The Confederation Centre of the Arts is spending upwards of $100,000 for a recording of a musical it chose not to produce this year.
Cast members of last summer’s Charlottetown Festival production of Evangeline have already begun recording sessions in Toronto, complete with a 17-piece orchestra.
The Confederation Centre’s general theatre manager Dean Constable said Thursday the recording is being made not only to sell albums, but also to help generate interest in the show from other producers and companies.
“This was a way for us to get this Canadian story, this Canadian piece of art, this Canadian music to more Canadians across the country and make it available.”
But the $100,000 being spent on this project has raised some eyebrows, especially after the Confederation Centre garnered headlines last fall for its application for funds from the P.E.I. 2014 Fund.
The Centre was originally granted $240,000 from the fund for two productions for this year’s season - a remount of the musical Canada Rocks and a new show called 1864: The Musical.
The Centre then pulled the plug on the 1864 musical, saying it was too much of a financial risk. It also argued it needed to keep the $240,000 grant for Canada Rocks, claiming the remount wouldn’t get the treatment it needs to return it to the stage without this money.
The board of P.E.I. 2014 Inc. ruled against this and instead gave the Confederation Centre a reduced $100,000 grant.
Constable said Thursday the Centre views this recoding as an investment and expects to recoup it in sales of the album and also by attracting interest in mounting another future production of Evangeline.
“Obviously running an arts organization, we always are struggling with ensuring we have enough resources in order to meet our mandate,” Constable said.
“This particular project we saw as a really important piece. Evangeline was successful (last) summer and did generate revenues above its allotted budget, so when we were looking at that we felt it was really important to make an investment in making this piece of art, this very important Canadian story, available to people who maybe weren’t able to be here.”
Constable said the recording is already generating a lot of buzz in Toronto’s theatre scene as it is the first time in 20 years a Canadian musical has been recorded, complete with its original cast and a full orchestra.
The Confederation Centre holds the staging rights of Evangeline for six more years and it also owns the right to translate it into French and mount or tour it.
That’s why officials with the Centre say they are excited at the interest in the recording project and what if could mean for future productions of the show.
But when asked why Evangeline is not in the lineup for the Charlottetown Festival this summer in light of so much buzz and interest, Constable said it will be back, just not this year.
“Because something is exciting doesn’t necessarily mean you have to repeat it right away,” he said.
“It was the decision of our artistic director along with the larger team here, that we would go with a different season this year and look to bringing Evangeline back.”
Despite the fact the show is not running this year, the Centre remains confident people will be interested in the recording of last year’s production of Evangeline.