Bob Martin, the Tony Award-winning co-creator of Broadway's The Drowsy Chaperone, co-created the six-episode comic drama about the life of a Canadian theatre festival that has parallels — though no one wants to admit it — to Ontario's Stratford Festival.
Major Canadian stage performers, including Susan Coyne (also one of the "S&A" creators), Stephen Ouimette, Paul Gross and more are featured in the series, as is "Kids in the Hall" veteran Mark McKinney (also a "S&A" co-creator).
The DVD release (on two discs, 276 minutes, with special features including bloopers, outtakes and extended scenes) is from Acorn Media.
The series proved popular enough to be expanded to three six-episode seasons, which was not the original intent of the creators.
The first two seasons have appeared on Canadian TV and American cable's Sundance Channel. Until now, the ensemble comedy-drama has been videotaped and passed among theatre-loving friends. The DVD will likely be on the wish lists of theatre people — and people who love the theatre.
The second season is due on DVD this fall from Acorn, and a third season will air first on Canadian TV. It's expected to air in about a year on American cable, Martin told Playbill.com.
The first season follows the New Burbage Theatre Company troupers putting on Hamlet starring a hot young movie star named Jack Crew (seemingly inspired by Keanu Reeves, who tackled the classics in the provinces several years ago; Luke Kirby plays brooding Crew). The six-episode season one arc also features Rachel McAdams as an ingénue, and Drowsy co-librettist Don McKellar as a pretentious experimental stage director (he also pops up in season two). McAdams has since become a film star, and makes a brief appearance in season two.
The main trio of characters in "Slings & Arrows" are played by Stephen Ouimette (as the talented, aging windbag artistic director Oliver Welles), Paul Gross (as the emotionally broken bad boy actor-director Geoffrey Tennant) and Martha Burns (as the self-involved actress Ellen Fanshaw, who inspires them). The collaborators created a famous Hamlet years ago that drove Geoffrey mad, and broke up the creative friends.
In season one, after the sudden death of Oliver, Geoffrey and Ellen reunite to solve the Shakespeare play — with the help of Oliver's ghost. Geoffrey is named artistic director of New Burbage, arousing mixed feelings for both. Paul Gross is known for the TV series "Due South." Burns is a respected stage actress in Canada, with credits at the Stratford and Shaw festivals. Ouimette is a respected actor and director most associated with Stratford.
The second season of "Slings & Arrows" follows the New Burbage Festival through difficult financial times, with McKinney's managing director being seduced by a marketing guru played by Colm Feore. Macbeth is the mainstage play addressed, with a boorish stage star sparring with Geoffrey.
Season three features Canadian stage legend William Hutt as the Burbage troupe tackles King Lear.
For more information, visit www.acornmedia.com.