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For the 2020 season, the Stratford Festival is embracing the power of change

Look forward to the North American premiere of Wendy & Peter Pan with Cynthia Jimenez-Hicks and Jake Runeckles. Watch for a slight change to this classic tale that offers up a profound impact. All photos by David Cooper; creative direction by Punch & Judy Inc.

Look forward to the North American premiere of Wendy & Peter Pan with Cynthia Jimenez-Hicks and Jake Runeckles. Watch for a slight change to this classic tale that offers up a profound impact. All photos by David Cooper; creative direction by Punch & Judy Inc.

“There’s a real sense of renewal at Stratford this year – the feeling is palpable,” says Stratford Festival artistic director Antoni Cimolino. With a season of reimagined classics, premieres and the unveiling of the new Tom Patterson Theatre, visiting the Stratford Festival in 2020 is essential for arts lovers.

The world-renowned theatre company will present 15 productions and more than 300 special events next year, many in the Tom Patterson Theatre. Clad in a bronze veil, surrounded by gardens and undulating along the banks of the Avon River, the contemporary theatre will be a beacon to theatre enthusiasts when it opens in the spring.

In addition to its jewel-like architecture, the theatre will have as its focal point a thrust stage, offering the unique theatrical experience Stratford is beloved for. Its thoughtful design brings actors into the heart of the audience while creating unparalleled intimacy.

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Named after the festival’s founder, the striking Siamak Hariri–designed building will launch its inaugural season with Richard III (May 6 to Oct. 23), which was also the festival’s premier production when it debuted in 1953.

Veteran stage and screen actor Colm Feore plays the title role in Shakespeare’s epic history of a psychopath in ruthless pursuit of the English crown.

“My first production at the Stratford Festival was Richard III in 1988, with Colm playing the lead,” Cimolino says. “He was practically a baby then – he was far too young for the part – but he was very good. And so, I said to him, ‘Colm, I would love to revisit this with you someday.’ And opening this new theatre was the ideal opportunity.”

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In celebration of the new Tom Patterson Theatre opening this spring, Colm Feore takes the stage in Richard III which was also the debut production at the festival launch in 1953.

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Jennifer Rider-Shaw and Chelsea Preston star in a naughty and vibrant rendition of Chicago.

Running from April to November, the 2020 season offers a dynamic lineup of drama, comedy, musical and movement-based productions.

At the Festival Theatre, a one-of-a-kind revival of Chicago (April 11 to Nov. 1) is the first major production outside of Broadway and London’s West End in 30 years.

The blockbuster musical has been rechoreographed and re-envisioned with a fresh take on its Jazz Age themes of love, greed, murder and tabloid journalism.

Director and choreographer Donna Feore’s interpretation is both naughty and full of life, Cimolino says. “It will make for a very, very exciting experience and one that you can only get at Stratford.”

The Avon Theatre will host the North American premiere of Wendy & Peter Pan (April 24 to Nov. 1). “While this new treatment of the Peter Pan story is still very much the story we all know by J. M. Barrie, writer Ella Hickson has introduced a couple of changes,” Cimolino says.

“It’s one of [the] few times when I have seen a great classic, through one very modest and sensitive change, be made even more profound.”

Also at the Avon Theatre, acclaimed stage and screen actor Jonathan Goad – whose portrayal of Henry VIII thrilled Stratford audiences last season – plays a monarch of a different sort in the musical comedy Monty Python’s Spamalot (May 9 to Oct. 25).

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Stratford Festival’s artistic director Antoni Cimolino says the 2020 lineup is energized with world premieres and much-anticipated revivals.

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For Cimolino, who based much of his 2020 programming around the compelling theme of power, Spamalot’s appeal runs deeper than silly sight gags and satirical songs. “You get all the fun, but it will have a [political] resonance that will add dimension to the piece,” he says.

The Stratford Festival also took a big artistic leap and commissioned its own rock musical from Canadian Music Hall of Famer Steven Page, of Barenaked Ladies fame, and award-winning playwright Daniel MacIvor.

Here’s What It Takes (June 5 to Oct. 24) which follows a fictional rock duo to super stardom and beyond, will premiere at the Tom Patterson Theatre under the direction of Donna Feore.

“This new musical is funny, full of life and very moving,” Cimolino says, promising earworms galore. “Like everything in the season, I hope it will make you laugh and move you as never before.”

This content was produced by The Globe and Mail's Globe Content Studio.
The Globe's editorial department was not involved in its creation.

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