Perhaps hoping magic strikes twice, the Firehall Arts Centre follows up its hit based on the music of Leonard Cohen with Circle Game; Reimaging the Music of Joni Mitchell, featuring the music of another Canadian legend, Joni Mitchell.
But while Circle Game creators Andrew Cohen and Anna Kuman acknowledge the formula may sound familiar, their show will be a very different experience for audiences.
“Chelsea Hotel is much more abstract in its storytelling and very stylized,” says Kuman. “As you will see our show takes place in a hipster, vintage, recycled, recording-esque studio and is much more organic in the way the creativity from the artists is going to found.”
Growing up with Joni
Having grown up with Mitchell’s music, it would be many years later before Cohen would consider the Canadian singer as inspiration for a new show.
“I grew up listening to her music through my mother listening to the music on her record player,” says Cohen. “I really didn’t understand at the time though just how significant or how profound her lyrics really were.”
For Kuman, discovering Mitchell’s music was more organic.
“I discovered her on my own rather than through my parents,” she says. “As a young teen I noticed lots of people were covering hers songs, and I remember her having such a very haunting voice.”
Through a millennial lens
It wasn’t until just a couple of years ago when Kuman and Cohen took a closer look at Mitchell’s music, they realized the songs written fifty or more years ago still had something to say.
“It snowballed from there, and we began to think about what we could do with the music more relevant to millennials,” says Cohen.
Kuman also saw the show as an opportunity to acknowledge Mitchell’s place in music history.
“When Andy and I started talking about her music and how influential it was – not only in the Canadian music industry but in paving way for women in music – we knew we wanted to create a show that would bridge the gap between generations, and the gap between theatre and concert,” she says.
“We knew we wanted to create a show that would bridge the gap between generations, and the gap between theatre and concert.” – Anna Kuman
Not your typical musical
Not a traditional or jukebox musical, Circle Game will feature six on-stage talents who will not only sing, but play a total of eighteen instruments.
“It’s not like a Mamma Mia where there is a plot loosely stringing the songs together,” says Kuman.
Instead, the duo chose 29 songs from Mitchell’s discography which explore lessons in love, coming to love yourself, and the relationship between the millennial generation and the environment.
“The show includes a healthy mix of songs people have heard of and some more obscure ones,” says Cohen.
“Some songs will be performed in their entirety and some are combined thematically,” adds Kuman. “Some of the music will be similar in style to how they were originally preformed, but others have been mashed up or given a more millennial sound.”
“There is a large indie rock vibe going on with the songs we have re-done, but it is mixed with gospel, blue grass, gypsy jazz, and the like,” says Cohen.
For the Firehall’s artistic director it is about having an opportunity to share Mitchell’s music with a new generation.
“As I look back on the powerful impact Joni Mitchell’s songs had on the baby boomer generation, I am excited the Firehall will premiere this re-imagining of her music in this production conceived and created by millennials,” she says.
Spencer goes on to point out many of the issues Mitchell sang about in the ’60s and ’70s sill remain relevant today.
“Audiences will not only be reminded of this, but given the opportunity to enjoy her beautiful poetic lyrics and masterful melodies,” she says.
Circle Game; Reimagining the Music of Joni Mitchell plays the Firehall Arts Centre in Vancouver from April 29 – May 20. Visit https://firehallartscentre.ca for tickets and information.