By STUART NULMAN

 

The Segal Centre began its second decade on April 11, as Artistic and Executive Director Lisa Rubin unveiled its programming line-up for the 2018-2019 theatre season, which will combine Broadway hits and original Canadian plays.

 

To begin with, it was announced that thanks to a generous gift from local businessman and philanthropist Sylvan Adams, the centre’s main 306-seat venue will be named in his honour as the Sylvan Adams Theatre. Also, a selection of the Segal Centre’s past successful shows – “The Hockey Sweater”, “Bad Jews”, “We Are Not Alone”, “Prom Queen” “Les Belles Soeurs” and “Duddy Kravitz” – will be hitting the road for engagements in Toronto, Ottawa and London, Ontario throughout next season.

 

And of course, the nucleus of the Segal Centre’s season will be the selection of flagship theatrical productions that will cater to lovers of all theatre genres. It kicks off with the musical “Once” (October 7 to 28), which won a total of eight Tony Awards, and tells the story of a complicated romance between an Irish musician and a Czech immigrant on the streets of Dublin. “A Doll’s House, Part 2” (November 18 to December 9), is a continuation of Henrik Ibsen’s immortal play, in which we find out what happened to main character Nora Helmer 15 years after she said goodbye to her stifling domestic life. “Old Stock: A Refugee Love Story” (December 4 to 16) is going to be presented in conjunction with the St. Ambroise Montreal Fringe Festival. This combination of a darkly humourous folk tale and highly energized Klezmer music concert, is inspired by the true stories of two Jewish Romanian refugees who arrive in Canada in 1908. The 2019 half of season 11 begins with “Children of God” (January 20 to February 10), a powerful musical that tells the story of a group of children from an Oji-Cree family who are involuntarily taken away to a residential school in Northern Ontario. Baby Boomers will certainly be anticipating the return of Rick Miller and the sequel to his triumphantly successful “Boom”, his multimedia time machine of a show, which is called – plainly enough – “Boom X” (February 14 to March 10). This time, the focus is more autobiographical, as Miller immerses himself in the music, events and personalities of the post-Baby Boomer and Gen X era between 1969 and 1995. Paul Vogel’s Tony Award-winning drama “Indecent” (April 28 to May 19) is a play within a play, as it examines the controversies and ramifications that centres around the staging of Sholem Asch’s play “God of Vengeance”. And season 11 concludes with the return of a musical anthology that was staged by the Dora Wasseran Yiddish Theatre to great success during its limited run last year. “A Century Songbook” (June 16 to 30) is a lively celebration of 100 years of Montreal’s Jewish community told through iconic songs, dance and personal stories that take people back to the days of Baron Byng, the Main and Expo 67.

 

Add to that a production of “A Bintel Brief” by the Dora Wasseran Yiddish Theatre, and the return of such popular series as Sunday @ the Segal, Broadway Café, Power Music, after-school courses and performing arts camps, the 2018-2019 season at the Segal Centre will be another exciting hodgepodge of variety for the Montreal theatergoer.

 

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The Segal Centre’s latest production, the English language premiere of “The Angel and the Sparrow” will certainly please those who are into the lives and talents of show business legends.

 

It chronicles the relationship – both professional and personal – of two legendary figures: German-born actress Marlene Dietrich (who made a name for herself with such movies as “The Blue Angel”, “Morocco” and “Destry Rides Again”, and then later in her career as a singer), and French songstress Edith Piaf. It starts in 1945, after Dietrich distinguished herself during World War II as she tirelessly toured the globe to entertain Allied troops, and as Piaf is about to make her disastrous American debut after her hit songs (and they way she emotionally interpreted them) made her a sensation in her native France; and goes through 1963, when Piaf dies of liver failure at the age of 47.

 

Through song, humour and plenty of human drama, the play shows how Dietrich and Piaf held each other up emotionally through their respective professional and personal triumphs and setbacks; Dietrich via her strained relationship with her daughter Maria, and Piaf through the tragic death of her boyfriend, champion boxer Marcel Cerdan, in 1949, and the car accident that led her to a crippling addiction to alcohol and morphine.

 

This duo biographical showcase of these entertainment icons is a delight to watch. The two actresses who perform the title roles, and immerse themselves into the characteristics that made up the public and private personas of Dietrich and Piaf, are something to behold. Carly Street as Marlene Dietrich gives the role a lot of strength, confidence, glamour and plenty of from-the-hip humour. And Louise Pitre is a triumph as Edith Piaf. When you witness her being Piaf in her songstress best and her offstage frailty and insecurity, you think that she has Piaf’s spirit coursing through her veins, especially when she performs many of her best known songs onstage, which are filled with the same pain and passion as when Piaf originally performed them 70 years ago.

 

And speaking of songs, “The Angel and the Sparrow” has a repertoire of 20 songs that for most part Dietrich and Piaf immortalized, such as “Lili Marlene”, “Falling in Love Again”, “Non, je ne regretted rien” and of course “La vie en rose” (which is sung in both English and French.

 

Finally, due to popular demand, the run of “The Angel and the Sparrow” has been extended to May 13. Go and see this show; you won’t regret it.

 

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For more information, or to purchase tickets for “The Angel and The Sparrow” or any of the upcoming shows for the 2018-2019 season, call 514-739-7944, or got to www.segalcentre.org.