Wednesday 8 April 1998

Ottawa first stop for Mirvish road show
Janice Kennedy
The Ottawa Citizen

Saskia Garel will play Mimi in touring production of Rent!

Toronto's Mirvish Productions are making musical plans for home and abroad.

As they ready one hit rock production for life on the road, beginning in Ottawa, they're preparing a new Celtic musical for a Toronto opening in June.

The Mirvishes, father Ed and son David, have chosen July 30 as the date to open Rent! for previews in Ottawa.

The late Jonathan Larson's blockbuster 1996 musical, which scored a Pulitzer Prize and an armful of Tony Awards with its Broadway run, has been packing them in at the Royal Alexandra Theatre in Toronto since last December when it made its Canadian debut. The show winds up its Toronto engagement at the end of July, and then takes to the road.

The first stop for the national tour is Ottawa, where Rent! occupies the Opera stage of the National Arts Centre until Aug. 9. The show Ottawans will see will have at least one significant cast change from last December's premiere performance. Canadian Saskia Garel, formerly one half of the recording duo Love & Sas, has taken over the role of Mimi from American Krysten Cummings.

There has also been some talk that the role of Mimi's lover Roger, played by American Luther Creek, will see a new face as well.

Rent!'s Ottawa run will be part of the NAC's Festival Canada, and Festival Canada customers will be given ticket priority until May 3. Beginning May 4, tickets go on general sale. Preview prices (July 30-Aug. 2) will range up to $65, and regular prices from Aug. 4 on, when the show has its formal opening, will range up to $80. As well -- as has become a hallmark for this show about impoverished young bohemians in New York -- there will be a limited number of same-day tickets available for bargain seating ($20) in the first two rows.

Meanwhile, the Mirvishes are also listening closely to the newest sounds of creativity emerging from their other King Street theatre, the state-of-the-art Princess of Wales, just a stone's throw from the historic Royal Alex. For a limited, one-month engagement beginning June 16 (previews June 12), the Princess of Wales will be home to Needfire, a full-out celebration of Celtic song, dance and sensibilities.

A new musical about the birth and growth of Celtic culture in Canada, Needfire is the story of a journey of self-discovery.

Written by Tom Lackey and directed and choreographed by Kelly Robinson, the $3-million show features Nova Scotian and former "Papa" Denny Doherty (of The Mamas & The Papas), and showcases both established and emerging Canadian talent. Performers include such singers as John McDermott, Mary Jane Lamond, John Allan Cameron and the Irish Descendants, as well as pipers, fiddlers, Celtic harpists and an army of step dancers from both Cape Breton and the Ottawa Valley.

Award-winning set, sound and lighting designers are also working on the show, which producer David Mirvish says is an attempt to place a major cultural movement within a legitimate theatrical context.

Tickets for Needfire, ranging from $27 to $77, have already gone on sale. Call toll-free 1-800-461-3333.