Thursday, 5 July 2012

2012 Summer Theatre Preview

By Tim Chapman, Professional Theatre Coordinator

The 2012 summer theatre season has already begun for many summer theatres.  This year there are 24 members of the Association of Summer Theatres ‘Round Ontario (ASTRO,  Norm Foster again takes the cake this year with his plays being produced at seven of ASTRO’s theatres.  Here is a quick summary of what they are all doing.

Starting in Western Ontario in Petrolia, the venerable Victoria Playhouse has new Artistic Directors David Hogan and David Rogers presenting a season of musicals, theatrical concerts, a revered Canadian play, and a Pulitzer Prize-nominated play until September 16.  Upcoming in July is Michelle Tremblay’s much loved For the Pleasure of Seeing Her Again starring Jonathan Crombie and Leah Pinsent.  In August, Michael Learned and Ralph Waite (both from the TV series The Waltons) star in Love Letters.  September brings The Songs of Sinatra starring The Sinatra Seven.

Blyth Festival, one of Canada’s leading theatres for producing Canadian plays, begins their season with Dear Johnny Deere, a new musical based on the songs and lyrics of Fred Eaglesmith, playing until July 7.  On July 11, David S. Craig’s big-hearted Having Hope at Home opens, and the following week brings Beverly Cooper’s The Lonely Diner: Al Capone in Euphemia Township.  Ending their season is the scary thriller The Devil We Know.

Drayton Entertainment, at their six venues in Grand Bend, St. Jacob’s, Drayton, and Penetanguishene have, as usual, a huge slate of great shows this summer in what Artistic Director Alex Mustakas decribes as their “biggest season yet”: Big Band Legends; Harvey; Blue Suede Shoes; Murder at Fern Resort; Perfect Wedding; Johnny and June; 9 to 5: The Musical starring Alex Mustakas; Annie; and a revival of Norm Foster’s funny classic, The Melville Boys.

On the north shore of Lake Erie, we have three thriving summer theatres.  From west to east there is Port Stanley Festival Theatre where the often-produced romantic comedy Sexy Laundry opened on July 4, followed by David S. Craig’s Having Hope at Home opening July 26.  Norm Foster’s Storm Warning is the perfect closer to their 2012 season from August 15 to September 8.  Moving further east to Port Dover at Lighthouse Festival Theatre, I was just at the opening of Norm Foster’s Self Help, a flat-out farce with some great comic acting.  This sure-fire hit runs until July 11.  A week later Fly Fisher’s Companion directed by Sue Miner starring Jerry Franken and Ian Downie opens, and in August we have Rum Runners, a new musical co-written by Lighthouse’s Artistic Director Derek Ritschel and Steve Thomas.  Rounding out the season is Peter Colley’s classic murder mystery I’ll Be Back Before Midnight.  Our last Lake Erie port is Port Colborne, home of Showboat Festival Theatre.  After Neil Simon’s They’re Playing Our Song closed on June 30, next up is Norm Foster’s Old Love.  Later in July, Artistic Director Thom Currie has conceived a new revue POP! Goes the Sixties, a musical celebration of the music of the sixties.  Their final show is the classic comedy Last of the Red Hot Lovers.

Moving up to the south shore of Lake Ontario at Niagara-on-the-Lake is the esteemed Shaw Festival.  There are many shows to look forward to at The Shaw including the Tony Award-winning musical Ragtime, the crackling, witty His Girl Friday, Shaw comedies The Millionairess and Misalliance, and the American classic Come Back, Little Sheba.  Also, of note is their production of Helen’s Necklace by award-winning Canadian playwright Carole Fr√©chette.

Just west of Toronto in Brampton, the resplendent Rose Theatre presents their summer theatre season.  On the main stage, Robert Woodcock directs Forever Plaid and Barefoot in the Park while in Studio Two, Danny Harvey directs The Last Five Years  and Norm Foster’s Storm Warning.  Close by in Hillsburgh, Century Church Theatre has three shows this summer: the romantic comedies Late Flowering in July, Nobody’s Perfect in August, and in September, Peter Quilter’s Just the Ticket opens.

North, on the shore of Georgian Bay, Theatre Collingwood’s season of four shows (one more than last summer) starts in July with the madcap Mystery of Irma Vep followed later in the month by Norm Foster’s Skin Flick directed by Robert More in a co-production with Bluewater Summer Theatre.  In August, the world premiere of Do Not Disturb by Vern Thiessen, Governor-General Award-winning playwright, opens.  Closing their season in September is Dan Needle’s Wingfield Lost & Found starring Rod Beattie.

Moving nearby to Orillia, on Lake Simcoe, the Orillia Opera House’s summer season continues in July with Peter Colley’s whodunit Murder in Norville and Mid-Life! The Crisis Musical opening at the end of the month.  Their last show in September is Henry and Alice–Into the Wild!, Michelle Riml’s sequel to her hit show Sexy Laundry, starring Ed Sahely, Debbie Collins, and Jane Miller.  New ASTRO member Guild Festival Theatre’s second season in Scarborough starts July 12 with Clouds over T.O., a brand new music theatre creation based on The Clouds by Aristophanes.  Touring many locations from London to Kingston from July 12 to August 19, Driftwood Theatre’s Bard’s Bus Tour is presenting a musical adaptation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at both outdoor and indoor locations

Up in Millbrook near Peterborough, 4th Line Theatre opens their season on July 3 with Queen Marie, a musical comedy based on the life of Cobourg-born Marie Dressler, the 1930s Hollywood star.  In August, Sky Gilbert’s St. Francis of Millbrook opens.  This is a play commissioned by 4th Line, a must-see coming-of-age story about growing up gay in rural Ontario.  It is recommended to book tickets early—this popular theatre regularly sells out most performances.  North of Peterborough near Bobcaygeon, Globus Theatre has two shows this July: The Rocky Road to Dublin, a musical comedy by Randy Vancourt and The Secret Lives of Henry and Alice.  August brings two more shows including Norm Foster’s romantic comedy Looking running until September 1 to end the season.  Further north in Haliburton, Highlands Summer Festival opens the first week in July with Colours in the Storm by Jim Betts about the painter, Tom Thomson.  Their season runs until August 9 with three more shows: Arsenic and Old Lace, Steel Magnolias, and Sweetheart, The Mary Pickford Story.

Port Hope Festival Theatre has Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap until July 14, Freedom 85 from July 18 to 28, and Oliver!, the Broadway musical based on the Dickens novel from August 2 to 26.  At Westben Arts Festival just outside of Campbellford, upcoming until August 5 are many concerts including Quartetto Gelato, Oliver Jones Trio, Nathaniel Dett Chorale, Mozart in Vienna, Brian Finley and Joel Quarrington.
Festival Players of Prince Edward County opens its season on July 10 with Michel Tremblay’s charming For the Pleasure of Seeing Her Again performed in both English and French.  From July 30 to August 3 Calgary’s Downstage Theatre tours with In the Wake and Harvest, a funny, fast-paced award-winning romp, runs from August 8 to 25.  IANA Theatre Company is opening Godspell on July 5 for ten days at the Marble Church Arts Centre near Tweed.  Then in August and September their original show Aleck Bell tours to Brockville, Stirling, Brantford, and Toronto.

The Thousand Islands Playhouse’s 2012 season is the final season of founding and long-term Artistic Director Greg Wanless.  Incoming Artistic Director Ashlie Corcoran joins the company in the summer to plan the 2013 season.  Greg’s final season has Kingston playwright Douglas Bowie’s Somewhere Beyond the Sea until July 21 in their larger Springer Theatre, followed by Little Shop of Horrors in August, and Theatre Newfoundland Labrador’s production of Tempting Providence in October.  In the Firehall Theatre until July 28, in association with Festival Players of Prince Edward County, is John Gray’s musical Amelia the Girl Who Wants to Fly, and in August, the Canadian play The Clockmaker.

Classic Theatre Festival in Perth continues to present Broadway hits from the 1950s and 1960s in its third season.  This year it is the quirky love story Two for the Seesaw in July and one of the longest running plays in Broadway history, Mary, Mary in August.  St. Lawrence Shakespeare Festival in Prescott runs their 10th anniversary season from July 14 to August 18 playing A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Othello in repertory at their lovely ampitheatre facing the St. Lawrence River.  In Morrisburg, Upper Canada Playhouse, now in its 29th season, offers a mix of comedy running until September 10  including Hotbed Hotel, Norm Foster’s Here on the Flight Path, Wife Begins at Forty, and the dysfunctional family comedy A Nice Family Gathering.

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.


  1. Wow! This is a really useful list. What a wonderful province to live in for theatre lovers.

    1. Thanks Rosemary! We are certainly blessed with an incredible variety of theatre for all tastes.

  2. Any chance you do this sort of thing for amateur theatre?

    1. Hi Nita - That's an interesting question. Did you just mean this type of "season preview" article, or an ASTRO-style marketing organization for amateur theatre?