In the world of Toronto theatre, sometimes the show doesn’t go on. The Star’s Richard Ouzounian broke the news today that Dancap Productions' upcoming presentation of Million Dollar Quartet will be its last show for the foreseeable future. This announcement included news that Aubrey Dan is no longer involved with the upcoming Prince of Broadway, a show which was originally meant to launch in Toronto before heading down to the Great White Way.
Dancap Productions has been on the Toronto theatre scene for the last five years, starting off in 2007 with a strong debut season that included an acclaimed production of The Drowsy Chaperone. Unfortunately, subsequent seasons never quite lived up to that first year, and Dan faced what was clearly an uphill battle in his quest for commercial theatre success.
In 2008 Dan lost a contentious fight over Toronto’s Canon and Panasonic Theatres to Mirvish Productions, leaving him without a theatre in the downtown core to present his shows. Lack of a theatre in the coveted entertainment district was the first of many challenges Dancap would face, but one which Dan handled with creativity and optimism. He turned the touring production of Jersey Boys at The Toronto Centre for the Arts into an extremely successful Canadian sit-down production, with many diehard fans claiming it was the best production of Jersey Boys in the world. The Toronto production ended up playing to over one million people and made stars out of many talented Canadians, some of whom have gone on to Broadway.
When Jersey Boys closed Dancap’s future once again looked bleak, but a bold and creative move saw Dan negotiate a deal to use The Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts during the Canadian Opera Company and The National Ballet’s dark months, giving him a much needed downtown presence for part of the year. The first season of programming at The Four Seasons was a little rocky, but its' sophmore year inspired cautious optimism, with near sold out houses for Donny and Marie and Colm Wilkinson in Concert and rave reviews for the Pulitzer Prize winning Next to Normal. Dancap’s decision to bring in Next to Normal was met with some trepidation in the theatre community but much respect, as it was a bold and daring choice for Toronto audiences. It also gave the city a chance to see Alice Ripley reprise her Tony Award Winning performance as Diana Goodman, and audiences and critics alike embraced the show and praised Dan’s decision to present it here.
Sadly the strong summer season wasn’t enough to put the wind back in Dancap’s sails, and their 2012 season saw the addition of many non-Equity touring productions which thus far have had low ticket sales and a lukewarm reaction from critics. Despite the fledgling season, Dan’s enthusiasm never waned. In fact, at the opening night performance of Shrek the Musical he proudly donned green Shrek ears atop his trademark fedora as he stood on stage to introduce the show.
It is this enthusiasm and genuine love for the theatre that Aubrey Dan should be remembered for. Even in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds, he could always be counted on for a smile, a laugh and a fun night at the theatre. On a personal note I will always be grateful for that enthusiasm, because while theatre is first and foremost a business, it's hard not to respect someone who clearly loves it so much. Here’s hoping that this is indeed only the ‘Act 1 Closer’ that Dan claims, and that in the future, the show does indeed go on.
Aubrey Dan and Sergio Trujillo photograph by Racheal McCaig Photography