Melissa Miller – “Schitt
celebrates co-creator Dan Levy
The cast of the acclaimed TV show “Schitt’s Creek” hasn’t taken the stage yet. But as the pulsating opening notes of Tina Turner’s 1989 cover of “The Best” fill The Chelsea at Las Vegas’ Cosmopolitan, the audience starts cheering, grinning at one another and singing at the top of their lungs: “You’re simply the best, better than all the rest.” For fans, this is more than just a song, representing key moments in the love story of “Schitt’s Creek” characters David Rose and Patrick Brewer – the Canadian series means more than just another sitcom.
Created and executive produced by Dan Levy and his father Eugene Levy, who both also star in the show, the critically lauded series is elevated from a typical riches-to-rags, fish-out-of-water tale because of its off-beat humor and quirky characters reminiscent of the Christopher Guest-directed mockumentaries that Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara starred in (and Eugene Levy co-wrote) – and the show’s big heart.
“Schitt’s Creek: Up Close & Personal,” as the live iteration of the show is known, is a celebration of the series and a love letter to its supporters.
Paul Archuleta / Getty Images – Dan Levy and Eugene Levy, who play son and father David and Johnny Rose.
“I think we set out to make a show that was funny and brought some joy to people, I don’t think any of us quite understand what that would mean to the viewer,” says Dan Levy, who also writes and serves as the showrunner on “Schitt’s Creek.”
The TV show, which premiered on CBC Television in January 2015 and debuted in the U.S. on Pop TV the following month, centers around the formerly filthy rich Rose family who lost everything after being swindled by their business manager and were forced to relocate to a tiny town called Schitt’s Creek, which they had bought for their son as a joke in 1991.
Eugene Levy plays the dapper former CEO of video rental chain Rose Video, often a straight-man to the antics of his over-the-top wife and former soap opera star Moira Rose played by O’Hara, with the couple’s spoiled adult children, former gallerist David and socialite Alexis played by Dan Levy and Annie Murphy.
With nothing to their name but their designer clothes and Moira’s extensive wig collection, the self-involved family members begrudgingly take up residence in two adjoining rooms in a dingy motel, thanks to the generosity of the town’s uncouth mayor, Roland Schitt.
In short order “Schitt’s Creek” has gone from cult favorite to widely adored, thanks in part to Netflix picking up the series in 2017 and all the praise the show has received from critics and fans alike, including celebrities like NBA star Stephen Curry, who included “Schitt’s Creek” in a New York Magazine piece about his favorite things he can’t live without.
The show picked up its first Emmy Award nominations this year along with several other accolades including nods for the People’s Choice Awards and MTV Movie & TV Awards. In September Dan Levy was awarded a GLAAD Davidson/Valentini Award, which honors an openly gay person who’s made a significant difference in promoting equal rights for the LGBT community. Last December, the show became the first Canadian comedy nominated for a Critics’ Choice Television Award and during the past five seasons it has been awarded 18 Canadian Screen Awards.
Paul Archuleta / Getty Images – Annie Murphy and Emily Hampshire, who play Alexis Rose and Stevie Budd.
WME agent Andrew Russell, who helped take the show from screen to stage, is one of the series’ biggest fans.
“I was a massive fan from day one,” Russell says. “I found the show somehow on TV through the POP network. I fell in love with it; I started ranting and raving about it to everyone that would listen.”
Russell explains that he discovered the show during a challenging time in his own life, while he was going through a move and starting a new job. He describes “Schitt’s Creek” as comfort food: “It made me feel good – it was my safe space.”
He adds, “When I came over to WME they had just signed Dan Levy [as a creator/show runner/actor] and I immediately said I will do anything, just put me in a room with him, I will get us to put a [live] show together … I loved the show so much I wanted to figure out a way to put it on the road.”
“Schitt’s Creek: Up Close & Personal” began with a show at The Theatre at Ace Hotel in Los Angeles in September 2018 as a test run. Russell explains that he decided to start on the low end with the Ace gig, knowing the show could sell at least 1,500.
“We put it on sale and it was gone in two minutes,” Russell says. “I was like, ‘Oh, now I know I can go to huge venues; I can go to 3,000- or 5,000-seaters in these major markets. I did a bunch of research on where the show was most popular, got some analytics from the show itself, where it’s biggest.”
In January and February the show played major markets including San Francisco, Boston, New York, Philadelphia, D.C., Minneapolis, Chicago and Toronto. The show returned to the road in October and will wrap its 2019 tour with two shows at the Kings Theatre in Brooklyn Nov. 15 and a night at Caesars Atlantic City Nov. 16.
Box office reports for “Schitt’s Creek Up: Close & Personal” include two shows at the Chicago Theatre Feb. 24 that sold 6,982 tickets and grossed $434,000 and two shows at Denver’s Temple Hoyne Buell Theatre Oct. 18 that sold 5,405 tickets and grossed $400,500.
Although competition singing and dancing TV shows like “American Idol” and “So You Think You Can Dance” have been adapted from the small screen to a live show, as well as children’s programs like “Peppa Pig” and “Paw Patrol Live!,” transforming a sitcom into a live tour is something of unchartered territory.
“I can’t think of a single show that’s like this and I’ve worked on countless shows of all types,” tour manager Dave Ockun says. “When Michelle Spell and Geof Wills (Live Nation talent buyer and Live Nation president of comedy) called me asking if I’d be available to produce this first concept show that happened in L.A., I don’t think anybody really knew how we were going to do this.
“Dan, myself and Mikayla Moyer, she’s the director of marketing [for comedy touring at Live Nation] got together for coffee and what was really important for me was hearing Dan’s thoughts about how he wanted the show to flow,” Ockun adds. “After talking it through and coming up with the right format, what we created in L.A. was such a success it only made sense to be able to recreate it for the masses.”
Paul Archuleta / Getty Images – Catherine O’Hara, who plays family matriarch Moira Rose
For Levy, the live show was a perfect way to say thank you to the fans.
“I attribute so much of the success [of Schitt’s Creek”] to just the word of mouth from the fans,” Dan Levy says. “They have played such a fundamental role in getting the show seen, in telling their friends and family members and coworkers to watch it. [The live show] was a way of giving back, while at the same time, getting the show out there and getting people excited about it.”
While the Rose family initially couldn’t wait to get out of Schitt’s Creek, their journey during the past five seasons has made fans wish they could be a part of the town’s kind, quirky world – and the live show gives them the chance.
In the world of “Schitt’s Creek,” homophobia and bigotry don’t exist, a choice Dan Levy explained, in a tweet on National Coming Out Day last year, was to show “how loving openly and wholly, without fear of judgement, can let light into even the most protected of hearts.” As the town’s motto proclaims, Schitt’s Creek is “where everyone fits in.”
“The feedback I’ve gotten from people, from children who have either come out of the closet because they were watching the show, or their parents have understood them better because they’ve been watching the show, or generations of family members who watch the show together and the laughter collectively has brought them closer – to have played a part in positive change in any capacity has been an unexpected surprise and something that has turned out to be the most meaningful part of this whole thing for me,” Levy says.
As the characters on the TV show grow into their best selves – both personally and in their relationships with one another – life lessons from learning to cook (“fold in the cheese!”) to navigating healthy romances never come off as saccharine because the Roses and Schitt’s Creek townsfolk are so heartfelt, while utterly zany and laugh-out-loud funny.
Whether David’s gif-ready facial expressions, Moira’s kooky outfits and biting remarks, Alexis’ outrageous name-dropping stories, or Johnny’s silently expressing dismay with his signature eyebrows, the Rose family’s foibles have resonated with a wide audience. This connection is apparent at the live show, from the camaraderie between the audience members striking up conversations to the number of fans cosplaying.
“It’s a place where people can dress up and talk to strangers and meet new friends; it’s amazing,” Dan Levy says.
Russell notes that when brainstorming the format for the live show he didn’t want it to be limited to actors just chatting on stage, à la Comic Con panels: “I wanted to make it a show and an experience. It starts with the Tina Turner song and it builds up with the hype.
“Dan came up with the idea to do the Rose Family Feud, to bring up audience members versus the cast in a trivia [game]. I thought that was a great interactive experience that you can only do if it’s live. So part of it was to create this experience that can’t be duplicated or replicated.”
The live show features the Rose family actors, joined by Emily Hampshire, who plays motel owner Stevie Budd, and Noah Reid, who plays David Rose’s business partner and love interest Patrick Brewer.
After getting the crowd amped up with a highlight reel, the actors take the stage to standing ovations. The cast seems as delighted as the audience, with Hampshire filming the Vegas crowd on her phone while making her way to her seat.
Paul Citone – Schitt’s Creek” Does Vegas: The Chelsea at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas hosts “Schitt’s Creek Up Close & Personal” Oct. 19.
Dan Levy is MC for the night, introducing clips on a giant screen behind the stage, including a blooper reel and images of fans’ tributes to “Schitt’s Creek,” including tattoos, jack-o’-lantern carvings and even a nativity scene with taxidermy rats. Levy quips, “Nothing says the holidays like four rats dressed as the Roses in front of baby Jesus.”
Eugene Levy and O’Hara regale the crowd with stories of their past projects together, from appearing on the Canadian TV sketch comedy show “Second City Television” in the late ’70s to playing husband and wife Gerry and Cookie Fleck in Christopher Guest’s 2000 dog show mockumentary “Best In Show.”
Murphy, Hampshire and Reid share tales about their “Schitt’s Creek” auditions, and the cast takes turns answering audience member questions and sharing behind-the-scenes details about the show like how O’Hara came up with Moira’s eccentric accent and Murphy’s inspiration for Alexis’ signature wrist flips.
Dan Levy invites audience members to participate in the Rose Family Feud game, promising that “if you win, Noah might sing a song.” Fans in costume are brought on stage in Las Vegas, giving visual proof of the TV show’s wide appeal, with a young boy sporting a plaid shirt like Stevie and a 60-something woman dressed in a glamorous black and white outfit Moira would be proud to show off.
“We’re all here because of all of you. We’re so grateful,” Levy tells the crowd at Las Vegas’ Chelsea before Reid gets the spotlight to close out the evening with an acoustic performance of his romantic arrangement of “The Best.”
Paul Archuleta / Getty Images – Noah Reid, who plays Patrick Brewer, performs an acoustic version of Tina Turner’s “The Best.”
Russell notes, “When I went to the first show and saw Noah play ‘Simply The Best’ and I just literally saw people weeping in the audience, I was like, ‘Oh, we got a hit on our hands.’”
He adds, “I do want to say that this is literally all possible because Dave Ockun is the greatest tour manager in the history of tour managing. The way he puts this all together on the road by himself and all the logistics – he’s a miracle worker. He’s also doing about four people’s jobs, whereas a lot of people on tour have tour manager one and this person and that person, and a runner of that, he’s literally doing everything by himself. He’s the jack of all trades.”
In addition to taking care of the talent, advancing the shows, settling the shows, stage managing and calling all the video cues, Ockun also makes the gigs extra special – like arranging for a giant cake shaped like the Rosebud Motel (as seen on the cover) in honor of Dan Levy’s birthday.
Levy is considering planning a curtain call finale tour following the sixth and final season of the show, which begins airing Jan. 7. Russell says the excursion would likely hit six markets and take place in fall 2020.
“In a perfect world, I’d love to do a show once the final season has aired, because I think we could offer up something different,” Dan Levy says.
“We’ve had so much fun with the show that if you can’t improve on it, there’s no point in doing it. I’m going to start thinking about what that show would look like and how we can give fans something new and different. And does it mean something and would it be worthwhile? And if the answer is yes, here’s hoping we can get everybody free at the same time.
“For us it’s always been about quality over quantity, it’s why we decided to end the show after season six. For me its always been a respect for the viewer. If you’re going to carve out hours of your life to our show, it better be good. It better be worthy of your time.”