HAVE A CUP OF JOE WITH JOE – Cardinal Music Productions: A Staple In Our Theatre Community Since 2004

Born in the 1950s to an Italian mother and French Canadian father, Joseph Anthony Cardinal graduated from Assumption College High School two years after I did.

We both experienced the transition of Assumption from an all-male school to a co-educational institution, as the girls from South Windsor’s St. Mary’s Academy joined forces with us.

During his high school years Cardinal was active in sports and was a goalie for the Assumption Purple Raiders varsity team under the legendary coaching of Father Ron Cullen. Unlike my high school classmate Eddie Mio a few years earlier who became a professional goal tender from 1976 to 1986 (and Best Man for his teammate, Wayne Gretzky), Cardinal left sports and embraced his love of music.

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At age 14, Cardinal worked as a bus-boy/waiter at his cousin’s Gino’s Italian Village restaurant on Riverside Drive West. He saw popular local bands like The Power and The Glory and Jim Mulvaney’s Band perform there. It was then he realized: “I want to be a singer when I grow up.”

And so, for 21 years, Cardinal played full time in local bands throughout Windsor Essex and beyond, sometimes six or seven days a week. This was during a period when music bars were extremely popular establishments, particularly venues like The Riviera (“The Riv”), Lido Tavern, The Embassy, The Sandhill, Royal Tavern and Danny’s, just to name a few.

He taught himself how to play the drums and guitar, but Cardinal proudly expresses: “I was mostly the lead singer in the bands — something I loved and did well.”

Then, in April 1995, Cardinal saw Windsor Light Opera Association’s (today’s Windsor Light Music Theatre) performance of the smash Broadway musical, Guys and Dolls, at the Cleary International Centre.
“I saw a number of my friends up there on stage, people like Bob Steele, Mike Thompson, Danny Bonk, and they were having the time of their life and I said to myself — ‘I got to do this; this is great’,” recounts Cardinal.

He recalls it took him some time to work up the courage before successfully auditioning as one of 300 for Windsor Light Opera’s performance of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

Over the next few years, he also performed for local theatre legends Brian and Florence Raisbeck’s Theatre Alive, and other theatre companies.

In 2004, Cardinal could no longer resist the theatrical bug and established Cardinal Music Productions where his love affair with acting, directing, and producing theatre musicals came to life.

Besides producing his own musicals, he also partnered with KORDA Artistic Productions for: Avenue Q, Next to Normal, Title of Show, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, HAIR, and Little Shop of Horrors. And he has also partnered with Kingsville’s Migration Hall to co-present shows like 9 to 5 and The Prom.

As he looks back over his past 20 years and the 40 plays produced by his theatre company, he thinks about his very first — The Last Five Years — a musical written by Jason Robert Brown that premiered at Chicago’s Northlight Theatre in 2001, which then was produced off-Broadway in March 2002. It features only two performers and Cardinal’s production cast Justin Raisbeck (Theatre Alive) with Melanie Robinet (Windsor Light Music Theatre) as those two performers.

Other notable productions from the past two decades include: Annie, Into The Woods, The Prom, Legally Blonde and Young Frankenstein. Some of the shows include a diverse cast of performers. For example, in Annie, 17 of the 30-member ensemble were children playing orphaned kids.

“What excites me the most is seeing how the little kids perform and how they take to it,” Cardinal smiles. “They’re so excited to be there.”

For their 20th season Cardinal kicked off the year with Into The Woods. Rounding out the anniversary year is Rent (July 12, 13,14,19, 20 & 21) and Legally Blonde: The Musical (November 1, 2, 3, 7, 8, 9 & 10), both shows performing at the Green Room Theatre at E.J. Lajeunesse High School, (600 E.C. Row Avenue West in Windsor). Tickets can be purchased at CardinalMusicProductions.com. You can also visit this site to learn the number to call to purchase over the phone.

To say Cardinal is an aficionado of musical theatre productions is an understatement.

He is a lifetime member of Windsor Light Music Theatre, has ushered at Detroit’s Fisher Theatre for five years leading up to the COVID pandemic (and has season tickets at the Fisher), and last year saw 12 shows on Broadway in New York City. Four times has seen the musical sensation, Hamilton, which won 11 Tony Awards in 2016 and is currently in its historic ninth year on Broadway.

Congratulations from Biz X magazine to Cardinal Music Productions on an amazing 20 years. We look forward to your continued success. And remember Joe, as a Cardinal you are just one step removed from the Papal throne!