The 2006 Tony Award wins (including Best Book and Best Score) for Canadian-created (American enhanced) The Drowsy Chaperone brought light to the creative community in Canada, but beyond Anne of Green Gables and Billy Bishop Goes to War, musicals that began life in Canada are not internationally known.
The new book was published by Natural Heritage Books, Toronto.
Still, with a well-received Canadian musical running on Broadway, more eyes are focused on Canada.
"Could it be that, Lord of the Rings notwithstanding, the future of the musical theatre lies with the Great White North?" the publisher asks. "It's hard to predict, but according to Atkey, there have been encouraging signs. Toronto's ScriptLab, under the direction of Jim Betts, has made a three-year commitment to developing new musicals. CanStage has, in the past decade, presented such serious works as Pélagie, Outrageous!, Larry's Party and The House of Martin Guerre. The latter show’s creator, Leslie Arden — a protégé of Broadway maestro Stephen Sondheim — appears to be poised for an international breakthrough."
Atkey contends that just as writers need to study the works of the Broadway "greats," it is also essential that they be aware of their own heritage. A musical theatre writer, Atkey's work has been presented in London and New York. The book explores "the shows we know" (Anne of Green Gables, Billy Bishop Goes to War) and "the ones we don't" (Mr. Scrooge, Sunshine Town, Baker Street).
Atkey also investigates the efforts to create an indigenous musical theatre, beginning with Spring Thaw, the annual revue that ran for a quarter century, begetting both "Air Farce" and the Charlottetown Festival.
"Broadway North: The Dream of a Canadian Musical Theatre" was launched in Toronto on Nov. 3 with a cabaret featuring Dinah Christie, Charlotte Moore, Pat Rose, David Warrack and Michael Danso.