Curated Panel

Canadian Musicals / Musicals in Canada

Curated by Grahame Renyk, Queen’s University

(from the original call for papers)


Come From Away is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of new musical theatre development in Canada. New musical theatre creators are emerging across the country, while programmes, theatre companies, and organizations dedicated to developing new musical works seem to finally be establishing a stable foothold in the Canadian Theatre ecosystem.

This curated panel invites participants to respond to this increase of activity, and to engage with the idea of the Canadian musical. For the purposes of this panel, ‘Canadian musical’ refers to works that exist specifically within (or in response to) the tradition of the popular American musical. Works like Anne of Green Gables, The Drowsy Chaperone, and Come From Away arise out of an approach to music theatre defined primarily by the American tradition; a tradition driven by a focus on narrative and character, and in which music, lyrics, and choreography are meant to, as they say, ‘serve the story.’ This panel invites participants to engage specifically with works of music theatre that reflect, respond to, or even push back against this tradition.

Interested participants are welcome to discuss specific artistic projects, investigate the work of particular creators and artists, and/or reflect on the challenges of developing and producing new musical theatre works in Canada. Participants are also welcome to respond to any of the following questions:

  • Is there such a thing as a Canadian musical? If so, what (if anything) distinguishes it as Canadian?
  • How does musical theatre (typically identified as a populist, commercial form) align and/or collide with the largely non-profit, grant-driven ecosystem of Canadian theatre?
  • Is musical theatre dramaturgy distinct from new play dramaturgy? What infrastructure/tradition of new musical dramaturgy, if any, do we have in Canada?
  • Are musicals originated in Canada received differently in America, on Broadway, in other countries?
  • How are Canadian music theatre artists responding to (or pushing against) the long shadow cast by the cultural export known as the ‘American Musical’?

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