2018/19 Season Principal Casting Preview

Distinguished and Daring

LONDON, ON, September 25, 2018 – Artistic Director Dennis Garnhum has announced principal casting for the 2018/19 season including Seana McKenna as Penelope in MARGARET ATWOOD’S THE PENELOPIAD, Jan Alexandra Smith as Scrooge in this season’s gender-flipping A CHRISTMAS CAROL, Nigel Shawn Williams as Troy Maxson and E.B. Smith as Jim Bono in AUGUST WILSON’S FENCES, and
Alex Furber as Robert Ross in TIMOTHY FINDLEY’S THE WARS.  

“This season is all about igniting conversations around issues, ideas, and ways of thinking - whether that be through the stories we tell or the way in which we tell them,” said Dennis Garnhum, Grand Theatre Artistic Director.  “Our theatre will be a catalyst for conversation and engagement: of ideas, people, and possibility.”

Margaret Atwood’s THE PENELOPIAD, directed by award-winning film and stage star Megan Follows, will see the return of one of Canada’s finest classical actors, Seana McKenna, to the Grand stage after 22 years, starring as Penelope with an all-female cast.  Ms. McKenna’s distinguished career includes 27 seasons as a company member at the Stratford Festival, this season starring as Mary Tyrone in the acclaimed LONG DAY’S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT and the titular role in JULIUS CAESAR.  THE PENELOPIAD, Ms. Atwood’s daring – and shall we say ‘timely’ - response to Homer’s The Odyssey, is a provocative and contemporary look at one of history’s most powerful myths.

The Dickens classic A CHRISTMAS CAROL, adapted by Dennis Garnhum, returns this season with a whole new twist on the central role:  Scrooge will be played by Jan Alexandra Smith (Catalyst Theatre’s VIGILANTE) as a woman in a man’s world.

“Changing the gender of Scrooge has the potential to crack open this story in unexpected ways,” said Megan Watson, director of this season’s A CHRISTMAS CAROL and Grand Theatre Artistic Associate. “The core of the story is the same but with a female Scrooge this classic will evolve in ways that will ask our hearts to feel and minds to think differently about a story we know so well.”

The jovial Mr. Fezziwig will be played by Steve Ross, currently in the Stratford Festival’s THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW.  Also featured is Blythe Wilson returning as the Spirit of Christmas Present, and
Sean Arbuckle as Bob Cratchit.

Djanet Sears, in her Grand Theatre directorial debut, brings AUGUST WILSON’S FENCES to the stage, starring Nigel Shawn Williams (director, Stratford’s TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD) in his acting debut at the Grand, and featuring E.B. Smith, who returns following roles in THE MOUNTAINTOP and ART.

The Spriet Stage season launches with TIMOTHY FINDLEY’S THE WARS, commemorating the 100th anniversary of the end of WW1 and featuring Alex Furber (CHARIOTS OF FIRE) as Robert Ross and Jan Alexandra Smith as Mrs. Ross.   Ms. Smith’s stunning talent will span the 2018/19 season, when she appears in VIGILANTE as matriarch Johannah Donnelly, and as Tanya in MAMMA MIA!, a co-production with the Charlottetown Festival.

 “Jan is, simply stated, one of Canada’s finest artists.  This season she takes on some incredibly diverse and challenging roles,” said Garnhum.  “As a director, actor, vocalist, and choreographer she is more than a quadruple threat – and you’ll see her true talent shine as she goes from role to role.”

The Grand Theatre is proud to present BARBER SHOP CHRONICLES from England’s National Theatre.  The only Canadian stop on the North American Tour, this acclaimed new production comes to London, Ontario for a limited 12-performance run.  Catalyst Theatre’s VIGILANTE storms the Grand stage when the ghosts of the Donnellys return this February.    

THE GRAND’S MCMANUS STAGE features a four-play season that opens with the already sold-out production of Rebecca Northan’s AN UNDISCOVERED SHAKESPEARE in development through the Grand’s COMPASS New Play Development Program and the Stratford Festival Laboratory.  Next, Crow’s Theatre presents THE BOY IN THE MOON by Emil Sher, based on a book by Ian Brown, directed by Chris Abraham and starring Kelly McNamee, Liisa Repo-Martell, and David StorchKaitlyn Riordan takes the stage with MAGGIE AND PIERRE in a one-woman show by Linda Griffiths with Paul Thompson, directed by Rob Kempson.  The McManus season finale is an extended run of the Grand’s production of CABARET, directed by Dennis Garnhum.

For additional casting and creative team preview listings, see the following pages.

Tickets for the 2018/19 Season are now on sale at grandtheatre.com, by phone and at the box office.  Single tickets range from $29.95 to $86; season subscribers save up to 25% off the regular single ticket price. 

The Grand Theatre 2018/19 Season is proudly sponsored by BMO Financial Group. 

About the Grand Theatre

Under the leadership of Artistic Director Dennis Garnhum and Executive Director Deb Harvey, the Grand is a leading cultural hub proudly located in the heart of downtown London, Ontario. The Grand offers diverse, relevant, and original stories from around the globe through collaborations with national and international performing arts organizations and is committed to developing, producing, and premiering original homegrown stories through COMPASS, a New Play Development Program. The Grand supports educational programming and youth mentorship such as the High School Project, the only program of its kind in North America, and 100 Schools, a community initiative that brings professional theatre to London area schools at no cost.

A not-for-profit regional theatre, the Grand produces and presents professional theatre on two stages: the Spriet Stage (839 seats) and the McManus Stage (144 seats). The Grand’s season runs from September to May.

For more information, contact:
Ashley Roberts, Communications Manager
519 672 9030 ext 247, aroberts [at] grandtheatre.com (aroberts[at]grandtheatre[dot]com)


By Dennis Garnhum
Based on the novel by Timothy Findley
October 23 to November 11, 2018


CAPTAIN TAFFLER                        Christopher Bautista
ROWENA                                        Georgina Beaty
MR. ROSS                                       Kevin Bundy
ELLA                                                Jenni Burke
PRIVATE REGIS                              Frank Chung
ROBERT ROSS                               Alex Furber
MARIAN                                         Katherine Gauthier
CAPTAIN LEATHER                       Omar Alex Khan
PRIVATE PURCHAS                       Jeff Lillico
PRIVATE CÔTÉ                              Danik McAfee
MRS. ROSS                                    Jan Alexandra Smith
PRIVATE LEVITT                            Braeden Soltys
SERGEANT RODWELL                  Edmund Stapleton
SERGEANT MACDONALD            Marcel Stewart
LADY BARBARA D’ORSEY            Shannon Taylor
PRIVATE HARRIS                           John Wamsley


DIRECTOR                                             Dennis Garnhum
SET DESIGNER                                      Allan Stichbury
COSTUME DESIGNER                          Christina Poddubiuk
LIGHTING DESIGNER                          Bonnie Beecher
STAGE MANAGER                                Kathryn Davies
ASSISTANT STAGE MANAGER            Suzanne McArthur


Alex Furber
Robert Ross
For the Grand Theatre: Chariots of Fire.
Theatre Credits (Selected): As You Like It, Taming of The Shrew (St. Lawrence Shakespeare Festival); A Midsummer Night's Dream, Mary's Wedding (Festival Players of Prince Edward County); My Night With Reg (Studio 180/Mirvish); Marathon of Hope, Brighton Beach Memoirs (Drayton); Jitters (Soulpepper); Anne and Gilbert (NAC); Red (Sudbury Theatre Centre); Cabaret (Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre); Warhorse (Mirvish). Film and TV Credits: Reign, Mayday, Murdoch Mysteries, Flashpoint.
Other:  Graduate of The National Theatre School.

Jan Alexandra Smith
Mrs. Ross
For the Grand TheatreEvita (Director/Choreographer); A Christmas Carol, The Dining Room.
Theatre Credits (Selected): Much Ado About Nothing (Director, Shakespeare Co.); Vigilante (Catalyst Theatre); The Hollow (Director, Vertigo Theatre); Mamma Mia!, Alice Through The Looking Glass (Charlottetown Festival); Seussical (Director/Choreographer, St. Lawrence College); As You Like It, Titus Andronicus (Shakespeare in High Park/CanStage); The MountaintopGod of Carnage  (Director, Theatre Calgary); Lost (Theatre Calgary); Forests (Tarragon); Shakespeare’s Will (Citadel Theatre); Mrs. Warren’s Profession (Shaw Festival); Les Misérables (Royal Alexandra).
Other: Jan’s work has been nominated for 20 Theatre Awards across Canada including two Best Actress Awards which she received last year for her role in Vigilante. She was also shortlisted for the Gina Wilkinson Prize as emerging Director in 2013.


By Charles Dickens
Adapted by Dennis Garnhum
December 5 to 23, 2018


BOB CRATCHIT                                  Sean Arbuckle
SPIRIT OF CHRISTMAS PAST            Jahlen Barnes
MARTHA CRATCHIT                         Anna Bartlam
BELINDA CRATCHIT                         Annie Cornish
PETER CRATCHIT                             Emma Cuzzocrea
GIRL SCROOGE                                Riley Deluca
WOMAN SCROOGE                        Ellen Denny
FRED                                                  Aidan deSalaiz
MRS. DILBER                                    Nikki Duval
FAN                                                    Isabella Espanol
MRS. FEZZIWIG                                Tracey Ferencz
MRS. CRATCHIT                               Rachel Jones
DICK WILKINS                                   Michael Man
JACOB MARLEY                                 Patrick Monaghan
VOICE OF CHARLES DICKENS         Christopher Newton
MR. FEZZIWIG                                   Steve Ross
SCROOGE                                           Jan Alexandra Smith
TOPPER                                               Geoffrey Tyler
ABIGAIL                                               Amaka Umeh


DIRECTOR                                         Megan Watson
ORIGINAL DIRECTOR                      Dennis Garnhum
SET DESIGNER                                 Allan Stichbury
COSTUME DESIGNER                     Kelly Wolf
LIGHTING DESIGNER                     Bonnie Beecher
VIDEOGRAPHER                              Jamie Nesbitt
COMPOSER                                      Jeremy Spencer
SOUND DESIGNER                          Jim Neil
MUSIC AND VOCAL COACH           Mark Payne
VOICE AND DIALECT COACH         Jane Gooderham
CHOREOGRAPHER                         Kerry Gage
STAGE MANAGER                            Kelly Luft


By Margaret Atwood
January 22 to February 9, 2019


DIRECTOR                                          Megan Follows
CHOREOGRAPHER                           Philippa Domville
SET DESIGNER                                  Charlotte Dean
COSTUME DESIGNER                      Dana Osborne
LIGHTING DESIGNER                       Bonnie Beecher
PROJECTION DESIGNER                   Jamie Nesbitt
/VOCAL COACH                               Deanna H. Choi
STAGE MANAGER                            Beatrice Campbell


Seana McKenna
For the Grand Theatre: Money and Friends, Maggie in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe, the Man Who Came To Dinner, and title roles in Antigone, and The Misanthrope.
Theatre Credits (Selected):  Ms. McKenna's 2018 began by playing Lear for the Groundling Theatre Company in Toronto, and then directing King Lear for The Shakespeare Company in Calgary. She went on to play Mary Tyrone in Long Day's Journey Into Night and the titular role in Julius Caesar at the Stratford Festival, where she has been a company member for 27 seasons.  Among her 54 roles there are the Madwoman of Chaillot, Juliet, her Nurse, Mother Courage, Dolly Levi, Dotty Otley, Medea, Amanda Wingfield, Queen Elizabeth I, Katharina the Shrew and Richard III. She has worked across Canada and the United States, including The American Conservatory Theater (ACT) where she teaches and has also starred in Testament, Napoli Milionaria and Phèdre. She has received three Dora Mavor Moore Awards (acting: Orpheus Descending, Saint Joan; directing: Valley Song), a Jessie (Wit), a Genie (The Hanging Garden), an Honorary MFA in Acting from ACT in San Francisco, a Doctor of Sacred Letters from Trinity College, University of Toronto, and a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal.


March 19 – April 6, 2019


Gabriel                                                  Peter N Bailey
Lyons                                                      Jordin Hall
Cory                                                       Ngabo Nabea
Jim Bono                                               E.B. Smith
Rose                                                       Ordena Stephens-Thompson
Troy Maxson                                        Nigel Shawn Williams


DIRECTOR                                          Djanet Sears
SET DESIGNER                                   Astrid Janson
COSTUME DESIGNER                       Rachel Forbes
LIGHTING DESIGNER                         Jason Hand
SOUND DESIGNER                             Verne Good
STAGE MANAGER                               Beatrice Campbell

Principal Actor Bios

Nigel Shawn Williams
Troy Maxson
For the Grand Theatre: Director: Art, The Mountaintop.
Theatre Credits (Selected): Six seasons at Stratford including director of To Kill a Mockingbird; four seasons at the Shaw Festival; Canadian premieres of: Six Degrees of Separation, Angels in America, Harlem Duet, Two Words for Snow, Belle, Race, Topdog/Underdog, among others.  As a director his productions have garnered critical and artistic success across Canada, including The Invisible Hand  (Theatre Aquarius), Merchant of Venice (Bard on the Beach), Brothel # 9 (Factory Theatre), The Monument (Obsidian Theatre).
Film and TV Credits: Brown Girl Begins, Suits, Heroes Reborn, John QThe Jane Show, The Famous Jett Jackson.
Other: Former Co-Artistic Director of Factory Theatre. Four-time Dora Mavor Moore Award winner as an actor and director, with numerous nominations for MECCA and Betty Mitchell Awards. Nigel is also heavily active in new play development and has helped develop over 40 new plays in Canada, either working as an actor, director or a dramaturge.  He is also an educator, having taught at York University, University of Windsor, and the National Theatre School of Canada.

E. B. Smith
Jim Bono
For the Grand Theatre: Art, The Mountaintop.
Theatre Credits:  All My Sons, Twelfth Night, Macbeth, The Bakkhai, Mother Courage, King John, Mary StuartMeasure for Measure, Cymbeline, Elektra, Richard III, Titus Andronicus (Stratford Festival); Gone With the Wind (Manitoba Theatre Centre); MacbethRomeo and Juliet (Chicago Shakespeare Theater); Macbeth (First Folio Theatre); King Hedley IIDream on Monkey MountainBefore It Hits Home (Karamu House Theatre). Other credits at the Cleveland Play House, Idaho Shakespeare Festival, Theater Wit in Chicago and two seasons at the Great Lakes Theater Festival.
Film and TV Credits: The Beast (Sony Pictures Television); Ask GilbyMaybe By ThenThunder Bay (PBS). 
Other: E.B. received his training at Ohio University and The Birmingham Conservatory for Classical Theatre at the Stratford Festival.