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Actor Katie Kerr (Anne) runs through the opening scene of Anne of Green Gables The Musical at the Confederation Centre of the Arts in Charlottetown, P.E.I., on June 30, 2014.Nathan Rochford/The Canadian Press

After a relatively risk-taking 2023, Canada’s biggest theatre companies seem to be headed back toward the tried and true in 2024 – probably because of the long tail of the pandemic and the even greater precarity it introduced into the performing arts.

Here’s what looks most appetizing amid the classics and contemporary comfort fare.

A familiar toe-tapper

The Charlottetown Festival in PEI is back to Anne of Green Gables – The Musical (June 19 to Aug. 31) after a controversial year off the redhead. Meanwhile, rebooted productions of Come From Away are slated for both Gander, where Jillian Keiley’s reclaimed Newfoundland take returns (June 28 to Sept. 1), and the National Arts Centre/Mirvish Productions (Aug. 14 to Sept. 1 in Ottawa; TBD in Toronto).

But perhaps the biggest singing sign of an atmosphere of caution is that Mirvish’s other big Canadian-cast production for 2024 is The Lion King (beginning Nov. 2), which already had a four-year run in Toronto.

The Shaw Festival may be making a safe choice, too, by staging My Fair Lady, the Pygmalion-inspired classic by Lerner and Loewe that was a box-office smash for it in 2011. But I’m looking forward to it owing to festival favourite funnyman Tom Rooney being cast as Henry Higgins (alongside Kristi Frank, a long-time ensemble member, who is playing Eliza). The (sort of) May-December romance will run from May 4 to Dec. 22.

Rebecca Northan going Greek

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Goblin:Oedipus sees the drama-loving goblins shake up Sophocles and will have its world premiere at One Yellow Rabbit’s High Performance Rodeo in Calgary (Jan. 30 to Feb. 3).Rebecca/Supplied

The improviser behind the international “spontaneous theatre” hit Blind Date (1,500 performances and counting) has been turning her eye toward upending the classics of late.

Goblin:Macbeth, which features actors in goblin masks performing and commenting on Shakespeare’s Scottish play, was an unlikely hit at Bard on the Beach in Vancouver and the Stratford Festival in 2023. Now, Northan’s 2024 begins with Goblin:Oedipus, which sees the drama-loving goblins shake up Sophocles and will have its world premiere at One Yellow Rabbit’s High Performance Rodeo in Calgary (Jan. 30 to Feb. 3). Then she’s back at Bard on the Beach to direct Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors (June to September). The immersive production promises a fully operational ancient Greek marketplace staging and perhaps cosplaying audiences. (Toga, or not toga?)


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Jeremy Strong attends An Enemy Of The People Conversation & Press Conference at The Edition Hotel on Nov. 15, in New York City.Theo Wargo/Getty Images

Henrik Ibsen, the 19th-century Norwegian playwright and purported “father of realism,” is going to be hot in 2024 owing to Jeremy Strong of Succession fame starring in An Enemy of the People on Broadway (starting Feb. 27).

In Ontario, meanwhile, two productions of Hedda Gabler are running close enough to each other that, if the traffic’s okay, you can see them as (sorry) a double Hedda.

At the Stratford Festival, Sara Topham – back from Broadway – plays the disgruntled, pistol-packin’ feminist anti-hero in a production of Patrick Marber’s adaption directed by Molly Atkinson (April 24 to Sept. 28). At the Coal Mine Theatre in Toronto, Diana Bentley stars in a new version by Liisa Repo-Martell (May 5-26) that will be directed by Moya O’Connell, who had her own head-turning turn as Hedda back at the Shaw Festival a decade ago.

Pulling out the Stoppard

While Mirvish Production had to cancel its plans for Tom Stoppard’s latest hit, Leopoldstadt, because of a pandemic-related stage shutdown in 2021, the commercial theatre producer is bringing the British playwright’s first big hit, 1966′s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, to Toronto’s CAA Theatre from March 5-24). The titular pals of Hamlet are being taken on by Dominic Monaghan and Billy Boyd, who were the hobbits Merry and Pippin (or is that Pippin and Merry?) in The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Jeremy Webb’s production begins life at Neptune Theatre in Halifax (Jan. 30 and Feb. 25), the venerable regional theatre where he is artistic director and which is currently celebrating its 60th anniversary. Beyond the Tolkien casting, fine Canuck actors in the show include the Stratford Festival’s Michael Blake and living legend Walter Borden.

A recent Broadway talker – with no talking

The Tony-winning drama The Lehman Trilogy hits the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre in Winnipeg (March 20 to April 13) and the Belfry Theatre in Victoria (April 23 to May 19), while the two-part (but actually much longer) Tony winner The Inheritance gets its Canadian premiere at Canadian Stage in Toronto (March 22 to April 6).

But it is a critically acclaimed Broadway oddity that theatre connoisseurs are most looking forward to setting their eyes (and ears) on. Lucas Hnath’s Dana H., having its Canadian premiere at Crow’s Theatre in Toronto (March 12 to April 7) is based around real-life recordings of an interview with a chaplain in a psychiatric ward who was held captive by a patient for five months in Florida; an actor, Jordan Baker in Toronto, lip-synchs along with precision. The original creative team is coming up, and it’s another coup by Crow’s to have landed this before London did.

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