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The Stratford Festival was supposed to have its first preview of the musical Chicago last Wednesday – but had to cancel that performance and two others over the weekend.Fernando Morales/The Globe and Mail

Theresa Tam, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, confirmed Tuesday that the country is in the sixth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic – to which theatre companies, at least, said: Well, duh.

Even big not-for-profit productions with plenty of understudies have again been having trouble keeping shows on stage because of the sheer numbers of people getting sick in the past couple of weeks.

The Stratford Festival, for instance, was supposed to have its first preview of the musical Chicago last Wednesday – but had to cancel that performance and two others over the weekend. COVID-19 cases spread in a way that made it impossible to go ahead with a plan B or C, according to the festival.

“The understudies and swings on Chicago are incredible – all of them are more than ready to go on,” director Donna Feore wrote in an email to the Globe and Mail. “The only reason we had to cancel is that we had leads and their understudies out, as well as swings.”

The good news is that Chicago finally had its first public performance in Stratford on Tuesday afternoon. The country’s largest not-for-profit theatre company is officially open for the season – and, with the Kander and Ebb musical set to run into the fall, this will hopefully just be a blip easily recovered from.

The current wave will be harder on shows that have shorter runs. This weekend, for instance, I went to TYA company Theatre Direct’s outdoor Forward March Festival (my son, just about to turn three, got to see his first-ever live show, Kwento by the Tita Collective!) and one of the plays on the bill was cancelled. That’s only a two-day festival, so there’s no opportunity to catch up.

Broadway, always useful as an indicator of what’s going on due to the sheer number of shows and constant media coverage, had a number of shows shut down last week.

Paradise Square, the new musical from Canadian producer Garth Drabinsky, has been hit particularly hard. When I saw it during press previews two weeks ago, actor Chilina Kennedy was out – but the show went on and had its scheduled opening with the Canadian star back in the cast on April 3.

Since then, unfortunately, the Civil War-era musical has had to shut down and has been completely dark since April 7 – with performances set to resume April 16. That’s tough for a show that has not yet caught on, just received a bunch of publicity from its opening, and is hoping to build commercial momentum.

And yet, at least Paradise Square has opened and therefore is eligible for the upcoming Tony Awards. According to the New York Times, 16 new productions plus another three returning from hiatuses have been planning to open over a five-week stretch in the city’s commercial district in order to meet the April 28 eligibility deadline for those box office-boosting awards. That’s not much room for error.

In my opinion, the Tony Awards should push its eligibility deadline back a couple of weeks; it’s unfair to shows are losing preview performances. Those opportunities to work out the kinks of a show in front of audience before the critics arrive are precious.

It’s almost as busy in Toronto as it is in New York this week, thanks to two COVID-19 delayed openings.

  • The House of Bernarda Alba, in a co-production between Aluna Theatre and Modern Times Stage Company, now opens to media Tuesday at Buddies Bad Times (where it runs until April 24) due to a case in the company. I’ll be there to review.
  • Two Minutes to Midnight, which was originally supposed to open last Friday, also opens at the Assembly Theatre Tuesday night.
  • Pipeline, a play by the Detroit-born MacArthur Fellowship-winning playwright Dominique Morisseau about the school-to-prison pipeline in the U.S., is set to reopen Soulpepper Theatre Company on Thursday in a production by director Weyni Mengesha. I’ll be there to review.
  • Kurios, a Cirque du Soleil production that last played in Toronto in 2014 (here’s our review from then), opens under the big top at Ontario Place starring Thursday. I’ll be seeing it over the weekend.
  • Arán & Im, a performance from Ireland’s Manchán Magan originally produced in association with the Abbey Theatre, is in town for a short stop at the Enoch Turner Schoolhouse from April 14 to 16. The description: “Manchán shares insights into the wonders and magic of the Irish language, while baking traditional sourdough bread for the audience to enjoy with freshly-churned butter.”

Opening, closing and streaming elsewhere:

- Dominique Morisseau’s Pipeline isn’t just opening in Toronto this week. Black Theatre Workshop in collaboration with La Manufacture are also performing the play in Montreal at La Licorne. It’s running from April 12 to 23 in English, and then from April 26 to May 8 in translated by Mishka Lavigne’s French translation. It’s ahdri zhina mandiela directing the impressively bilingual cast.

- It’s the last week to catch Audrey Dwyer’s Calpurnia at the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre in Winnipeg (which unfortunately had to cancel a couple performances last week due to COVID-19 cases). This provocative comedy that riffs on the changing reception of To Kill a Mockingbird next heads to the National Arts Centre in Ottawa from April 27 to May 7.

- Hannah Moscovitch’s Sexual Misconduct of the Middle Classes, the 2021 Governor General’s Literary Award for English-language drama winner, has been on at The Belfry in Victoria, B.C., for a couple of weeks now – and this week is your opportunity to watch it from anywhere in Canada. Director Michael Shamata’s production live-streams from April 12 to 17.

Finally: Congratulations to Crystal Pite and Jonathon Young on another Olivier Award! Revisor, the Bettroffenheit creators’ latest dance-theatre hybrid, was named best new dance production at the prestigious London theatre and dance awards. The show based on Nikolai Gogol’s The Government Inspector is on tour in Europe right now – but you can also watch a recording of it on CBC Gem.

Just one other thing to note about the Oliviers: Life of Pi, a puppet-filled West End spectacle adapted by Lola Chakrabarti from Yann Martel’s book, picked up five awards. When is it going to float over to this side of the ocean, I wonder? Paging David Mirvish!

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