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COVID-19 health restrictions took a toll on live theatre in 2021 and there’s no guarantee for 2022, but we can hope these performances go ahead

What exciting and enticing Canadian theatre is on the horizon for 2022?

A year ago, looking ahead at 2021, I tried to hedge my bets and listed six performances that had digital iterations or online backup options – and even then two were unable to proceed.

With so much uncertainty in the air again (and provincial governments’ penchant for taking out their panic on the performing arts), I’m just going to be frank this year and tell you that the following are five theatre events I am merely hoping and praying the COVID-19 gods will allow to take place.

The top 10 theatre events of 2021 show the stage still matters


The interior of the new Tom Patterson Theatre at the Stratford Festival.JENNIFER ROBERTS/The Globe and Mail

The long-overdue official real-this-time opening of the Tom Patterson Theatre at the Stratford Festival

Stratford, Ont.

Readings, cabarets, tours and art exhibits have already taken place in this new $72-million art complex that ripples along the bank of the Avon River in Stratford.

But it’s the main theatre space, originally supposed to open in 2019, that audiences from all over the world are still waiting to finally experience a full production in. Richard III, All’s Well That Ends Well and Wole Soyinka’s Death and the King’s Horsemen are now the three shows scheduled to be staged there this spring. Exact dates TBA.


Alan Doyle, formerly one-third of the band Great Big Sea, makes his musical theatre debut in Tell Tale Harbour.Heather Ogg/The Canadian Press

Tell Tale Harbour at the Charlottetown Festival

Charlottetown

Charlottetown Festival artistic director Adam Brazier has been working with Great Big Sea’s Alan Doyle, Come From Away Toronto’s musical director Bob Foster and playwright Edward Riche to adapt Ken Scott’s screenplay of The Grand Seduction into a new musical for a while.

The world premiere is now set for the Confederation Centre for the Arts (June 14 to Sept. 24). You may remember the story from either the French or English versions of the film: A struggling fishing village has the opportunity to land a new factory (fittingly, a frozen French fry facility in this adaptation premiering in Prince Edward Island), but the key is to find a doctor willing to relocate. Doyle is set to star.


Ins Choi is a Korean Canadian actor and playwright best known for his play-turned-TV show Kim's Convenience.Handout

Bad Parent, Ins Choi

Prairie Theatre Exchange in Winnipeg; Vancouver Asian Canadian Theatre; Soulpepper Theatre Company in Toronto

Ins Choi has not completely ignored the stage since he wrote the 2011 mega-hit Kim’s Convenience, but the CBC sitcom it was adapted into has occupied most of his time in the ensuing decade.

Bad Parent is his first major work for the theatre since: a comedy about a young couple getting used to life as parents of a toddler … with a live audience watching. It’s set to have a “rolling world premiere,” first at Prairie Theatre Exchange (March 23 to April 10), then through the Vancouver Asian Canadian Theatre at the Cultch (Apr 20 to May 1) before finally landing at Soulpepper in Toronto next fall (Sept. 15 to Oct. 9).


A double dose of Brendan Jacob-Jenkins

Crow’s Theatre, Toronto; the Shaw Festival in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont.

The Shaw Festival introduced its audiences to this audacious American playwright with An Octoroon back in 2017, in a production most memorable for André Sills’s scorching performance at its centre.

Now, Sills is set to direct the Canadian premiere of Jacob-Jenkins’s 2015 play Gloria in an ARC production in association with Crow’s Theatre in Toronto (March 1 to 20). This a very different show focusing on editorial assistants at a highbrow Manhattan magazine (likely inspired by The New Yorker where Jacob-Jenkins once worked). Then, in June, Shaw returns to Jacob-Jenkins with Everybody (June 8 to Oct. 8), a modern twist on a medieval morality play; Hungary’s Laszlo Berczes returns to direct.


A double-dose of Erin Shields

Citadel Theatre in Edmonton; Soulpepper in Toronto

Stage adaptations of classic novels have traditionally been straightforward snorefests produced to boost the box office based on brand recognition. But Shields is an uncommonly interesting adapter who can craft something new and noteworthy in conversation with old texts – as she showed most recently with Paradise Lost at the Stratford Festival.

In 2022, she takes on Jane Eyre at the Citadel Theatre in Edmonton (March 19 to April 10) and the premiere of a new Lear-inspired work called Queen Goneril at Soulpepper Theatre Company in Toronto (Aug. 25 to Oct. 2).


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