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Canada’s performing-arts scene is back, with theatre companies in cities from coast to coast embarking on what they hope will be their first complete seasons since 2018-19

At long last, Canada’s performing-arts scene is back in its usual autumn bloom – with theatre companies in cities from coast to coast embarking on what they hope will be their first complete seasons since 2018-19.

You’re forgiven if you’ve forgotten how these subscription seasons used to work, running mostly from September to May in the Before Times.

To help you reorient yourself to life as an urban theatregoer, here’s a guide to the four types of plays and musicals you’re most likely to encounter between now and the end of the calendar year – and The Globe and Mail picks of what will hopefully be the best of a bountiful harvest.

Overdue world premieres

The poster for Bad Parent, Ins Choi’s first major play since his smash hit Kim’s Convenience.Josette Jorge and Raugi Yu

One major repercussion of the pandemic to date is the huge backlog of new plays waiting to make it off the page and onto the stage. There are all the shows that were cancelled – and then, on top, the commissions that didn’t stop.

Top pick: Bad Parent, Ins Choi’s first major play since his smash hit Kim’s Convenience, had its original plans for a rolling world premiere turn into a series of rolling cancellations. But now, you can finally book a babysitter.

Toronto’s Soulpepper will now be the initial Canadian theatre company to present this comedy about the “rocky rite of passage into parenthood” (Sept. 15 to Oct. 9) before director Meg Roe’s production moves on to Vancouver’s the Cultch courtesy of Vancouver Asian Canadian Theatre (Oct. 13 to 23) and Winnipeg’s Prairie Theatre Exchange (Nov. 2 to 20). Josette Jorge and Raugi Yu star.

More world premieres we’ve been waiting for

Cockroach, at Toronto’s Tarragon Theatre season (Sept. 13 to Oct. 9), is a fresh play about the “collision of language, longing, and lobsters” by Ho Ka Kei, the always-worth-checking-out playwright also known as Jeff Ho (trace, Iphigenia and the Furies). This one’s directed by new-ish artistic director Mike Payette – and kickstarts his first proper season at one of Canada’s most venerable new-work houses.

Cowgirl Up, Anna Chatteron’s play about three “cowgirl goddesses on Mount Olympus” who meddle with mortal rodeo culture and ignite a cowgirl revolution, finally gets to buck around on stage at Calgary’s Alberta Theatre Projects (Oct. 18 to 30); the company’s late artistic director Darcy Evans programmed it as part of his first and only season, pandemic-interrupted, in 2020.

Forever Young: A Ghetto Story, a new play about the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising by Darrah Teitel at Ottawa’s Great Canadian Theatre Company (Nov. 8 to 20), zeroes in on the socialist youths who plotted the enduringly inspiring act of Jewish resistance in German-occupied Poland. It’s directed by Sarah Kitz, GCTC’s interim artistic director, who starred in Teitel’s livestreamed-before-it-was-cool #MeToo drama Behaviour at the theatre back in 2019.

Movies on stage

The old stigma against adapting films for the stage disappeared a couple of decades ago, around the time The Producers swept the Tony Awards. Indeed, it’s now normal to not just see musicals based on movies, but plays based on screenplays, too.

Top pick: Network, English playwright Lee Hall’s stage adaptation of the dark, satirical and era-defining 1976 film with its Oscar-winning screenplay by Paddy Chayefsky, is getting its Canadian premiere and, indeed, first post-Broadway bow anywhere this fall in a co-production that combines the might of Edmonton’s Citadel Theatre and Winnipeg’s Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre.

The internationally acclaimed Belgian director Ivo van Hove directed the show’s premiere – and now Citadel’s artistic director Daryl Cloran steps into his shoes with a high-tech production that will deconstruct our society’s relationship with media, both then and now. Long-time Shaw Festival star Jim Mezon has the plum role of anchor Howard Beale – who gets to holler the immortal line: “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this any more!”

More flicks to which to flock

Singin' in the Rain runs Sept. 23 to Oct. 23.Johan Persson/Mirvish

Mirvish Productions, Toronto’s biggest commercial producer, lends its King Street theatres to the Toronto International Film Festival each September – but this fall it is keeping them cinematic all autumn long. Singin’ in the Rain (Sept. 23 to Oct. 23), a live adaptation of the classic movie musical that originated at the Chichester Festival in England, plays at the Princess of Wales first, then is followed by the North American tour of Mean Girls (Oct. 25 to Nov. 27), Tina Fey’s 2018 Broadway musical based on her own cult coming-of-age comedy.

Meanwhile, at the Royal Alexandra, Mirvish is presenting the intriguing-sounding The Shark is Broken (Sept. 25 to Nov. 6), a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the blockbuster Jaws by playwrights Ian Shaw and Joseph Nixon, and nominated for Best Comedy Play at the 2022 Olivier Awards.

Demetri Goritsas as Roy Scheider, Ian Shaw as Robert Shaw, and Liam Murray Scott as Richard Dreyfuss in Shark is Broken.Helen Maybanks/Mirvish

Theatre across the linguistic divide(s)

When the pandemic hit in 2020, I had a column on the back burner in which I worried that the long-standing practice of translating plays in Canada was being sidelined owing to other programming priorities. Thankfully, I have no need to pull up the old draft now.

Top pick: Canadian Stage in Toronto is kicking off its 2022-23 season with Public Enemy (Sept. 20 to Oct. 2), Bobby Theodore’s new translation and adaptation of a subversive 2015 dinner-party play by Siminovitch Prize-winning Quebec playwright Olivier Choinière that’s proved astonishing prescient. (When I reviewed its French-language premiere in 2015, I noted how its characters ended up delving into “conspiracy theories about the Bank of Canada ... and even vaccination.” Imagine that.) The crème-de-la-crème cast of artistic director Brendan Healy’s production is set to be anchored by long-time Stratford Festival star Jonathan Goad.

À voir aussi

Laurence Dauphinais is a bilingual playwright-performer who is making a career out of building bridges between cultures – or charting buses between them in the case of her new documentary play, Cyclorama (Oct. 11 to Nov. 5). This show is a timely look at the linguistic divide in Montreal and is being staged in both official languages, in three locations: At the English-language Centaur Theatre, the French-language Centre du Théâtre d’Aujourd’hui and on an actual bus that will take the audience from one theatre to l’autre.

Meanwhile in Ottawa, Aalaapi (Oct. 26 to 29), a collective creation that originated with Dauphinais, is being revived at the National Arts Centre in a collaboration between the Indigenous and French Theatre departments. The title means “keeping quiet to hear something beautiful” in Inuktitut – and the show is a live performance/radio documentary hybrid in which five young Inuit women talk about their daily lives between Northern and Southern Quebec. A Governor General’s Literary Award nominee, it’s being performed in English, French and Inuktitut, with English and French surtitles.

I should note the NAC’s English Theatre is also collaborating with the Indigenous Theatre on a revival of The Breathing Hole (Nov. 30 to Dec. 10), an ambitious 500-year Arctic epic written by Colleen Murphy with Siobhan Arnatsiaq-Murphy (in English and Inuktitut). It’s helmed by Reneltta Arluk, who also directed the play’s 2017 premiere at the Stratford Festival.

The return of the tour

Touring is a big part of the theatre ecology (and business) – but, between COVID-19 restrictions at borders, and pandemic-accentuated travel headaches, there hasn’t been much to speak off for the past two years even when venues were open.

Top pick: Old Stock: A Refugee Love Story, the hit klezmer-folk musical from Halifax’s 2b Theatre with songs by Ben Caplan and a script by Hannah Moscovitch (inspired by her great-grandparents’ journey to Canada), took advantage of the Atlantic bubble and a run at the Charlottetown Festival last year to get road-ready again quickly.

Following the conclusion of its current presentation in Washington, at Theatre J, it heads to Saskatoon’s Persephone Theatre (Oct. 12 to 23), the Winnipeg Jewish Theatre (Oct. 29 to Nov. 6), and then back to Toronto where director Christian Barry’s award-winning production will this time be presented by the Harold Green Jewish Theatre Company at the Meridian Arts Centre in North York (Nov. 12 to 24).

Also on the road

Commercial presenter Broadway Across Canada is back up and operating in eight cities across Canada – and Come From Away’s North American touring production will hit Regina (Oct. 12 to 16), Saskatoon (Oct. 18 to 23) and Winnipeg (Oct. 25 to 30) before ending the calendar year in Ottawa at the National Arts Centre (Dec. 17 to Jan. 8).

To combine categories for one moment here with a touring show that also bridges linguistic divides: Prince Hamlet, an acclaimed Shakespeare adaptation innovative for its integration of deaf and hearing culture from Why Not Theatre, is off on a seven-city tour in the United States before returning home to a trilingual presentation at Robert Lepage’s Le Diamant in Quebec City (Nov. 10 to 12).

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