By STEVEN HOWELL
---- — MONTREAL — A gripping political thriller, an edge-of-the-seat whodunit and a variety of musicals — of the classic, hand-clapping and klezmer kind — ring in a new season of stage works at the Segal Centre for the Performing Arts.
‘GUYS AND DOLLS’
For artistic director Paul Flicker, the specific goal of the season was a simple one: “Do something that the audiences will absolutely love.”
To fulfill that mission, Flicker said he opted for a more traditional theater nod for the first part of the season, with the second half offering new works and interpretations for the stage. The season begins with “Guys and Dolls.”
“‘Guys and Dolls’ is one of the greats, if not the greatest American musical,” Flicker said.
The Segal production features the return of director Diana Leblanc.
“She has always done work here at the Segal that the audience has really supported.”
Actor Scott Wentworth, who plays the role of Sky Masterson, recently played the part at the renowned Stratford Festival.
“He’s a Tony Award-nominated actor, one of the great musical theater actors in North America, and he’ll be on our stage,” Flicker said.
The cast of 24 also garners a nod from Flicker.
“These are seriously talented musical theater people,” he said. “Plus we have an eight-person band. It’s going to be fantastic.”
“Guys and Dolls” is presented Sunday, Sept. 30, through Sunday, Oct. 28.
Next is the two-hander “Red.”
“When you start with a cast of 24 like you do in ‘Guys and Dolls,’ it’s nice to have a more intimate work follow,” Flicker said.
“Red,” the six-time Tony Award-winning drama, tells of two years in the life of New York abstract expressionist artist Mark Rothko. The work is directed by Martha Henry.
“She’s our leading lady of Canadian theater,” Flicker said, adding that Henry is a Stratford alum and graduate of the first class of the National Theatre School of Canada.
“It’s going to be a beautiful, well-crafted show.”
“Red” makes its Montreal premiere Sunday, Nov. 25, through Sunday, Dec. 16.
Next is “Waiting for the Barbarians,” the Segal’s first-ever co-production. The play is produced by Maurice Podbrey, the founding artistic director of Montreal’s Centaur Theatre, in association with Baxter Theatre Centre of Cape Town, South Africa.
Based on the 1980 book by Nobel laureate J.M. Coetzee, “Waiting for the Barbarians” is a political thriller adapted and directed for the stage by Russian ex-pat Alexandre Marine, who last directed the Segal productions of “Amadeus” and “Dangerous Liaisons.”
“He incorporates beautifully choreographed movements into his plays. Visually he’s stunning and striking,” Flicker said. “And welcoming a group of actors from South Africa is going to be interesting, especially in the middle of February.”
“Barbarians” take to the stage Sunday, Jan. 27, 2013, through Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013.
Another world premiere follows with “The Mahalia Jackson Musical.”
“This is a new musical with traditional gospel music,” Flicker said. “And we have Ranee Lee, one of our great jazz singers with a full gospel choir backing her up. It should really rock the roof off this place.”
“Mahalia” is presented Sunday, March 3, 2013, through Sunday, March 24, 2013.
Next is a new Segal Theatre-commissioned version of “Sherlock Holmes” by playwright Greg Kramer. Based on the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the Segal production stars Jay Baruchel of “Knocked Up,” “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist” and “How to Train Your Dragon” fame.
“You know, he’s a big Hollywood star who happens to live in Montreal,” Flicker quipped.
“Sherlock Holmes” runs Sunday, May 5, 2013, through Sunday, May 26, 2013.
‘TALES FROM ODESSA’
Rounding out the season is “Tales from Odessa,” the annual Yiddish-language production that explores the world of legendary Jewish mob boss Benya Krik. It’s inspired by the work of Russian writer Isaak Babel. The modern twist is the adaptation of music and lyrics by Josh Dolgin, also known as Socalled, “who mixes traditional klezmer and rap music,” Flicker said.
“So I like that we’re starting the season with a traditional musical in English and ending it with this brand new gangster musical in Yiddish.”
“Tales from Odessa” comes to town Sunday, June 16, 2013, through Sunday, July 7, 2013.
Steven Howell is the author of Montreal Essential Guide, a Sutro Media iPhone travel app available at iTunes.com.
IF YOU GO
DIRECTIONS: The Segal Centre for Performing Arts is at 5170 Chemin Cote St. Catherine, Montreal. Take Autoroute 15 North (I-87 after the border), and continue over the Champlain Bridge. Take exit 66, Cote St. Luc/Queen Mary, and continue on the Decarie Expressway service road for about five minutes. Turn right on Chemin Cote Ste. Catherine. The Segal Centre is two blocks on the right.
TICKETS: Season subscriptions are available. Call (514) 739-7944 or visit www. segalcentre.org for more information.