The Stratford Festival will see a number of acclaimed company members who have recently achieved stage success elsewhere return to the fold in 2024.
Two actors seen on Broadway this year will be back next season, according to key casting announced by the Canadian repertory theatre on Tuesday.
Sara Topham, just seen in Tom Stoppard’s late-career Tony-winning hit Leopoldstadt, has been cast as the titular flawed female anti-heroine of Henrik Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler at Stratford. She will also perform in The Diviners, a new adaptation of the Margaret Lawrence’s novel by Vern Thiessen and Yvette Nolan that will also include Irene Poole, Jesse Gervais, Jonathan Goad and Julie Lumsden in the cast.
Though she performed in the outdoor, pandemic presentation of the new play Serving Elizabeth in 2021, Topham has not been seen inside a Stratford theatre since a long run of leading classical roles from Rosalind to Juliet that came to close in 2013.
Vanessa Sears, meanwhile, will have a prominent triple track in 2024: Juliet in Sam White’s production of Romeo and Juliet (with Jonathan Mason as Romeo), Olivia in Twelfth Night and a yet to be disclosed role in artistic director Antoni Cimolino’s mainstage production of the early Victorian comedy London Assurance. (That will be Sears’s second appearance in a work by 19th-century playwright Dion Boucicault, if you count the Shaw Festival’s 2017 production of Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’s shocking adaptation An Octoroon).
Sears, who has won Dora Awards in Toronto for roles in both musicals and plays, earlier this year made her Broadway debut in New York, New York, a new musical with score by John Kander and lyrics by Fred Ebb and Lin Manuel Miranda.
Two actors who have recently been front and centre at the Shaw Festival will return to Stratford in 2024 as well: Tom McCamus and Deborah Hay.
McCamus will be playing the unscrupulous Judge Brack in Hedda Gabler, as well as creating the role of the Death of a Salesman playwright Arthur Miller in the world premiere of Leanna Brodie and Jovanni Sy’s play Salesman in China.
Hay, meanwhile, whose appearances as Shakespeare’s Katherina and Beatrice at Stratford a decade ago don’t seem that far off because they were so indelible, will be making her long-awaited return to classical comedy playing Feste in Twelfth Night and Lady Gay Spanker in London Assurance.
Rounding out key roles in that all-star season-opening production of Twelfth Night, directed by Seana McKenna, will be festival favourites Laura Condlln as Malvolio, Jessica B. Hill as Viola, André Sills as Orsino, Scott Wentworth as Sir Toby Belch and Rylan Wilkie as Sir Andrew Aguecheek.
Other actors cast in Romeo and Juliet include Hill as Lady Capulet and Graham Abbey as Capulet, with Andrew Iles playing Mercutio, Glynis Ranney appearing as Nurse and Wentworth taking on the role of Friar Laurence.
Notable casting for Esther Jun’s production of Cymbeline – the third Shakespeare production planned for 2024 – includes Allison Edwards-Crewe as Imogen, Lucy Peacock as Cymbeline, Jonathan Goad as Belarius, Jordin Hall as Posthumus, Irene Poole as Pisanio and Tyrone Savage as Iachimo.
As for the rest of the deliciously named characters in London Assurance, Stratford veteran Geraint Wyn Davies will be starring as Sir Harcourt Courtly, with Austin Eckert playing Charles Courtly, Marissa Orjalo as Grace Harkaway, Michael Spencer-Davis as Adolphus Spanker, Emilio Vieira as Richard Dazzle and Wilkie as Cool.
In the musical-theatre department, La Cage aux Folles will feature Sean Arbuckle as Georges and Steve Ross as Albin, the two fathers in Jerry Herman’s 1980s comedy.
Something Rotten!, a recent Broadway musical-comedy lark set in Shakespearean times, will feature a cast that includes Henry Firmston, Mark Uhre, Dan Chameroy, Juan Chioran and Jeff Lillico – who is returning to Stratford after a long absence as well – as William Shakespeare himself.
Wendy and Peter Pan, a Royal Shakespeare Company-commissioned play by Ella Hickson based on the J.M. Barrie source material, will star Cynthia Jimenez-Hicks and Jake Runeckles in the title roles as well as Condlln as Hook, Nestor Lozano Jr. (Angel in this year’s production of Rent) as Tink and Tara Sky (who was Cordelia in this year’s production of King Lear) as Tiger Lily. This will be the show’s North American premiere.
The Goat, Or Who is Sylvia?, a Tony-winning 2000 play by Edward Albee with a controversial love story at its centre, will star Rick Roberts and Lucy Peacock
With 12 productions set for 2024, the Stratford Festival will be employing more than 100 actors – most of whom will be playing two or more roles in repertory – and casting is still under way. Tickets for the season go on sale for members of the festival starting Nov. 12; regular sales begin on Dec. 11.