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Factory Theatre

Encore! Encore! Theatre, Opera, Ballet and Music Abound in Toronto

CANADA’S COMMERCIAL CAPITAL IS ALSO A CULTURAL ONE. THIS FALL BRINGS AN ABUNDANCE OF OFFERINGS—FROM BROADWAY MUSICALS AND TONY-WINNING DRAMAS TO MELODIOUS SYMPHONIES, OPERATIC ARIAS AND CLASSICAL DANCE. BY LINDA LUONG

The Book of Mormon. Photo by Joan Marcus.

The Book of Mormon. Photo by Joan Marcus.

IN THE HOOD

The Entertainment District, home to five major performing arts venues, is where much of the singing, dancing and music-making takes place. The area’s two pillar theatres, the Royal Alexandra (260 King St. W.) and Princess of Wales (300 King St. W.), are owned by Mirvish Productions, which regularly stages audience-friendly shows. The grandiose, beaux-arts-style Royal Alex boasts an autumn playbill that includes historical drama Our Country’s Good (continuing to October 26), about the penal colony originally established in Australia, as well as Tom Stoppard’s witty Arcadia (November 4 to December 14) and The Heart of Robin Hood (December 22 to March 1). By contrast, the 2,000-seat Princess of Wales was built in the early 1990s to host mega-musical Miss Saigon. Since then it’s been home to extravaganzas like The Lion King and The Phantom of the Opera. The religious satire The Book of Mormon (continuing to November 2) returns after its sold-out 2013 run.

A block east lies Roy Thomson Hall (60 Simcoe St.), home of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and host to Toronto International Film Festival galas. One of the city’s most distinctive landmarks, the concert hall is easily recognized by its curvilinear glass exterior. Within, its primary tenant—under the guidance of music director Peter Oundjian—presents innovative programming such as the contemporary-classical New Creations Festival and an annual celebration of Mozart, and has accompanied such guests as Yo-Yo Ma and Itzhak Perlman. This month sees David Zinman conduct Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No. 2 (October 2 and 4) and Prokofiev’s ballet score for Shakepeare’s Romeo & Juliet (October 22 and 23)—a powerful work. Later in the year, the harmonious efforts of the TSO and the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir in a rendition of Handel’s Messiah (December 16 to 21) is a holiday tradition not to be missed, and in 2015 Chinese piano prodigy Lang Lang celebrates Chinese New Year (February 21).

Not so far away is the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts (145 Queen St. W.). The country’s first purpose-built opera house opened in 2006 and is home to both the Canadian Opera Company and the National Ballet of Canada. Inspired by traditional European theatres, the five-tiered horseshoe-shaped auditorium boasts impeccable sight lines, an expansive orchestra pit plus an impressive lobby—featuring a “floating” glass staircase—that adds considerable glamour to the streetscape. Themes of love and romance dominate the COC’s 2014-15 season: Verdi’s comic Falstaff (October 3 to November 1) kicks things off, while Don Giovanni (January 24 to February 21) seduces patrons in the new year. When opera’s not on stage, dance takes the spotlight. Helmed by former prima ballerina Karen Kain, the National Ballet of Canada boasts a dynamic repertoire by 20th- and 21st-century masters ranging from Balanchine to Nureyev. James Kudelka’s rendition of family favourite The Nutcracker (December 13 to January 3)—complete with stunning sets and costumes—is a holiday classic; the whimsical Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (March 14 to 29) is a bold new work; and beloved classic The Sleeping Beauty (June 10 to 20) caps off the season.

For a night of laughs, improv comedy reigns at The Second City, which counts the likes of Gilda Radner, John Candy, Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara amongst its Toronto alumni. Performed in a cabaret-style theatre, the company’s Fall Mainstage Revue has audiences laughing with its sketches, humourous songs and zany cast.

Soulpepper Theatre Company's production of Dickens' A Christmas Carol. Photo by Cylla Von Tiedemann.

Soulpepper Theatre Company’s production of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Photo by Cylla Von Tiedemann.

DISTINCTIVELY CANADIAN

A hub for homegrown talent, Factory Theatre (125 Bathurst St.) was conceived in 1970 to reflect Canadian experiences, and continues to dedicate itself to producing works by this country’s playwrights. This fall, the curtains rise on The Art of Building a Bunker (October 16 to November 2; page 28), a satire about workplace sensitivity training written by Adam Lazarus and Guillermo Verdecchia. Later, Charlotte Corbeil-Coleman and Joseph Jomo Pierre’s Twisted (February 5 to 22) updates Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist, and Ronnie Burkett and his 40 eclectic marionettes return with The Daisy Theatre (March 18 to April 5).

The Young Centre for the Performing Arts (50 Tank House Ln.) anchors one end of the sprawling Distillery District. Primarily home to the artist-founded Soulpepper Theatre Company, the former industrial building features four stages as well as studio spaces. Each season, Soulpepper fulfills its mandate to present classical works within the context of our national culture, as exemplified by Spoon River (October 29 to November 15; page 29), a musical in which members of a rural town recount their lives through their own epitaphs. The following month sees the triumphant return of Kim’s Convenience (November 27 to December 28), Ins Choi’s debut play about Korean immigrants and their Canadian-born children in Toronto’s Regent Park, which just wrapped up a national tour. Simultaneously, Dickens’ quintessential holiday tale, A Christmas Carol (November 27 to December 27) is mounted.

True to its name, Canadian Stage presents modern works—sometimes written by Canucks and often national or Toronto premieres—at both the Berkeley Street Theatre (26 Berkeley St.) and Bluma Appel Theatre (27 Front St. E.). Helen Lawrence (October 12 to November 1), fuses computer-generated simulation, live action film and visual art in a post‑World War II drama set in Vancouver. After a successful run last season, the sexually charged Venus in Fur (December 18 to 28) is back by popular demand, while beloved Quebec theatre artist—and CanStage fave—Robert Lepage returns with his heart-wrenching Needles and Opium (May 1 to 10).

Another local incubator, the playwright-in-residence program at Tarragon Theatre (30 Bridgman Ave.) has produced works by the likes of Morris Panych, Daniel MacIvor, Judith Thompson and Hannah Moscovitch. This season’s lineup includes The Bakelite Masterpiece (October 21 to November 30), in which an art forger is forced to recreate a painting by Dutch master Vermeer, as well as Panych’s Sextet (November 5 to December 14), which delves into secrets and desires of six stranded musicians. The new year brings both hope and fear for the hospital-bound characters of Waiting Room (January 6 to February 15).

Koerner Hall auditorium at The Royal Conservatory. Photo by Tom Arban.

Koerner Hall auditorium at The Royal Conservatory. Photo by Tom Arban.

TUNEFUL SPACES

Toronto’s top concert halls juxtapose old and new. Since breaking ground in 1893, the venerable Massey Hall (178 Victoria St.) has hosted performers spanning generations and genres: George Gershwin, Maria Callas, Oscar Peterson, Dizzy Gillespie, Bob Dylan, Gordon Lightfoot, Ronnie Hawkins, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell and Justin Bieber. This month sees contemporary artists grab the mic, including David Gray (October 7), Jason Mraz (October 8 and 9) and Chrissie Hynde (October 30). Then Gordon Lightfoot enjoys a four-night residency (November 26 to 29) before seasonal staples like Sing-Along Messiah (December 21) and New Year’s Eve Comedy Extravaganza (December 31) fill the room.

Koerner Hall (273 Bloor St. W.) is a much more recent vintage. Completed in 2009, the musical jewel of The Royal Conservatory is a visual and sonic stunner: a ribbon of curved oak beams creates the illusion of a canopied ceiling while helping to enhance the venue’s superb acoustics. The 1,135-seat auditorium hosts an array of jazz, pop and world musicians including Rafal Blechacz (October 19), Sir James Galway and Lady Jeanne Galway (October 25), Ana Moura (November 5), Idan Raichel and Vieux Farka Touré (November 21), Handel’s Messiah performed by the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and Choir (December 17 to 20), and Anne Sofie von Otter and Angela Hewitt (January 9).

MORE TO SEE THIS FALL

Cirque du Soleil's Kurios--Cabinet of Curiosities. Photo by Martin Girard.

Cirque du Soleil’s Kurios—Cabinet of Curiosities. Photo by Martin Girard.

Big Top Spectacle The circus is in town! Montreal’s famed Cirque du Soleil has once again pitched its signature blue and yellow tents down at the Port Lands (51 Commissioner St.). In Kurios—Cabinet of Curiosities (continuing to October 26), a kaleidoscope of characters—and the talented acrobats, jugglers, cyclists, cortortionists and other artists who portray them—transport audiences to the 19th century to meet an inventor who’s able to defy time, space and gravity. (One spectacular scene occurs at an upside down dinner party, while another features an invisible circus.) With imaginative costumes by Phillippe Guillotel and detailed sets and props by Stéphane Roy, Kurios is one of the company’s most imaginative and visually striking shows.

Jersey Boys. Photo by Jeremy Daniel.

Jersey Boys. Photo by Jeremy Daniel.

More Blockbusters Also part of the Mirvish empire is the Ed Mirvish Theatre (244 Victoria St.), a former vaudeville and motion picture house across from the Toronto Eaton Centre. Carefully restored to reflect its Roaring ’20s origins, the venue’s grand staircase and ornate vaulted ceilings set a resplendent scene as patrons arrive for stagings of Wicked (continues to November 2), Jersey Boys (December 17 to January 4) and the endearing musical Once (February 10 to April 12).

Medieval Times, Toronto

Medieval Times

Loyal Subjects For dinner and a show, the live spectacle that is Medieval Times can’t be missed. Join King Don Carlos’s court and watch as knights battle to win the hand of his daughter, Princess Catalina—all while partaking in a four-course (and utensil-free) feast.

Weekend Roundup: February 1 to 3

These weekend events and concerts are guaranteed to make your time in Toronto even more memorable!

Toronto Weekend Events

An incendiary production of Tristan und Isolde is now on stage at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts (photo: Michael Cooper)

Dramatic Duo
A weekend of operatic bliss begins on Saturday with the Canadian Opera Company’s staging of Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde, a story of passion about a knight and maiden who are unwittingly share a love potion—with tragic consequences. Sunday sees Mozart’s La Clemenza di Tito tell of an emperor who chooses to forgive a betrayal rather than seek revenge. Both productions unite their classical scores with modern production elements to impressive effect.

(more…)

Weekend Roundup: March 23 to 25

Friday: Tracy Morgan brings the funny

Friday, March 23
For one night only (tonight, obviously), Tracy Morgan brings his slightly off-base brand of comedy to the Sony Centre. Edgy laughs come fast and furious as the 30 Rock and former Saturday Night Live cast member presents his stand-up act as part of the Canadian International Comedy Festival.

Contemporary art gallery The Power Plant kicks off its 25th-anniversary celebrations tonight with the opening of two exhibitions, Kerry Tribe’s Speak, Memory, and Dissenting Histories: 25 Years of The Power Plant, the latter of which offers a retrospective of the gallery’s past quarter-century.

Legendary axeman John Hammond sings (and plays) the blues this evening in Toronto. After five decades on the road—he’s performed with everyone from Jimi Hendrix to Eric Clapton—and more than 30 albums under his belt, Hammond settles in at Hugh’s Room to play selections from his latest release, Rough and Tough. (more…)

Hot Date: Factory Theatre’s Culture Clash

My Granny the Goldfish writer Anosh Irani

MARCH 17 TO APRIL 15 Vancouver got a little taste of India when writer Anosh Irani unveiled his curry-flavoured comedy My Granny the Goldfish in 2010. Now it’s Toronto’s turn. The play tells of a young man in the hospital and the eccentric grandmother who flies in from Bombay to visit him. Applauded for its hilarious one-liners, it’s also a poignant story of culture, family and the ways in which laughter really can be the best medicine. Though set in Canada’s west coast metropolis, Granny is sure to be a perfect fit for Toronto’s multicultural hodgepodge, too. Factory Theatre, Tuesday to Saturday 8 p.m., Sunday 2 p.m., $30 to $55; call 416-504-9971 or click here for showtimes and tickets.

Weekend Roundup: January 27 to 29

Friday: Get a dinner deal during Winterlicious (photo courtesy of Pangaea)

Friday, January 27
Start the weekend off with a Winterlicious meal as the citywide culinary extravaganza celebrates 10 years of tickling Torontonians’ taste buds. Approximately 175 restaurants are taking part; there are probably a few that aren’t entirely booked up this weekend.

Relive two of the most celebrated records of all time, as Classic Albums Live performs the Beatles’ seminal 1965/66 hits Rubber Soul and Revolver at Massey Hall.

See a real-life mother and son reenact their story of the culture clash between Indian heritage and Canadian lifestyle in Tarragon Theatre’s A Brimful of Asha. Follow Ravi on his trip to the motherland, where his parents decide it’s the perfect time to talk him into an arranged marriage. (more…)

Hot Date: Puppets at the End of the World

JANUARY 20 TO FEBRUARY 26 What would you do if the airwaves were suddenly flooded with reports that the end was, truly, nigh? Penny Plain, a contented blind shut-in, doesn’t budge from her plush chair. But after her dog leaves to try his paw at manhood, the outside bedlam—a cross-dressing banker, a serial killer, and a group of survivalists, among others—begins to creep in. A tender, slightly skewed drawing-room portrait of love at the end of the world, Penny Plain is told through evocative marionettes and lovingly rendered sets created by Ronnie Burkett, founder of the renowned Ronnie Burkett Theatre of Marionettes, which this year marks
its 25th anniversary. Factory Theatre, $30 to $55; call 416-504-9971 or click here for showtimes and tickets.

Hot Date: A Theatrical Milestone for Tomson Highway

NOVEMBER 5 TO DECEMBER 11 Seven women pool their savings and journey to Toronto with hopes of winning “The Biggest Bingo Ever” in Aboriginal novelist and playwright Tomson Highway’s The Rez Sisters. This year marks the iconic Canadian drama’s 25th anniversary. Factory Theatre, Tuesday to Saturday,
8 p.m., Sunday, 2 p.m., $20 to $45; call 416-504-9971 or visit here for tickets.

Weekend Roundup, October 7 to 9

Friday: See Faust with live music

Friday, October 7

F.W. Murnau’s classic 1926 silent film Faust screens this evening within the hallowed confines of Trinity-St. Paul’s United Church. Featuring live piano accompaniment by composer Robert Bruce, it’s an artistically immersive way to see and hear a revered piece of early filmmaking.

Find your way through a maze at the Ontario Science Centre‘s new exhibition, GPS Adventures. Using Global Positioning System technology, visitors can try out the popular activity of geocoaching to find hidden treasures and answer a riddle. (more…)

Hot Date: A Winning Remount of Zadie’s Shoes

Jordan Pettle in the original production of Zadie's Shoes (photo by Heather Morton).

MAY 5 TO JUNE 5 One of the most successful independent Canadian theatre productions of the past decade, Zadie’s Shoes makes its dramatic return. The play, written by Adam Pettle, tells the story of Benjamin, a compulsive gambler who has 72 hours to win back the money he’s lost for his girlfriend’s cancer treatment. For the first time since his Bar Mitzvah, he finds himself at the synagogue, struggling to reconcile his belief in the power of faith and the natureof luck. Factory Theatre, Tuesday to Saturday 8 p.m., Sunday 2 p.m., $15 to $40; call 416-504-9971 or navigate here for more information and to purchase.

Weekend Roundup, April 15th to 17th

Friday: Thrill to the operatic feats of Korean soprano Sumi Jo

Friday, April 15
Grammy Award-winning Sumi Jo brings her elegant coloratura soprano voice to Roy Thomson Hall tonight. Joined by pianist Gary Matthewman, this Korean-born operatic singer promises an uplifting evening of songs by Vivaldi, Rossini and many other classical favourites.

Laugh with him—or at him. Discover out how Charlie Sheen continues “winning” when he brings his My Violent Torpedo of Truth/Defeat is Not an Option tour to Massey Hall. Even if you find yourself booing the actor’s rants and antics, rest assured that he is donating some of the show’s proceeds to the Red Cross’s Japanese Earthquake Relief Fund.

Learn how to sustain yourself—and the environment—at the Green Living Show, happening all weekend long at the Direct Energy Centre. Eco-conscious consumers can sample local food at the Good Eats Market, find chic green apparel at the Eco Fashion Show and get crafty in the EcoKids Zone. Admission is free if you bring an old electronic device to recycle.

Saturday: Embrace Night at Factory Theatre (photo by Andree Lanthier)

Saturday, April 16
Witness the convergence of Inuit and southern Canadian culture in Night, presented by multi-disciplinary troupe Human Cargo as part of Factory Theatre’s Performance Spring series. This emotional and poetic play is set on Baffin Island, and is performed in both English and Inuktitut.

Pick up something unique while supporting local artists at Creative Heart Collective’s Spring Show & Sale. West Queen West cultural hub the Gladstone Hotel hosts a range of artists, entrepreneurs and retailers showcasing their one-of-a-kind crafts, jewellery, gourmet food and vintage apparel.

Put on your beacon-red jersey and make sure your vocal cords are ready to cheer on Toronto FC, who return to BMO Field today for a Major League Soccer match against DC United. Arrive early and enjoy the passionate pre-game festivities outside of the stadium, including face painting, street soccer matches and live band performances.

Sunday: See this piece from Matsutani Takesada's Circle series, and more, at the Toronto Art Expo

Sunday, April 17
More than 200 distinguished Canadian and International artists and galleries present their collections at the Toronto Art Expo. Seasoned  connoisseurs and first-time buyers are equally certain to find something special at this exclusive display at the Metro Convention Centre. Be sure to check out the featured installation by Japanese artist Matsutani Takesada.

Education is always entertaining at Lorraine Kimsa Theatre for Young People, which presents two ongoing productions: As You Puppet introduces youngsters to the Shakespeare play As You Like It using cute, stuffed-animal puppets, while I Think I Can presents the challenges youth face with bullying through hip urban tap dance.

The clock is ticking for those bells to be ringing! Prepare, plan and purchase everything you need for your wedding at Toronto’s Bridal Show at the Direct Energy Centre. This weekend’s expo features more than 100 industry specialists, prizes, and even a live taping of the reality show Last Bride Standing.

Weekend Roundup, February 25th to 27th

Friday: Ladysmith Black Mombazo enlivens Roy Thomson Hall

Friday, February 25
Gather at Roy Thomson Hall tonight to have your spirits lifted by Ladysmith Black Mambazo. The South African a capella group—known for its stirring harmonies—is slated to perform songs from its latest album, Ilembe: Honoring Shaka Zulu.

Join Anne Sofie Von Otter and Brad Mehldau at Koerner Hall as they perform selections from their recent effort, Love Songs. The immensely talented Swedish mezzo-soprano and American jazz pianist are adept at playing everything from Brahms to the Beatles.

This evening offers a final opportunity to hear the melodies of The Magic Flute, as performed by the Canadian Opera Company at the Four Seasons Centre. Toronto-based soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian is among the talented cast of this beautiful Mozart opera.

Saturday: Bloor-Yorkville's IceFest offers all manner of frosty sculptures

Saturday, February 26
Bloor-Yorkville’s annual Icefest runs all weekend long at the Village of Yorkville Park. Today, visitors can view a “Circus Extravaganza” with ice sculptures of elephants, lion tamers, fortune tellers, and more. The big top atmosphere also offers magic tricks, acrobatics and yummy cotton candy, too.

Follow a young girl’s battle for liberty as Brothel #9 opens tonight at Factory Theatre. Telling the story of a girl who struggles for freedom after being sold to a brothel in Calcutta, the play is a true testament to the endurance of the human spirit.

Drama lovers will also find interest in the final day of Nightwood Theatre’s Groundswell Festival, which presents new works by female playwrights. The Happy Woman closes the festival, and features a panel discussion following its performance.

Sunday: See Sacred Moon (detail pictured) and other works by El Anatsui at the Royal Ontario Museum

Sunday, February 27
Today offers the final opportunity to view the Royal Ontario Museum’s acclaimed exhibition, When I Last Wrote You About Africa, by El Anatsui. The Ghanaian artist transforms overlooked and discarded objects into monumental sculptures that reflect global, local, and his own personal history.

In celebration of the Juno Awards’ 40th anniversary, Lula Lounge hosts a performance by the Juno Jazz All-Stars tonight. Eight Juno-winning artists—including Guido Basso, Don Thompson and Dave Young—take the stage at this sure-to-be-smoking show.

Looking for a fun way spend Oscar night? Walk the red carpet to the Drake Hotel’s own Oscar Party. The evening of entertainment features popcorn, drinks, a cinematic trivia contest with great door prizes, and, of course, a viewing of the Academy Awards.

Weekend Roundup, January 14th to 16th

Friday: Be wowed by Shen Yun Performing Arts' colourful production

Friday, January 14th
Get a glimpse into the diverse 5,000-year history of China courtesy of Shen Yun Performing Arts. The talented troupe brings its mix of dance and theatre to the Sony Centre stage tonight and throughout the weekend.

Best known as Full House dad Danny Tanner and the original host of America’s Funniest Home Videos, Bob Saget brings his hilarious (though notoriously uncensored) stand-up routine to the Queen Elizabeth Theatre.

Itching for even more comedy? Don’t miss your last chance to catch A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Stephen Sondheim’s gleeful musical about a Roman slave attempting to earn his freedom.

Saturday: Yuck it up with Rod Beattie in Wingfield: Lost & Found

Saturday, January 15th
The uproarious comedy show Wingfield: Lost and Found plays tonight at the Panasonic Theatre. This latest in Rod Beattie’s series of “Walter Wingfield” shows sees the character—a stock broker turned farmer—battle obstacles in search of a new water source during a drought.

Mickey Mouse and the rest of the Disney gang wheel into Toronto with Mickey’s Rockin’ Roadshow. On stage this weekend at the Rogers Centre, the production features all of your ‘toon favourites, including Mickey, Minnie, Goofy and many other special guests!

Tokyo Police Club invade the Kool Haus tonight for an all-ages concert. The Newmarket natives play upbeat indie-rock songs that are sure to get you dancing.

Sunday: Crowd the Berkeley Street Theatre at a performance of Ruins (photo by Cylla von Tiedemann)

Sunday, January 16th
Pay heed to the struggles women must go through in times of strife—the Pulitzer Prize-winning play Ruined makes its Toronto premiere tonight at the Berkeley Street Theatre.

It’s had a successful run, but inevitably, the Next Stage Theatre Festival closes today at the Factory Theatre. All eight of the fest’s acclaimed independent productions are on stage today. The first show, Eating with Lola, starts at 3 p.m.

For anyone who’s planning a wedding—or those who simply love to live vicariously through the bride and groom—The Wedding Show at the glamorous Carlu offers everything from gowns to invitations. Experts are on-site, too, to help you with everything you’ll need for the big day.