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© Marie-Pierre de Brienne, 2019.


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Marie-Pierre de Brienne

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A Story by David Spencer


Casting THE APPRENTICESHIP OF DUDDY KRAVITZ became a national event in Canada, owing to the popularity of Mordecai Richler’s novel and, I guess, the resume of the American core creative team, which was me as lyricist-librettist, Alan Menken as composer and Austin Pendleton as director. The auditions were held in both Montreal (where the show would have its world premiere at the Segal Centre) and Toronto; and actors from all over the country attended. It may be an exaggeration to say we saw every available, qualified French-Canadian actress for the role of Yvette (and the producer’s understandable mandate was indeed that she had to be authentically French-Canadian), but we sure saw a helluva lot of them, and my recollection is that most of them were really quite good. But this was one of those situations where we were hoping, for each role, to find someone iconic … and miraculously we had, almost across the board. Except that our Yvette still hadn’t walked through the door.

And now, in Montreal, we were nearing the end of casting. We were even into callbacks. Almost everybody we saw that day, we were seeing for the second time. Except for Marie-Pierre de Brienne. She was a new face. Also a new experience.

From the moment she began to sing, something in the room changed: The bell-tone purity of her voice, the simplicity of her approach (which yet embodied profound sincerity) were quite literally like nothing else we had heard. Ever. Then she read her scenes and more mesmerizing magic still. She was, of course, perfect for Yvette, but at the same time a bit off-center; every choice was right, none of them were expected. She was fresh, original and possessed of a palpable, blazing intelligence. When she left the room, I looked at my colleagues behind the table, all clearly as stunned as I, and said: “Well, that’s kind of it, isn’t it? We don’t need to see a callback, do we?” We just flat out made the offer and it triggered one of the happiest professional associations and best friendships of my life. In short, if you’re reading this to assess working with Marie-Pierre — in English OR French — let me put it this way: You should be so lucky.

David Spencer

Lyricst-librettist (The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, Weird Romance), author of The Musical Theatre Writer's Survival Guide and theacher at BMI

© Marie-Pierre de Brienne, 2025
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