TORONTO — Mirvish Prods. has announced a new C$3 million musical-theater production intended to showcase Canada’s Celtic roots.
“Needfire” will run June 12-July 12 at Toronto’s Princess of Wales Theatre, putting it head-to-head with the sold-out return engagement of “Riverdance,” which is scheduled for July 1 to 26 at the Hummingbird Centre for the Performing Arts.
Says “Needfire’s” director-choreographer Kelly Robinson: “We began working on the show not to capitalize on ‘Riverdance,’ but because people kept coming to me, asking us to showcase our own roots. Initially, David (Mirvish) and I watched the explosion of Celtic music with interest, but didn’t see it for our theaters. ”
“Needfire” will be different than other Celtic hoof-extravaganzas because it will build a storyline rather than feature uncon-nected musical acts. Robinson adds: “Our goal is to create a theatrical framework that will emotionally engage an audience. To accomplish this we have found an ancient ritual, common to many cultures, from which our show takes its name.”
The Needfire was the fire from which all of a settlement’s hearths were lit. As the show’s writer, Tom Lackey, explains: “It is an important symbol of the bonds that held a community together.
“The elements that are essential to all communities — earth, air, water and fire — are the elements that will define each segment of our show. ”
Denny Doherty of Mamas and Papas fame, a native Nova Scotian, will play John Michael, a man on a journey of self-discovery around whom the action of “Needfire” revolves.
The production features an all-Canadian cast of 60, drawn from the Ottawa Valley, Cape Breton and Newfoundland, all communities with distinct Celtic cultures. John McDermott, Gaelic songstress Mary Jan Lamond, John Allan Cameron and the Juno award-winning Irish Descendants will join a host of newcomers, including 12-year-old fiddling sensation Jeffrey Gosse.
Asked about touring, Mirvish was noncommittal, but hinted at a future beyond Canadian borders for “Needfire.” “We are not looking to conquer the world, but if we do our job right we may be pushed to take the next step,” Mirvish said.