Rainbow Stage | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Rainbow Stage

After several seasons of poor weather a triodetic dome was constructed over the theatre in 1970.

Rainbow Stage

 Rainbow Stage. Canada's longest-surviving outdoor theatre, located in the natural setting of Kildonan Park in north Winnipeg. It opened 7 Jul 1954 with the aim of presenting operettas and musicals using local performers. In 1956 the Winnipeg Summer Theatre Association was founded to administer the theatre, and in 1966 the non-profit organization Rainbow Stage Inc was chartered, with Jack Shapira (a popular Winnipeg band leader in the 1950s) as executive producer. A flamboyant and outspoken promoter, Shapira was credited with much of the theatre's long-term success; however he was forced to resign in 1988 as a result of financial improprieties in the running of the organization. After a period of reorganization, Jerrett Enns became general manager in 1991.

After several seasons of poor weather a triodetic dome was constructed over the theatre in 1970. Further renovations in 1975, prolonged by a labour dispute which forced a temporary move to the Manitoba Centennial Concert Hall, provided 2342 seats (a reduction of 600 from the original) and modernized facilities. In 1986, the final phase of this three-phase project was completed. A fly gallery, carpentry and paint shops, classrooms and expanded change rooms were added to enhance the facility.

The first full-length musical to be presented was Brigadoon, in the fall of 1955. The number of productions each season has fluctuated, and during the first few years musical variety shows were presented. Most of the productions have been of Broadway musicals including: Annie Get Your Gun (1956), Kiss Me Kate (1956), The King and I (1958, 1963, 1969, 1979), Guys and Dolls (1959), Damn Yankees (1960), The Boy Friend (1961, 1975), Pal Joey (1962), The Music Man (1962, 1968), My Fair Lady (1966), The Sound of Music (1967), Carousel (1989), Cinderella (1990) and Anything.Goes (1990) In 1990 Rainbow Stage presented its first original production, the musical review Say It With Music, 'put together by Manitobans for Manitobans' featuring songs from The Wizard of Oz, Music Man, Kismet, Gypsy, West Side Story, Fiddler on the Roof, and other musicals.

Stars for some productions have been imported, but leading local directors and performers have been employed when possible, and several have become perennial favourites of Rainbow audiences, or have made names for themselves elsewhere. These include the directors John Hirsch and Peggy Jarman Green; the conductors. Filmer Hubble and Eric Wild; the singing actors Evelyne Anderson, Len Cariou, Ed Evanko, Cliff Gardiner, Morley Meredith, and Bill Walker; the chorus director James Duncan; and the dance director Arnold Spohr. Other Canadian performers at Rainbow Stage have included Jan Rubes, Roma Hearn, Catherine McKinnon, and Wally Koster.

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