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Soulpepper Theatre Company

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.

Soulpepper’s The Barber of Seville Features a Famous Figaro

Dan Chameroy stars as Figaro in Soulpepper's The Barber of Seville (photo: Sandy Nicholson)

Dan Chameroy stars as Figaro in Soulpepper’s The Barber of Seville (photo: Sandy Nicholson)

STARTS MAY 9  Intricately melding its original source—Pierre Beaumarchais’ 18th-century play—as well as Rossini’s opera and even a more recent version by Canadian playwright Michael O’Brien and composer John Millard, Soulpepper Theatre Company’s reimagined take on The Barber of Seville brings to the stage a light comedy that was nonetheless radical in its time. Featuring the character of Figaro (portrayed by Dan Chameroy), a servant who’s anything but servile, the play may well have helped inflame the French Revolution. Nowadays the story is perhaps less provocative, but in a new adaptation it retains great populist appeal. Young Centre for the Performing Arts, $51 to $68; call 416-866-8666 or visit soulpepper.ca for showtimes and to buy.  —Macrina Smart

Weekend Roundup: February 8 to 10

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

Toronto Weekend Events

Bharati is but one of the great performances and events happening this weekend in Toronto

Mumbai as Muse
In Bharati, on stage Saturday and Sunday at the Sony Centre, India plays a dual role: at once a central character in a love story and the guiding theme in the music and dance of a spectacular stage performance. The age-old traditions and emerging modern customs intertwine as two characters find love against a backdrop of famous Bollywood songs.

(more…)

Soulpepper Stages Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern

The Young Centre hosts Soulpepper Theatre Company’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead

STARTS FEBRUARY 7  Soulpepper Theatre Company opens its new season with a contemporary favourite that takes its cues from a timeless masterpiece. Turning Hamlet on its head, Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead follows two minor courtiers in Shakespeare’s tale; ordered to help plot Hamlet’s death, it is they who are outwitted and then killed. Directed by Joseph Ziegler, the metatheatrical work brings to the fore what otherwise would have occurred off-stage in the Bard’s tragedy, exploring existentialist themes like fate, control and the conflict between art and reality. Young Centre for the Performing Arts, $22 to $68; call 416-866-8666 or see Soulpepper’s website for showtimes and tickets.  —Ana Taveira

Weekend Roundup: September 7 to 9

Friday: Ben Affleck’s Argo is one of many premieres at TIFF (photo by Claire Folger)

Friday, September 7
Each September the city comes to life with celebrities, Hollywood buzz, and most importantly a wide selection of fantastic cinema to experience. The opening weekend of the 37th annual Toronto International Film Festival showcases world premieres of major Hollywood films and foreign features, complex documentaries, short and experimental films, and so much more.

Don’t miss out on a shopping bonanza as Toronto celebrates Fashion’s Night Out with The Bazaar. Curated by Rac Boutique, the event brings together a wide variety of independent Toronto retailers including Gotstyle, the Drake Hotel General Store, Philistine and many others.

The Second City‘s new mainstage revue, We’ve Totally (Probably) Got This, is guaranteed to tickle that funny bone. Spend your Friday night with friends and this company of hilarious performers who have mastered the art of satirical sketches, songs and improvisations. (more…)

Weekend Roundup: July 20 to 22

Friday: Speed-the-Plow satirizes the movie industry (photo by Cylla von Tiedemann)

Friday, July 20
Expect cracking dialogue and fierce satire this evening as Soulpepper Theatre Company performs David Mamet’s Speed-The-Plow. The play examines the lives of two American film producers while dissecting the relationship between art and commerce.

The Toronto Summer Music Festival returned earlier in the week and brought with it a full slate of concerts, master classes and lectures for classical music lovers. Tonight, the acclaimed Borodin Quartet presents Music of Russia, a program of string quartets by Russian composers, including Borodin, Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky.

Once again the Harbourfront Centre becomes of a cultural smorgasbord of music, dance, international fare and more as the Hot & Spicy Food Festival occupies the downtown waterfront. The festival kicks it up a notch with exciting competitions like tonight’s Taco Takedown—where you decide which taco reigns supreme—and the annual Iron Chef competition, held over the weekend and concluding Sunday afternoon. (more…)

Weekend Roundup: July 13 to 15

Friday: See artist-designed tutus and much more at the Design Exchange (photo by Setareh Sarmadi and Marta Ryczko)

Friday, July 13
Get an insider’s look into the history of the the country’s most prominent dance company, as the Design Exhange presents 60 Years of Designing the Ballet. The exclusive exhibition tells the story of the National Ballet of Canada through set pieces, paintings, videos and archival wardrobes, including 60 iconic tutus for the troupe’s diamond anniversary.

The hallowed grounds of Fort York play host to a vaunted group of electronic musicians tonight as dubstep hero Skrillex brings his Full Flex Express tour to town. Accompanying the popular DJ/producer are a handful of cohorts including Montreal’s Grimes and Philly-based DJ Diplo.

The Soundclash Festival kicks off tonight at Harbourfront Centre, with dance and musical performances ongoing throughout the weekend. This evening you’re invited to feel the funky Afrobeat as Benin’s Orchestre Poly-Rhythmo de Cotonou takes the stage for its Canadian debut. (more…)

Weekend Roundup: May 25 to 27

Sunday: Akosua Amo-Adem and Soulpepper Academy artists perform Dirt (photo by Nathan Kelly)

Friday, May 25
More than 75 bags of dirt fill the Tank House Theatre stage (at the Yonge Centre for the Performing Arts) as the Soulpepper Academy performs Dirt, their theatrical production that revolves around the literal and metaphorical use of, well, dirt. Whether it’s the substance under your fingernails or a dirty secret, the show explores the use of dirt through stories, movement and technology.

Mayer Hawthorne, known for mixing “old school” soul with “new school” sounds, draws inspiration from classic singers like Smokey Robinson. He’s currently on tour with his second album How Do You Do? and swings into T.O. tonight for a show at The Hoxton.

Head to Harboufront Centre tonight for Canadian Contemporary Dance Theatre’s Arena, a dramatic program of six contemporary works. Among the dynamic offerings are two premieres, one choreographed by the 2012 resident guest artist Sylvie Bouchard, the other by Deborah Lundmark, the company’s founding artistic director. (more…)

Hot Date: An Encore for Kim’s Convenience

photo by Cylla von Tiedemann

MAY 16 TO JUNE 16 EXTENDED TO JULY 4! On the surface, Kim’s Convenience is a love letter to the countless Korean corner stores that have fallen victim to Toronto’s ever-in-flux business landscape. But that’s just the backdrop for the private inter-generational and inter-cultural conflicts with with so many Canadians can identify. Written by Ins Choi, the humorous yet poignant tale of a Korean-Canadian family bridging the gap between old traditions and modern life returns to the stage following its wildly successful Soulpepper Theatre Company debut this past January. Young Centre for the Performing Arts, $32 to $68; call 416-866-8666 or visit here for showtimes and to purchase tickets.

Weekend Roundup: April 20 to 22

Friday: Popular show Riverdance steps into Toronto for its final performances

Friday, April 20
Be wowed one last time by the phenomenal footwork of Riverdance. The internationally acclaimed Irish music and dance spectacular is at the Sony Centre through to Sunday as part of its last ever tour of North America.

Operatic soprano Renée Fleming brings her sensational voice to Roy Thomson Hall this evening. Accompanied by pianist Hartmut Holl, the “People’s Diva” is sure to dazzle with her dynamic stage presence and an intriguing program of songs by the likes of Schoenberg and Korngold.

The Theatre Centre continues to stage its adaptation of William Faulkner’s darkly comedic novel As I Lay Dying, which follows a family’s journey through the Mississippi countryside as part of a 40-mile funeral procession. (more…)

Hot Date: Soulpepper’s Strained Relations

Joseph Ziegler directs You Can't Take it With You (photo by Sandy Nicholson)

OPENS APRIL 19 Everyone can relate to that anxious moment when you first introduce your beau—or belle—to the folks. Soulpepper Theatre Company and director Joseph Ziegler take the occasion a step further in a staging of You Can’t Take it With You. Comedy ensues in this Pulitzer Prize-winning play by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart when Alice, perhaps the most sensible member of the eccentric Sycamore clan, invites her paramour and his conservative parents to dine with her family. Young Centre for the Performing Arts, $32 to $68; call 416-866-8666 or visit here for showtimes and
to purchase tickets.

 

Weekend Roundup: March 2 to 4

Friday: Entity offers provocative dance (photo by Ravi Deepres)

Friday, March 2
A stunning yet spare staging of contemporary dance awaits Harbourfront Centre audiences, as England’s Random Dance Company and acclaimed choreographer Wayne McGregor perform Entity, featuring music by the likes of Coldplay, Massive Attack and Jon Hopkins.

The National Ballet of Canada’s winter season opened this week with the lighthearted, romantic and slightly comical La Fille mal gardee. This classic pastoral ballet tells the story of Lise, who wishes to marry a young farmer. Her mother, however, has other plans, and promises Lise to a wealthy but buffoonish landowner.

The Artist Project Toronto entices creators, collectors and enthusiasts to Exhibition Place’s Queen Elizabeth Building this weekend. Admire contemporary works of photography, painting, textile art, digital media and more by independent artists Canada and around the world. While there, take a trip down Installation Alley to view large-scale sculptures and conceptual art projects, too. (more…)