The Stratford Festival has announced that Chilina Kennedy will headline a musical Forum Showcase on November 4 at Stratford’s Avon Theatre. Tickets are now on sale for Chilina Kennedy in The House of Martin Guerre in Concert.
With music and lyrics by Leslie Arden and book by Leslie Arden and Anna T. Cascio, The House of Martin Guerre is one of the most celebrated Canadian musicals. When it premièred in Toronto it won multiple Dora awards, including Best Musical. Similarly its U.S. première, in Chicago, garnered a number of Jefferson awards, also including Best Musical.
Arden’s musical had been lost to the world for over a decade because of a rights issue, but those rights have once again become public, allowing the Festival and others to present this glorious musical to audiences.
The incredible story follows Martin Guerre, a 14-year-old boy forced by his parents to marry 11-year-old Bertrande. Bertrande suffers abuse at Martin’s hand for eight years, only to have Martin abandon her and their infant son. Years later, a stranger arrives, claiming to be Martin – completely transformed. Though Bertrande accepts her new loving husband, their happiness is threatened by the jealousy and greed of others. Set in the tumultuous times of 16th-century France, when the strict doctrines of the Middle Ages were finally giving way to the freer thought of the early modern period, this story, based on true events, epitomizes the personal and social costs of breaking boundaries.
Kennedy, who was a member of the Stratford company from 2009 to 2011, has built a shining career on Broadway since moving to New York with the transfer of the Festival’s 2011 production of Jesus Christ Superstar. She is currently starring on Broadway as Carole King in Beautiful: The Carole King Musical.
“I am very excited to dive into one of Canada’s richest musicals, having admired Leslie Arden for many years,” says Kennedy. “I am also thrilled to be coming back to Stratford and joining its talented company of artists and creators. “
This special live Forum Showcase follows on the tremendous success of last season’s The Fantasticks in Concert with Eric McCormack. It was the first time McCormack had returned to perform in Stratford since his years as a company member from 1985 to 1989. The concert was directed by Richard Ouzounian, who had directed McCormack in A Midsummer Night’s Dream in 1989.
Ouzounian, who last worked with Kennedy in 2007, returns to direct her in The House of Martin Guerre in Concert. “I’ve wanted to work with Chilina again for years,” says Ouzounian, “and this shattering work by Canada’s own Leslie Arden is the perfect show to reunite us.”
The House of Martin Guerre is based on Natalie Zemon Davis’s book The Return of Martin Guerre. It was another work by Davis, Trickster Travels, that caught the attention of Artistic Director Antoni Cimolino, who shared the book with playwright Wajdi Mouawad, suggesting he might adapt it. The resulting Birds of a Kind will have its English première at the Studio Theatre this summer, with Cimolino at the helm.
“I have found the work of Natalie Zemon Davis to be incredibly inspirational,” says Cimolino. “I’m delighted that we have two works this season that found their genesis in her writing, both dealing with the barriers that a person must break through in the quest to find their true identity.
“I am thrilled to have Chilina Kennedy return to Stratford to sing the lead role of Bertrande in The House of Martin Guerre in Concert. I know audiences will jump at the chance to see her on the Stratford stage once more.”