York alumni husband and wife team launch gender-bending musical

York alumni husband-and-wife team David Hein (BFA Spec. Hons. ’97) and Irene Carl Sankoff (BA Hons. ’99) catapulted to centre stage when Mirvish Productions snapped up their 2009 Fringe Festival hit, My Mother’s Lesbian Jewish Wiccan Wedding, for a run at Toronto’s Panasonic Theatre, starting tomorrow.

It all started with the titular song that Hein, an award-winning singer-songwriter, wrote two years ago as a present for his mother after her real-life wedding. He performed the song on tour across North America and it quickly became an audience favourite – challenging homophobic beliefs and becoming a rallying cry for gay marriage equality south of the border. 

Seeing the obvious dramatic potential in the situation, the duo began writing the musical last January. Together, they set out to tell their favourite stories and answer the usual questions: what life is like with two moms; including seven parents at their wedding; the “facts of life” talk that Carl Sankoff received from her in-laws; and how Hein’s mother first came out to him.

The song titles in the musical offer a glimpse into the approach and emotional terrain of the show. They range from the tender If You Love Me, through the hilarious You Don’t Need a Penis and Don’t Take Your Lesbian Moms to Hooters, to the educational A Short History of Gay Marriage in Canada.

Right: Lisa Horner and David Hein in a scene from My Mother’s Lesbian Jewish Wiccan Wedding. Photo by Lindsay Anne Black for Mirvish Productions.

My Mother’s Lesbian Jewish Wiccan Wedding sold out during its Toronto Fringe Festival run this summer at Kensington Market’s Bread & Circus venue, garnering four-star reviews in both Eye Weekly and NOW Magazine. With the support of Mirvish Productions, Canada’s largest theatrical producer, the show has been expanded and reworked to include new songs, more characters, a larger cast and a bigger band. 

In addition to penning the musical, both Hein and Carl Sankoff perform in the show. Hein plays himself and also narrates some other sections of the production. Carl Sankoff takes on the role of Hein’s mother’s landlord, Michelle.

Tickets are available online or by calling 1-800-461-3333.

Hein and Carl Sankoff met as students at a frosh week barbecue at Winter’s College at York University. Carl Sankoff earned an Honours BA with a double major in psychology and creative writing. She was the first person to win both the Bethune Residence Dr. Emily Stowe Award for the graduating female Bethune resident with the highest grade point average, and the Dr. Wendell MacLeod Award for her contribution to residence life. Hein received his BFA in theatre, specializing in set and lighting design. He has since designed over 50 productions in Toronto and New York City in addition to his successful career as a musician.

My Mother’s Lesbian Jewish Wiccan Wedding is not the first collaborative work of this creative couple. Their previous Toronto Fringe Festival show, Moving at the Speed of Life, was remounted last month at Vaughan’s City Playhouse Theatre. Given the early success of their latest joint project, the personal and professional partnership of Hein and Carl Sankoff seems a winning combination.