TORONTO — Producer David Mirvish says he hopes to inject a "sense of fun" into his theatre company's 2024-2025 season with a little bit of Hollywood and live stage spectacle.
Mirvish Productions announced Tuesday that it has lined up musical versions of “Back to the Future,” “Beetlejuice” and “Moulin Rouge” for its schedule that kicks off in the fall.
They join the season's opener, a stage adaptation of Yann Martel’s Canadian novel-turned-film “Life of Pi,” the return of ABBA-fuelled favourite “Mamma Mia” and the previously announced open-ended run of “The Lion King.”
A seventh subscription show will be added to the season at a future date, while productions for the off-season schedule will be announced in April.
Mirvish described the season as another step in the return of Toronto's theatre scene to its pre-pandemic popularity with shows that appeal to the entire family.
"It skews slightly younger than we've traditionally seen," the theatre impresario said in a call from London.
"We're living in a time when we're coming back out of our shell, and hopefully it's exactly what people will find to be entertaining."
The season launches in September with the three-time Tony-winning production of "Life of Pi," which makes Toronto its only Canadian stop, according to Mirvish. The London show, which is in the midst of a tour of the U.K. and Ireland, garnered much critical and audience acclaim for its elaborate use of large-scale puppetry.
The production runs at the CAA Ed Mirvish Theatre until October.
A touring production of "Mamma Mia" then rolls into the space for a limited run in October, while "The Lion King" opens at the Princess of Wales Theatre a few weeks later in November.
"Moulin Rouge! The Musical!" adapts Baz Luhrmann’s vibrant movie into a jukebox stage show. The 10-time Tony winner opens in November at the CAA theatre, while a musical take on Tim Burton's "Beetlejuice" moves into the same theatre in May 2025.
Next summer, "Back to the Future: The Musical" brings sizzle with original songs by Alan Silvestri and Glen Ballard, the co-writer of Alanis Morissette's "Jagged Little Pill" album. It opens at the CAA theatre in July 2025.
Mirvish's new season relies heavily on old favourites and familiar franchises, and only includes one original Canadian production in "The Lion King." But broadly appealing fare has proven a successful way to draw Canadian audiences back to theatres, the producer acknowledged.
Mirvish said current subscribers to the theatre company's main season grew 33 per cent over the previous year, reaching 40,000 subscriptions for the 2023-2024 season.
They hope to reach pre-pandemic levels of 47,000 subscribers with the 2024-2025 season, according to John Karastamatis, the company's director of sales.
But some in Toronto's theatre sector have warned this year could be tough for the industry as some longtime theatregoers continue to stay home, public funding falls short and sponsors become harder to find.
Those challenges are faced mostly by non-profit theatre companies, Mirvish said, since they have to ride a fine line of success to keep their grants.
"They have to flip a coin and make it land on edge," he added.
"I only have one challenge: If I don't make money, I can't do another show in the future."
But Mirvish said a money-losing show in the for-profit theatre business comes with its own setbacks.
"You make a mistake once in live theatre for one week, and it takes you 10 weeks to correct it."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 13, 2024.
David Friend, The Canadian Press