Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

The Canadian Stage Company Announces ROCK 'N' ROLL, Runs 9/28-10/24 In Toronto, 11/7-29 At Edmonton

The Canadian Stage Company launches the 2009-2010 Season with the Canadian premiere of the Broadway and West End hit Rock 'n' Roll by Tom Stoppard. A sweeping, rapturous epic about love, rock music and revolution, the play spans two countries, three generations of family drama and 22 turbulent years of cultural, political and social change. Donna Feore directs the award-winning cast which includes Fiona Reid (The Time Traveler's Wife, Canadian Stage's Indian Ink, Arcadia, Night and Day) in the dual roles of Eleanor and Esme, Shaun Smyth (Canadian Stage's The Pillowman, Trainspotting) as Jan, the rock music-obsessed Czech graduate student and Kenneth Welsh (George Romero's Duel of the Dead, Broadway production of The Real Thing) as British Marxist professor Max. A co-production with Edmonton's Citadel Theatre, Rock ‘n' Roll runs September 28 to October 24, 2009 (media night: October 1) at Toronto's Bluma Appel Theatre (27 Front Street East) and transfers to Edmonton, November 7 to 29, 2009. For tickets and information, contact 416-368-3110 or

Rock ‘n' Roll is Stoppard's most recent and personal work to date. It premiered at London's Royal Court Theatre in June 2006 and on Broadway in November 2007 and was nominated for four Tony Awards, four Olivier Awards and won the Critics' Circle and Evening Standard Awards for Best Play. The play explores the unique intersection of politics and music, and pulses with a dynamic soundtrack featuring the most influential bands of the era such as Pink Floyd, The Rolling Stones and U2 with 21 songs that have not only defined Western culture, but have inspired significant cultural, political and social change. The story follows the passions and politics of a Marxist professor in Cambridge, his music-obsessed Czech protégé fighting for freedom in his Soviet-dominated homeland and the travails of the legendary and groundbreaking Czech rock band The Plastic People of the Universe. The band's incarceration by Communist authorities instigated Czech writers, musicians, and artists to form the now world-renowned human rights petition Charter 77, which was the precursor to the national revolution that occurred 12 years later.

"Stoppard's theatre thrives on historical ‘what if's'. Throughout his body of work he has delighted in provoking unlikely encounters between real and fictional characters to reveal some of the essential political and human undercurrents at work in today's society," states The Canadian Stage Company's Artistic and General Director Matthew Jocelyn. "Rock ‘n' Roll has an added ‘what if' component," continues Jocelyn. "Like his hero Jan, Tom Stoppard (originally named Tomáš Straussler) was born to Jewish parents in the town of Ziln, Czechoslovakia in the late 1930's. Both families fled the invading Nazis, though in the play Jan's family returns to Czechoslovakia shortly after. While the parallels end there, it is clear that Stoppard has a special connection to this story and that the play's thematic debate about projected and lost utopias is fed by a deep emotional connection to his characters and the quandary of their lives. And so this play which on the surface appears to grapple with one of the great ideological struggles of our times, in the end reminds us of the profound place of the human within any debate of ideas, the importance of love in our lives, how we deal with the deception of unfulfilled ambition, and how to go on living in a world which is never as we had hoped we might make it."

It's August 1968, just after the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, as Russian tanks roll into Prague under the rule of Alexander Dub?ek. The play begins at Professor Max Morrow's (Kenneth Welsh) home in Cambridge, England. Eleanor (Fiona Reid), Max's wife, has lost a breast to cancer, and their 16-year-old daughter Esme is beginning to embrace hippie culture. Despite increasing Soviet aggression, Max defends his Marxist idealism; his Czech protégé Jan (Shaun Smyth) defends Dub?ek as a reform Communist. Jan, a rock ‘n' roll enthusiast, returns to Czechoslovakia, where rock music is censored. His defense of a local band called The Plastic People of the Universe lands him in prison. Meanwhile, Esme joins a commune, marries Nigel, a journalist, and has a daughter. Act 2 begins in 1987. Max is a widower. Esme and Nigel's marriage has dissolved and their daughter, Alice, is a 16-year-old student. Jan is in Prague; he has been tagged a dissident by authorities and relegated to working in a bakery. He despairs for the future of Czech culture which has been suppressed by censorship. By the Velvet Revolution of 1989, under the leadership of Václav Havel, the tanks are rolling out, the Stones are rolling in and idealism has hit the wall. Family and friends unite in the Morrows' garden, where old arguments re-emerge and transgressions are forgiven. In the end, love remains - and so does rock 'n' roll.

An award-winning playwright, Tom Stoppard's body of work includes Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (Tony Award), Jumpers, The Real Inspector Hound, After Magritte, Travesties (Tony Award), Every Good Boy Deserves Favour, Dirty Linen, The Real Thing (Tony Award), Artist Descending a Staircase, Hapgood, Arcadia (Olivier Award, New York Drama Critics' Circle Award), The Invention of Love, Indian Ink, Rough Crossing, Night and Day and his trilogy The Coast of Utopia at Lincoln Center (seven Tony Awards). Screenplays as writer and co-writer include Brazil, Empire of the Sun, Enigma and Shakespeare in Love (Golden Globe and Academy Awards). He directed his own screenplay of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, which won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival. Stoppard received a knighthood in 1997.

A number of Stoppard's plays have been produced by Canadian Stage; they are Rough Crossing (1993-1994) and three plays starring Fiona Reid including Indian Ink (2001-2002); Arcadia (1996-1997) and Night and Day (1981-1982, during the days of Toronto Free Theatre, garnering a Dora Award for Best Actor).

Director Donna Feore is a 17-year veteran of the Stratford Shakespeare Festival whose credits include directing Cyrano de Bergerac, Oklahoma!, Oliver!, Evangeline and choreographing A Midsummer Night's Dream, The Adventures of Pericles, My Fair Lady, The Threepenny Opera, The Three Musketeers, Pride and Prejudice and AlIce Through the Looking Glass. She recently directed The Canadian Stage Company's production of It's a Wonderful Life to critical and popular acclaim. Other credits include directing the Toronto Symphony Orchestra's production of Mozart: A Life in Letters and the musical Annie Get Your Gun at Massey Hall. She choreographed CBC TV's Triple Sensation, Getting Along Famously and Elizabeth Rex and the Canadian Opera Company's critically acclaimed Siegfried - part of Wagner's Ring cycle - and Oedipus Rex, which earned her a Dora Mavor Moore Award. Film and television choreography and directorial credits include the opera films Romeo and Juliette and Don Giovanni Unmasked; the television movies Eloise, Stormy Weather and Martin and Lewis; and the films Mean Girls and Beautiful Girl.

Fiona Reid's accolades include Dora Awards (11 nominations and two awards for Fallen Angels and Six Degrees of Separation) and a Gemini nomination (This is Wonderland). With numerous film, TV and theatre credits, audiences remember her best as the stressed mother of the groom in My Big Fat Greek Wedding and wife Cathy King to Al Waxman's King of Kensington on CBC Television for three seasons. She currently stars opposite Rachel McAdams and Eric Bana in The Time Traveler's Wife. Her career is marked by a diversity of signature roles including Blanche Dubois in A Streetcar Named Desire; Lady Bracknell in The Importance of Being Earnest; Martha in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?; Julia in Fallen Angels; Ouisa in Six Degrees Of Separation; Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd; and most recently Sister Aloysius in Doubt, a Parable. She has starred in many Canadian Stage productions including three Stoppard plays - Indian Ink, Arcadia and Night and Day - as well as The Clean House, Habeas Corpus, Omnium Gatherum, Sweeney Todd, The Beauty Queen of Leenane, How I Learned to Drive, A Delicate Balance, Fallen Angels, Hayfever, Six Degrees of Separation, Death and the Maiden and Lips Together, Teeth Apart. She is a Stratford Shakespeare Festival veteran (five seasons) recently appearing in the Festival's A Delicate Balance and The Music Man. She is also a Shaw Festival veteran (10 seasons). She will soon be appearing in Mrs. Dexter and her Daily (Arts Club Theatre/NAC) and Citadel Theatre's The Glass Menagerie. She is a recipient of the Order of Canada (2007).

Shaun Smyth is a Dora Award nominee (Trainspotting) and two-time Betty Mitchell Award nominee (Stones In His Pockets, The Chet Baker Project). He has starred in a number of Canadian Stage Company productions including The Pillowman, Of Mice and Men, Trainspotting and Closer. Citadel Theatre credits include Shining City and The Chet Baker Project. He recently starred as Judas in The Last Days Of Judas Iscariot (Toronto's BirdLand Theatre), Galileo in The Galileo Project (Tafelmusik), Laertes in Hamlet (Necessary Angel) and Ishmael in Moby Dick (Stratford Festival). Other stage credits include: Mad Boy Chronicle, A Guide To Mourning, The Collected Works Of Billy The Kid, Scary Stories, Crackpot (ATP); The Glass Menagerie (Grand Theatre); Blue/ Orange (Neptune Theatre); Sweeney Todd (Phoenix Theatre); Money & Friends (Vancouver Playhouse); and Macbeth, Country Wife, Amadeus (Stratford Shakespeare Festival). Smyth has appeared on television and on film; screen credits include Four Minutes, Three to Tango, Steal This Movie, Proteus, Kevin Hill, The Associates, Blue Murder, F/X, Lonesome Dove, Pit Pony and La Femme Nikita.

Kenneth Welsh has amassed an outstanding list of credits in feature films, television and on stage. He is a five-time Gemini Award-winner (Hiroshima, Deadly Betrayal: The Bruce Curtis Story, Love and Hate: The Colin and Joanne Thatcher Story, And Then You Die, Grand Larceny), a Genie Award-winner (Margaret's Museum), and a recipient of the Earle Grey Lifetime Achievement Award from ACTRA. He is best remembered for his portrayal of Windom Earle in the series Twin Peaks. His many film credits include George Romero's Duel of the Dead, Adoration, Four Brothers, The Aviator, Legends of the Fall, Perfectly Normal, The Freshman, Crocodile Dundee II, The House on Carroll Street and Loyalties, to name a few. He has performed in premieres on and off Broadway including Stoppard's The Real Thing as well as Whose Life Is It Anyway, Piaf, Treats, Ride a Cock Horse, Curse of the Starving Class, One Crack Out, Social Security, Virginia and Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune. He is the author of the cabaret musical Standup Shakespeare and a seven-year veteran of the Stratford Shakespeare Festival. He recently appeared in Soulpepper's Leaving Home, Under Milk Wood and Of the Fields Lately. He is a recipient of the Order of Canada (2004).

Joining Reid, Smyth and Welsh, the cast for Rock ‘n' Roll includes: Donald Carrier (nine seasons at Stratford including Assistant Director for Cyrano de Bergerac) playing the dual roles of Interrogator and Nigel; Sascha Cole (TeAmim Theatre's Ten Green Bottles and SeventhStage's Whale Music) in the roles of Gillian, Deirdre and Magda; Belinda Cornish (Theatre Calgary's Macbeth and core member of Canadian Comedy Award-winning live improvised soap opera DieNasty) as Lenka; Jacklyn Francis (Canadian Stage's Much Ado About Nothing and four seasons at Stratford) as Candida; John Kirkpatrick (Edmonton-based, award-winning actor/director and former Artistic Director of Edmonton's Freewill Shakespeare Festival, Canadian Stage's Of Mice and Men) plays the roles of Milan, Policeman and Jaroslav; Patrick Kwok-Choon (Canadian Stage's The Tempest) as Piper, Policeman, and Stephen; Cyrus Lane (Canadian Stage's Sweeney Todd, Amadeus, Take Me Out, Habeas Corpus) as Ferdinand; and Alex Paxton-Beesley (Company Theatre's Festen) as the younger Esme and Alice.

Feore has assembled an impressive creative team including set and costume designer Michael Gianfrancesco (Canadian Stage's It's a Wonderful Life, Little Shop of Horrors, The Rocky Horror Show and a seven-season Stratford veteran), lighting designer Kimberly Purtell (nominated for ten Dora Mavor Moore Awards winning one for Agokwe), sound designer Todd Charlton (four Dora nominations a 12-season Stratford veteran), projection coordinator Cameron Davis (Atom Egoyan's Adoration), stage manager Michael Sinclair (Canadian Stage and Citadel Theatre co-production Fire), assistant stage manager Nancy Yuen (Canadian Stage and Citadel Theatre co-production Fire), assistant director Mumbi Tindyebwa, dialet coach Jane Gooderham and dramaturge Suzanne Turnbull.

Upcoming in The Canadian Stage Company's 2009-2010 season is That Face by Polly Stenham, produced by Nightwood Theatre in co-production with Canadian Stage Company (Oct. 26 - Nov. 21 at Berkeley); 7 Stories by Morris Panych, in co-production with Theatre Calgary (Nov. 9 - Dec. 5 at Bluma); Intimate Apparel by Lynn Nottage, an Obsidian Theatre production (Feb. 8 - Mar. 6 at Bluma); The Overwhelming by J.T. Rogers, a Studio 180 Theatre production (Mar. 8 - Apr. 3 at Berkeley); ‘Art' by Yasmina Reza (Mar. 15 - Apr. 10), This is What Happens Next by Daniel MacIvor and Daniel Brooks, a Necessary Angel production (April 12 - May 8 at Berkeley) and Catalyst Theatre's Frankenstein (April 29 - May 29 at Bluma).
The Canadian Stage Company is nationally and internationally acclaimed and Canada's leading not-for-profit contemporary theatre company. Founded in 1987 with the merger of CentreStage and Toronto Free Theatre, the Company is dedicated to programming international contemporary theatre and to developing and producing landmark Canadian works which have been awarded some of the country's most prestigious literary and performing arts honours, including the Governor General's, Chalmers and Dora Mavor Moore Awards. The Company presents the richest variety of Canadian and international plays and musicals - from edgy and provocative work at the Berkeley Street Theatre to productions with universal appeal at the Bluma Appel Theatre and a summer of Shakespeare at the TD Dream in High Park. Canadian Stage has a long-standing commitment to education and enhancement programs for the public, nurturing theatre professionals, and developing new Canadian plays, while producing thought-provoking theatre and high quality entertainment in Toronto, one of North America's largest theatre centres. For more information, refer to

Featured on Stage Door

Shoutouts, Classes, and More from Your Favorite Broadway Stars

Related Articles View More Toronto Stories

More Hot Stories For You