The Louder We Get), Grow was days away from its first rehearsal when the production was halted.
At the centre of the story are twins, Hannah and Ruth. Before they are baptized into their faith forever, the sisters go on Rumspringa – a 'hall pass' for Amish teenagers – to explore the modern world. When they find themselves stranded in a rough Toronto neighbourhood, their beliefs are tested as they team up with a down-on-his-luck cannabis dealer to help run his illegal grow-op. Grow is a fun and big-hearted musical that looks at the bonds of sisterhood, family and community and the choices we all face as we grow.
“We’ve been waiting more than two years to bring Grow to our audiences, and I am just as excited now as I have ever been. I find the story compelling and surprising, the music incredibly uplifting and the contemporary relevance irresistible. Grow reminds us that we live in an incredible country that allows all points of view to grow. It’s pure joy,” noted Dennis.
2022 will also mark the return of Peter Brennan’s Jeans ‘n Classics series to the Spriet Stage. An abridged three concert season will begin with An Evening of Pink Floyd on February 10, a celebration of all things Irish with Rattle and Hum: The Songs of U2 on March 17, and will close off with She’s Got It on May 5, featuring the powerhouse women of the Jeans ‘n Classics Rock Symphony.
The 2021 High School Project (HSP) will be created and directed by London’s Andrew Tribe, himself a High School Project Alumni who directed the 2019 HSP, Titanic: The Musical. Andrew, the Artistic Director at Original Kids Theatre, has re-envisioned High School Project to be held primarily outdoors and online. Celebrating our city of London, they will create a mini, original filmed presentation - The Great Grand Road Trip - with High School Students participating in a three week program following all health and safety protocols in place at that time.
“Andrew is simply masterful at engaging students and developing on-line performance opportunities. At the end of the day, our students want so much to perform – so we are going to give them that experience in an original way,” noted Dennis who went on to announce that a return to the traditional musical with 50 students on the Spriet Stage will take place in the fall of 2022. Garnhum won’t reveal the title just yet, but noted that “this musical has never been done before at the Grand”. He teased out the musical title more using words such as “huge, world-renowned and fitting to re-start the High School Project after two years of online programming.”
“For the past several months, the construction hoarding outside of the Grand has read The Arts Will Lift Us Up. As a staff team, we have been lifted time and time again by the generosity of our extended Grand family of staff, artists, volunteers, patrons, donors, sponsors and community partners,” noted Deb Harvey.
Dennis continued, “So now, it’s our turn to lift London up as we get ready to open the doors to this incredible new space full of rich and diverse programming. We have missed seeing you, working with you, creating with you, and celebrating with you. We look forward with Grandticipation to seeing you this fall.”