David Feinstein, Ann Mortifee and Ed Henderson – collaborators in creation of Me Too, Persephone

The three creators of THE MYSTERIES. David Feinstein, Ann Mortifee, and Edward Henderson have collaborated on several other musicals and creative projects. (photo by Kris Krug)

Ann Mortifee
ANN MORTIFEE is a singer with a 4-octave range, a composer and librettist, and an author. A member of the Order of Canada, she is internationally recognized for her albums, concerts, musicals, and scores for dance, film and TV. Her music integrates the genres of musical theatre, folk, pop, sacred and world music into a potent, uniquely original mix – music of the human journey. THE MYSTERIES is her sixth musical.

David Feinstein
DAVID FEINSTEIN, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist with a deep interest in contemporary ritual and myth. His seminal work, Personal Mythology, was the 2007 USA Book News Psychology/Mental Health Book of the Year, one of nine national awards his books on consciousness and healing has received. He has served on the faculties of The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and of Antioch College.

Edward Henderson
Award-winning musician EDWARD HENDERSON is a composer, arranger-orchestrator, guitarist, musical director, music publisher and music producer. His extensive work in Canada’s theatre, music and film communities includes composing theatrical scores for the Stratford Festival, the Arts Club Theatre Company and Tarragon Theatre. THE MYSTERIES is the third musical Ed has collaborated on with Ann Mortifee.

Ed Henderson and Ann Mortifee, Mysteries
Ann with dear friend and long-time musical collaborator and artistic co-creator, Edward Henderson, on the day that they completed the vocal and piano score for their new musical, The Mysteries.

Ancient figure of Demeter
A small, ancient statue of the Greek Goddess Demeter that sits on Ann’s grand piano kept a close watch on the proceedings as Ann and Ed composed the music.

Zeus, King of the Gods and Ruler of the Sky, was known for throwing bolts of lightning and temper tantrums.

In ancient myths, Zeus’s beautiful daughter, Persephone, was snatched from a field and transported to the underworld.

Hades, God of the Underworld, and brother of Zeus, ought not to have fallen in love with his niece, Persephone, but he did. He is pictured here with his multi-headed ‘hound of Hades’, Cerberus.

Demeter, Goddess of the earth and fertility, was the loving mother of Persephone and wife of Zeus. Her heartbreak over her daughter’s abduction wreaked havoc on the land.

Ann Mortifee – composer
Ann at the piano, working on ‘The Mysteries’, with Demeter watching.

A father sells his daughter in a shady backroom deal; a mother’s grief and rage devastates the earth; a young victim claims power to become Queen of the Underworld; and the Lord of Death is transformed by it all.


The rape and imprisonment of Persephone was a foundational myth in the emergence of the Western psyche. It reverberates today not only in the #MeToo movement, but also in its prophesy of the environmental crisis we now face. The rule of competition, domination, and self-glorification over the feminine inclinations toward compassion, connection, and cooperation are now seen in the destruction of a planet that is literally the mother to us all. With heartbreaking betrayals, acts of stunning courage, haunting melodies, comic interludes,  and passionate drama, THE MYSTERIES, shows how the story might be rewritten if we hope to survive in these dangerous times.

 The full website for THE MYSTERIES includes recordings, script, and other details. LINK HERE

Book by Ann Mortifee in collaboration with David Feinstein

Music and Lyrics by Ann Mortifee

Score by Ann Mortifee in collaboration with Edward Henderson

A showcase at the Stanley Industrial Alliance Theatre, Vancouver BC, June 12, 2017, was made possible thanks to Touchstone Theatre’s IN TUNE Program and the Arts Club Theatre Company.





“Profound lyrics and beautiful music. Makes you go from tears to big laughs.”

“Exciting, riveting, profound, and very moving.”

“A brilliant musical masterpiece that brings our current global anxieties into sharp focus through Greek mythology.”

“Smart, witty and wise.”

“ Spectacular. The voices, the depth, the humour, so moving.”

“A powerful parable that spans the ages, beautifully transcribed for modern audiences.”

“A musical joy, multi-layered messages woven into the myth of Persephone with pathos, humour, current world topics and great story telling.”

“Fantastic, topical, thought-provoking, a story for our times.”

“An ancient story made relevant to today. A message we need to hear.”

“Great music, passion, lots of humour, myths to plumb.”

“Moving, touching, funny and engaging.”


Program from the world premiere of Ann Mortifee’s Into the Heart of the Sangoma at the Arts Club Theatre in Vancouver.

Jenni Burke
Into the Heart of the Sangoma began as a one-woman show, but when Ann held auditions in Toronto and heard Jenni sing, she knew that Jenni would bring something unique to the show.

Credo Mutwa
Ann travelled to South Africa to meet the revered Sangoma, Vusamazula Credo Mutwa, pictured here seated in front of one of his paintings. Credo Mutwa believes that people must awaken their ‘mother minds’, the part of human consciousness that feels what is happening in the world.

Sugar Cane Plantation house
The verandah of Ann’s family home in Mtubatuba, KwaZulu-Natal, where she spent her early childhood listening to tales told by her Zulu nanny, Gausaulolo.

The beautiful Arts Club graphics for the world premiere of Into the Heart of the Sangoma were inspired by a mask created by Ann’s friend, Sunnie Lindell.


Into the Heart of the Sangoma, A Musical Journey, premiered at the Arts Club Granville Island Stage in Vancouver and played for one month. The 90-minute African-inspired production was based on Ann’s music from an album with the same name. Both the album and the stage show resulted from a remarkable experience.

In a dream, an African Sangoma (healer) told Ann to return to Zululand, South Africa, the place of her birth. Ann made the journey and met with Vusamazulu Credo Mutwa, the revered Sangoma and keeper of the ancient wisdoms and traditions of the Zulu nation. Her surprising, insightful conversation with him and other Zulu Sangomas inspired the songs in the album and the storyline of the musical.

Into the Heart of the Sangoma was conceived as a one-woman show, but when Ann met the charismatic entertainer, Jenni Burke, she instinctively felt that Jenni would be perfect for the role of the Sangoma. And she was right!

Written by Ann Mortifee

Performed by Ann Mortifee and Jenni Burke

Partial proceeds from the Into the Heart of the Sangoma stage production were donated to AIDS charities in Africa.

Link to Album

 “A musical tour de force for Ann Mortifee”

The show “…exuded a magical realism reminiscent of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude. The duets by Mortifee and Burke were perfectly timed.”


“Ann Mortifee has created a masterpiece in this recording. Her years of travel, spiritual searching, performing, writing and a deep desire to touch bases with her roots in Africa, all come to fruition in Into the Heart of the Sangoma. I was deeply moved. You will be too.”
Paul Horn, Jazz Flutist and ‘Father of New Age Music’

“Ann Mortifee’s CD is more than successful. Listening to it, as I have done repeatedly since I first got a copy, I have felt expanded and awakened in the depths of my soul.
If you want to experience the finest work of a truly great composer and vocal artist at the height of her powers, don’t waste a second before getting Into the Heart Of the Sangoma.” – John Robbins, Author: Healthy at 100, Diet for a New America, The Food Revolution, and Co-Author with Ann Mortifee, of The Awakened Heart


“I admit it — I have a copy that I pulled off a buddy’s computer when I was working on it for him. Most of his stuff was not my taste, and I quickly deleted it. But when I heard this album, I played it over and over for a week straight! It reminded me of my first encounter with Miles Davis (Kind Of Blue), which was so far from my normal experience that I had to listen to it over and over in the pursuit of making sense of it all. I have since paid penance to Mortifee by buying legal copies for my mother and sister!
The album is organized in alternating musical and dramatic spoken tracks (with background music) that set each other up. The opening number (Nomkumbulwana) prepares you for the journey as you realize that this is a cohesive body of work, and not just a collection of songs.
Even after dozens of listenings, I can’t hear “Indlovu” without tears streaming down!”

“If you like “world music” with an edge, and appreciate vocal virtuosity and wonderful composition and orchestration, this album is for you. Think ‘Ladysmith Black Mambazo meets Yma Sumac.’

“This probably is the most profound recorded material I have heard.
Although it’s themed in Africa, its messages relate to everyone, everywhere. I can’t describe this work in a way that would do it justice, except to say Ms. Mortifee makes a superb statement, in terms of musicality, poetry and a spiritual message that takes root in the heart.”


Ann’s apartheid-era story is about a white girl and a black boy who fall in love as children and how their lives evolve.

Ann played the lead role of Emily.

Ann drew on her childhood experiences in South Africa, and the Zulu people she knew there, as the foundation for the story.
Ann’s childhood nanny, Gosololo, could never have imagined that the stories she told her young charge would one day impact the plot of an anti-apartheid musical.
Ann with long-time musical collaborator and artistic co-creator, Edward Henderson, creating the musical score for When the Rains Come.
Cover of the When the Rains Come Musical Score by Ann Mortifee and Edward Henderson.

The racist, repressive apartheid laws of Ann’s birth country, South Africa, were condemned by countries around the world.

Ann’s father, a member of parliament under Jan Smuts, was so passionately opposed to the unconscionable apartheid laws that he re-located his family to Canada.

Ann’s family and all white South Africans opposed to apartheid rejoiced with Winnie Mandela when her husband Nelson was finally released from prison.

In the years following Ann’s family’s departure from South Africa, a world-wide chorus of voices joined together demanding freedom for political prisoner, Nelson Mandela.

New World Stages in Manhattan, location of the 2001 Festival of New Musicals, where Ann’s musical, When the Rains Come, was showcased.

New World Stages in Manhattan, location of the 2001 Festival of New Musicals, where Ann’s musical, When the Rains Come, was showcased.

The second full-length musical by Ann Mortifee, When the Rains Come, is a passionate, epic musical set during apartheid and post-apartheid South Africa. A modern day Romeo and Juliet story, it brims with the joy of love and the despair and heartbreak encountered by those faced with man’s inhumanity to man.

The show premiered in concert form with limited production elements at the Arts Club MainStage Theatre in Vancouver, BC.

When the Rains Come was also chosen from hundreds of submissions to be presented to producers, agents and industry professionals from all over North America and Europe at the National Alliance for Musical Theatre’s 13th Annual Festival of New Musicals in New York City. Sadly, the terrible 9/11 twin towers disaster happened 12 days before the festival was to open. The city and the country were in crisis, and festival participants who would have otherwise flown to New York to attend were unable or unwilling to travel. The festival that year was sparsely attended and sombre.

Lyrics by Ann Mortifee

Music by Edward Henderson and Ann Mortifee

Book by David Feinstein and Ann Mortifee

Lead role of Emily – Ann Mortifee

Apartheid was an institutionalized system of racial separation in South Africa, where Ann was born. Her father, a politician, left South Africa in protest of the apartheid regime and re-located his family to Vancouver, BC. 

Ann’s anti-apartheid play had its premiere 4 years after Nelson Mandela was released from a 27 year imprisonment. Coinciding with the play’s opening was South Africa’s first democratic general election. At last all citizens were free to vote.

In 2014, some of Ann’s family members visited South Africa and drove to the sugarcane plantation in Zululand that her grandfather built. Although the plantation is still going strong, the family believes that a more important legacy is the tireless work that he put into creating the Hluhluwe and Umflozi Game Reserves (now called Hluhluwe–Imfolozi Park) to save the white rhinoceros from extinction.


Clipping – Reflections on Crooked Walking
Ann’s first full-length musical provided delightful roles for some of Vancouver’s leading character actors.

Reflections on Crooked Walking
In person, Ann Mortifee radiates inner joy and good humour. Onstage, in the role of Madame Opia, she had a great time throwing theatrical tantrums and heinous hissy fits.

Madame Opia
Ann played the role of Madame Opia in the world premiere of Reflections on Crooked Walking.

Album cover for Reflections on Crooked Walking
The cover art on the original cast recording reflects the fairy-tale/fable nature of Ann’s storyline.

Crooked Walking Original Cast
An all-star group of performers, including her sister Jane, drew sold-out crowds to Ann’s mindful, whimsical musical.

Crooked Walking Original Program
Reflections on Crooked Walking by Ann Mortifee was a huge hit during its inaugural run and two successful re-mounts.

Encore Cover – Reflections on Crooked Walking
Ann Mortifee’s Reflections on Crooked Walking was a huge hit with audiences of all ages at the Arts Club Theatre in Vancouver.

Reflections on Crooked Walking
Look closely – that’s Ann, second from right, in costume as the diabolically dark Madame Opia.

Reflections on Crooked Walking is the first full-length musical written by Ann.  Aimed at a family audience, it is a fun, fantasy story that premiered at the Arts Club Theatre in Vancouver. The plot centres on four characters who find themselves the only ones in their town who are still awake, and their adventurous search for a cure for the sleeping sickness.

By Ann Mortifee

Ann played the role of Queen Opia in the premier production and a reprise production.

Ann was the Director of the third run of the play.

“It’s like a loving, delicate sketch – one where the playwright and lyricist expects  her audience to watch and listen for the subtle details, the modest voice, the un-monumental change, all of which will culminate in a story of personal transformation. In short, it’s a daring piece, in that it’s so beautifully quiet and simple.”

“Mortifee triumphs with magical fantasy, Reflections on Crooked Walking. . .the songs and adventures make the show a fine romp, and the special effects and unusual costumes cast a glamour over every scene—sometimes spooky, sometimes beautiful, but always wonderfully strange.”  Marvin Entz, The West Ender

“Ann Mortifee’s hit musical, Reflections on Crooked Walking. . . Judith Marcuse choreographed the show . . . audiences loved it. We revived it a year later and then we revived it two times after that and it became a Christmas show,” says Millerd, “And I keep threatening to do it yet again.” – National Post interview with Bill Millerd, Artistic Managing Director, Arts Club Theatre

Three separate productions of Reflections on Crooked Walking have delighted Christmas season audiences at the Arts Club Theatre in Vancouver. The musical also highlighted another member of the Mortifee family, Ann’s sister Jane, a talented singer, actor and performer in her own right, playing the role of Gabby.

Cast Recording – Album of the original production Link Here


A photo of Jacques Brel and his great love, Maddly Bamy, appeared on the cover of the Jacques and Maddly script, written by Ann Mortifee and David O. Frazier, for the play’s workshop premiere at the Cleveland Play House.

Maddly and Jacques beside plane
French Polynesian-born Maddly Bamy, Jacques Brel’s companion for the last seven years of his life, travelled from her home in France to appear in Ann Mortifee and David O. Frazier’s show about the famous couple.

Jacques Brel & Maddly Bamy
The music of Jacques Brel, pictured here in a light-hearted moment with Maddly Bamy, mesmerized Ann from the first time that she heard it, and led to her performing in three different productions of Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris.

Avec Maddly Bamy
Ann Mortifee and Maddly Bamy, pictured here with a friend, became great friends while collaborating on and appearing together in the show, Jacques and Maddly.

Clipping – joyful collaboration
Ann Mortifee and David O. Frazier starred in the show that they co-created, and they were thrilled when Maddly Bamy became involved in the project and offered to appear onstage as herself.

Program Jacques and Maddly
Ann was fascinated by the life of Jacques Brel, who spent his final years with Maddly Bamy on one of the 118 islands of French Polynesian, Hiva Oa, a place known for its most famous inhabitant, the painter Paul Gauguin.

Through French pop singer Johnny Hallyday’s long-time backup singer and friend, Erik Bamy, Jacques Brel met Bamy’s sister, Maddly. She was a dancer/actress, they fell in love, and Brel spent the last 7 years of his life with her. The Bamy siblings were from French Polynesia, and Jacques and Maddly travelled there and eventually settled on the island of Hiva Oa.

A theatre colleague of Ann’s from her days in Cleveland, David O. Frazier, read a book by Maddly about her relationship with Brel and was fascinated. Knowing that Ann adored Brel’s music, he suggested to Ann that they create a play about the romance. David and Ann decided to tie the Brel/Bamy story to the story of the French painter, Gauguin, who had lived on Hiva Oa.

Eventually Maddly herself became involved in the project, and to Ann’s delight, joined the cast. The collaborative play, Jacques and Maddly, premiered at Kennedy’s Theatre, Play House Square, Cleveland, Ohio.

Music and Lyrics by Ann Mortifee and Madly Bamy (with the guidance of Jacques Brel)
Conceived and Adapted by David O. Frazier and Ann Mortifee

Woman, Maddly’s Inner Voice – Ann Mortifee
Maddly Bamy – Herself
Man (Maddly’s memory of Jacques) – Joe Neal
Gauguin – David O. Frazier


Ann Mortifee as Scherezade in The Arabian Knight.

Arabian Knight
David Frazier and Ann Mortifee hold audiences spellbound in The Arabian Knight at the Drury Theatre/Cleveland Play House.

Richard Francis Burton by Rischgitz,1864
The storied life of Richard Francis Burton, which Ann captured in music and lyrics, has fascinated and perplexed people for over one hundred and fifty years.

Clipping – Arabian Knight
David Frazier and Joseph J. Garry Jr.’s script, and Ann Mortifee’s music and lyrics about the life of Sir Richard Burton, explore the clash between eastern and western cultures.

Arabian Knight
Ann’s haunting music and lyrics conjure up the complex, controversial life of the Victorian explorer, and translator of The Arabian Nights, Sir Richard Burton.

The Arabian Knight is a play/pop operetta about the brilliant-but-troubled British explorer and writer, Sir Richard Francis Burton. One of Burton’s many accomplishments, which scandalized Victorian England, was translating the epic story, One Thousand and One Nights (also called The Arabian Nights) into English.

The play premiered at the Cleveland Play House Drury Theatre in Cleveland, Ohio.

Conceived and adapted by Joseph J. Garry Jr and David Frazier
Based on the Music, Lyrics and Poetry of Ann Mortifee
Ann Mortifee played the role of Scheherazade

“Strong acting, powerful vocals and elaborate spectacle create a visual feast.”  Michael O’Malley

The primary performers are excellent. Most notable … the powerhouse Mortifee who creates a fascinating and sensual Scheherazade for Frazier’s tortured Burton.” Reviewer Teddi Gibson-Bianchi


Jacques Brel is Alive & Well & Living in Paris
Ann’s second, and longest-lasting, ‘Brel’ appearance was in the Arts Club Theatre’s production of the musical revue in Vancouver, BC. From the top: Patrick Rose, Ruth Nichol, Leon Bibb and Ann Mortifee.

1968  Ann Mortifee with Pat Rose, Leon Bibb and Ruth Nichol in Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris, Arts Club Theatre, Vancouver

Brel Spell
From the moment they were cast together in the original Arts Club Theatre production of ‘Brel’, Ann Mortifee and Leon Bibb ‘clicked’, and a great friendship began.

Ann with Leon
Ann Mortifee and Leon Bibb, two of the stars of Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris.

Ann Mortifee and Leon Bibb
Ann’s dear friend Leon Bibb was on hand to celebrate when she was invested into the Order of Canada in 1992.

1970 Ann Mortifee and fellow cast members on tour with ‘Brel’
The original production of the new musical revue, Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris, premiered in New York City in 1968. Ann’s first appearance in the show was with a touring production that originated in Ontario and toured to the USA.

Jacques Brel
Ann Mortifee and Ruth Nichol are the two female singers at an Arts Club Theatre rehearsal of Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris.

Jacques Brel 25th Anniversary Program
Twenty-five years after the show’s record-breaking inaugural run in Vancouver, Ann Mortifee, Leon Bibb, Ruth Nichol and Patrick Rose re-unite for 5 performances of ‘Brel’.

Jacques Brel revival program
Tickets to ‘Brel’ typically sell out almost immediately. This special performance re-unites Leon Bibb and Ann Mortifee, who share the stage with Ann’s sister Jane and John Payne.

Jacques Brel – again
A promotional photo for the 25th Reunion of the original Vancouver cast with Patrick Rose, Ruth Nichol, Leon Bibb and Ann Mortifee.

Jacques Brel 1997
They’ve still got it! Patrick Rose, Ruth Nichol, Ann Mortifee and Leon Bibb wow the crowd all over again at a gala 25th anniversary performance of ‘Brel’.

Jacques Brel 1997
Jacques Brel’s insightful songs of love, loss and life resonate with returning audiences and a whole new generation of fans at the Arts Club Theatre. Left to right: Ruth Nichol, Leon Bibb, Patrick Rose and Ann Mortifee.

Jacques Brel 1997
The heart-stopping, soul-stirring finale of the 25th anniversary performance of ‘Brel’ with Pat Rose, Ruth Nichol, Ann Mortifee and Leon Bibb singing ‘If We Only Have Love’.

Jacques Brel 1997
Still loving the music, Ann Mortifee, Patrick Rose, Leon Bibb and Ruth Nichol harmonize onstage at the Arts Club during a 25th anniversary performance.

Jacques Brel 1997
The Arts Club Theatre on Seymour Street in Vancouver where the cast of ‘Brel’ first performed is long gone. In this photo, Patrick Rose, Leon Bibb, Ann Mortifee and Ruth Nichol, and others from the original production get together at the Arts Club’s Granville Island location.

Album – Jacques Brel Lives
The 25th anniversary performances inspire Leon Bibb, Ann Mortifee, Ruth Nichol and Patrick Rose to record an album called ‘Jacques Brel Lives’, featuring selected songs from the classic revue.


This revue featured songs by Belgian singer-songwriter Jacques Brel, which were translated from French to English by Eric Blau and Mort Shuman. The original Blau/Sherman production premiered in NYC, at the legendary Village Gate Nightclub.

Brel’s dramatic and insightful songs continue to inspire other theatres to stage the show. Ann joined the cast of an Ontario production of ‘Brel’ that toured to Chicago, Milwaukee and New York City, where it played at the Village Gate Nightclub, where the original production had played.

Two years after Ann’s performance in a touring version of ‘Brel’, she was cast with Leon Bibb, Ruth Nichol and Pat Rose in a 1972 Vancouver production of Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris.

The show played for seven months, broke all attendance records at the Arts Club Theatre, and launched a long friendship between Ann Mortifee and Leon Bibb. To this day, people who attended this legendary production of ‘Brel’ are still raving about the experience!

    By Eric Blau and Mort Shuman
    Ann’s role: member of ensemble cast of four performers, Arts Club Theatre, Vancouver

    “On that night four extraordinary performers stepped onto the tiny stage . . . Leon Bibb, Ann Mortifee, Ruth Nichol and Pat Rose electrified the audience of 200 and created a sensation that was to run for seven months.” Bill Millerd, Arts Club Theatre

    “IF WE ONLY HAVE LOVE, which ends the show, tells all. This is what we have to do, love each other. And after people have seen the show, they do.” Leon Bibb

    “Even if it is the only piece of theatre you see this entire summer, do so. It could change your life. At the very least it will make you laugh and it will make you sad and it will speak to you very directly about parts of yourself that you thought no one else understood. … While it’s unfair and unnecessary to pick favourites, because they are all quite magnificent, there is no way any man who spends an evening with Jacques Brel is going to avoid falling in love with Ann Mortifee. She came close to stopping the show at least twice on Thursday; she will no doubt do it for the entire run. She is breathtaking and heart-stopping: quintessential woman, gentle and laughing.” Max Wyman Vancouver Sun, 1972

    “If tonight is your first meeting with Jacques Brel, I can only ask you to simply let it happen to you. Brel and our four beautiful cast members are leaving themselves totally open to you. For this I love them deeply. I only ask you to be open to them. Perhaps no more than one song will touch you at all . . . and that will be enough. But if you’ve seen Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris before, I don’t have to explain anything to you. You know; you’ve already been there. Welcome home.” Richard Ouzounian, Director

    “The people who dig Jacques Brel are not only fans, but members of a cult. A Victoria couple phoned to ask if they could possibly, please, attend the preview, because they would be out of province during the run of the play. So they were told yes, they arrived gratefully and joined the rest of the preview audience. When Ann Mortifee sang the haunting “Sons of ___” ballad, it was followed by an awed hush broken simultaneously by the applause of the crowd and the rush of the man from Victoria, who moved on stage and kissed Ann’s hand.” Lorne Parton, The Province 

    “Ann Mortifee to my mind is not a role-playing woman. She is a rather liberated woman and she came to me and said, “Richard I can’t do this earth-mother trip. I can’t say, ‘Oh love, it’s going to be all right, come let me hold you!” I just can’t do it. So in the new version, it is almost as if woman is trying to play this old role that man expects of her, but it breaks down. She’s tired of it. So maybe we turned the song into something more meaningful. This earth-mother trip is something I don’t like either.” Richard Ouzounian 

    “Miss Mortifee stole the show. Her singing of Marieke had a heart-catching, goose-flesh quality that was merely a foretaste of what she was to do with Sons of. . . and Carousel. She projects so – lives the music, lives the words, and brings it all across, the essence of Brel, the pain and the vulnerability and the human bruise and softness of it all, so that, ultimately, we can perhaps learn a little from it, gain a little succor by recognizing a hurt we might have thought was solitary. I said it before, and it applies equally in these shortened circumstances: she somehow becomes the quintessential woman, the embodiment of frailty and indomitable courage. On a purely instinctive, gut-communication level, it is impossible not to respond to what she and Brel have to say.” Max Wyman, Sun Music Critic

    “Even the critics, masters of public indifference, stood up and clapped. It is a beautiful, emotional, completely involving evening, a musical which is not just a few songs connected by the thin spiderweb of a plot, not a collection of dancers ornamenting that spiderweb, and not really a musical at all in the general sense. It is an experience for an audience and a group of four actors, all of whom should preferably have lived, loved, sat back after their tears and signed a little, and then, much later, thought about it all and smiled.” James Barber, The Province

    Second Run – Several years after its first run at the Arts Club, the Vancouver cast of ‘Brel’ was reunited for a limited second run.

    25th Reunion and Cast Recording – The Vancouver cast of ‘Brel’ came together again for a popular limited run to mark the 25th anniversary of the original production and a cast recording was released. (Link to album)

    In Memory of Jacques Brel – To commemorate the life of Jacques Brel, and his love affair with the French dancer/singer, Maddly Bamy, Ann co-wrote with David O. Frazier and Maddly Bamy, a play called Jacques and Maddly. It was workshopped at the Playhouse Square Centre in Cleveland, Ohio.

    In Memory of Leon Bibb – Three months after Leon’s Bibb’s death in October 2015, Ann Mortifee, Ruth Nichol and two other performers sang a Brel song at the Celebration of Life Concert in Leon’s memory, held at the Arts Club Theatre in Vancouver.


    Clipping from the Otawa Journal.
    Clipping from the Toronto Star
    Love and Maple Syrup at the National Arts Center in Ottawa.
    The cast of Love and Maple Syrup.
    A scene from Love and Maple Syrup.
    The cast of Love and Maple Syrup in rehearsal. Clipping from the Ottawa Journal.
    The opening scene of Love and Maple Syrup.
    A review of Love and Maple Syrup from The Province.
    News clipping of Love and Maple Syrup from The New York Times.
    A review of Love and Maple Syrup by Clive Barnes of The New York Times.
    A review of Love and Maple Syrup from the Toronto Star.
    Love and Maple Syrup Playfare Cover NYC.
    Love and Maple Syrup Program NYC.
    Love and Maple Syrup Program NAC.
    Love and Maple Syrup Program NAC.


    The Love and Maple Syrup Revue took its name from a song that Gordon Lightfoot wrote for the production. Along with Lightfoot’s music, the show featured songs by Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen and other Canadian songwriters. The production originated in Ontario, then toured in the USA, landing at the Mercer-Hansberry Theatre in NYC.

      Devised and compiled by Louis Negin
      Ann was a member of the ensemble cast of seven performers

      This revue marked Ann Mortifee’s first appearance in New York City. Although theatre critic Clive Barnes was lukewarm on the show, he raved about Ann’s performance:
      “ANN MORTIFEE has a voice like a dark lark and a faraway look of mischief in her eyes…”

      “Love and Maple Syrup is an eclectic affair . . . Louis Negin leads the show’s cast of six as they sing, mime and declaim their way through a mixture of prose and poetry chosen mainly for its brightness and obvious appeal. Ann Mortifee, a clean-limbed, clear-voiced Vancouverite, rehearses some of the better songs of Gordon Lightfoot . . .  Beautifully paced and ingeniously staged in front of a stylized tepee, Love and Maple Syrup proves that poetry is best when it is both seen and heard.” – Time Magazine

      “Two openings off Broadway this week pitted one group of young performers emoting feverishly about some personalities in 19th century America against another group commenting coolly on life in 20th century Canada. The Canadians won handily.  In song, poetry and prose, all aspects of love and life in Canada are disarmingly explored, sentimentally, erotically (but not obscenely), lyrically, occasionally vulgarly . . . The songs are by some of the best contemporary composers in any country: Leonard Cohen, Gordon Lightfoot and Joni Mitchell . . . The whole is on the order of a cabaret revue, and the cast of seven performers has the good sense not to pretend to anything more. They are each individually charming entertainers, but perhaps Ann Mortifee and Bill Schustik, the two main singers cum guitars, stand out most prominently . . . Love and Maple Syrup is not aiming to sweep anyone off his feet. It is, however, beguiling and entertaining. Beautiful people, beautiful sounds.”  John J. O’Connor, Wall Street Journal

       “. . . singer-actress Ann Mortifee appears to have a bright future.” Ken Pritchard, Associated Press

      When a young performer catches the attention of a major critic, and the critic writes something positive about them, it can be a dream come true. Clive Barnes was the pre-eminent dance and theatre critic of his day. He was powerful in London, before he came to New York. In New York, he was at the top. Although underwhelmed with the show, he was impressed with Ann. And when he raved about her performance in his influential New York Times column, thousands and thousands of people took notice – agents, producers, theatre-lovers, other newspapers, and the entire theatre community – in New York and beyond. What a heady moment it must have been for Ann when she, or a friend or colleague, opened the New York Times to Clive Barnes’ column and read these words:
      “Ann Mortifee . . .could be quite a discovery . . . Miss Mortifee has a voice like a dark lark and a faraway look of mischief in her eyes, and she plays a guitar with more than common expertise.” 
      What a legacy!


      Ann Mortifee and Chief Dan George.
      Ann Mortifee and Chief Dan George.
      The world premier program cover.

      World premier program content.

      World premier program notes.

      World premier program notes.

      Ann Mortifee and Chief Dan George with Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau standing just behind them, surrounded by the cast of The Ecstasy of Rita Joe at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa.

      Ann Mortifee and Chief Dan George with Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau standing just behind them, surrounded by the cast of The Ecstasy of Rita Joe at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa.

      Newspaper clipping.
      Album cover for The Ecstasy of Rita Joe.

      The Ecstasy of Rita Joe is a two-act play, written by George Ryga, about the a young aboriginal woman who moves from her reservation to the city. The world premiere took place at the Vancouver Playhouse Theatre.

      Ryga’s ground-breaking play was the first stage production to highlight the plight of Canada’s First Nations peoples. Audiences realized that they would be experiencing something very different from standard theatre-fare when they opened the program and read, on page 5, a hard-hitting soliloquy by one of the stars of the production, Chief Dan George, called A Lament for Confederation. As the play unfolds, instead of living happily ever after in her new city life, Rita tragically loses her life.

      The play drew huge crowds in Vancouver, and two years later, the Vancouver cast and crew were invited to Ottawa to perform The Ecstasy of Rita Joe at the opening of the new National Arts Centre. Noted columnist, Allan Fotheringham, discussed the Ottawa performances in his Vancouver Sun column:

      “The Playhouse cast, to the puzzlement of wildly-applauding Ottawa audiences, refuses to return to the stage for curtain calls. “The play – it’s more important than people. If we come back onstage, the audience is going to think, ‘There, it’s just play-acting after all. They’re smiling now.’ We want them to sit there and think a bit. Think about the message – not us.”

      The stubborn refusal to acknowledge the fervent applause was particularly admirable that night, since the Playhouse company – which came down here a bit frightened of venturing into the big leagues – had the final stamp of approval slapped on. The papers have been unanimous in their praise. The Montreal Star critic advises his readers that they owe it to themselves to drive down from Montreal to see George Ryga’s play. The Montreal Gazette critic, in probably the most accurate review, states that Rita Joe is not really a play (probably true), that it is pure corn in parts (true), but finishes by admitting that he has seldom been so moved by two hours of theatre and promises that everyone else will be too (true, true).”

        Written By George Ryga
        Music by Ann Mortifee and Willie Dunn
        Ann was also in the cast, playing the role of the Singer

        I don’t know if it is a great play. But if the role of the stage is to communicate . . . Ryga and Bloomfield have accomplished their purpose. – Jack Richards, Vancouver Sun

        George Ryga has taken the human experience, which in this case is Canadian only by the accident of destiny, distilled it through his fine sense of compassion and given it to us . . . as an act of communion in which our own participation is inescapable. – CBC

        Rita Joe was a landmark in more ways than one. It was—and remains—a play for all seasons and for all peoples. – The Province

        “ A beautifully integrated work . . . excellent artistry, obvious emotional involvement and tasteful production . . . IT IS A REMARKABLE AND MOVING CREATION.”  Jeani Read, The Province

        “ Captures the atmosphere of the Indians’ existence in Canada.” Doug Sagi, Canadian Magazine

        The Ecstasy of Rita Joe has been performed numerous times since the first production was staged. Two years after its world premiere in Vancouver, the cast and crew were invited to Ottawa to perform the play as one of the inaugural productions at the opening of the new National Arts Centre. Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau was in the audience and he came backstage after the show to meet and congratulate the cast.

        Two years after the play’s National Arts Centre performance, Ann Mortifee was commissioned by the Royal Winnipeg Ballet to compose the dance score for a full-length dance version of The Ecstasy of Rita Joe, by the renowned Canadian choreographer, Norbert Vesak. Ann performed as the Singer.

        The musical score from the ballet was recorded as The Ecstasy of Rita Joe LP.

        The Ecstasy of Rita Joe play was the first play ever published by Talonbooks in Vancouver. The company’s website states that the book “proudly bears the inaugural “000” ISBN for the press, and is Talon’s longest continually in-print book … now in its twenty-seventh printing.”

        One of the revivals of The Ecstasy of Rita Joe, produced in 1976, prompted Jamie Portland to write in The Province newspaper, “…the play still worked. Rita Joe was a landmark in more ways than one. It was – and remains – a play for all seasons and for all peoples.”

        In 2004, Okanagan College instituted The George Ryga Award for Social Awareness in Literature, which is given annually to a British Columbia author who has achieved a high level of social awareness in a book published anywhere in the world.

        Malcolm Page, professor emeritus of English, Simon Fraser University, in The Literary Review of Canada‘s List of the Top 100 Canadian Books (2007) describes the play‘s style as “…an unusual blend of realism, lyricism and expressionism.”

        In its 2008-2009 season, the National Arts Centre English Theatre Program for Student Audiences published a Study Guide, which states: [Rita Joe] … prompted an awareness of the existence of other plays potentially worthy of production. It provided resounding evidence that it was not necessary for any Canadian theatre to rely solely on imported fare… [as] Canadian plays ceased to be a rarity in English-speaking Canada. Companies dedicated to the production of new Canadian drama sprung up, and in so doing nurtured the further growth of playwriting activity. Canada’s regional theatres—some of them grudgingly—found themselves forced to take the Canadian playwright seriously for the first time.

        In 2016, the Royal Winnipeg Ballet produced an original full-length dance called The Going Home Star, which was inspired by The Ecstasy of Rita Joe.

        Later in 2016, the Marginal Arts Festival Inspired by George Ryga was launched in Summerland, BC, where George Ryga resided until his death. The festival website states: “The festival commemorates playwright and author George Ryga, who lived in Summerland from 1963 until his death in 1987. Considered by many as Canada’s most important English-language playwright, most of Ryga’s creative output originated from his home in Summerland BC, including his ground-breaking play, The Ecstasy of Rita Joe, which was published to critical acclaim in 1967 and remains the best-selling Canadian play of all time.”

        Artslandia, Vancouver’s Performing Arts Annual, in its 2016-2017 edition, asked music, dance and theatre leaders to share their memories of shows that were influential in shaping Vancouver. Bill Millard, Managing Director of the Arts Club Theatre, singles out The Ecstasy of Rita Joe:
        “There was such richness in the piece. It was amazing that theatre could be like that. And it was very much a BC play, with Chief Dan George and his son, and with Ann Mortifee and her music … There was so much pride in our being invited to open the National Arts Centre. It just galvanized the city. It was transformative.”