Thousand Islands Playhouse’s Brett Christopher discusses upcoming 2024 season

Springer Theatre and the Thousand Islands Playhouse docks. Photo by Stephen Wild.

On Thursday, Oct. 19, 2023, the Thousand Islands Playhouse (TIP) in Gananoque, Ontario officially announced the seven shows it will produce in 2024, a blend of familiar favourites and some provocative new works. TIP General Manager Brett Christopher explained next year’s lineup was assembled in an effort to capitalize on the success of the Playhouse’s highly successful previous season. “How do we follow up a record-breaking season?” Christopher said, referencing the popular 2023 season, which included hits like The Sound of Music, Intimate Apparel, and Once. “We’re two years removed from the pandemic; how do we follow this incredible year that we’ve had?”

He added, “Records are meant to be broken. I love it when the house is full. Someone once told me that actors make the best general managers because they both want the same things: a sold-out house with a standing ovation.”

Image via Thousand Islands Playhouse.

The 2024 season gets underway on May 31 with some local flair, as the Playhouse presents Sophia Fabiilli’s Liars at a Funeral. In the play, Fabiilli, a Kingston native, tells the story of a small-town Ontario family “cursed with a succession of twins who don’t get along.” The script is a blend of character-driven comedy and familiar family drama all audiences will be able to relate to. 

Fabiilli herself is no stranger to TIP; she currently serves as the company’s Associate Artistic Director and recently directed the popular 2022 production Every Brilliant Thing. According to Christopher, the play is one he’s wanted to do for some time after Fabiilli self-produced its first production in Toronto back in 2017. “The pandemic interrupted its premiere. It was supposed to happen at the Blythe Festival in 2020, so when it came back last year I made sure I went to see it, and she and I have been talking about it for a long time,” the General Manager noted of the play’s difficult early years.

Christopher said that producing Fabiilli’s play at TIP in 2024 will give the company an opportunity to expose audiences in the region to an emerging local voice. “I thought, to bring this play home, ostensibly, it would be such a great opportunity for us to kick off the season, to have our own Sophia Fabiilli… to launch the season.” Liars at a Funeral runs from May 31 to June 22, 2024, and will be directed by Krista Jackson.

The season continues with the Playhouse debut of one of the most popular musicals of the 21st century, Mamma Mia. The beloved jukebox hit, featuring the music of ABBA, tells the story of Sophie, a young woman set to marry the man of her dreams but determined to find the identity of her estranged father. The musical was a smash hit when it debuted in London’s West End in 1999, and has since gone on to become one of the biggest theatrical hits in the world. 

With Stephanie Graham set to direct and choreograph Mamma Mia, Christopher said it will allow the company to offer another large-scale musical production with impressive dance routines. “Stephanie Graham… is one of the top choreographers in the country. So that, for me, means we’ll have these incredible dance numbers in Mamma Mia, stuff you wouldn’t be able to see anywhere else in Eastern Ontario.” 

Image via Thousand Islands Playhouse

Mamma Mia officially opens on July 2 at the Springer Theatre and continues until August 4. Just as the Playhouse did in 2023 with The Sound of Music, Christopher confirmed a special sing-along performance of Mamma Mia will take place during its run. “It was so successful, even the actors loved it,” Christopher said of the sing-along that occurred during the extension of The Sound of Music. “The audience was singing along with the [actors]. This year we’ve actually established a performance during the Mamma Mia run that will be the sing-along.” 

The action continues at the Springer Theatre in mid-August as Christopher directs a production of Stephen Massicotte’s Canadian drama Mary’s Wedding. The play “set during the First World War tells the story of two young lovers in rural Alberta. From the blossoming of their relationship on the vast Prairies to the bloody battlefields of France’s Moreuil Wood, the story captures a time of innocence and courage with rare sensitivity and beauty,” noted the company. 

According to Christopher, directing next summer’s production of Mary’s Wedding will provide him an opportunity to return to a show he’s held a personal connection to for many years. “Mary’s Wedding is a play I did as an actor 20 years ago… I’ve done maybe as an actor, director, producer, like 150 plays. And there are a handful that I carry with me and I think about all the time, and this one is at the top of my list,” he noted. Mary’s Wedding opens on August 16 and runs through September 8, 2024.   

The Springer Theatre’s slate of productions comes to a close in late September with another blockbuster musical, as the Playhouse presents Andrew Lloyd Webber’s seminal classic Jesus Christ Superstar. The show is a dynamic rock opera which tells the story of the last days of Jesus’ life and is filled with many popular musical theatre hits, including “Superstar” and “I Don’t Know How to Love Him.” 

For more than 50 years, Jesus Christ Superstar has been a hit with audiences around the world. With the Playhouse set to mount the popular production for the first time in its history, Christopher said it will allow his company to offer audiences a new era of musical theatre. “We’re bringing ourselves into the 60s and 70s musical eras, as opposed to the Golden Age classic musicals, which I’m excited to do. I’m excited to bring a rock opera like Jesus Christ Superstar to the stage… for the very first time,” he explained. 

On top of the four mainstage productions which will be presented inside the 360-seat Springer Theatre, TIP will once again offer three exciting and provocative works inside the smaller 130-seat Firehall Theatre. First up in the Firehall will be a mounting of Joe Kinosian’s Murder for Two, directed by Jeremy Webb. The show is a musical murder mystery featuring just two actors, one of whom plays numerous different roles. Murder for Two runs August 1 to 25. 

In September, TIP will present John Patrick Shanley’s celebrated drama Doubt: A Parable, about a nun’s quest for justice after she suspects an inappropriate relationship is taking place between a priest and a student at a Catholic school in the Bronx in 1964. The play has won numerous awards over the years, including the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the Tony Award for Best Play. In 2008, it inspired an Academy Award-nominated film starring Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman. Doubt: A Parable opens on September 5 and runs through September 29, 2024. The production will be directed by Lisa Karen Cox. 

Image via Thousand Islands Playhouse.

The 2024 season comes to an end in October with Arun Lakra’s Sequence, a play featuring two intertwining narratives which question the relationships between logic and metaphysics, science and faith, and luck and probability. Sequence, directed by Kingston’s Kathryn MacKay, runs October 4 to 27, 2024. 

When Sequence ends its run in late October, TIP will have produced three Canadian shows in 2024, making up just under half of the theatre’s programming for the season. As one of the biggest regional summer theatres in Canada, Christopher noted the importance of producing Canadian works at TIP. “ As a not-for-profit Canadian producer, we bear a responsibility to support Canadian playwrights. We want to make sure the royalty money is staying in the country.” 

With Mary’s Wedding having already established itself as part of the Canadian theatrical canon, Christopher said he hopes TIP will be able to help works like Liars at a Funeral and Sequence get the recognition they need to enjoy similar successes. “We’re nothing if not derivative as artistic leaders… Inevitably, they kind of build off one another. Mary’s Wedding is a great example of that [growing popularity] having already happened, and for me, Liars at a Funeral is a great opportunity for that to occur for Sophia.” 

More information on the 2024 TIP season can be found on the theatre’s website. Season subscriptions are on sale now and will be available exclusively through the new year, at which time single-performance tickets will become available to the general public. 

TIP receives Ontario Trillium Fund Grant

In addition to announcing the 2024 season on Thursday, Christopher was also joined by Steve Clark, MPP for Leeds-Grenville-Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes, to announce a $150,000 capital grant for TIP through the Ontario Trillium Foundation. The money allowed the Playhouse to revitalize the waterfront space in front of the Springer Theatre and install a new community access point to the St. Lawrence River. 

“I’m so thankful to the Ontario Trillium Foundation for their generous support of this project,” Christopher said in a press release issued after the announcement. “This grant has allowed needed renovations to be made. The iconic Playhouse docks were damaged in a storm in 2019, and this funding has allowed us to rebuild with access in mind, completely revitalizing the shoreline to provide a community entry point to the St. Lawrence River. We’re very excited to be building this waterfront space for all to enjoy, whether Gananoque resident or first-time visitor to this region.”

MPP Clark added, “The Thousand Islands Playhouse’s location along the beautiful St. Lawrence River is part of what makes it a world-class venue in our region… I’m so pleased the Ontario Trillium Foundation has provided funding to allow the Playhouse to complete this exciting project which will better connect theatregoers, tourists and local residents to the River.”

One thought on “Thousand Islands Playhouse’s Brett Christopher discusses upcoming 2024 season

Leave a Reply

You cannot copy content from this page, please share the link instead!