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Actor Paul Gross is set to return to his roots in theatre and portray King Lear at the Stratford Festival.Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press

The Stratford Festival dropped a major 2023 casting announcement on Tuesday morning.

I wrote a news story about one well-known actor who will be returning to the repertory theatre’s company next year (that would be Paul Gross playing King Lear). But there will be around 129 other actors in the season.

Here are five other casting surprises that jumped out at me in what has been newly announced.

1. Macasaet as Mimi!

Andrea Macasaet is returning home the conquering heroine. The Winnipeg actress has been killing it as Anne Boleyn in the smash hit Six since it opened Broadway (and reopened on Broadway); the Broadway cast recording of this girl-group musical about Henry VIII’s wives that features her vocal stylings recently surpassed 23 million streams, according to Playbill.

Macasaet’s Stratford debut will see her play Mimi in the rock musical Rent. The Roger she implores to light her candle will be played by up-and-comer Kolton Stewart (The Louder We Get) and Stratford fave (and Toronto Evan Hansen) Robert Markus will play Mark. Other cast members in director Thom Allison’s production include Jahlen Barnes as Benjamin Coffin III, Nestor Lozano Junior as Angel, and Erica Peck as Maureen.

2. A bevy of big names for Les Belles-Soeurs

Lucy Peacock, who was just perfect as Nana in Michel Tremblay’s For the Pleasure of Seeing Her Again at Stratford in 2010, will now play the central character of Germaine Lauzon in this classic all-female comedy by the Québécois playwright. Festival favourite Seana McKenna will once again face off with Peacock (as she memorably did in Mary Stuart in 2013) as Rose Ouimet.

Other “sisters” in Esther Jun-directed production will be played by Joella Crichton, Déjah Dixon-Green, Allison Edwards-Crewe, Antonette Rudder and Tara Sky. Diana Leblanc, well known for her productions of Tremblay as a director, is in the cast, too, playing Olivine Dubuc.

3. Princess Diana found

Krystin Pellerin, a fine actor known to TV watchers for her time playing Sergeant Leslie Bennett on Republic of Doyle, has landed the plum role of the Princess of Wales in Nick Green’s new play Casey and Diana set during her 1991 visit to a Toronto AIDS hospice. We don’t know much about the plot yet - but Sean Arbuckle, Laura Condlln and Sophia Walker will also be in the cast.

4. Louis Riel revealed

If you’ve been curious (as I have been) to find out who would be playing the Métis leader in Frances Koncan’s comedy Women of the Fur Trade at Stratford, it turns out it will be Keith Barker, these days better known as a playwright and the director of new play development at the Stratford Festival. I always enjoy it when the behind-the-scenes players get back up on a stage. (When’s Stratford artistic director Antoni Cimolino going to act in a play again, I wonder?).

5. Richard II crowned

Stephen Jackman-Torkoff (Little Women, Every Little Nookie), a recent Stratford company addition, has a truly electric energy onstage - and so it’s exciting to see the actor cast in the title role of Richard II, which will appear on the bill next season in a new adaptation billed by Brad Fraser as “revolutionary”. The cast of director Jillian Keiley’s production will also include Jordin Hall as Bolingbroke, plus David Collins, Sarah Orenstein and Steve Ross.

The full casting announcement can be found on Stratford’s website.

Notable openings this week across Canada

Mom’s the Word: Talkin’ Turkey is the latest of a popular series of collective creations about being moms that date all the way back to 1993. Created by and starring Jill Daum, Alison Kelly, Robin Nichol, Barbara Pollard and Deborah Williams, this holiday-themed spin-off is now on stage at the Arts Club’s Granville Island Stage where it will run all the way to Jan. 1.

Bad Parent by Ins Choi continues its Canadian tour with a stint at Prairie Theatre Exchange in Winnipeg from Nov. 2 to 20. My review from the Toronto stop is here.

ZOM-FAM, a new solo show by Kama La Mackerel, is at Toronto Buddies in Bad Times this week (Nov. 3 to 6). “Zom-fam” in Mauritian Kreol means “man-woman” or “transgender” - and is also the title of a poetry collection by La Mackerel this show is based on.

What The Globe and Mail is reviewing this week

The Howland Company, a Toronto indie theatre company that was rising in prominence prepandemic, is taking on Chekhov’s Three Sisters in co-production with Hart House Theatre (through Nov. 12). Paolo Santalucia, who made a major impression with Casimir and Caroline right before COVID-19 hit, directs. I’ll be there on Wednesday night.