Summer theatre season in Ontario

The all-Canadian production of the War Horse is playing at the Princess of Wales Theatre in...

The all-Canadian production of the War Horse is playing at the Princess of Wales Theatre in Toronto. (Photo by Brinkhoff/Mogenburg)

JIM FOX, Special to QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:37 AM ET

The curtain is rising on another season of summer theatre.

High-quality, entertaining productions dot the landscape for Ontario’s versions of off-Broadway shows that combine the big productions at Stratford, Shaw and Mirvish theatres with small venues and vacation areas. 

Summer’s just the ticket

From Grand Bend to Gananoque, Toronto to Haliburton, the 24 members of the Association of Summer Theatres ‘Round Ontario offer great shows.

These range from musicals, dramas and Shakespearean productions to Canadian premieres with more than 100 productions.

From blockbuster Broadway musicals and the classics to experimental fringe theatre, there’s everything in Ontario, including Toronto – the third-largest theatre centre in the English-speaking world, said Tim Chapman of Theatre Ontario.

As well, there are “Just the Ticket” theatre and accommodation packages for summer theatrical getaways.

These are available at the Classic Theatre Festival in Perth; the Orillia Opera House; Port Hope Festival Theatre; the Shaw Festival in Niagara-on-the-Lake; Theatre Collingwood; and the Thousand Islands Playhouse in Gananoque.

Other member theatres include the Blyth Festival; Drayton Festival Theatre; Global Theatre, Bobcaygeon; Highlands Summer Festival, Haliburton; St. Lawrence Shakespeare Festival, Prescott; Victoria Playhouse, Petrolia; and Westben Arts Festival Theatre in Campbellford.

For details: www.summertheatre.org; (416) 408-4556, Ext.12. 

Stop the presses!

“They’re newspaper men. They can’t help themselves. The Lord made them that way.”

Enough said, as the Shaw Festival features John Guare’s adaptation of the screwball comic classic His Girl Friday.

The inspired combo of the original play the Front Page and the screen version of His Girl Friday is a “no-holds barred satire on tabloid journalism that crackles with quick quips, rapid-fire repartee and a big dose of sexual sparring.”

Now in preview performances, it opens July 7 and plays in repertory until Oct. 5 in its Canadian premiere.

The festival’s 51st season also presents Ragtime, Noel Coward’s comedy Present Laughter, Trouble in Tahiti, A Man and Some Women, the Millionairess, Hedda Gabler, Misalliance, French without Tears, Come Back Little Sheba and Helen’s Necklace.

The season, in the spirit of Bernard Shaw, continues through Oct. 28 with 11 productions presented on four Niagara-on-the-Lake stages. www.shawfest.com; 1-800-511-SHAW 

Much ado about something

From its first season with two productions in a tent, the Stratford Shakespeare Festival launched its 60th season with a gala performance of Much Ado About Nothing.

The season continues until Oct. 28 and also features 42nd Street; the Matchmaker; Henry V; You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown; The Pirates of Penzance; A Word or Two; Cymbeline; Wanderlust; Elektra; MacHomer; the Best Brothers; Hirsch; and the War of 1812.

Presenting 14 productions in five venues, among the special events is Christopher Plummer and his one-man show, A Word or Two, from July 25 to Aug. 26. www.stratfordfestival.ca; 1-800-567-1600 

Watch your step

Alfred Hitchcock meets the hilarious in the 39 Steps continuing through July 1 at Stage West Theatre Restaurant in Mississauga.

This fast-paced whodunit takes a Hitchcock masterpiece film and mixes it with a dash of humour.

Then, stay tuned for Why Do Fools Fall in Love? the 60’s hit musical, followed by Divorce Party, the musical from Sept. 21 to Nov. 25. www.stagewest.com; 1-800-263-0684 

Giddy up

From Great Britain’s National Theatre, the all-Canadian production of War Horse is on stage at the Mirvish Princess of Wales Theatre in Toronto.

Performances continue through Sept. 30 of the story about a young man who enlists to serve in World War I after his beloved horse is sold to the cavalry.

Then, direct from London, England is Backbeat, the story of how the Beatles became superstars, leaving the docks of Liverpool in search of success.

It runs from July 21 to Sept. 2 at the Royal Alexandra Theatre. www.mirvish.com; 1-800-461-3333 

Class acts

Lunch with the Legends tribute shows take place at the Class Act Dinner Theatre in Whitby.

The next event for $29.95 on June 24 features John Cigan as Ricky Nelson and Doug McKenzie as Roy Orbison.

There’s a John Denver and Buddy Holly tribute artist show on July 29; Johnny Cash performance Aug. 26; early Elvis and Vegas Elvis on Sept. 16; Neil Diamond show Oct. 21, Tim McGraw by Brycen Katolinsky on Nov. 11; and a Frank Sinatra-Michael Buble-Barbra Streisand performance on Dec. 23.

On stage through June 23, is Don’t Tell the Wife. www.classactdinnertheatre.com; 1-877-426-5697 

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