English Theatre Preview: Stages Sizzle with a Sumptuous Summer Season

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Stratford Festival

Eclipsing its own éclat and élan, Ontario’s Stratford Festival offers exquisitely eclectic entertainment this summer. The eye-popping plethora of genres includes something for everyone. Comic options abound: from Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors and Oscar Wilde’s An Ideal Husband to Richard O’Brien’s “drag ’n’ roll” cult classic, Rocky Horror Show – the celluloid version of which became history’s longest-running film.

Meredith Wilson and Franklin Lacey’s 1958 Tony-winning (best) musical, The Music Man, weds uber-electrifying dance with kinetic stage performances. Shakespearean drama includes The Tempest, Coriolanus and Julius Caesar, while John Milton’s prodigious poem Paradise Lost premieres in a theatrical adaptation by Erin Shields. Modern classics like Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird and Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey into Night complete the calendar. Clearly, the only logical choice here is a Stratford “vacay” and membership. Various dates from May to November. Go to www.stratfordfestival.ca or call 1-800-567-1600.

Motown: The Musical

Broadway across Canada and evenko bring Motown: The Musical to Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier this June. From the pages of producer Berry Gordy’s autobiography to stages around the world, this show features an astounding 50-plus songs. Gordy founded Detroit’s Motown Records in 1957 and produced a slew of pop superstars, including Diana Ross, Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Lionel Richie and the Jacksons. Motown celebrates a wonderful tapestry that seamlessly wove together “white rock” with African-American music and heralded a new era in U.S. pop culture. The book, penned by Gordy, has proven particularly popular with both boomers – and their progeny. Directed by Charles Randolph-Wright, Motown runs from June 19 to 24 at Place des Arts. Go to www.placedesarts.com or call 514-842-2112.

Wicked

The Great White Way’s Wicked will bring witches Elphaba and Glinda to Toronto this summer. Based on Gregory Maguire’s 1995 novel Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, this tale is a sinister twist on L. Frank Baum’s Wonderful Wizard of Oz and unfolds from the witches’ point of view. Wicked’s appeal lies largely in Stephen Schwartz’s score, which includes fan faves “Defying Gravity” and “Popular”; it won the 2005 Grammy for Best Musical Show Album and garnered three Tonys. Winnie Holzman penned the book. From June 20 to Aug. 5 at the Ed Mirvish Theatre. Go to www.mirvish.com or call 1-800-771-3933.

Come From Away:
The Remarkable True Story

On September 11, 2001, Canada implemented Operation Yellow Ribbon to accommodate flights trapped in – and bound for – American airspace. With all U.S. air traffic either halted or diverted, 6,579 horrified passengers landed in tiny Gander, Newfoundland, where hospitable locals opened hearth and homes. Over 10 years later, Come From Away: The Remarkable True Story was born; in 2017 it won a Tony and conquered Broadway. Mirvish Theatre experienced unprecedented demand and has extended its run for another year. Billed as the Best Musical All Across North America, the play is overwhelming audiences and critics alike, who’ve responded with oodles of adoration. Torontonian Irene Sankoff and husband David Hein wrote the book, music and lyrics. Tony-winner Christopher Ashley directs. An all-Canadian cast at The Royal Alexandra Theatre has “proud to be Canuck” written all over it, eh. Now playing until Jan. 20, 2019. Go to www.mirvish.com or call 1-800-771-3933.

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