Tag Archives: Garth Drabinsky

Impresario Drabinsky Sentenced to Seven Years; Out on Bail Pending Appeal

Former Livent head honcho Garth Drabinsky was finally sentenced today to seven years in jail after being convicted of fraud and forgery last March.

As I wrote a few weeks ago, Drabinsky has been alternatively sainted and damned by various circles of Canadian theatre society.

Former Livent Executive Garth Drabinsky

Former Livent Executive Garth Drabinsky.

Some Canadian media and bloggers had scoffed at the notion put forward by Drabinsky’s legal team that he should receive house arrest and perhaps lecture at universities as a form of community service.

Even after his name had been dragged through the mud for over a decade, Drabinsky was able to drum up some glowing character references from no less than Martha Henry, Christopher Plummer and E.L. Doctorow.

The criminal conviction will now likely be followed by multiple civil suits, so Drabinksy’s days in courts are far from over.  It probably also puts the final nail in the CBC reality show Triple Sensation which Drabinsky executive produced.

UPDATED, Thursday August 6, 2009 : Don’t expect Drabinsky and his co-convicted Myron Gottlieb to spend time behind bars anytime soon.  After spending the morning in a courthouse jail cell, they were released on bail by the afternoon, pending appeals of their convictions and sentences. The appeals could take as long as a year.

CBC’s Triple Sensation: Finale

Before the finale of CBC’s Triple Sensation, it seems a foregone conclusion that Leah Cogan will be crowned the winner.  As much as I’d like to lay claim to being prescient, all credit goes to the formulaic editing of the show that pretty much told the audience who was going to win back in week three.

There were some good performances out of the top six, and all the focus really was on the talent.  The personal interviews were kept to a bare minimum, and each finalist sang, danced and acted separately.

Excluding the personal stories and the offstage likeability of the performers made the show an entirely different creature.  It also helped me come to a more-or-less final conclusion as to my relative indifference to Leah Cogan.  She is most definitely a triple threat, but she isn’t suited for reality television.  With all of the personal distractions swept aside, she shone brightly in all three of her solo performances.

triple sensation1

Newfoundland’s Liam Tobin was the runner up and he completely won over the panel.  Tobin is all charm and smiles and his acting and singing weren’t too bad either.  He is definitely leading man material.

Cayley Thomas did a competent version of “A Quiet Thing” from Flora the Red Menace.  It wasn’t bad but it didn’t really stand out, especially in the face of such strong competition.

I was surprised that Kaitlyn Semple wasn’t in the top three.  Her “Cabaret” was sexy and confident, but not good enough apparently for the judges.

I really enjoyed David Light’s “Sara Lee” from Kander & Ebb’s And The World Goes Round.  He was funny in a way that we haven’t seen before and it made for a nice change of pace.

Hailey Gillis infused herself into “Maybe This Time” from Cabaret and you could feel her strength and determination.  I was a little put out by the judges’ comments that she wasn’t playing a character; she was just singing it as herself.  There was some truth to it though, but I still thought it was a personal high performance for her.

As I already predicted, Leah Cogan of Embrun, Ontario was declared the winner of the $150,000 scholarship and the Triple Sensation title.  And I’d say that she definitely earned it.  Whatever it is that you need to be a star, Cogan has it it spades.

That brings this season to a bittersweet end.  It seems unlikely that there will be a third season anytime soon.  This second season was already shot and finished last fall, but the airing was delayed until now.  With Executive Producer and marquee panel judge Garth Drabinsky already convicted of fraud in criminal court last spring, the future of Triple Sensation does not look bright.  Drabinksy’s sentencing has been delayed multiple times, but is currently scheduled to be handed down on August 5th.

Week 5: Workshop Presentation

Week 4: Master Class (part 2)

Week 3: Master Class

Week 2: Vancouver Auditions

Week 1: Eastern Auditions

Impresario awaits sentencing, famous friends come to his defence

Garth Drabinsky and Myron Gottlieb’s two-day sentencing hearing ended Tuesday, with Justice Mary Lou Benotto scheduled to sentence on August 5th.

Drabinsky and Gottlieb were convicted of fraud and forgery in an Ontario court in March and have been awaiting their sentences both legal-wise and in the court of public opinion.

Garth Drabinsky

Former Livent executive, Garth Drabinsky

For anyone who wasn’t paying attention to professional musical theatre in Canada through most of the 90s, Drabinsky was the driving force behind the theatre production company Livent.  In its heyday, Livent produced multiple hit musicals and had its fingers in theatres in Toronto, Chicago, New York and Vancouver.

The 1995 construction of the then-Ford Centre for the Performing Arts in Vancouver was accompanied by a tidal wave of publicist-generated excitement.  Up until that point, our city had been temporary host to varying touring productions of Broadway shows, but the Ford Centre would ostensibly mean bigger-budget shows with longer runs that weren’t beholden to the economics and logistics of transporting sets.

I covered live theatre for a youth publication, at the time, and I reviewed most, if not all, of the Livent productions that came to town including Joseph, Phantom, Showboat and Sunset Boulevard.

The building formerly known as the Ford Centre for the Performing Arts, now just The Centre.

The building formerly known as the Ford Centre for the Performing Arts, now just The Centre in Vancouver.

That was before it all came crashing down. In August of 1998, Drabinsky and Gottlieb were forcibly removed from their offices and found themselves facing a $225 million lawsuit from Livent’s new management.

Out came the allegations of cooked-books, financial mismanagement, corporate theft, and fraud.  Gottlieb and Drabinsky were investigated by American and Canadian authorities and were eventually indicted in New York, although they never showed up in the U.S. court to face the music.

Now that the duo has been convicted in Canada and are awaiting sentencing, some notable artistic luminaries have come out to have their say as well.  For a man who, by all accounts, defrauded investors of half a billion dollars, Drabinsky seems to have no shortage of famous friends defending him

Several of those filed letters with the court in support of Drabinsky:

Actor Martha Henry, Companion of the Order of Canada, compares him to such figures as Orson Wells [sic], Donald Trump, Oscar Wilde, Harry Houdini and Conrad Black (perhaps some artistic foreshadowing?). [emphasis mine]

She continues, “I hope it’s possible to take into account Mr. Drabinsky’s very real strengths (how much poorer our mythology would be without him) and consider leniency in his sentencing.  Garth will, and should, live to flourish again.  And again, and again.  We look forward to reading about his next adventure and in many ways, we admire him and wish we all had some of his intelligence, his showmanship and his bold, risk-taking vision.”

Emmy and Tony award-winning Actor Christopher Plummer writes, “. . . [T]his is the only side of Drabinsky that I know – Garth the Optimist, the Achiever, who, lest we forget, has never ceased to stimulate the Arts and contribute to the culture of his own country with such ferocity and such conviction.”

Ragtime author E.L. Doctorow contributes, “There is a life history here of someone raising himself by his own bootstraps to the pinnacle of his profession.  That he has, after years of visionary theatrical entrepreneurship, come to this, I cannot view as anything less than a personal tragedy.”

Livent’s productions did often win critical acclaim and amassed 19 Tony awards.  And, despite the terrible things Drabinsky has been accused and convicted of, I’ll always be grateful for his support of Ragtime, one of the first musicals that really inspired my interest in the genre.


I’m not questioning Drabinsky’s influence on Canadian theatre and the arts, but he and some of his supporters seem to be living in a different world than the rest of us.  People were defrauded of hundreds of millions of dollars, countless jobs were lost and who really knows how many lives were ruined by this man’s actions.

But, you wouldn’t know that from the almost hagiographic letters of support filed with the judge.  Based on those, you could be forgiven for thinking he was up for another prestigious award.

While the new revival of Ragtime (unaffiliated with Drabinsky) on Broadway is cause for celebration, where Drabinsky will be hanging his hat on its opening night in November, is still up in the air, at least until the 5th of August.

CBC’s Triple Sensation: Season Two

Musical theatre and reality television are not always a winning combination (think NBC shudder-fest Grease: You’re The One That I Want).

triple sensation

I was, however, glued to the 2007 season of CBC’s Triple Sensation.  The reality show has performers, aged 16-26, vying for the title and a $150,000 scholarship towards the theatre school of the winner’s choice.  The finalists are put through their paces in a weeks-long master class that spans everything from musical theatre to Shakespeare to clowning.

The first season boasted two young BC talents among the 12 finalists, Port Coquitlam’s Joel Ballard (Jesus Christ Superstar, TUTS) and Delta’s Kazumi Evans (West Side Story, RCMT).

There has been a lot of mixed reaction to Triple Sensation, much of it circling around the involvement of producer and former Livent impresario Garth Drabinsky (Ragtime, Show Boat).  Drabinsky, who has been under a perpetual cloud of legal troubles since Livent went bankrupt in 1998, was convicted this March of fraud and forgery in Ontario and is currently awaiting a July sentencing.

This second season has already been filmed, so the show will go on, regardless if one of its judges ends up behind bars.

Along with Drabinsky, the judge’s panel includes actor Cynthia Dale (TV’s Street Legal), composer Marvin Hamlisch (A Chorus Line), choreographer Sergio Trujillo (Jersey Boys), and director Adrian Noble (Royal Shakespeare Company).

Triple Sensation returns for a second season, Monday, June 22, with the first round of auditions taking place in Toronto.  Make sure to pay special attention to next week’s Vancouver audition episode.

Triple Sensation airs in six parts, Mondays on CBC, through July 27th.