An Unexpected New Stop on the Road to Broadway: Edmonton

Edmonton — the northernmost big city in North America, known for its cold winters, petrochemical industry and ginormous shopping mall (21 water slides and a triple loop roller coaster) — is growing fast, increasingly youthful, and home to a thriving arts scene, including a sprawling annual fringe festival.

The 52-year-old Citadel Theater, housed in a five-stage glass-and-brick downtown playhouse, tried developing shows for Broadway in its early years. But it largely got out of the game after a series of disappointments, including two plays, “A Life” and “Mister Lincoln,” that transferred in 1980 but then flopped, as well as “Pieces of Eight,” an ambitious musical adaptation of “Treasure Island” that sank at the Citadel in 1985.

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Daryl Cloran, the Citadel artistic director, on the set before a “Hadestown” performance. He negotiated the show’s Canadian tryout run.Credit Jason Franson for The New York Times

Last year, when Daryl Cloran was appointed the theater’s new artistic director, he knew he would try to change that. He wanted his audiences to see large-scale productions he could not otherwise afford to stage; he wanted local artists to get to work with Broadway talent; and he wanted the Citadel to be part of creating ambitious new work. (The unexpected success of “Come From Away,” a Canadian musical now on Broadway, has stimulated enthusiasm, too.)

An Unexpected New Stop on the Road to Broadway: Edmonton
An Unexpected New Stop on the Road to Broadway: Edmonton

So he started cold-calling producers. He tried several, but quickly zeroed in on the backers of “Hadestown,” a contemporary retelling of the tragic Orpheus and Eurydice love story, which had a well-reviewed Off Broadway run in the round at New York Theater Workshop last year, but needed at least one out-of-town production to be reconceived for a traditionally framed space and an uptown audience.

Mr. Cloran, who had never even seen the show, became an admirer of its director, Rachel Chavkin, after seeing her pre-Broadway staging of “Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812,” and loved the “Hadestown” concept album, written by the singer-songwriter Anaïs Mitchell.

The producers were initially not all that interested. “We were not looking to go to Canada,” said Mara Isaacs, who said her team was focused on more well-trod pathways in the United States and Britain. Mr. Cloran knew he faced an uphill battle: “They were always very polite, but it didn’t sound like anything was going to happen,” he said.

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