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The Curtain Rises on Toronto’s Stage Shows

The fall stage season is in full swing with numerous productions—rousing, provocative, humorous and more—presented by the city’s top theatre companies.  BY CRAIG MOY

Paul Gross and Kim Cattrall star in Private Lives (photo by Cylla von Tiedemann)

 

 

BIG TICKETS

Whether it’s a brassy, crowd-pleasing musical you’re after, or an impressive performance by a star or two, Toronto’s largest company, Mirvish Productions, has you covered with Broadway-style shows.

Private Lives
SEPTEMBER 16 TO OCTOBER 30 Over the decades, many talented thespians—from Robert Stephens and Maggie Smith to Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor—have stepped into the shoes of Elyot and Amanda, a divorced couple who end up honeymooning with their new spouses in the same hotel. Canadian stars Kim Cattrall and Paul Gross portray the pair in this latest, straight-from-London revival of Noël Coward’s classic comedy of manners. Glamour and decorum give way to witty impropriety as the characters rekindle old passions—and dig up past resentments.

Chess the Musical
SEPTEMBER 24 TO OCTOBER 30 Chess has always been more than a simple game of strategy; it encapsulates psychology, politics—life itself—in a test of intellect and determination between two very human players. To outsiders, however, it can also represent the height of tedium. Fortunately for Toronto audiences, Chess the Musical is bolder than the Perenyi Attack. Featuring music by ABBA founders Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus, this stage spectacle uses song and dance to tell of an American and a Russian competing not only for the world chess championship, but also a woman’s love. As one might expect from a tale of competing powers first performed in the 1980s, the production also serves as an explosive allegory for the Cold War.

ROLLING OUT THE CANON

The artist-run Soulpepper Theatre Company brings the best of classical theatre—think the plays of Arthur Miller, Anton Chekov and even some Shakespeare—to modern audiences.

The Odd Couple (photo by Cylla von Tiedemann)

The Odd Couple
OPENS SEPTEMBER 22 Watch two of the country’s finest theatrical talents—and Soulpepper founding members—put their relationship to the test. Albert Schultz and Diego Matamoros are respectively unkempt and uptight as Oscar Madison and Felix Unger in Neil Simon’s famous comedy, which balances sharp and amusing banter with a poignant exploration of friendship. The “couple” garnered rave reviews for their work in Soulpepper’s 2008 staging of the play; returning for another spell as mismatched roomies, they’re expert at treading the fine line between side-straining humour and touching sentiment.

Ghosts
OPENS OCTOBER 10 Henrik Ibsen’s Ghosts was met with thinly veiled disgust when it was published and fleetingly performed in the late 19th century. Polite Victorian society simply did not talk about marital infidelity, venereal disease, incest and euthanasia—central subjects in the Norwegian playwright’s provocative drama. Now considered a masterpiece, it exposes what Ibsen considered to be the misguided morality of his time through the story of a woman dealing with the death of her philandering husband and the discovery that her syphilitic son has fallen in love with his half-sister. This new Soulpepper production is translated and helmed by Morris Panych, one of Canada’s foremost playwrights and directors.

NATIONAL TREASURE

Alternative stage plays have a long history in this city, and Factory Theatre is one of their most prominent supporters, having produced hundreds of new Canadian shows over its more than 40-year history.

Bigger Than Jesus (photo by Beth Kates)

Bigger Than Jesus
SEPTEMBER 29 TO OCTOBER 9 One of the most successful Canadian indie productions of the past decade is resurrected for 10 performances that are at once moving and “sinfully funny.” Questioning—and sometimes skewering—historical and contemporary perspectives on Christianity and the Bible in a unique multimedia “mass,” show creators Daniel Brooks and Rick Miller come to terms with a more progressive concept of religion that appeals to people of all faiths.

Hardsell
OCTOBER 13 TO 23 Theatre virtuoso Rick Miller (also the star of Bigger Than Jesus) performs his second one-man show in a month. A re-working of a 2009 play created by the Miller-Brooks tandem, Hardsell offers a riveting combination of dramaturgy and lecture about the “commodification of everything.” In a Janus-like turn, Miller plays two sides of himself—a cynic and an altruist—to expose the manipulation inherent in advertising while seducing the audience in his own sly way.

MODERN MANDATE

Since 1988, the Canadian Stage Company has produced an eclectic mix of high-quality, contemporary fare created by both Canadian and international dramatists.

Another Africa

Another Africa
SEPTEMBER 26 TO OCTOBER 22 In the summer of 2010, a group of Toronto-based theatre artists with origins reaching from Germany and Jamaica to Nigeria and Zimbabwe premiered three experimental plays collectively called The Africa Trilogy. Volcano Theatre’s original production, a major hit at the Luminato festival, has been pared down and retitled, but loses none of its emotional heft. With exceptional writing and memorable performances, the show attempts to bridge the divide between Africa and the West, deconstructing cross-continental relationships by asking how we see each other, and, just as importantly, how we see ourselves.

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