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For 2017-18 season, Neptune Theatre takes a chance on ABBA, Stan Rogers

The music of Stan Rogers and ABBA, an original adaptation of the beloved holiday film It's A Wonderful Life, a Saskatchewan farmer's battle against Monsanto and a re-imagining of Martin Luther King Jr.'s final night are all part of the Mainstage Series.
Stan Rogers: A Matter of Heart will run July 18 to Sept. 3 at Neptune's Scotiabank Studio Stage as a special summer presentation. (TED PRITCHARD / Local Xpress)

Neptune Theatre wants you to Watch That Scene.

The Halifax theatre will end its 2017-18 season with the hit musical Mamma Mia!

When George Pothitos announced "a feel-good show about a mother and daughter and three possible suitors that has been seen by more than 60 million fans worldwide," the packed crowd attending the season launch at Fountain Hall on Thursday let out a cheer drowning out the departing artistic director before he could utter the name of the show that will run April 10 to June 3, 2018.

"It's one of the longest-running musicals in Broadway history," he said, noting the large cast would be performing non-stop explosive dance numbers set to the music of Swedish supergroup ABBA.

Laura Caswell, Neptune's interim director of education, and Donna Garner, currently starring in Once at Neptune Theatre, led the audience in a sing-along, dance-along to catchy ABBA hits including Mamma Mia! and Dancing Queen with its refrain of "See that girl/Watch that scene/Dig in the Dancing Queen."

NeptuneSeasonLaunch1Donna Garner, currently starring in the musical Once at Neptune Theatre, led the audience in a sing-along to ABBA's hit Dancing Queen at Neptune Theatre's 2017-2018 season launch on Thursday. Mamma Mia! will close out next season at Neptune, April 10 to June 3, 2018. (TED PRITCHARD / Local Xpress)

Eight-time Tony Award-winner Once, Neptune's 2016-2017 season-ending musical, wraps up on May 28 and two days later Neptune Theatre will launch an ambitious renovation of its mainstage auditorium, the bars and the box office. 

Pothitos, who has finished out his eight-year term as artistic director but is remaining to direct Art at the Studio Stage and oversee the renovations, hopes the work will be done by Nov. 21 when the holiday production of the beloved film It's A Wonderful Life opens. He is adapting and directing It's A Wonderful Life which he calls his favourite film.

"It's a story that reminds us that goodness always prevails."

Neptune's summer presentation of Stan Rogers: A Matter of Heart and the first two shows of its Mainstage Series Seeds and Snake In The Grass will take place on the Scotiabank Studio Stage that was renovated last summer. 

It's been 20 years since Neptune's mainstage last underwent renovations and general manager Lisa Bugden puts the cost of renovations of both theatres at $4.2 million.

While Fountain Hall seats 479 and the Scotiabank Studio 192, Pothitos says that is room enough for all the subscribers. And he says they will only be moving 1,000 feet down the street to see two important shows in a very intimate setting.

Seeds by Annabel Soutar tells the true tale of Percy Schmeiser, a Saskatchewan farmer accused of planting genetically modified Monsanto seeds on his farm in 1998. The case went to the Supreme Court of Canada in 2004 and the play includes actual transcripts from the court documents.

The play has been touring the country with Eric Peterson (Corner Gas) who will also star in Neptune's production.

Snake in The Grass by Alan Ayckbourn "is a play full of hidden secrets with twists to keep you on the edge of your new seat," says Pothitos.

Also included in the Mainstage Series is Jonas & Barry in the Home, a play by Norm Foster about two retirees in an assisted living home. It will feature the playwright as looking-for-love Jonas and original cast member David Nairn as Barry.

Neptune in conjunction with Black Theatre Workshop presents The Mountaintop by Katori Hall, described as "a re-imagining of the final hours of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr."

The Studio Series includes the classic Canadian drama Salt-Water Moon by Newfoundland playwright David French; Half-Cracked: The Legend of Sugar Mary by Nova Scotian actor-playwright Mary-Colin Chisholm, a tale of an inquisitive folklorist and "two spinster sisters with a knack for weaving fact and fantasy into an impossible blend of truth fiction and gossip and In A World Created By A Drunken God by Ojibwe playwright Drew Hayden Taylor.

Neptune1Soprano Janice Isabel Jackson will bring Echoes of Time: Sagas, Tales and Myths to Neptune's Scotiabank Studio Stage on April 20 and 21, 2018, as a bonus feature. (TED PRITCHARD / Local Xpress)

The Bonus Features are: Eastern Front Theatre's production of Dickens' A Christmas Carol; Makayla Lynn, a 15-year-old country singer who splits her time between Nova Scotia and Nashville; Halifax band Port Cities, made up of Dylan Gouthro, Breagh MacKinnon and Carleton Stone and Halifax soprano Janice Jackson of Vocalypse Productions who presents Echoes of Time: Sagas, Tales and Myths.

Last year, Neptune staged Beauty and the Beast Aug. 16 to Oct. 9 and this year the theatre decided to move the summer production to July 18 to Sept. 3 in honour of Canada's 150th birthday and the Tall Ships visit.

What better way to welcome visitors to Nova Scotia than with the music of Stan Rogers, a Nova Scotian icon, asks Pothitos?

"There's going to be a lot of people in the city and it's an important time to do an important show. It's a uniquely Nova Scotian product that the tourists will be able to see."

Geordie Brown, whose Songs of the Rat Pack had a sold-out run at the Studio Stage in March, will direct and star in Stan Rogers: A Matter of Heart.

The Dartmouth native directed and starred in the show at The Guild in Charlottetown last summer and says two-thirds of the cast are joining the Halifax production.

Most of the nine-member cast who will sing 25 Stan Rogers songs are from the East Coast.

"They are multi-talented, multi-instrumentalists, singers, actors and dancers. They play the accordion, the fiddle, step-dance and most are almost always on stage and always on the go," said Brown.

And the cast is young. The youngest member is 15 and the average age is 24, said Brown who is excited to present the music to a new generation.

The production is like a kitchen party at times, with songs like Barrett's Privateers which will appeal to some. Others will be swept away by the incredible storytelling.

"Stan was so great at storytelling. There are times in the show when our actors and singers take on characters and present (the songs) in a more traditional way."

Brown was introduced to Rogers' music when he saw a production done by Eastern Front Theatre in 2008. He bought the original cast recording — the show had premiered at the Charlottetown Festival in 2001 "and the CD didn't leave my car for two years."

"I feel in love with Stan's stories and the specific arrangements of Stan's songs. It was No. 1 on my bucket list. I said I wanted to direct it and be in and I never thought that by age 25 that would come true."

Neptune's 2017-2018 Season:

Summer Presentation

  • Stan Rogers: A Matter of Heart, July 17 to Sept. 3, Scotiabank Stage

Mainstage Series

  • Seeds, Sept. 19 to Oct. 1, Scotiabank Stage
  • Snake in the Grass, Oct. 17 to Nov. 5, Scotiabank Stage
  • It's A Wonderful Life, Nov. 21 to Dec. 31, Fountain Hall
  • Jonas & Barry in the Home, Jan. 16 to Feb. 11, Fountain Hall
  • The Mountaintop, Feb. 27 to March 18, Fountain Hall
  • Mamma Mia!, April 10 to June 3, Fountain Hall

Studio Series

  • Salt-Water Moon, Jan. 30 to Feb. 18, Scotiabank Stage
  • Half-Cracked: The Legend of Sugar Mary, March 13 to April 1, Scotiabank Stage
  • In A World Created By A Drunken God, May 1 to May 20, Scotiabank Stage

For tickets, click here or call 902-429-7070 or 1-800-565-7345






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