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A Season of Stage: Summer Theatre Season

BROADWAY BLOCKBUSTERS
SEE IT NOW May 8 to 31 The U.K. leads of My Fair Lady arrive after a glorious tour that originated in London, where the musical with lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner and tunes by Frederick Loewe played for two-and-a-half years. Put on by Dancap Productions, dedicated to staging the best Broadway shows, this run stars Lisa O’Hare as Eliza Doolittle, and Christopher Cazenove—best known for his role as Ben Carrington on TV’s Dynasty—as Professor Henry Higgins. Toronto Centre for the Arts, 5040 Yonge St., $60 to $100; 416-872-1111.

COME BACK July 29 to August 31 Fall in love with a subversive tale about a college grad called Princeton with big dreams, a tiny bank account, and some new NYC digs on Avenue Q. His ‘hood is home to a colourful cast of people, puppets and a building superintendent named Gary Coleman—yes, that Gary Coleman. This uproarious hit was a 2004 Tony Award–winner for Best Musical, Best Score and Best Book. Elgin Theatre, 189 Yonge St., $50 to $100; 416-872-1111.

A BITE TO EAT Around the Toronto Centre for the Arts, visit Moxie’s Classic Grill for smart-casual dining or Agra Fine Indian Cuisine (4850 Yonge St., 416-222-7500) for authentic chicken tikka masala. Famous for its baby back ribs, Bâton Rouge Restaurant & Bar has locations near both the Toronto Centre for the Arts and the Elgin Theatre. Other good picks near Yonge and Queen streets include swank Superior Restaurant and sizzling Ruth’s Chris Steak House.

A SPRINKLING OF SOUL
SEE IT NOW May 13 to June 21 Life imitates art in Marsha Norman’s ‘Night, Mother, a heart-wrenching examination of the relationship between a mother and her daughter, starring real-life mother-and-daughter actors Dawn Greenhalgh and Megan Follows. This winner of four Tony Awards and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama deals frankly with the subject of suicide. The production is part of the 10th-anniversary season of Soulpepper Theatre Company, an artist-founded classical repertory group known for its highly praised shows. Young Centre for the Performing Arts, Distillery Historic District, 55 Mill St., $28 to $65; 416-866-8666.

COME BACK June 5 to 21 Uncle Vanya is the classic tragicomedy by Anton Chekhov about a man who is haunted by the person he might have been. Veterans Liisa Repo-Martell and Diego Matamoros lead in this remake of the critically acclaimed 2001 and 2002 productions, evoking from the audience both laughter and tears. Young Centre for the Performing Arts, $28 to $65; 416-866-8666.

A BITE TO EAT Palate-pleasing dining options abound amid this cobblestoned National Historic Site. The Boiler House has a succulent chophouse-style menu and free live jazz Saturday nights. For fresh seafood, head to Pure Spirits Oyster House & Grill, or try the Mill Street Brew Pub for great nibblies married with microbrews crafted on-site. For a French-Mediterranean pre-theatre prix fixe meal, visit Perigee, where watching the chefs at work makes each eating experience a veritable production in and of itself.

FAN FAVOURITES
SEE IT NOW Throughout May If the sell-out crowds are any indication, you’ll have the time of your life at Dirty Dancing: The Classic Story on Stage. Presented by theatre industry juggernaut Mirvish Productions, the stage show is based on the well-loved 1987 movie of the same name about a young girl who falls in love with a rebellious dance instructor while vacationing with her family at a summer resort. Local actor Jake Simons stars as Johnny Castle (the physically demanding role originated by Patrick Swayze) in this coming-of-age story that overflows with classic songs and thrilling steps. Royal Alexandra Theatre, 260 King St. W., $26 to $120; 416-872-1212.

COME BACK June 3 to 15 The courtroom drama Twelve Angry Men returns for a limited engagement on the heels of its acclaimed January run. Richard Thomas stars in this tale of 12 jurors who must come to terms not only with the evidence, but with themselves, too. Princess of Wales Theatre, 300 King St. W., $30 to $94; 416-872-1212.

A BITE TO EAT Toronto’s King Street West theatre strip is packed with diverse nosh spots that can accommodate your performance schedule. Marcel’s Bistro and La Fenice offer French and Italian fine dining respectively, while Kit Kat Italian Bar & Grill serves comfort favourites in a homey atmosphere. For more exotic fare, try 309 Dhaba Indian Excellence, or go for high-end pan-Asian at Monsoon.

MODERN AND CLASSIC
SEE IT NOW May 5 to 31 The Canadian Stage Company continues its 20th-anniversary season with an adaptation of Stephen King’s Misery. Award-winning Canadian thespians Tom McCamus and Nicola Cavendish star in this harrowing, claustrophobic tale of a romance novelist who is held hostage by his deranged “number one fan” and forced to complete a new book under threat of death—the ultimate cure for writer’s block. St. Lawrence Centre for the Performing Arts, Bluma Appel Theatre, 27 Front St. E., $20 and up; 416-368-3110.

COME BACK June 24 to August 31 A contemporary take on A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Shakespeare’s tale of love, lust and a forest full of fairies is performed on an open-air stage as part of the annual Dream in High Park. This hip hop–influenced rendition returns following successful performances last year. High Park Outdoor Amphitheatre, pay-what-you-can ($20 recommended); call 416-367-1652 for more information.

A BITE TO EAT The St. Lawrence Centre sits at the edge of an applause-worthy dining district. Steps away, find Lucien, named by Where editors as one of Canada’s top 10 new restaurants for 2007. The open kitchen at Jamie Kennedy Wine Bar prepares shareable dishes that match perfectly with top vintages, while your dinner at The Sultan’s Tent is accompanied by nightly belly dancing performances. For fine comfort fare of the French-Canadian persuasion, it’s hard to beat Le Papillon, or for a fiesta of Cal-Mex flavours, try Hernando’s Hideaway.

IT’S SHAW TIME
SEE IT NOW Throughout May In spring and summer, the historic village of Niagara-on-the-Lake overflows with theatre lovers attending the famous Shaw Festival, which presents works by George Bernard Shaw and his contemporaries, as well as plays set during his era. This month, choose from five different plays, such as the charming musical Wonderful Town—with a score by Leonard Bernstein—and the skeletons-in-the-closet period drama An Inspector Calls. Festival Theatre, 10 Queen’s Parade, Niagara-on-the-Lake, $45 to $105; 1-800-511-7429.

COME BACK June to November The rest of the festival’s 10-show slate includes the Shaw classic Mrs. Warren’s Profession, starting July 6. Company stalwart Mary Haney stars in this provocative play about a mother and daughter who must reconcile their opposing views on sex, love, morality and money. Previews for Stephen Sondheim’s award-winning A Little Night Music begin June 1, or as of July 12, try Belle Moral: A Natural History, beloved Canadian writer Ann-Marie MacDonald’s boundary-skewing gothic comedy. Festival and Court House theatres, $45 to $105; 1-800-511-7429.

A BITE TO EAT Niagara’s top restaurants highlight fresh ingredients and, of course, the region’s famed wines. A stone’s throw from the Festival Theatre, the menu at the Prince of Wales Hotel’s Escabèche is executed according to the finest French and English traditions. Also in town, Restaurant Tony de Luca (160 Front St., 1-866-394-7900) is renowned for the chef’s nightly tasting menu, while the Old Winery Restaurant (2228 Niagara Stone Rd., 1-905-468-8900) serves homestyle Tuscan-inspired cuisine like wood-fired pizzas.

THE BARD AND CO.
SEE IT NOW From May 26 A two-hour drive from Toronto, the world-renowned Stratford Shakespeare Festival showcases William’s works and those of other playwrights in a charming town. At the Festival Theatre, catch Romeo and Juliet directed by Des McAnuff from May 26; from May 27, Hamlet; and from May 31, see The Taming of the Shrew. At the Avon Theatre, Meredith Willson’s The Music Man graces the stage from May 28; from May 29, spy the sexy musical Cabaret. At the Tom Patterson Theatre, The Trojan Women decamp from May 30 onward; after May 31, find Love’s Labour Lost. Various venues, Stratford, $20 to $109; 1-800-567-1600. A new online-only TiXX program offers some $20 tickets; visit www.shakespearetixx.com to purchase.

COME BACK From JUNE 27 See All’s Well That Ends Well at the Festival Theatre from June 27, and at the Tom Patterson Theatre, Fuente Ovejuna, a comedy-thriller-musical that takes place during the Spanish Golden Age. From June 28 at the Studio Theatre, Samuel Beckett’s famous Krapp’s Last Tape reels in audiences, coupled with Eugene O’Neill’s Hughie, starring longtime stage and screen actor Brian Dennehy. Various venues, Stratford, $20 to $109; 1-800-567-1600.

A BITE TO EAT If you eat only one meal in Stratford, have a truly religious experience at The Church Restaurant & Belfry (70 Brunswick St., 1-519-273-3424), with its vaulted ceilings, stained-glass windows and food that tastes as good as it looks. Pazzo Ristorante Bar & Pizzeria (70 Ontario St., 1-877-440-9666) offers fine dining and pizza, and Down the Street Bar & Restaurant (30 Ontario St., 1-519-273-5886), with its mix of microbrews and imports on tap, is the hangout of actors after evening performances.

TIP! Many theatre companies offer rush tickets as well as discounted tickets for students and young adults. Some even give reductions if you book online. Call ahead to find out your best way to save.

—Viviane Kertész and Craig Moy

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