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Students revive award-winning musical

School of Drama and Music is offering the first production of The House of Martin Guerre in nearly two decades.

After an 18 year hiatus, The House of Martin Guerre is back on stage. The musical is the first production from the newly created School of Drama and Music.

“The rights for this show were held by a major theatre producer for well over a decade after its first run,” says director Tim Fort (Drama and Music). “There were people (like me) interested in producing the show since the 1990s but couldn’t get permission while it was awaiting a proposed New York run. The original mid-1990s show was a big hit – winning best musical awards in both Chicago and Toronto – but it simply disappeared until an exclusive ‘option to produce’ agreement finally ran out and the show became available last spring.”

Leslie Arden works with the cast of The House of Martin Guerre.

The House of Martin Guerre is a true story about a French 16th century court case featuring Martin Guerre and his wife Bertrande. Married at 14 years old for a financial arrangement, Martin abandons his family after eight years of an unhappy marriage. Another eight years pass with no news until a man claiming to be Martin returns to the village with new passion for his marriage and new ideas that oppose his powerful uncle. The court case revolves around the disputed identity of Martin.

The music and lyrics are by Leslie Arden (with a book written jointly by Arden and Anna T. Cascio).  Arden is one of the leading musical composers in Canada and Dr. Fort’s longtime friend. He asked her for permission to produce its first revival and to come to Queen’s to work with the student actors and musicians on the production.

“She is a hugely musical person who is great with the students,” Dr. Fort says. “She’s also one of the greatest musical minds currently working in Canada.  The House of Martin Guerre was written immediately after Leslie had studied with theatrical legend Stephen Sondheim and reflects much of his genius for musical storytelling.”

The School of Drama and Music officially came into existence earlier this year. Dr. Fort is pleased with how the students have come together under one roof, both metaphorically and literally, and how much they are learning through this joint project. “Our collaborations are not new, but it’s so much easier when everyone is working together in one creative school.”

The House of Martin Guerre opens at the Rotunda Theatre in Theological Hall on Thursday, Nov. 5 and runs Nov. 5, 6, 7, 11, 12, 13 and 14 at 8 pm. There are 2 pm matinees on Nov. 8, 14 and 15. Tickets are $22 or $15 for students and seniors. They can be purchased in the Drama office in the basement of the Theological Hall or at the door.