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Kevin McIntyreBy BERNIE BELLAN
How many of us play the game, “I wonder if so and so is Jewish?” There are entire websites devoted to answering just that question.

(And our esteemed sports writer Harvey Rosen often finds himself chasing after the answer to that question when any athlete with a name that sounds the least bit Jewish happens to pass through Winnipeg – often much to his embarrassment when Harvey finds out the answer is a resounding “no”.)
But what happens when someone who you never in your life would have suspected is Jewish turns out to be that? How do you react? With pride that someone who you were sure wasn’t Jewish is actually a Member of the Tribe? Or total befuddlement - when you discover someone is Jewish who you knew wasn’t Jewish before?
Then, in quick order, no doubt you conclude that person became Jewish in order to marry someone who is Jewish – right?
So, when I happened to meet up with a well-known actor who’s appeared many times in various performances here and who is now starring in the current Rainbow Stage production of “Mama Mia”, you can imagine my shock when I was introduced to Kevin McIntyre at the Etz Chayim Synagogue one recent Saturday morning – and it wasn’t at a bar mitzvah; it was just a regular service.
It was Michael Lazar who introduced me to Kevin, asking me, “Bernie, do you know Kevin McIntyre?”
Kevin was wearing a kippah – which in itself came as no great surprise, but it did surprise me that someone who I took to be a non-Jew would be attending a Shabbat service on a day that there wasn’t a bar mitzvah.
Now I knew that Kevin was an actor, although when Michael introduced us I didn’t know that he was here to appear in “Mama Mia”. But, being the direct guy that I am –and seeing him attending a service when there wasn’t a bar mitzvah happening, I blurted out the obvious question that anyone else would have thought (but not have been so direct as to ask): “Are you a Jew?”
The answer was “yes”. But, when I proceeded to reveal my surprise and wanted to grill Kevin about how that happened to be the case (By the way, let’s be honest about this: “McIntyre” is not your typical Jewish name.), Kevin demurred, saying “it’s a long story”.
But, in my best Harvey Rosen-persistent mode, I asked Kevin whether we could talk later in the week about his having become a Jew and his starring in “Mama Mia”? Kevin said he’d be glad to - which is where this story now goes.

The day before “Mama Mia” opened Kevin and I chatted about his career and how he came to be Jewish. His decision to convert had such an interesting – and quite unexpected background to it that I knew it would resonate with a Winnipeg audience to a very large degree.
I began the conversation by noting that Kevin has appeared at Rainbow Stage nine previous times. Kevin referred to his very first appearance at Rainbow Stage, when he was 15, in 1988 , and when he played one of “the older kids” in “Oliver”.
I noted that there are various Winnipeggers whose names have long been associated with Rainbow Stage, including our own Debbie Maslowsky. Kevin observed that he met Debbie not long after his appearance in “Oliver” and has been involved in many shows with her since. “She’s sort of an icon around here,” he added.
Born and raised in Winnipeg, Kevin said he grew up in North Kildonan, having attended Kildonan East High School which, he explained, “is where I learned photography. I went to the vocational school there.” (In addition to his acting career, Kevin is also a professional photographer in Los Angeles, which is where he now lives.)
“I always intended to be a singer,” he says. “I started at Fantasy Theatre for Children.”
It was in 1991 that Kevin had his first really big break getting noticed by a major theatre production company. It was when he was playing the part of “Hero” in Rainbow Stage’s production of “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” that “the first Broadway touring show of ‘Les Miserables’ was rolling through Winnipeg and the producers and directors from New York happened to be here

because it was one of the first stops on their tour – and happened to catch me in the show I was in. Anyway, the next day I was invited to their party and that turned into a five-year relationship with them and the Mirvishes (the Canadian producers of ‘Les Miz’). I ended up going on tour with them and they put me in their other show, ‘Miss Saigon. I was in that for over two years.”
“I lived in Toronto until 1996. I got married; my wife was an actor and I ended up getting my green card” and moving to Los Angeles with his wife.

At that point, I said, “I want to segue into the Jewish bit”.
Kevin explained: “It’s quite an interesting story. I found myself a number of years ago working at the Berney Theatre in a (Winnipeg Jewish Theatre) show called ‘Stars of David’. It was Ari Weinberg’s first show (as the new artistic director of the WJT).
“There were just four of us in that show. (Debbie Maslowsky was one of the four.) It was just a fun little show – not a religious show, but first I had to do a lot of research on the traditions. Half of my wife’s family lives in Israel. Her aunt - her father’s sister, is not Jewish, but she moved to Israel in the 70s. She was a doctor, married and Israeli, had children there. So, my wife always had this intriguing family there. I started doing research on the show…became fascinated by it. I can’t quite explain it. I had this amazing life-changing experience.
“I went back to Los Angeles after the show and – living in a big city like L.A., there’s everything…times 100. I started going to the American Jewish University. I was just interested in learning more about what I had just performed in. I looked and found a class called ‘Introduction to Judaism’. I went into it just like taking a university course. As the weeks and months grew longer it became apparent to me that it was something that I had this amazing spiritual connection to.”
In due course Kevin did convert to Judaism – about a year and a half ago, he said. I asked whether his wife had converted as well. He answered that she’s in the class at the American Jewish University – also with the intention of converting.
“It’s been just the most amazing experience,” Kevin added. “In Los Angeles I found the most amazing community. Even in Winnipeg I found the most amazing community. I can’t explain how much that meant to me.”

Ma Anne edited 1Turning to Kevin’s appearing in “Mama Mia”, he told this story: “ Back in the early days in Toronto – in the late 90s, early 200s, when they were originating the show, I was up for it numerous times. Of course, they were looking for a sort of young ingénue lead guy – and I was up for that may times…never got hired. So it’s been nice to age into a whole other part. The show’s been around long enough now that I’ve gone from trying to play the young guy to playing the old guy.”
I thought I had enough material for this story until Kevin said he’s like to add more interesting tidbit of information: His co-star in “Mama Mia”, Ma-Anne Dionisio (who was born in the Philippines and moved to Winnipeg in 1990) and who plays “Donna”, actually co-starred with Kevin in “Miss Saigon” over 20 years ago. “We’re playing love interests now and we did back then,” Kevin pointed out. “In the show we’re playing characters who haven’t seen each other in 21 years and that’s about the last time I saw Ma-Anne. It’s almost too perfect.”
By the way, for this show Rainbow Stage is using the full theatre, not the truncated version. When I checked with the box office tickets were going fast, so if you’re planning on attending, it might be a good idea to get your tickets soon.