Hamilton and The Louder We Get
Two big musicals – one an international blockbuster, the other a homegrown Broadway contender – are kicking off Canada’s 2020 theatre season. The long-awaited Hamilton finally makes its Canadian debut in February, arriving at Toronto’s Ed Mirvish Theatre for a 14-week run (Feb. 11 to May 17). Lin-Manuel Miranda’s multiracial, hip-hop-driven retelling of U.S. history – through the story of immigrant dynamo and founding father Alexander Hamilton – was the musical phenomenon of the past decade. Born in the inclusive Obama era, it’s become a glorious gesture of defiance in the divisive time of Trump. Meanwhile, Theatre Calgary has another defiant tale with The Louder We Get, about Canadian high schooler Marc Hall’s fight to bring his boyfriend to the prom. The highly promising musical (known as Prom Queen in its earlier iteration) is getting revved up in Calgary for a potential Broadway run under Tony Award-nominated director Lonny Price (Jan. 28 to Feb. 22).
It was a bestselling novel then an Oscar-nominated film, and now Emma Donoghue’s moving mother-and-child tale has come to the stage in a theatrical adaptation by the author herself. Her play version of Room, which premiered in Britain in 2017, is set to make its North American debut this winter at – where better? – the Grand Theatre in her home city of London, Ont. The show, co-produced with Covent Garden Productions and David Mirvish, opens at the Grand (March 10 to 28) before moving to Toronto’s CAA Theatre (April 4 to 26).
The Seven Streams of the River Ota and Sea Sick
At the same time, in the other London, great Canadian work invades the hallowed spaces of Britain’s National Theatre. Seven Streams, Robert Lepage’s astonishing seven-hour epic about Hiroshima, revived to mark the 75th anniversary of the city’s bombing, takes over the National’s Lyttelton Theatre from March 6 to 22. It’s followed by former Globe and Mail writer Alanna Mitchell’s acclaimed touring solo show Sea Sick, produced by Toronto’s Theatre Centre, which brings its urgent environmental message to the Dorfman Theatre (April 22 to May 7).
The Stratford Festival is unveiling its newly rebuilt Tom Patterson Theatre this spring with a nod to history. Just like in 1953, when the festival itself was launched, the $70-million venue is opening with a production of Richard III (May 6 to Oct. 23). Back in the day, imported star Alec Guinness portrayed Shakespeare’s most nefarious monarch. This time out, it will be Canada’s inimitable Colm Feore, who has oodles of experience playing bad guys on the big screen and – more significantly – is one of our great Shakespearean actors. And that’s not the only cause for excitement. Stratford in 2020 will also see its first production of Hamlet starring a woman (and a black woman, too), when Amaka Umeh essays the role of the broody prince at the Festival Theatre (April 23 to Oct. 25).
The ancient Sanskrit epic, both a Hindu foundational text and a masterpiece of world literature, is no easy work to wrestle to the stage – it’s also the Longest. Poem. Ever. That hasn’t stopped ever-ambitious Toronto director Ravi Jain. He and Miriam Fernandes have adapted it into a two-part spectacle that premieres this summer at the Shaw Festival (Aug. 15 to Sept. 19). The show, co-produced with Jain’s Why Not Theatre, will be performed by an all-South Asian cast and views the epic’s ageless wisdom through a contemporary lens. I can’t wait to see it.
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