Arts & Entertainment
3 min

A theatrical wish list

A roundup of must-see theatre in seasons to come

The touring cast of Once, at Mirvish. Credit: ????

Dear Santa,

If only you were a theatre queen. It’s great that you make toys for girls and boys, but some of us just want tickets to shows. And they’re light, so you can load up your sleigh without overtaxing poor Rudolph. There are so many must-see productions over the next few months that those of us who love the theatre should invest in extra large stockings.

Every production at Buddies is guaranteed to entertain, shock or provoke — a season’s pass, please. The Rhubarb Festival, running Feb 12 to 23, is a microcosm of what Buddies has to offer. Every night features several short performances — one is sure to amaze, a few will amuse, and one will annoy… its' a must-see string of shows, even if the government doesn't want to support it. The key word is “short,” and the time investment is minimal, while the payoff is big. Rhubarb is followed by a new Sky Gilbert play, Hackerlove, a gay love story set against the backdrop of the 2010 WikiLeaks scandal. Whatever Gilbert tackles raises hackles and provokes thought, always with a few laughs tossed in. Plus: hunky Nick Green stars.

Buddies alumnus Daniel MacIvor has two shows at Factory Theatre: A Beautiful View, a haunting and hilarious lesbionic epic with bears, from Feb 27 to March 9, and the new Bingo! which is billed as a “rockin’ and rollin’ romantic comedy,” from May 3 to June 1. Whether the dabbers are laced with poison or hilarity, the audience is sure to possess the winning card. Also of note at Factory is the incandescent Naomi Wright starring in a revival of The Ugly One from Jan 8 to Feb 16, wherein obsession with beauty and narcissism sets the stage for satire. Gay audiences will, undoubtedly, relate.

And, please, some big musical extravaganzas. Mirvish presents Once from Nov 26 to Jan 5, and it is trailing more Tonys than Angela Lansbury on a bender in a pub. Mirvish’s other sure bets are the magical Lion King, which runs from April 30 to June 15, and the scatalogically astute Book of Mormon, beginning Sept 16.

Tarragon Theatre is filled with the sound of music, with queen-of-theatre-queens Stephen Sondheim’s acidic valentine Marry Me a Little, from Feb 26 to April 6. Then, from June 3 to 29, the mesmerizing Hawksley Workman rips it up with The God That Comes, a musical about sexual and religious frenzy. Theatre Passe Muraille tantalizes with The Way Back to Thursday, from Jan 16 to Feb 8, a song cycle about the golden age of cinema with a crucial song entitled “Googling Rock Hudson.”

Many theatre companies do stellar productions on a more modest scale. Hart House Theatre revives The Wedding Singer from Jan 10 to 25, when the venerable U of T theatre will echo with 1980s standards and fond memories of the one time Adam Sandler was sexy. The Lower Ossington Theatre launches a new production of the camp classic Little Shop of Horrors on Dec 5. The energetic LOTters can’t fail to do justice to the great score by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman, who are, incidentally, also represented by Mirvish/Disney’s Aladdin, onstage until Jan 5. Putting Aladdin in a boy band may be a questionable choice for all but Backstreet Boys fetishists, but the score is so strong that even a Celine Dion cover version couldn’t shatter its melodic beauty. And I eagerly await May, when the Alexander Showcase Theatre sings The Mystery of Edwin Drood.

Even serious Soulpepper has showgirls and charlatans, in Idiot’s Delight, from Jan 23 to March 1. But the big news at Soulpepper is the return of Angels in America, which may not be a musical but is operatic in its passion, from June 12 to July 12. Canadian Stage has an intriguing offering with London Road, from Jan 19 to Feb 9. With Damien Atkins and George Masswohl in the cast, it will be transcendent. And there are sure to be surprises from venues like Videofag, The Storefront Theatre, The Theatre Centre and whatever Cirque du Soleil has planned for under the big top, beginning Aug 28.

Dear Santa, if you fulfill my desires, I will be too busy to be bad. And please join me for a return to Evil Dead: The Musical, running until Jan 5. We can sit in the Splatter Zone; red on red won’t do any damage.

Much thanks,
Drew Rowsome

PS. With so much great theatre here in Toronto, you can ignore my ignored request from last year regarding air fare to New York.