Thursday, 4 July 2013

The 2013 Ontario Summer Theatre Season

By Tim Chapman, Professional Theatre Coordinator

The 2013 summer theatre season has already begun for many summer theatres.  This year there are 21 members of the Association of Summer Theatres ‘Round Ontario (ASTRO,  Here is a quick summary of what all of them are doing in July and August.

Starting in Western Ontario in Petrolia, the venerable Victoria Playhouse has artistic directors David Hogan and David Rogers presenting a season of musicals and comedies until October 20.  Upcoming in July is The Fantasticks, a classic musical, and closing their season in October is the Canadian premiere of Florence Henderson’s show All the Lives of MeBlyth Festival, one of Canada’s leading theatres for producing new Canadian plays, has lined up three new plays including Beyond the Farm Show, inspired by the Canadian classic The Farm Show.  Severn Thompson, daughter of Paul Thompson, directs.  And they are bringing back Ted John’s popular comedy from the ‘80s Garrison’s Garage.

Drayton Entertainment's Spamalot
Stephen Patterson and Kristen Peace
Photo by Darlene O'Rourke
Drayton Entertainment has added yet another new venue, the Dunfield Theatre in Cambridge, to their theatres in Drayton, Grand Bend, St. Jacobs, and Penetanguishene.  It is truly amazing the way Drayton continues to grow and also successfully maintain their current theatres.  Artistic Director Alex Mustakas has programmed many great shows this summer including Mary Poppins, Monty Python's Spamalot, Oliver!, Johnny and June, Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story, Norm Foster’s acclaimed comedy The Love List, and Too Many Cooks which is described as a gourmet farce (it sounds delicious.)

On the north shore of Lake Erie, we have two thriving summer theatres.  From west to east there is Port Stanley Festival Theatre which is premiering the new musical comedy Not In My Backyard in July.  In August, Artistic Director Simon Joyne’s play Mini-Putt opens, while September brings a great closer to their season—Norm Foster’s Drinking Alone.  Moving further east to Port Dover at Lighthouse Festival Theatre in July, there is—who else?—Norm Foster’s latest comedy, On a First Name Basis.  Later in July The 39 Steps, adapted from the Hitchcock classic, opens.  In August Dear Johnny Deere with music by Fred Eaglesmith starts a three-week run.  Lighthouse is also transferring four of their 2013 shows to Showboat Festival Theatre in Port Colborne including Sarah Quick’s Knickers: a Brief Comedy in July and The 39 Steps in August.

Shaw Festival's Lady Windermere's Fan
Marla McLean
Photo by David Cooper
Moving east to the south shore of Lake Ontario at Niagara-on-the-Lake is the esteemed Shaw Festival.  There are always many inviting choices at The Shaw.  This year Peter Hinton’s production of Lady Windermere’s Fan has received rave notices and they have already added performances of Guys and Dolls to respond to box office demand. Just west of Toronto in Brampton, the resplendent Rose Theatre presents their summer theatre season: Little Shop of Horrors on the Main Stage; 12 Angry Men and Norm Foster’s The Melville Boys in Studio Two.

Now we head north to Bala where first time ASTRO member New Actors’ Colony Theatre is producing its third season from July 7 to August 11.  The season includes Maja Ardal’s acclaimed You Fancy Yourself  and her more recent show The Cure for Everything as well as Buncha Munsch, Frankie, and Greater Tuna.  On the shore of Georgian Bay, Theatre Collingwood is presenting Billy Bishop Goes to War in July and Norm Foster’s On a First Name Basis starring Mr. Foster himself in this touring production from July 30 to August 4.

Driftwood Theatre's The Odyssey
Sarah Machin Gale and Christopher Darroch
Photo by D.J. Smith
Nearby in Orillia on Lake Simcoe the Orillia Opera House’s summer season continues in July with The 39 Steps which closes on July 12, followed by Fame–The Musical, Forever Plaid, and Same Time, Next Year.  Touring many Ontario locations from Ingersoll to St. Catharines to Kingston from July 11 to August 18, Driftwood Theatre’s Bard’s Bus Tour is presenting an adaptation of Homer’s The Odyssey at both outdoor and indoor locations.

Up in Millbrook near Peterborough, 4th Line Theatre opens their season on July 4 with Artistic Director Robert Winslow’s The Winslows of Derrymore, a prequel to their seminal show The Cavan Blazers.  In August Andrew Moodie’s  The Real McCoy is playing.  It is recommended to book tickets early.  This popular theatre regularly sells out many performances.  North of Peterborough near Bobcaygeon, Globus Theatre’s summer season has Thom Currie’s Back in ’59, Shirley Valentine, the touring production of Norm Foster’s On a First Name Basis, and Sexy Laundry. Further north in Haliburton, Highlands Summer Festival opens July 1 with Nunsense.  Their season runs until August 9 with three more shows: Our Town, The Sunshine Boys, and the touring production of Wingfield’s Inferno starring Rod Beattie.

Festival Players of
Prince Edward County's
Highway 63:
The Fort Mac Show

Greg Gale and Georgina Beatty
Photo by Aviva Armour-Ostroff
Port Hope Festival Theatre continues their summer season in July with The Marvelous Wonderettes and Soulpepper Theatre’s touring production of its runaway hit Kim’s Convenience.  In August the musical revue Hollywood Sings is playing.  At Westben Arts Festival just outside of Campbellford, upcoming until August 4 are many shows and concerts including the opera Carmen, pianist Andre Laplante, a Broadway evening, and jazz singer Diana Panton with Guido Basso, Don Thompson, and Reg Schwager.  Festival Players of Prince Edward County opens its season on July 9 with Highway 63: The Fort Mac Show.  Starting later in July is Melody Johnson’s Dora-nominated Miss Caledonia and closing their season in August is Sean Dixon’s The Notorious Right Robert and his Robber Bride.

The Thousand Islands Playhouse’s 2013 season is Artistic Director Ashlie Corcoran’s first season.  In July in their Springer Theatre the comedy Boeing Boeing continues its run, while August brings the Broadway success The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.  In the Firehall Theatre Third Floor is playing in July and The (Post) Mistress by Tomson Highway is opening on August 14.  Up to now I have just let you know about summer theatre shows in July and August but I do want to make an exception to tell you about the adaptation of Alistair MacLeod’s beloved Canadian novel No Great Mischief opening at the Playhouse in September.  Richard Rose is bringing his Tarragon Theatre production starring three of Canada’s leading actors R.H. Thomson, David Fox, and Nicola Lipman.  Do not miss it if you live in Eastern Ontario!

Classic Theatre Festival in Perth continues to present Broadway hits from the 1950s and 1960s in its fourth season.  This year they are pleased to announce its 2013 summer season will be at the intimate Full Circle Theatre.  Neil Simon’s The Star Spangled Girl plays from July 12 to August 4, while The Marriage-Go-Round runs from August 9 to September 1.  St. Lawrence Shakespeare Festival in Prescott runs its 2013 summer season from July 13 to August 17 playing Maid for a Musket and Hamlet in repertory at their lovely amphitheatre facing the St. Lawrence River.  In Morrisburg Upper Canada Playhouse, celebrating their 30th anniversary season, has the madcap comedy Murder at the Howard Johnson’s in July and the farce No Sex, Please, We’re British playing in August.

There you have it—a plethora of summer entertainment across the province.  Wherever you are and wherever you are going in Southern Ontario, you will find live theatre nearby this summer.  Enjoy!

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