A musical inspired by holiday Hallmark movies is coming to Toronto. Here’s what to expect from the show
Danielle Wade stars in "Chris Mrs." at the Winter Garden Theatre. Max Power/Handout
Published Saturday, December 2, 2023 2:16PM EST
Calling all Hallmark fans: this new musical’s for you.
“Chris Mrs.: A New Holiday Musical” moves into Toronto’s Winter Garden Theatre this week. Inspired by the small-town charm of Hallmark Christmas movies and the high energy of a Broadway musical, “Chris Mrs.” brings together a cast of Canadian theatre favourites like Olivia Sinclair-Brisbane (“Rent” at the Stratford Festival), AJ Bridel (“Rock of Ages”) and Andrew Broderick (“Choir Boy”).
Written and directed by duo Katie Kerr and Matt Stodolak, the show’s been a long time coming, starting as a Kickstarter campaign in 2020 and eventually growing into a full-scale, in-person musical.
“This is definitely a show for all,” said Kerr in an interview with CP24. “It follows multi-generational storylines. We have the adults, who have their love triangle, and then a sort of teenage romance, and then these two young twins who are writing to Santa to try and help their father’s love life. We follow these three different age groups, and we don’t get hung up on any one specifically for to long. It really does have a broad appeal that hopefully will keep kids engaged, as well as adults. It really is meant to be enjoyed by the whole family.”
“Especially since we were writing it through COVID, we’re really exploring what it means to be together for the holidays,” she added.
Danielle Wade is one of the stars of “Chris Mrs.,” perhaps best known for winning the 2012 Canadian reality show “Over the Rainbow.” She recently made her Broadway debut in the stage adaptation of “Mean Girls,” understudying for the roles of Cady and Janis before going on to star as Cady in the first North American tour of the show.
“To have a new, original musical in Toronto is just so exciting," she said. “We bring in so many shows from different places. It’s not often you have a really big cast or company like this that’s all Canadian. It’s so cool, and needs to be celebrated.”
“I think sometimes it’s hard to look at theatre as a business,” added Kerr. “There’s a lot of really wonderful non-profit theatre companies doing great new work and world premieres. But to be able to have a theatre like the Winter Garden, almost like a roadhouse, is a really good opportunity. We’ve written the show to be a spectacle, and we’re lucky enough to have this big space and a large stage that we can fill up with the company.”
Notably, “Chris Mrs.” is moving into the Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre Centre, which until this year filled its holiday slot with family-friendly pantomimes by Toronto theatre legend Ross Petty, who retired at the end of last year’s Christmas season. The team behind “Chris Mrs.” has high hopes as the new kid on the block in the world of Christmastime Toronto theatre – but time will tell if the musical becomes a yearly tradition in the same way the pantomime was.
“We’d love for this to be a yearly thing,” said Stodolak. “Hopefully the audiences love it and tell us that they want us to come back. That would be a dream come true for us.”
“What’s cool about this show is that it’s almost a pastiche in terms of the characters and the music they might listen to in their everyday lives,” he continued, explaining that the musical references in the show include everything from Taylor Swift to Vanessa Carlton and Stephen Sondheim. “We’re following the gospel of Stephen Sondheim when it comes to creating this musical: content dictates form, less is more, and God is in the details.”
Previews for “Chris Mrs.” Start on Dec. 5, with opening night on Dec. 7. Tickets are available via Ticketmaster.