Des McAnuff

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Desmond McAnuff
Born (1952-06-19) June 19, 1952 (age 61)
Princeton, Illinois, USA
Spouse(s) Susan Berman (1984-2009)

Desmond McAnuff CM (born 19 June 1952) is the American-Canadian former artistic director of the Stratford Shakespeare Festival and director of such Broadway musical theatre productions as Big River, The Who's Tommy and Jersey Boys.


Born in Princeton, Illinois to John Nelson and Ellen Boyd, McAnuff is a citizen of United States and Canada.[1] He lived briefly in Guelph, Ontario attending grade 4 at St. George's Public School. His family then moved to Scarborough, Ontario, at the time a suburb of Toronto, and attended high school at Woburn Collegiate Institute where he made his first theatrical appearance in the school's production of The Sound of Music, playing the role of Kurt. Later, with the help of two friends, he wrote the music and lyrics to a rock musical called Urbania, which was performed by the high school drama club. He attended Ryerson University although never completed his degree. In June 2011, McAnuff was awarded an honorary degree by the Ryerson Theatre School.

McAnuff worked with the Toronto Free Theatre as a director, and after several plays that had limited success, he left the Canadian scene for New York City.

There, McAnuff co-founded the Dodger Theatre Company in 1978, where he also directed the first production, entitled Gimme Shelter. He has directed for the American Repertory Theater at Harvard, also Yale Rep, and is a former faculty member of the Juilliard School.

McAnuff was Artistic Director of the La Jolla Playhouse, which he revived in 1983, during which time the theatre won more than 200 awards.[citation needed] For the Playhouse, he directed Romeo and Juliet, A Mad World, My Masters, Big River, As You Like It, The Sea Gull, The Matchmaker, A Walk in the Woods, Two Rooms, 80 Days, Macbeth, A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum, Twelfth Night, Three Sisters, Elmer Gantry, Much Ado About Nothing, The Who's Tommy and How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. McAnuff turned over his leadership of the playhouse in April 2007 to Christopher Ashley in order to take a position of leadership at Canada's Stratford Shakespeare Festival.[2][3] In 2008, after a year sharing power with Don Shipley and Marti Maraden, McAnuff became the sole artistic director at Stratford.

McAnuff has directed two motion pictures, The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle (2000) and Cousin Bette (1998), both of which failed critically and at the box-office. However, the animated version of The Iron Giant, which he served as producer, earned several awards.

McAnuff married actress Susan Berman in 1984 and the ceremony took place on the La Jolla Playhouse stage. The couple's divorce was finalized in 2009. They are the parents of Julia Violet McAnuff, born in 1990.

In 2010 McAnuff was the subject of a documentary special entitled Des McAnuff: A Life In Stages which was a part of the broadcast schedule on Bravo! in Canada for February 7, 2010.[4]

During the 2011-2012 Season at the Metropolitan Opera he will direct a new production of Charles Gounod's Faust starring soprano Marina Poplavskaya and tenor Jonas Kaufmann. This is a production originally premiered in 2010 at the English National Opera.

On Sunday, October 23, 2011, a tribute for McAnuff was given by staff and students from Ryerson's Theatre School.

Stage productions[edit]

  • Big River (1985)
  • A Walk in the Woods (1988)
  • Dangerous Games (1989)
  • The Who's Tommy (1993)
  • How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (1995)
  • Dracula, the Musical (2004)
  • 700 Sundays (2004)
  • Jersey Boys (2005)
  • Guys & Dolls (2009)
  • The Tempest (2010)
  • Twelfth Night (2011)
  • Jesus Christ Superstar (2012)
  • Henry V (2012)
  • Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots (2012)
  • The Who's Tommy (2013)

Awards and nominations[edit]

McAnuff won Broadway's Tony Award as Best Director (Musical) in 1985 for Big River and in 1993 for The Who's Tommy. He was nominated twice during the 1990s: in 1993 for Best Book (Musical), with Pete Townshend on The Who's Tommy and in 1995 as Best Director (Musical) for How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.

He was nominated again in 2006 for Best Direction of a Musical, for Jersey Boys, based on the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. Though he did not win, the production went on to win Best Musical that year.[5]

Additionally, McAnuff was awarded the Laurence Olivier Theatre Award for Best Director of 1996 for The Who's Tommy at the Shaftesbury Theatre.

On March 2012, McAnuff received the National Arts Centre Award, presented during the Governor General's Performing Arts Awards for Lifetime Artistic Achievement gala.[6]


  1. ^ "Des McAnuff Biography". filmreference. 2008. Retrieved 2008-09-01. 
  2. ^ WW News Desk (21 June 2006). "Des McAnuff to Depart from La Jolla Playhouse in 2007". BroadwayWorld. Retrieved 2008-09-02. 
  3. ^ 123 (26 June 2006). "New Artistic Team at the Stratford Festival of Canada" (.PDF) (Press release). Stratford Festival of Canada. Retrieved 2008-09-02. 
  4. ^ "Homegrown Cultural Icons Honoured in Seven-Part, Original Bravo! Series GREAT CANADIAN BIOGRAPHIES, Premiering January 10" (Press release). CTV Media. 17 December 2009. Retrieved 2010-01-15. 
  5. ^ Biography part of entry
  6. ^ "Rush wins Governor General's Award". CBC News. 2012-03-06. Retrieved 2012-03-06. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]