The Magic of Musicals: Broadway’s Biggest Hits

Curious Minds Online Course

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Creating a hit Broadway musical is a miracle of miracles. By the time you take your seat and the lights dim, years of re-writing have taken place, songs have been cut and added, and countless debates over casting, direction and production design have been hashed out and—hopefully—settled. In this unique, insider’s guide to the modern musical, Michael Rubinoff, the Olivier Award-winning and Tony Award-nominated producer of Come From Away, will pull back the curtain on eleven hit shows, revealing how each of them came to life and left their mark on history.

Michael Rubinoff

Led by Michael Rubinoff, the Producing Artistic Director of the Canadian Music Theatre Project at Sheridan College, Canada’s first incubator for the development of new musical theatre works. Under his guidance, the CMTP originally developed the hit global musical Come From Away, for which he serves as a producer and creative consultant. He was awarded the Meritorious Service Cross by the Governor General of Canada for his role in its creation.

Course registration: $49 (Hot Docs Members: $33, $27, Free)

Curious Minds Speaker Series sponsored by

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The six lectures in this series are available to stream until September 30. You can access each lecture at your leisure by clicking on links in your confirmation email, or by visiting your My Shows page.


Lecture 1: The Spark of Creation: West Side Story (1957) and The Sound of Music (1959)
How did an adaption of Romeo and Juliet go from East Side Story to west and how did the story of the real life Trapp Family go from a play to one of the most beloved musicals of all time? Using West Side Story and The Sound of Music as our guides, we will examine literary adaptations, stories adapted from real life and the many different ways in which an idea for a musical takes shape. 

Lecture 2: Collaboration - Fiddler on the Roof (1964) and Cabaret (1966)
Musicals are collaborations between, producer, composer, lyricist, book writer, director, choreographer, designers, actors and audiences. Fiddler on the Roof and Cabaret brought together some of the most dynamic talents in the history of the art form, thrusting together larger-than-life performers and personalities who left an indelible imprint on the popular imagination—and on how a musical gets made.

Lecture 3: Transformation - Company (1970) and The Wiz (1975)
Creators of great musicals take big risks to push the form and transform it. Company and The Wiz were both groundbreaking productions that established new ways of musical theatre storytelling. They shifted both the culture of Broadway and the audience’s understanding of what a musical could be and do.

Lecture 4: Workshops/Previews - A Chorus Line (1975) and Dreamgirls (1981)
To develop a successful musical, it is necessary for the actors and musicians to come together to workshop ideas and give the current draft life. Preview performances can also be very helpful, allowing the team to see and feel what paying audiences are responding to. In this lecture, we will use the exciting workshops and previews of A Chorus Line and Dreamgirls to better understand the major changes they can inspire, with last-minute tweaks and revisions that often continue right until opening night.

Lecture 5: The Rise of the Megamusical: Les Misérables (1987) and The Phantom of the Opera (1988)
The 80s were an era dominated by the British musical, full of on stage barricades and falling chandeliers. Through two of the world’s most popular musicals, Les Misérables and Phantom of the Opera, we will discuss the impact that set and production design have on the creation of a show and how the megamusical changed the way that musicals are developed and produced.

Lecture 6: Come From Away (2017)
This one is personal! Michael will close the series by sharing his Come From Away journey, from the spark of creation to the moment he read the rave review in The New York Times at the show’s opening night party on Broadway. Applying what we have learned in the previous five lectures, this will be the inside story behind the development of Canada’s most successful musical in history.

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