Thursday, June 19, 2008

Bringing Success Home

Choreographer Sergio Trujillo (at Stratford: 1999's West Side Story and 2000's The Sound of Music) may be mentioned in the latest article about Jersey Boys, but director Des McAnuff is once again the focus.

From James Bradshaw at the Globe and Mail:

"McAnuff, artistic director of the Stratford Festival (the last remaining member of its leadership triumvirate that imploded in spectacular fashion in March), said he was surprised it took this long to bring Jersey Boys to his hometown.

"'We started at [California's] La Jolla Playhouse in the summer of 2004, and audiences were literally standing up during the acts, which never happens. Ever. We were suspicious that we had a tiger by the tail, and because we were both Toronto boys, we started talking about Toronto immediately,' he said.

"The Toronto Centre seemed an attractive venue to McAnuff and the partnership with Dan came about through talks conducted by McAnuff's producer, Michael David.

"Rick Elice, who co-wrote Jersey Boys with Marshall Brickman, has high praise for McAnuff and said the initial search for a director was brief.

"'I worked for Des as an actor back in 1982 when he was this freakishly talented, very strange Canadian boy who came to New York and was going to make his name. And so when we got to the point where we wanted to talk to a director, there was no list. It was Des. Des was the only guy who could have done this show, and he is absolutely at the top of his form,' Elice said.

"And though Elice said he considers Toronto a great theatre city, he hinted strongly that it was largely due to McAnuff that the show made it there. 'Des, of course, wanted this to be a real event here. And we'd walk through fire for him, which is why we're here,' he said.

"McAnuff's commitment to direct Jersey Boys in the midst of a full Stratford season has prompted talk that he is stretching himself too thin. When he signed on with the festival, the artistic directorship was shared three ways; now he fills the post alone. He is candid about the strain he will be under but insists he can weather the storm.

"'The key is just being willing to work seven days a week and 12 hours a day. I have a great team at Stratford that's evolving; you don't do this by yourself. I dare say Stratford wanted artistic directors who had outside careers, and this was a conscious decision of the board of governors. They thought this would be a good thing for the Stratford Festival. So hopefully I don't burn out,' he said.

Jersey Boys opens at the Toronto Centre for the Arts on August 21.

Romeo and Juliet, which McAnuff directed for the Stratford Shakespeare Festival, runs until November 8.

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