Lyric Hammersmith, Phil Mcintyre Entertainments and David Mirvish present the North American premiere of Ghost Stories by Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman at Toronto’s Panasonic Theatre. Now booking through May 8, 2011.
For the past few weeks I’ve watched with “morbid” curiosity as, seemingly from way out of left field, Mirvish announced that it would present a North American premiere production of Ghost Stories, a quirky show from the UK, and then rolled it out complete with a horror movie-style ad campaign.
A commercial theatre producer I spoke with recently flat-out told me, “Mirvish doesn’t know how to market shows. They rely too much on their subscriber base and don’t know how to attract new audiences. They’re just tapping the same set of customers over and over.” (editors note: check out the comment section below for the detailed and helpful Mirvish response to this statement)
He may have had a point. I’ve heard it said that your average patron for a commercial theatre production is a middle-aged, white, suburban woman. That may be the demographic Mirvish traditionally targets with its programming but I’d assume it couldn’t rely too heavily on its existing subscriber base for this show.
Ghost Stories targets the younger demographic who’d go to horror movies and it seems Mirvish’s marketing firm has been working overtime for this show. The style and tone of the advertising is textbook “scary movie” right down to a trailer showing audience members squirming in their seats. Even the show’s tag line “Are you brave enough?” sounds like a double-dog dare.
Other examples of the creative marketing for the show include lamppost ad banners strategically placed along the stretch of Yonge Street adjacent to Mt. Pleasant Cemetery (co-incidence? I think not) and the Ghost Stories Film Festival of Frights where Mirvish leveraged social media platforms to engage fans to nominate and vote for their favourite scary movies to be shown at the festival.
Then, of course, there was the wacky promotion to spend the night sleeping in a coffin in the theatre to win a trip as well as promotional partnerships with youth-oriented brands like Virgin Radio and Cineplex’s Scene program. There’s even a Ghost Stories-branded promotional tie-in Jones Soda for sale at the theatre concessions! All these signs point to the fact that this is not a show you’d typically expect Mirvish to present.
If nothing else, it’s refreshing to see that Mirvish is at least willing to try reaching out to new audiences in unconventional ways. Maybe the recent dose of healthy competition from Dancap is actually forcing Mirvish to be a little more daring with its programming.
As for the show itself; those of us who’ve seen it are asked not to reveal too many details about the contents for fear of spoiling the element of surprise but I will say that I think it really delivers on its promise of scary movie-style fun.
The all-Canadian cast features Darrin Baker, Jason Blicker, Jack Langedijk, David Reale, Greg Gale and Jonathan Purdon.
Blicker plays Professor Philip Goodman, an expert on the paranormal. As an overarching premise for the play, he addresses the audience directly as if he were giving an academic lecture on his investigations of ghostly phenomena. His taped interviews with “percipients” (those who believe they’ve perceived paranormal activity) segue into the series of ghost stories that make up the show.
The show transfers relatively well to a North American setting although my show-going companion Megan thought that some of the script re-writes to incorporate Canadian references were a little too obvious, to the point of being pandering. I agreed that Jack Langedijk’s night watchman character was so much of a Canadian “hoser” caricature he wouldn’t have felt out of place in an SCTV sketch alongside Bob and Doug McKenzie.
So, was the show actually scary? Well, It’s definitely suspenseful. I’ll admit that my heart was racing and a few moments definitely made me jump. The tone of the dialogue is often funny; the show effectively uses humour to cut through the moments of tension. I also really got a kick out of the reactions of other audience members; I spent a lot of time giggling when people around me freaked-out.
The squeamish among you who are put-off by the sight of blood and guts need not worry; the show is not a Saw-style gore-fest. Its brand of horror is more similar to suspense-thrillers like Paranormal Activity; a lot of it is psychological.
Overall, Ghost Stories is a lot of fun. Alternately scary and funny, the show has all the elements of a good horror movie and if you’re a fan of the genre, you owe it to yourself to see this “live action” horror movie. You’ll laugh, you’ll jump, you’ll scream; it makes for a great night out.
- GHOST STORIES, written by Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman, and directed by Jeremy Dyson, Sean Holmes and Andy Nyman.
- Panasonic Theatre, 651 Yonge St., Toronto
- Now booking until May 8, 2011
- Performance Schedule: Tuesday to Friday at 7:30 PM; Saturday 5 & 8:30 PM; Sunday 3 PM – some weeks have either a Wednesday matinee at 1:30 PM or a Sunday evening at 7 PM (check with website for weekly schedule)
- 80 minutes, no intermission
- Tickets: $25 to $79
- www.mirvish.com or call Ticketking at 416-872-1212 or 1-800-461-3333
- $25 Lottery Scream Seats: Eighteen seats are available daily, for all performances, at $25 each (cash only), by lottery. Patrons can enter the lottery two hours prior to the performance, with a limit of one lottery entry per person.
– Jack Langedijk in the North American premiere of Ghost Stories. Photo Credit: Mirvish Productions