If, by chance, you’ve been to the Jubilee Auditorium over the past couple of years to see any one of the big-budget, mainstream productions there, such as the Blue Man Group, Beauty and the Beast, Wicked, Legally Blonde The Musical, Grease or Mamma Mia!, you may have noticed they all share one thing in common: Broadway Across Canada.
Broadway Across Canada — which bills itself as “the nation’s top presenter of touring theatrical productions” — is, like its U.S. counterpart, Broadway Across America, owned and operated by British theatre producer John Gore and American media executive Tom McGrath.
However, there’s another big musical on the Jubilee stage right now that, for a change, doesn’t bear the Broadway Across Ca nada sticker — Jersey Boys, the story of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons and their rise from a life of petty crime on the streets of New Jersey to becoming Rock and Roll Hall of Famers on account of such hits as “Big Girls Don’t Cry.”
With Jersey Boys, there’s also a “new man” on the touring musical scene — Canadian Aubrey Dan.
He’s the force behind Toronto’s Dancap Productions, the group responsible for touring the Tony Award–winning, Broadway über-hit to Calgary.
Dan is no novice when it comes to the world of theatrical production, even though his background is in sales, investing and drug manufacturing. Over the years, however, he has “learned the ropes,” sinking money into a number of Broadway productions. In fact, he was one of several producers behind Memphis, which won the 2010 Tony Award for Best Musical.
He started Dancap Productions in 2007 to bring Broadway-style productions to Toronto. One of those was Jersey Boys, which opened in that city in 2008 and enjoyed a two-year run. This Western Canadian tour of Jersey Boys marks Dan’s first foray out of Ontario.
But, he says, the company’s vision has always been “to grow across Canada.”
Calgary is the first stop on the tour, followed by performances in Edmonton, Vancouver and Saskatoon.
“Calgary is a phenomenal city to be in for its size, its population. It’s an economic powerhouse,” says Dan. “Alberta is one of the best touring routes outside of Toronto. I’m impressed with the support of the arts and culture here.”
However, touring a large musical comes with a hefty price tag. According to Dan’s estimate, it costs “hundreds of thousands of dollars per week” to mount Jersey Boys. He relies entirely on ticket sales to recoup his costs and, hopefully, turn a profit.
For those interested in a career in producing, Dan says it’s valuable to gain experience in the business by volunteering with community and regional theatre outlets. (Of course, having a few million to invest in theatrical ventures doesn’t hurt, either.)
Dan says his most significant challenge in bringing Jersey Boys to Calgary was not the competition Broadway Across Canada offers for audience share, but rather, theatre availability — a familiar complaint amongst many local theatre folk.
“It’s hard to get time in the Jubilee for contiguous weeks,” Dan says, adding that it took about two years to arrange everything.
But, just as he enters Calgary’s theatrical arena, Dan admits he doesn’t know if he’ll be back this way with another show. In fact, he was quoted in an interview with the Toronto Star as saying he’s “stepping back” and “re-evaluating” his involvement in theatre as a whole.
For the time being, however, Dan maintains that a lot depends on this run of Jersey Boys, as to whether he’ll return to give Broadway Across Canada a little more competition for the Calgary entertainment dollar.