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Musical

Must-See Performances in November and December

NOVEMBER AND DECEMBER ARE FULL OF EXCITING PERFORMANCES FROM BALLET TO ACROBATICS TO MAGIC, AND MORE  

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The 7 Fingers Cuisine and Confessions merges acrobatics with the art of cooking. Photo by by Alexandre Galliez.

Mirvish Productions, Toronto’s largest theatre company, is closing out 2016 with a program of more esoteric—yet still ambitious—shows to complement its typical grander-scale fare. The 7 Fingers Cuisine and Confessions (November 1 to December 4), for instance, blends acrobatics and cooking in a theatrical feast for the senses, while Fight Night (November 4 to 20) concocts an immersive exploration of democracy—just in time for the fireworks of the U.S. presidential election. And there’s more spectacle to be found in The Illusionists (starts December 13), which features awe-inspiring tricks by seven of the world’s top magicians.

Aligator Pie, Soulpepper

Soulpepper’s Alligator Pie is fun for the whole family. Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann.

The spotlight also shines on sleight of hand courtesy of Soulpepper Theatre Company and magic maestro David Ben’s Hocus Pocus (starts December 10). Equally inventive—and family-friendly—are Rose (December 16, 17, and 22), a concert presentation based on The World Is Round, a children’s book by Gertrude Stein, and Alligator Pie (starts December 27), an award-winning adaptation of Dennis Lee’s poems. 

And for more adult-oriented fare, turn to the Canadian Stage and Daniel MacIvor. His solo show, Who Killed Spalding Gray? (November 30 to December 11), combines the Canadian playwright’s uniquely disarming scripting with some of the titular character’s famed monologues in an interrogation of truth and fiction.

ENCORE PERFORMANCES

A pair of repertory remounts round out the National Ballet of Canada’s year-end slate—alongside its annual production of The Nutcracker (December 10 to 31), naturally. Most recently performed in 2014, James Kudelka’s Cinderella (November 12 to 20) offers a thoroughly modern interpretation of the age-old fairy tale, and later, the expressive Onegin (November 23 to 27)—John Cranko’s adaptation of the Pushkin novel, Eugene Onegin—aims for emotional and psychological nuance even while its dancers push the boundaries of what the human body can do.

Sharing the Four Seasons Centre stage with the National Ballet means that the Canadian Opera Company has for the time being ceded the spotlight, but the COC presents a great reason to return in 2017: its ever-popular production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute (January 19 to February 24).

HITTING THE RIGHT NOTES

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Itzhak Perlman enchants audiences with his performances of beloved movie scores.

The popular music of previous centuries—that is, classical music—is always in vogue with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. But the venerated ensemble keeps up with the times, too, by presenting contemporary scores. Among this winter’s biggest tickets are Itzhak Perlman’s “Cinema Serenade” (November 22)—in which the famed violinist performs themes from films, including Cinema Paradiso, Sabrina and Schindler’s List—and screenings of Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring with live TSO accompaniment (December 1 to 3). Christmas classics also get an airing in variety show-style concerts hosted by Colin Mochrie (December 9 to 11) and Jann Arden (December 13 and 14).

Meanwhile, another hallowed musical institution hones in on jazz. The Royal Conservatory’s Koerner Hall schedule features the likes of Joe Lovano’s quintet with Afro-Cuban piano legend Chucho Valdés (November 9), a cabaret-style pairing of vocalists Laila Biali and Pilar (December 1), and explorations of the trio format with threesomes led by pianist Stefano Bollani, bassist Roberto Occhipinti (both November 18), organist Joey DeFrancesco and saxophonist Christine Jensen (both December 10).

—Craig Moy

Get Set for Summer: Culture Vultures

THERE’S A LOT TO DO IN THE CITY THIS SUMMER. BELOW ARE SOME SUGGESTIONS FOR THE CULTURALLY-MINDED VISITOR

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Thong Sandals. Oil on canvas by Marco Sassone.

The Second City  returns with The Best of Second City, a rousing combination of some of the funniest sketches from the company’s past 50 years. Families can enjoy Superdude and Doctor Rude, a superhero story with a twist based on audience participation. Matilda the Musical is another family-friendly production, which opens July 5, while Shakespeare in High Park presents Hamlet and All’s Well That Ends Well on alternating nights in scenic High Park.

For centuries, plants—particularly flowers—have been the inspiration behind the creation of beautiful textile designs. Bliss: Gardens Real and Imagined, on now at the Textile Museum of Canada, highlights the pervasive use of floral motifs across cultures, from intricate Persian carpets to handmade quilts. The Bata Shoe Museum commemorates Italian heritage month with a selection of oil paintings by American-Italian painter Marco Sassone. His Boots and Other Works illustrate the artist’s love of fashion and footwear, from worn out boots to party shoes.

Film buffs won’t want to miss the Hitchcock/Truffaut: Magnificent Obsessions double retrospective at TIFF Bell Lightbox, which starts July 7. Featuring more than a dozen films by each director, the series highlights their similarities and includes Alfred Hitchcock classics like The Birds, and Vertigo, alongside François Truffaut films like Jules et Jim and The 400 Blows.

EAT Experience the flavours of the Middle East, North and South Asia with Mark McEwan’s flavourful menu at Diwan, while taking in the gorgeous grounds of the Aga Khan Museum. After working up appetite at the Frank Gehry-designed Art Gallery of Ontario, visit Frank for a bistro-inspired menu amidst installations by Frank Stella. Moviegoers can dine at Luma, located at the TIFF Bell Lightbox. —Karen Stevens

 

Hot Date: Andrew Lloyd Webber Takes Us Back to Oz

The Wizard of Oz cast welcomes you to the Emerald City (photo: Keith Pattison)

STARTS DECEMBER 20  Don your ruby slippers and follow the yellow brick road to see the great and powerful Andrew Lloyd Webber’s adaptation of The Wizard of Oz! Featuring all the beloved songs of the original film, plus new music by Webber and Tim Rice, the lavish production follows Dorothy and her dog, Toto, as they wander through a colourful land that is definitely not Kansas. The blockbuster show also introduces a new star to the city’s stage, with the lead role being cast as part of a TV reality program, Over the Rainbow. Ed Mirvish Theatre, $35 to $175; call 416-872-1212 or click here for more information and tickets.  —Ana Taveira

Hot Date: Ross Petty Awakens Satire in Snow White

(photo: Bruce Zinger)

NOVEMBER 23 TO JANUARY 5  A classic fairy tale gets the song, dance and comedy treatment from Toronto’s best-known theatrical satirist, Ross Petty, in Snow White the Deliciously Dopey Family Musical. Canadian Idol winner Melissa O’Neil is the “fairest maiden of them all” in this zany pantomime filled with humorous pop culture references, while other Canadian stage stars like Stratford Festival actor Graham Abbey and Petty himself take on some rather… uh… unorthodox roles. Elgin Theatre, $27 to $85; call 1-855-599-9090 or click here for a schedule and tickets.  —Ana Taveira

Hot Date: Fela Kuti’s Groovin’ for Good Governance

Sahr Ngaujah stars as Fela Kuti in Fela! (photo by Monica Carboni)

OCTOBER 25 TO NOVEMBER 6 Fela Anikulapo Kuti has been described as Che Guevara and Bob Marley rolled into one. A fitting description, as throughout the 1970s and ‘80s Kuti utilized his big band–styled music as a conduit for scathing critiques targeted at the oppressive military regimes in his native Nigeria. The creation of his unique sound and the story of his activism are showcased in Fela!, the hit Broadway musical now on stage in Toronto for a limited engagement. Featuring lively performances, electric choreography by Bill T. Jones, and Kuti’s legendary brand of Afrobeat—a fusion of jazz, funk, rock, and African chants and rhythms that he created with drummer and comrade Tony Allen—this Tony-winning production offers a powerful political statement backed by some of the 20th century’s most vital music. Canon Theatre, Tuesday to Friday 8 p.m., Saturday 2 p.m. and
8 p.m., Sunday 1:30 p.m. and 7 p.m., $35 to $130; call 416-872-1212 or click here for tickets.

Hot Date: Teenage Musical

The award-winning "Spring Awakening." Photo credit: Joan Marcus.

May 13 to 15. Spring Awakening took Broadway by storm in 2006 with its fusion of morality, sexuality, and rock and roll. Set in the 19th century, the story pits teen desires against adult repression in a stunning showcase that incorporates choreography, humour, and a rock score by Duncak Sheik. (Interesting tidbit, Glee superstar Lea Michele played the lead female role in the original run). Check out the touring version of the groundbreaking musical when it comes to Ottawa this spring. Be forewarned though: the play includes nudity.

The Lion King Has Returned

photo by Joan Marcus

APRIL 19 TO JUNE 12 Get ready—or should we say “Be Prepared”—to prowl the pride lands as the beloved Disney musical The Lion King roars into Toronto for a limited engagement.

Based on the 1994 animated film of the same name, this enthralling stage show follows an exiled cub named Simba, who must undertake a journey of self-discovery in order to avenge the death of his father. The coming-of-age tale is set to the songs of Tim Rice and Elton John—with additional music by Hans Zimmer, Lebo M and Mark Mancina—including the memorable “Hakuna Matata” and “The Circle of Life.” But what really marks The Lion King as one of modern musical theatre’s most breathtaking achievements are its dazzling sets, colourful costumes, complex choreography and novel use of puppets. Against such backdrops as an elephant graveyard and a wildebeest stampede, actors embody giraffes, gazelles, hyenas and many other animals to bring the Serengeti’s menagerie to vivid life.

photo by Joan Marcus

These elements conspire to ensure the groundbreaking stage show remains enormously popular with audiences around the world. Among its accolades are six 1998 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, and status as one of the longest-running shows in Broadway history. More than a decade removed from its debut, the New York City production continues to draw sell-out crowds. (In Toronto, The Lion King’s original run began in 1999 and lasted almost four years.) Its success also earned director Julie Taymor a permanent place on theatre’s A-list. Innovative and inspiring, The Lion King is a not-to-be-missed theatrical event that’s bound to have the entire city singing the songs of the savannah.

Princess of Wales Theatre (300 King St. W.), Tuesday to Friday 7:30 p.m., Saturday
2 and 7:30 p.m., Sunday 1 and 6:30 p.m., $25 to $120; call 416-872-1212 or click here
to purchase tickets.

Hot Date: South Pacific Serenade

Photo by Kim Ritzenhaler

FEBRUARY 15 TO APRIL 10 The power of love is tested by war and prejudice in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s South Pacific. Considered one of Broadway’s greatest musicals, its two parallel love stories deliver award-winning drama and serious social commentary against a backdrop of World War II. This revival, by New York’s renowned Lincoln Centre Theatre, boasts one of the largest orchestras of any touring production—all the better to accompany classic songs including “Some Enchanted Evening” and “I’m in Love with a Wonderful Guy.” Toronto Centre for the Arts, Tuesday to Saturday 7:30 p.m., Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday 1 p.m., $35 to $190; call 416-644-3665 or click here to purchase.

Hot Date: Peek into the Secret Garden

The Secret Garden (photo by Richard Campbell)

FEBRUARY 8 TO MARCH 19 A world of natural beauty is revealed to Toronto in the Tony Award–winning musical, The Secret Garden. Adapted from the enduring turn-of-the-century novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett, the enchanting production shows how a young girl brings new life to an entire Victorian household by tending to its neglected flower patch. Royal Alexandra Theatre, Tuesday to Saturday 7:30 p.m., Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday 2 p.m., $55 to $110; call 416-872-1212 or click here for tickets.

Weekend Roundup, July 16 to 18

A weekend filled with festivals, concerts, theatre and culture! Toronto’s multiculturalism openly displayed right in front of your eyes. Lots to choose from, so little time…

Friday: Revel in Shakespearean derring-do under the stars at High Park (photo by Chris Gallow)

Friday, July 16
Spend your evening at the launch of the annual Beaches International Jazz Festival at Woodbine Park, where you can enjoy some fresh air while listening to top acts like Digging Roots and Jay Douglas & The All-Stars. Bring a blanket or some chairs, recline on the grass and celebrate the weekend with free music. If you like what you hear, be sure to come back Saturday and Sunday for more.

Fall in love with Shakespeare under the stars at the Canadian Stage TD Dream in High Park, which offers a pay-what-you-can performance of Romeo Juliet with a modern twist—the story of the star-crossed lovers is told using iPods and other contemporary props.

Tantalize your taste buds for less thanks to Summerlicious. The popular dining sees restaurants offering three-course meals at a fixed price. Make a reservation to sample the cuisines of the world at such Toronto favourites as Alize (Italian), Bangkok Garden (Thai), Célestin (French), Jaipur Grille (Indian) and Katsura (Japanese).

Or, try a different kind of ‘licious menu at Lee. Its “Susur-licious” menu, named for star chef and owner Susur Lee, is a three-course prix fixe featuring dishes from Lee’s tenure on the Food Network’s Top Chef Masters.

Saturday: See Geddy Lee and the rest of Rush (photo by ceedub13)

Saturday, July 17
Forget the 19-hour flight to the other side of the world. Today you can experience Indian culture on Toronto’s Centre Island, which hosts the annual Festival of India. Your immersion includes Indian music, dance, food and dramatic performances, plus crafts and souvenirs available from the bazaar. An exhibition reflecting the country’s history offers further enlightenment.

Swing by the Distillery Historic District to grab a bite from one of its many restaurants or cafés, then be sure to check out one of two Soulpepper Theatre Company shows at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts. Turgenev’s romantic comedy A Month in the Country is sure to stir up your emotions, and David French’s original and acclaimed Jitters also draws guffaws today.

Sing along with Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson and Neil Peart as they bring their Rush classics back to the Air Canada Centre. The legendary Canadian prog rock band‘s Time Machine tour is guaranteed to have you reminiscing about the glory days.

Come face to face with some of the world’s most celebrated historical artifacts at the Royal Ontario Museum’s landmark exhibition, The Warrior Emperor and China’s Terracotta Army, featuring full-sized clay warriors from the tomb of Chinese emperor Ying Zheng.

Sunday: Don't forget your earplugs! The Hondy Indy zooms through Toronto

Sunday, July 18
There’s more musical nostalgia on offer at the Royal Alexandra Theatre, as Rock of Ages continues its successful run. This engaging show sets a rock ‘n’ roll love story to a soundtrack of ’80s hits by Journey, REO Speedwagon and many others.

South America’s largest nation gets a showcase this weekend at the Expressions of Brazil festival, part of Harbourfront Centre’s summer-long “world routes” programming. Today’s cultural mix includes samba performances, a drumming workshop, cooking and capoeira demonstrations and much more.

It’ll be easy to find Exhibition Place today—just head toward the sound of revving engines at the much-anticipated Honda Indy car race. Cheer on professional drivers like Paul Tracy and Dario Franchitti as they speed toward the checkered flag.

Indulge in a decadent taste from the briny deep at the annual Ontario Oyster Festival hosted by Rodney’s Oyster House. For $30, guests can feast on some exceptional oysters, hear live music, cheer on competitive oyster shuckers and much more. All proceeds go to Environmental Defence, a charitable organization.

Hot Date: Saigon Story

Photo by Matt Polk

JULY 9 TO AUGUST 1 A naïve orphan girl and an American GI fall in love amidst Saigon’s exotic but turbulent landscape in the musical Miss Saigon, inspired by Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. In this tragic tale of doomed lovers, Chris, a young soldier about to depart war-torn Vietnam is besotted with the virginal and teenage Kim, who works as a dancer in a seedy club. The themes of sacrifice, hope and motherhood come together in this dramatic and timeless story as Chris, who later marries an American woman, discovers he and Kim have a son together. Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, Tuesday to Saturday 7:30 p.m., Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday 2 p.m., $28 to $175; call 416-644-3665 or navigate here to reserve.

Hot Date: Blonde Ambition

Photo by Joan Marcus

JULY 7 TO AUGUST 8 Go to the head of the class with Elle Woods in Legally Blonde The Musical. In this screen-to-stage adaptation of the movie that starred Hollywood sweetheart Reese Witherspoon as the sassy sorority girl, Elle does what no Delta Nu sister has done before—study. After getting dumped by her boyfriend, Elle, with her stylish sidekick chihuahua Bruiser in tow, heads to Harvard Law School. Amidst sequins, bows, summonses, and cheeky melodies like “Bend and Snap,” Elle learns the importance of being true to herself. Princess of Wales Theatre, Tuesday through Saturday 8 p.m., Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday 2 p.m., $28 to $124; call 416-872-1212 or click here for further details and tickets.