Six years ago, a new musical titled Grow started life here in Oakville. Six days ago, the same show staged its world premiere at the prestigious Grand Theater in London, Ontario.
Grow (then called Rumspringa Break!) was workshopped with the Canadian Music Theater Project (CMTP) at the Trafalgar campus in Oakville first in 2016 and then again in the fall of 2019, becoming the first show to receive a second workshop CMTP and a showcase in the history of the project.
(If the Canadian Music Theater Project sounds familiar, yes, it’s the same musical theater lab where the hit show Come from afar also started.)
Grow’s premiere is particularly gratifying as the show was originally scheduled to premiere at the Grand Theater in April 2020, but was put on hold following the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Determined to bring the gripping musical to its London audiences,” according to the Grand, they “have postponed the show to bring our 2021/2022 season to a close.”
Grow is a musical with an unusual subject: it follows two Amish sisters who leave their isolated community for the first time in their lives and become entangled in the marijuana business. The premise is wacky, sure – but the story and songs are smart, sweet, and hysterically funny.
“Three years and countless workshops and script and score revisions later, we’ve finally arrived,” said show director and great artistic director Dennis Garnhum. “Every song, phrase, costume, projection, prop, staging or dance number is completely original – never heard or seen anywhere…until now.”
The show was co-written by Matt Murray (book author) with songs by Colleen Dauncey (music) and Akiva Romer-Segal (lyrics), all of whom have worked together since the show began. Beyond its development at Sheridan, Grow also participated in a workshop at the Goodspeed Festival of New Musicals in East Haddam, Connecticut.
“New musicals take a long time to develop,” says a joint program note from the three authors. “From the seed of an idea in 2014 to fully developed production…Grow has been a labor of love every step of the way.”
“We were surrounded by an incredible creative team, an exceptional cast and several expert consultants to ensure that our characters were imbued with authenticity and integrity,” they continue. “We are so grateful to everyone who has left their mark on this show along the way.”
One of the show’s key players is producer Michael Rubinoff, who is also a producer on Come from afar and the former Artistic Director Producer and Founder of the Canadian Music Theater Project.
“Over the past decade, we’ve seen a renaissance in Canadian musical theatre,” he says. But he is “grateful to all those who have contributed to Grow“The show” explores the importance of community. I think there is no better place to meet than in the theatre. This is where we can laugh, learn and grow as a community.”
The show’s official billing describes the story that follows “Amish twins, Hannah and Ruth, (played by Arinea Hermans and Jenny Weisz, respectively) as they leave the comfort of their sheltered community to explore the modern world for the first time. After arriving in Toronto, their plans quickly go up in smoke and they end up crashing with an unlucky illegal cannabis dealer.”
“Their sisterhood is put to the test when the creation of the ‘world’s tallest weed’ propels one of the twins to astronomical heights. Filled with soaring songs, big laughs and unforgettable characters, this all-new musical examines the bonds of family, the value of community, and the choices we make to grow.
The show is great fun to watch, and it’s rare for a new Canadian musical to get a full-fledged production like this. It took several years of preparation, but this production has come a long way from its Oakville roots. It has grown into a mature and vibrant show that now entertains nearly 1,000 viewers each night.
Grow is currently playing on the Spriet Stage at the Grand Theater in London, Ontario through April 30, 2022. Tickets and more information about the show are available online here.