Terra Bruce Productions, a musical theatre company based in St. John’s and Toronto, is making its debut in the dynamic Toronto theatre scene with two exciting original productions: Let’s Dance! The Musical and The Wild Rovers.
Spearheaded by Bob Hallett, this company aims to contribute to Toronto’s cultural tapestry by creating and showcasing original musical theatre works. Hallett, widely recognized as a founding member of the Canadian folk rock band Great Big Sea, brings his extensive experience as a musician, author, producer, and entrepreneur to the new venture.
Rooted in a deep appreciation for music and culture, Terra Bruce Productions was established to tap into the wealth of talent among Canadian artists, writers, and musicians. The company’s mission is to curate a collection of top-tier, world-class productions. In a significant move, Terra Bruce Productions has acquired ownership of two historic theatre, one in St. John’s and the Regent Theatre in Toronto.
Ambitious plans are underway to rejuvenate these iconic venues, with the Regent Theatre slated to become a splendid 350-seat establishment in midtown Toronto, harking back to the company’s origins as a live theatre dubbed The Crest. Of course, Hallett says it is in the hands of the city of Toronto at this point, so it could take a while.
“It’s slowly winding its way through the halls of bureaucracy at the City of Toronto. We’ve got one or two hurdles, but we’re getting very, very close,” he says. “I mean, we have all the design elements finished, we’ve got a lot of the prep work done. So we’re really waiting to get the final word. We’re super excited. We expect to be started, you know, within the next weeks and then I think people will see a rapid transformation.”
Terra Bruce is kicking off its Toronto operation with Let’s Dance! The Musical, which hits the stage at the Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre Centre on Aug. 10 running until Aug. 20.
Following successful runs in St. John’s and Halifax, this new creation from Terra Bruce Productions promises to set the stage ablaze with the iconic pop anthems of a bygone era.
“It’s a tribute to the music of the early 1960s. You know, it’s kind of the golden age of pop music prior to the British invasion,” Hallett says. “ It was also the years when dancing was the thing, and the kind of the age of the teenage dance and novelty dance, American Bandstand, and all that stuff was really present in the proper culture. So that was the foundation of the show.”
Think chart-topping classics such as “It Never Rains in Southern California,” “I Know a Place,” “The Peppermint Twist,” and “The Carnival is Over.”
Let’s Dance! The Musical will be followed up by another show at the Winter Garden, which is an ode to iconic Canadian folk group the Irish Rovers.
The Wild Rovers draws inspiration from the captivating melodies and charisma of the cherished Irish Rovers, a band that actually has its roots right here in the Toronto area.
“Our goal is always to put on our own shows in the Regent. And certainly, you know, we’re building shows we’ve got about 11 at various stages of production, and we expect most of those go on stage in the Regent, but in the meantime, but we’re really happy that we have the Winter Garden, this incredible space, particularly for Let’s Dance our big fun summer show,” Hallett says. “And then the Wild Rovers show really builds on the magic of the Irish Rovers more so than a biography right. So the show is really built on the kind of the nostalgia that people remember from seeing those TV shows and those incredible performances.”
Hopefully, before too long, Hallett and company at Terra Bruce will open the first show at a newly revamped Regent Theatre.
The theatrical history of that midtown space dates back to the mid-50s with the opening of the Crest Theatre.
The Crest established a repertory theatre promoting Canadian talent. Over 13 seasons, it presented diverse, informed plays, fostering both actors and playwrights. The theatre’s innovative funding model, shifting from limited liability to nonprofit, influenced modern arts organizations. The Crest closed after 140 productions on April 30, 1966.
Numerous prominent Canadian actors and directors, such as Richard Monette, Jackie Burroughs, Frances Hyland, and others, launched their careers at the Crest, thanks to opportunities it provided. Even Captain Kirk himself William Shatner stomped the boards at the Crest.
“It’s an incredible space and the plans we have for it I think will be a huge asset to that just, you know, the theatre scene and the arts community but the community of Mount Pleasant and Davisville itself. It really is something I’ve think that is going to be a huge draw for the neighbourhood.”
As Terra Bruce Productions steps onto the Toronto stage with these exciting fall offerings, the company is poised to contribute to the city’s vibrant arts scene while providing a platform for Canadian talent to shine. Let’s Dance! The Musical and The Wild Rovers mark the beginning of a promising chapter in Toronto’s theatre landscape fostering creativity, entertainment, and community.