Dry Cold Productions was created in September 2000 by Donna Fletcher and Reid Harrison with a vision of presenting musicals never produced in Winnipeg by a professional theatre company. The productions Dry Cold has chosen to present to Manitoba audiences have explored seriousthematic material and have been both dramatically and musically demanding. These musicals have provided a vehicle for the talented local actors and singers of our community to tackle demanding musical theatre repertoire not produced by the mainstream theatre community. Dry Cold Productions employs exclusively Manitoba talent both behind the scenes and on stage, thereby providing work and training opportunities for established and emerging Manitoba theatre artists, technical staffand musicians. Dry Cold has embraced therole of acting as a training and mentoring organization for young performers and has provided opportunities for artists such as Mairi Babb, Tim Bandfield, Dorothy Carroll, Lara Ciekiewicz, Marc Devigne, Matthew Fletcher, Alexandra Frohlinger, Katie German, Tim Gledhill, Samantha Hill, Aaron Hutton, Derek Leenhouts, Carson Nattrass, Kimberley Rampersad, Jaz Sealey, Sarah Sheps and Cait Wood as their careers were just beginning.
In May of 2001, Dry Cold’s first production, Stephen Sondheim’s A Little Night Music, was presented at CanWest Global (now Shaw) Performing Arts Centre. It featured fifteen of Winnipeg’s finest actors and singers and anintimate orchestra of professional musicians. The production was a resounding artistic success and drew an audience of almost 70% of capacity. This was asignificant achievement for a new company presenting musicals in a format rarely seen by Winnipeg theater going audiences: staged and costumed but with minimal sets and withscripts in hand. Following that successful premiere presentation, Dry Cold also produced Into the Woods (2002), The Secret Garden (2003), She Loves Me (2004), Assassins (2006) and Nine (2007) with similar success. In 2008 Dry Cold presented Urinetown which sold out all three performances and once again demonstrated that it was a company determined to set the standard for local productions of contemporary musical theatre. The critical andaudience response to Dry Cold’s most recent offerings of Company (2009), The Light in the Piazza (2010), Sweeney Todd: the Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2011) and Little Women the Musical (2012) has simply reinforced this reputation. Dry Cold’s most recent production, Stephen Sondheim’s 1971 masterpiece, Follies, was presented as part of the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre’s Master Playwright Festival, Sondheim Fest 2013. The entire run sold out prior to opening and Follies was praised by many as the jewel of the festival.
The excellence of the material – the music, the text, the story – is the central determining factor to Dry Cold’s philosophy of presentation. The producers strongly believe that musical theatre is at its best when presented with a clean simplicity, where extravagance in production considerations isn’t allowed to create obstacles between theartists and the audience. Costumes are creatively designed by Harlequin Costumes to facilitate quick shifts of character and Canada’s finest designers including Brian Perchaluk, Craig Sandells, David Owen Lucas, Leanne Foley and Grant Guy have created elegant sets to showcase Dry Cold’s compelling style of theatre. Two of Winnipeg’s nationally acclaimed lighting designers, Scott Henderson and Bill Williams, have created lighting so important and integral to this form of presentation that it has been acclaimed for its excellence.
Dry Cold’s first four productions were fully staged concert versions of musical theatre in thevein of companies found in New York (City Centre Encores), London (Discover the Lost Musicals), San Francisco (42nd Street Moon) and Los Angeles (Reprise Theatre Company). Like Dry Cold Productions, these companies are driven by a similar motivation to showcase the best pieces found in the musical theatre canon. They choose older classics that have been “lost” or present cutting edge, newer musicals that benefit from a streamlined presentation that places the focus on the story and glorious music. Dry Cold exists in a vital theatre community where many of the more challenging and celebrated examples of modern musical theatre repertoire have never been presented. Dry Cold has stepped into the void and chosen to bring these highly regarded and neglected works to Manitoba audiences.
In 2006, after four years of successful production, with the desire to grow as a company and with the overwhelming support of the community, Dry Cold made the decision to move from the “staged concert” practice of performing with our production of Assassins. With this production, Dry Cold departed from its practice of a two-week rehearsal and performance schedule. Several days of rehearsal were added to the process and a Dry Cold show was done “off-book” for the first time. This piece realized Dry Cold’s dream of utilizing all of the possibilities of a fully staged production while retaining the striking and effective simplicity that marked our first four productions. After the success of Assassins which runs only one hour and forty minutes without intermission, Dry Cold once again extended the rehearsal period even further to work within a three-week rehearsal and performance schedule for the full-length two-act musicals Nine, Urinetown, Company, The Light in the Piazza, Sweeney Todd: the Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Little Women the Musicaland Follies.
Now well into its second decade, Dry Cold Productions will continue to provide Manitobans with the most recent musical theatre as well as exciting new opportunities. In November, 2011 Dry Cold collaborated with the Winnipeg Symphony on Send in the Clowns: The Music of Stephen Sondheim starring Len Cariou. This concert featured Dry Cold artists Lara Ciekiewicz, Donna Fletcher, Naomi Forman, Peter Huck and Aaron Hutton as well as the musical theatre ensemble of the Marcel A. Desautels Faculty of Music at the University of Manitoba. It is currently in discussions with the WSO on future projects as well as with other local theatre companies regarding possible co-productions. In the future, Dry Cold Productions intends to assist in the development of original Canadian musicals through workshops, readings and possible productions utilizing the talents of professional performers and dramaturges.