Jolson: The Musical, an award-winning London hit, is also wowing them at the Royal Alexandra Theatre in Toronto. The musical bio opened June 17 and was scheduled to run to Sept. 6 but, due to ticket demand, will be extended to Oct. 25. The producers will put a new block of tickets on sale July 28.
Audiences eagerly anticipating Terry Hands' direction of The Importance Of Being Earnest will still be able to catch that Old Vic production, only instead of the Royal Alex it'll be at the Princess Of Wales Theatre, running Sept. 19-Oct. 18. (Earnest will open after the Aug. 30 close of the two-year run of Disney's Beauty And The Beast.)
As for the Jolson extension, producer David Mirvish said, "We have never had such an occurrence happen in the past, but then again, there have been very few shows as popular as Jolson." The musical can run no longer than Oct. 25 because Opera Atelier's Orfeo & Eurydice will be coming in Oct. 29. Rent starts Nov. 25, with casting to be announced in mid-September. (Said Mirvish spokesperson John Karastamnatis, "All but four performers are cast. They're not "name" performers, but they have extensive band and music credits.")
Once Jolson closes in Toronto it's on to Sydney, Australia, for an opening there Feb. 8, 1998. Melbourne will follow.
Asked if Jolson had an eye on Broadway, Karastamnatis told Playbill On-Line (July 24), "There are no plans at the moment. Right now the Mirvishes are very involved in bringing Jane Eyre to New York, so that's taking precedence over everything." Aside from "about five minutes of cuts," the Jolson show and cast - Brian Conley as Al Jolson, John Bennett, Sally Ann Triplett -- remain the same as the London production that ran for two years. Conley will travel to Australia, though the rest of the cast at that point will be made up of local actors.
Rob Bettinson directs the musical, co-written by him and Francis Essex. Paul Jury servers as musical supervisor and arranger.
Jolson was a blackface comedian who became popular for his soulful renditions of "Mammy," "Swanee" and other songs. Offstage, he was married to singer Ruby Keeler; onstage he called himself "The World's Greatest Entertainer."
Songs in the show include "Carolina In The Morning," "I'm Sitting On Top Of The World," "Toot-Toot-Tootsie Goodbye" and "Baby Face." Jolson tickets are available thru TicketKing at (416) 872-1212 or 1-800-461-3333.
--By David Lefkowitz