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Elizabeth Rotoff (L), Erin-Brie Warwick, David Watson
Photo: Henry Kreindler
Sara and David 2
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Adi Sara Kreindler, David Watson
Photo: Henry Kreindler
Persephone and Hades
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Erin-Brie Warwick, David Watson
Photo: Henry Kreindler

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I Married the King of the Underworld and My Mom Freaked is based on the Greek myth of Persephone, the young goddess whose elopement with Hades caused her mother to flip out on a cosmic scale. But this contemporary take was born of a real-life May–December love story between playwright/composer Adi Sara Kreindler and opera singer David Watson. And her mom didn’t freak – in fact, she’s directing.


Sara and David first met in the choir of Grace Bible Church (hence the company name, “Acts of Grace”). So when Sara first heard the voice described as “earth-shaking...a force of nature” by Opera Today, was she instantly captivated? “Actually, I was terrified,” laughs Sara. “It was the Hallelujah Chorus, and David was standing right behind me.” The 20-year age gap dissolved as the relationship grew into love; and Sara, writer of three earlier musicals, soon knew that she wanted to write a starring role especially for him. Determined to showcase David’s “exceptionally rich baritone” (Leader Post), she thought immediately of Hades, god of the underworld, who makes Persephone his bride. According to the myth, Persephone's grieving mother, earth-goddess Demeter, plunges the earth into perpetual winter until it is decreed that Persephone may alternate between the two realms. But there was a problem.


"In the traditional myth, Hades is a kidnapper and Demeter spends half the year heartbroken," Kreindler explains. "I didn't want to write a story about women as victims. Nor, for that matter, about men as villains." The result: an "unauthorized" version in which the female characters set the record straight.


Like Kreindler’s earlier musicals and solo cabarets, the show is radiant with love for classic Broadway, blending comic show tunes ("had the audience in fits of'll be humming all the way home" – Oxford Daily Information), lyrical ballads ("depth and beauty...songs you'll want to listen to over and over" – Jewish Post), and sharp-witted satire ("it's impressive when a musician can make biofuels funny" – CBC). Though opera is Watson’s usual metier, he’s no stranger to musical theatre: in 1997, he played Emile de Becque in Rainbow Stage's South Pacific. Coincidentally, Sam Plett, who co-stars as a blustering Zeus with an intriguing resemblance to a certain President, played de Becque in Rainbow's 2017 production. Plett's magnificent voice earned him fifth place in the 2016 World Karaoke Championships. Alongside nationally known performers Watson, Plett, and Elizabeth Rotoff (Demeter), the cast features rising stars Erin-Brie Warwick (Persephone), Samantha Hutchings (Medusa), Angelica Reid (Aphrodite), and Loralie Friesen (Hera).


Persephone's story resonated with Kreindler in more ways than one. There's the theme of living in two worlds – in her case, the arts and academia (she's a full-time Assistant Professor of Community Health Sciences at the University of Manitoba). And the character of Demeter, a protective single mom who finds her own strength, owes a lot to Kreindler's mother, Reena. Reena's directorship of I Married the King is the latest chapter in a mother–daughter collaboration dating back to Sara's teens: both were core members of the musical satire troupe Just Theatre, whose revue The Phantom of the Deficit was Sara's Fringe debut ("screamingly funny" – Winnipeg Free Press). But while the tender, unbreakable Demeter–Persephone bond is founded in fact, the Demeter–Hades enmity is not. Reena, though a mere one year older than Watson, is delighted that he calls her Mom. "I can't imagine a sweeter son-in-law."


Sweet? The King of the Underworld? Just another discrepancy between myth and reality.


I Married the King... plays July 17-28, 2019, at Venue 1, the RMTC John Hirsch Theatre.


Reena Kreindler
E-mail: andmymomfreaked (at) gmail (dot) com

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