Justin Trudeau's Mom Will Perform Her Solo Show Off-Broadway
The strangest and most intriguing story of the week was the news that Margaret Trudeau, mother to one Canadian prime minister and ex-wife to another, will perform her solo show, Certain Woman of an Age, for three nights (September 12-14) at the Minetta Lane Theatre under the banner of Audible, Amazon's audio book company. Story of the Week will explain why this news is so exciting and what (if any) impact it might have on the upcoming Canadian election. I bet you didn't even know one was happening!
Who is Margaret Trudeau?
If Americans know Margaret Trudeau at all, they know her as the mother of Canada's hottie of a prime minister, but she's so much more than that. In the '70s and '80s, Margaret Trudeau was a usual suspect in the scandal rags for her jet-setting lifestyle and series of affairs with famous men like Ted Kennedy, Ryan O'Neal, Jack Nicholson, and (according to Keith Richards) at least two of the Rolling Stones. That entire time she was also married to Canada's liberal prime minister Pierre Trudeau (they separated in 1977, but only officially divorced in 1984).
The circumstances of that marriage added to her mystique: She wed the prime minister in a surprise ceremony in North Vancouver when she was just 22 years old (he was 51). Before that, few in Canada were even aware that their PM was romantically attached, so it became a subject of fascination to watch the twentysomething spouse of the premier navigate important state functions with the likes of Richard Nixon and Fidel Castro.
And as twentysomethings do, she often made questionable choices: She once took peyote before a state dinner, which ended in her serenading the first lady of Venezuela with a "song of love." She gave an interview with Playgirl in which she fantasized about having "a beautiful chocolate-colored daughter" with singer Lou Rawls. The night of her estranged husband's 1979 electoral defeat, she was photographed dancing up a sweat at Studio 54. The image made the cover of the New York Post the next morning.
If all this were happening today, Andy Cohen would undoubtedly offer her a generous contract to star in The Real Housewives of Ottawa. But Trudeau is not just a proto-Kardashian of the frozen north; she's the quintessential representative of the baby boom elite: She was a child of privilege (her father was a cabinet minister) who partied hard and made spectacular mistakes, only to emerge still surrounded by wealth and power — and with a few salacious memoirs to boot.
What is the show about?
Fans of Trudeau's books (she's written four) might have some idea of the content of this 90-minute monologue. Certainly, she's going to give the public what they want: name-dropping anecdotes about her wild youth with the glitterati (her first book is called Beyond Reason). She will also meditate on the fallout of those activities (her second book is titled Consequences). Since coming out as bipolar in 2006, Trudeau has become an advocate for mental health awareness (her 2010 book is called Changing My Mind), so expect that to be a major theme. I also suspect that she will traffic in some of the feel-good lifestyle advice that is the religion of boomers who have determined that they can no longer sustain their hedonism (book No. 4 is called The Time of Your Life: Choosing a Vibrant, Joyful Future).
Trudeau has had a fascinating, extravagant life, and story time with her seems like ample substance for a solo show. Beyond that, you might want to attend just for the celebrity-watching. Trudeau was, after all, a member of the New York in-crowd, a famously fickle group that nevertheless enjoys a night at the theater. One wonders if her son, the premier, will make it down to see mom's off-Broadway debut (he attended the Chicago workshop). It wouldn't be his first time in a New York theater: I was once nearly run over by his motorcade as he raced, Ivanka Trump in tow, toward a performance of Come From Away, Broadway's feel-good 9/11 musical.
Will Certain Woman of an Age be any good?
It certainly has a professional team working on it: Trudeau has co-written the script with playwright Alix Sobler, and it is directed by Kimberly Senior, who previously helmed the remounting of Aasif Mandvi's Sakina's Restaurant for Audible. Trudeau also workshopped Certain Woman of an Age at Second City in Chicago this past May, and early word is good.
I've written about Audible's expansion into the live theater, a welcome effort that has so far garnered mixed results. The company has stuck with solo shows, since they tend to translate well into audio books, but I'd like to see the company branch out with genuine radio dramas — and Certain Woman of an Age won't be that. It may not break the Audible mold, but it may prove to be more memorable than most.
How will this impact the Canadian election?
Margaret's son, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, is up for reelection on October 21. He faces Andrew Scheer of the Conservative Party to his right, and Jagmeet Singh of the New Democratic Party to his left. Opinion polls have tightened in the wake of the SNC-Lavalin scandal, in which the PM is accused of putting improper pressure on the attorney general to go easy on the Quebec-based construction firm, which is accused of massive corruption relating to its activities in Libya.
The scandal tarnishes Trudeau's image as a squeaky-clean champion of good government, but I'm skeptical that such insider baseball will sway the votes of ordinary people preoccupied with their own lives (see the Mueller saga in our own country). Then again, I might be massively underestimating the value Canadian voters place on following the rules, and Andrew Scheer (who has all the charm and charisma of a fringe-dweller on the stage of a Democratic primary debate) might just be Canada's next prime minister.
But maybe not! If there are two things voters in North America seem to absolutely love, it's celebrity gossip and dynastic politics, and the Trudeau clan has both. Who knows what Margaret will do or say? Fortunately, her son shouldn't have to worry about the spread of any viral videos in the same vein as Chris Cuomo's "Fredo" meltdown: Like an increasing number of shows, Certain Woman of an Age will ask audience members to sequester their smartphones in Yondr pouches, keeping the impact of the show safely within the walls of the Minetta Lane — at least until the Audible version goes on sale.
Justin Trudeau clearly adores his mother, and it doesn't seem as though he's phased in the slightest by her tell-all solo play. "He has put no restrictions on me," she told Chris Jones of the Chicago Tribune, adding, "His father couldn't. Why should he try?"