Garth Drabinsky was my hero


That is, until he was accused of fraud and forgery.

You see, Toronto was a theatrical mecca for me. Once a year, during my teen years, mom and I would drive down to Port Huron, cross the bridge to Canada and into Sarnia, and take the train to Toronto for a theatrical binge weekend.

There, I saw:

Phantom of the Opera three times. (Probably one of the best productions ever in the formerly named Pantages Theatre).

Miss Saigon (Beautiful production in the newly constructed Princess of Whales theatre, which featured a ceiling that looked like a circus)

Crazy for You (Tap dancing musical comedy at its finest!)

Sunset Boulevard (Starring none other than Diahann Carroll. Front row center seats. STUNNING Production. I couldn’t breathe from beginning to end.)

– Kicking myself that we didn’t see The Who’s Tommy.

Chicago. With Donna Marie Asbury and Charlotte D’Amboise as Velma and Roxie. My two favorites in this role – now and forever.

The common thread among these productions? Producer Garth Drabinsky. (Well, I’m not sure about Chicago – I think that was a tour…) Through his company Live Entertainment Corporation of Canada, Inc., also known as Livent, he was a MAJOR player in the revitalization of theater in Midwest (I consider Toronto the midwest).

He also produced one of the best shows in the 1990s – Ragtime (which I saw the short-lived Chicago run twice in 98/99) – as well as the comeback role for Chita Rivera – Kiss of The Spider Woman. Not to mention the Hal Prince revisioning of Showboat (which featured this number!)

His list was large and impressive. He was one of the last big producers – an impresario – following the steps of David Merrick and Alexander H. Cohen.

However, not only was his theatrical list long and impressive, his arrest warrant was, too.

Around ten years ago, Drabinsky and partner Myron Gottieb were accused of multiple accounts of fraud and forgery. And today, they were convicted.

Livent has since been dismantled, and now Toronto is a wasteland of jukebox musicals and Dirty Dancing Live!

It’s sad, all around.

[Edit 3/26/09: According to Ian in the comments, Crazy for You, Chicago, Miss Saigon and Tommy were not produced by Drabinsky. Sorry about that. However, I think the success of Phantom really kick-started Toronto as a theatre capital, which gave these productions opportunity. I mean, nearly every high schooler in Michigan went on a senior and/or band trip to see Phantom in Toronto.]

4 thoughts on “Garth Drabinsky was my hero

  1. Crazy for You, Miss Saigon and Chicago were all presented by Toronto’s Mirvish Productions and had nothing to do with Garth’s Livent.

  2. A. Hearing he was arrested and then, on the same day, stumbling across a copy of his biography seemed ironic and somehow fabulous.

    B. “Kim’s Charleston” changed my life. I’m not kidding. It made me love musical theatre. Well, that and Thunder Bay Theatres production of Annie… BUT it was largely “Kims Charleston.” I still remember the first time I saw it…

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