By Keith Tomasek, October 17, 2019
With the opening of the new $68 million Tom Patterson Theatre, the Stratford Festival 2020 season is one of the most anticipated playbills in years.
Star of stage and screen Colm Feore makes his return to play the lead role in “Richard III.” Antoni Cimolino, the Festival’s artistic director, will direct the production in the new Tom Patterson Theatre.
“Together we have the joyous opportunity to breathe vibrant life into a brand new theatre, a bespoke space unique in the world,” said Cimolino.
The Stratford Festival 2020 season also sees Cimolino and Feore collaborating on Molière’s comedy “The Miser.” The pair had a similar collaboration in 2014 with “King Lear” and “The Beaux’ Stratagem,” both of which were hits.
Don’t miss my podcast with Colm Feore where we discuss his Lear and the challenges he faced playing Francis Archer in “The Beaux’ Stratagem.”
The Stratford Festival 2020 season is one of the most eclectic in recent years. Says Cimolino, “With four venues in full splendour, our season will allow all of our artists to stretch their creative muscles with everything from newly imagined classics – both Shakespearean and musical – to fascinating new plays, movement pieces, a brand new musical – even iambic pentameter improv.”
Stratford Festival 2020 Season
TOM PATTERSON THEATRE
Colm Feore returns to the Festival for the first time in five years to play the psychopathic title role in “Richard III.” This play holds great historical significance for the Festival as the first play ever performed under the tent back in 1953. Similarly, it will open the new Tom Patterson Theatre in 2020.
Feore was last seen at Stratford in 2014, playing the title role in Cimolino’s production of “King Lear,” one of the top-selling Shakespeare productions in the theatre’s history.
Feore leads a powerhouse cast featuring Michael Blake as the Duke of Clarence, Ben Carlson as Lord Hastings, David Collins as Stanley, Martha Henry as the Duchess of York, Jessica B. Hill as Lady Anne, Seana McKenna as Queen Margaret, Lucy Peacock as Queen Elizabeth, Tom Rooney as Buckingham and Mike Shara as Catesby.
Also in the cast are: Marion Adler, Wayne Best, Jacklyn Francis, Andrew Iles, Ron Kennell, Qasim Khan, Alexandra Lainfiesta, Roy Lewis, Jamie Mac, Gordon Patrick White, Brigit Wilson and Mamie Zwettler.
All’s Well That Ends Well
Contemporary themes of social mobility and sexual misconduct with plenty of humour.
Directed by Scott Wentworth
May 15 to October 24 | Opens June 11
Tom Patterson Theatre
“All’s Well That Ends Well” holds historical significance as it was the second play presented in the Festival’s inaugural season, and has been programmed to celebrate the opening of the Tom Patterson Theatre.
Helmed by Scott Wentworth, Shakespeare’s comedy of heartbreak and deception features Jessica B. Hill as Helena and Seana McKenna as the Countess of Rossillion.
Hill, a graduate of the Festival’s Birmingham Conservatory for Classical Theatre, recently played such leading roles as Emily in “Brontë: The World Without” and Antipholus of Syracuse in “The Comedy of Errors.”
Stratford veterans Ben Carlson and Tom Rooney are featured.
Also in the cast are: Marion Adler, Wayne Best, Michael Blake, David Collins, Nicole Joy-Fraser, Qasim Khan, Ron Kennell, Alexandra Lainfiesta, Roy Lewis, Jamie Mac, Mike Shara and Gordon Patrick White.
Here’s What It Takes
Dan Chameroy and Robert Markus star in Steven Page’s new musical
Directed and Choreographed by Donna Feore
Additional music and lyrics by Craig Northey
June 5 to October 24 | Opens June 30
A roller-coaster ride of creative highs and lows, from Barenaked Ladies co-founder Steven Page, this new musical charts the journey of a fictional rock duo.
Dan Chameroy, did double-duty last season in “Billy Elliot” and “Little Shop of Horrors,” and is well-remembered as Frank N. Furter in 2018’s production of “The Rocky Horror Show.”
Markus, who played Riff Raff in “Rocky Horror” and the title role in “Tommy,” returns hot off his critically acclaimed performance in Toronto’s “Dear Evan Hansen.”
Sean Arbuckle’s musical highlights include the leading roles of Nathan Detroit in “Guys and Dolls” and Julian Marsh in “42nd Street.” Scott Beaudin made his Stratford debut as the Artful Dodger in 2006’s “Oliver!” and returned 13 years later to play Billy’s brother Tony in this season’s “Billy Elliot the Musical.”
Robin Hutton will play Carla, the band’s manager, and Vanessa Sears will play the band’s drummer, Angela.
Also in the cast are: Eric Abel, Gabriel Antonacci, Henry Firmston, Bonnie Jordan, Heather Kosik, Jordan Mah, Amanda Mattar, Chad McFadden, Chelsea Preston, Jennifer Rider-Shaw and Genny Sermonia.
Jonathon Young makes his Stratford debut as Doctor Frankenstein
Directed by Morris Panych
Music by David Coulter
Movement Choreographed by Wendy Gorling | Dance Choreographed by Stephen Cota
August 2 to October 22 | Opens August 20
Tom Patterson Theatre
Vancouver-based stage and screen star Jonathon Young makes his debut in the Stratford Festival 2020 season as Doctor Frankenstein, in the world première of Morris Panych’s intimate, intense and passion-filled synthesis of theatre and dance.
Panych and Young recently collaborated on Panych’s production of “The Waiting Room” at the Arts Club Theatre. Young’s theatre credits also include several collaborative original productions at Vancouver’s Electric Company Theatre, which he co-founded.
Mary Shelley, the writer of the celebrated horror story, will be played by Laura Condlln, with Marcus Nance as the Monster.
Also in the cast are: Devon Michael Brown, Sandra Caldwell, Caryn Chappell, Colton Curtis, Amanda De Freitas, Rodney Diverlus, Bethany Kovarik, Allison McCaughey, Lily McEvenue, Jason Sermonia and Mateo Galindo Torres.
LAZARIDIS HALL AT
An Undiscovered Shakespeare
An audience member is invited to share their memory of first love. Then Rebecca Northan and her brilliant team of improvisers – Ashley Botting, Ijeoma Emesowum, Bruce Horak, Kevin Kruchkywich and Lee Smart – turn that tale into a full-blown, five-act, faux-Shakespearean drama – created on the spot, in iambic pentameter, before your very eyes.
Each performance is destined to be a unique, never-to-be-repeated feat of theatrical virtuosity.
Much Ado About Nothing
Graham Abbey and Maev Beaty previously teamed up with Chris Abraham for 2017’s “Tartuffe,” a production so popular that it moved on to Toronto after its Stratford run.
Abbey and Beaty previously teamed up with Abraham for 2017’s “Tartuffe,” a production so popular that it moved on to Toronto after its Stratford run. When it comes to trading witty insults, Shakespeare’s Beatrice and Benedick are foes worthy of each other’s steel – and their friends think they’d make a great romantic match, too.
Abbey and Beaty will be joined by Kaleb Alexander as Claudio and Andrea Rankin as Hero.
This merrily warring duo opens the Stratford Festival 2020 season.
Also in the cast are: Jakob Ehman, Bruce Horak, Kevin Kruchkywich, Josue Laboucane, André Sills, Michael Spencer-Davis and Norman Yeung.
The first major production outside of New York and London in 30 years
Directed and choreographed by Donna Feore
Based on the play by Maurine Dallas Watkins, Script adaptation by David Thompson
April 11 to November 1 | Opens May 26
Donna Feore has a reputation for auditioning every actor available before casting iconic leading roles. In her search for Roxie Hart, Feore discovered Chelsea Preston, who studied theatre at MacEwan University.
Feore’s reimagined production of “Chicago” – the first major production outside of New York and London in 30 years – features Dan Chameroy as shady lawyer Billy Flynn and Jennifer Rider-Shaw as Velma Kelly.
Returning for her 10th season, Rider-Shaw’s leading roles include Janet in “The Rocky Horror Show” and Peggy Sawyer in “42nd Street.”
The cast also features Sandra Caldwell as matron Mama Morton and Steve Ross as Amos Hart, Roxie’s faithful husband.
Also in the cast are: Robert Markus, Eric Abel, Gabriel Antonacci, Devon Michael Brown, Colton Curtis, Amanda De Freitas, Henry Firmston, Bonnie Jordan, Heather Kosik, Bethany Kovarik, Jordan Mah, Amanda Mattar, Allison McCaughey, Lily McEvenue, Chad McFadden, Genny Sermonia, and Jason Sermonia.
Amaka Umeh will make her Stratford debut in the Stratford Festival 2020 season in the title role of “Hamlet.”
Umeh joined the Festival this fall as a participant in the Birmingham Conservatory for Classical Theatre. Her work on stages across Toronto, including Crow’s Theatre, Shakespeare in High Park and Young People’s Theatre, has earned her great acclaim, including the 2019 Dora Award for Outstanding Performance in a Featured Role for “The Wolves.” Umeh is a cross-gender actor and the first actor of color to play Hamlet at the Festival.
Umeh will be joined by Graham Abbey as Claudius, Kaleb Alexander as Laertes, Maev Beaty as Gertrude, Jakob Ehman as Horatio, Andrea Rankin as Ophelia and Michael Spencer-Davis as Polonius.
Also in the cast are: Ijeoma Emesowum, Bruce Horak, Kevin Kruchkywich, Josue Laboucane, André Sills and Norman Yeung.
A new version by British playwright, and former stockbroker, Ranjit Bolt
In addition to collaborating on Richard III, Colm Feore and Antoni Cimolino also come together for Molière’s great comedy “The Miser.” The pair had a similar collaboration in 2014 with King Lear and The Beaux’ Stratagem, both of which were huge hits that season.
Feore plays the title character, a paranoid old skinflint named Harper, with Jessica B. Hill as Marianne, the young woman he hopes to marry, Ron Kennell as Jack, Harper’s chauffeur-cum-cook, Qasim Khan and Alexandra Lainfiesta as siblings Charlie and Eleanor, Jamie Mac as Victor, the butler, Steve Ross as the Detective and Brigit Wilson as matchmaker Fay.
Also in the cast are: Wayne Best, Michael Blake, David Collins and Roy Lewis,
Wendy & Peter Pan
Choreographer Allen Kaeja entered the world of dance after years of high-level competitive wrestling. Since 1982 his unique approach to movement has earned praise and awards around the world.
This production marks the North American première of this imaginative retelling of J.M. Barrie’s classic family story.
The Stratford Festival 2020 season mark’s Cynthia Jimenez-Hicks’ Festival debut. Jimenez-Hicks is a graduate of The National Theatre School. In 2019 she starred in four world premières by Canadian playwrights, including works by Morris Panych and Kat Sandler.
On their Neverland adventure, Wendy and Peter, Jake Runeckles, encounter a wild cast of characters, including Captain Hook, played by Laura Condlln, and Tiger Lily, played by Tara Sky.
Also in the cast are: Carla Bennett, Caryn Chappell, Aidan deSalaiz, Rodney Diverlus, Josh Doig, Camille Eanga-Selenge, Ryan Gifford, Eddie Glen, Josh Graetz, George Krissa, Heather McGuigan, André Morin, Marcus Nance, Trevor Patt and Mateo Galindo Torres.
Monty Python’s Spamalot
Don’t miss Eddie Glen’s rendition of “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life”
Book and lyrics by Eric Idle, music by John Du Prez and Eric Idle
Directed by Lezlie Wade | Choreographed by Jesse Robb
May 9 to October 25 | Opens May 29
A musical lovingly ripped off from the motion picture “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.”
After his searing portrayal of King Henry VIII in this season’s sold-out production of “Henry VIII,” Jonathan Goad returns to play a completely different monarch, King Arthur, in the Stratford Festival 2020 season. This marks Goad’s return to musical comedy having played Harold Hill in 2008’s “The Music Man.”
This sublimely silly musical, directed by Lezlie Wade, will also feature Eddie Glen as Patsy, George Krissa as Sir Galahad, André Morin as Prince Herbert, Trevor Patt as Sir Robin and Mark Uhre as Sir Lancelot.
Also in the cast are: Carla Bennett, Aidan deSalaiz, Josh Doig, Camille Eanga-Selenge, Ryan Gifford, Josh Graetz and Heather McGuigan.
Geraint Wyn Davies plays Thomas Cromwell, a central figure in the Tudor revolution
By Hilary Mantel, adapted for the stage by Mike Poulton
Directed by ted witzel and Geraint Wyn Davies
July 28 to October 24 | Opens August 13
This is the Canadian première of “Wolf Hall” which premièred at Royal Shakespeare Company in 2013 before transferring to Broadway in 2015. The production was nominated for 8 Tony Awards, including Best Play.
Geraint Wyn Davies will play key roles on both sides of the stage, starring as Thomas Cromwell and co-directing with ted witzel.
The production will also feature Sarah Orenstein as Wolsey and André Sills as King Henry VIII.
Also in the cast are: Kaleb Alexander, Jakob Ehman, Josue Laboucane, Andrea Rankin, Jake Runeckles, Michael Spencer-Davis, Amaka Umeh and Norman Yeung.
Three Tall Women
In Edward Albee’s “Three Tall Women,” a wealthy old woman, by turns acerbic, haughty, self-pitying and anguished, reminisces to two younger companions, sharing her past experiences in sometimes shocking detail.
The powerful trio of Martha Henry, Lucy Peacock and Mamie Zwettler will bring this great American classic to the stage, under the direction of Diana Leblanc.
Like the women portrayed, these artists share a long history. Friends and colleagues, Leblanc and Henry have worked together on numerous occasions, including “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” and “A Delicate Balance.”
Henry and Peacock also have a long collaborative history, with Peacock starring in several productions directed by Henry, including “All My Sons,” “Twelfth Night” and “Three Sisters.” Zwettler, who came through the Festival’s Birmingham Conservatory, made her impressive debut playing Miranda to Henry’s Prospero in “The Tempest” in 2018.
They will be joined by Andrew Iles as The Boy.
The Rez Sisters
“The biggest bingo in the world” is coming and seven Indigenous women, all related by blood or marriage, are determined to win.
Directed by Jessica Carmichael
July 21 to September 26 | Opens August 14
In Tomson Highway’s acclaimed drama “The Rez Sisters,” “the biggest bingo in the world” is coming to Toronto, and seven Indigenous women, all related by blood or marriage, are determined to win the jackpot.
Jani Lauzon – last seen at Stratford in the 2017 world première of Colleen Murphy’s “The Breathing Hole” – leads the extraordinary cast as Pelajia Patchnose.
She will be joined by Brefny Caribou as Zhaboonigan Peterson, Nicole Joy-Fraser as Veronique St. Pierre, Kathleen MacLean as Emily Dictionary, Cheri Maracle as Philomena Moosetail, Madison Walsh as Annie Cook and Michaela Washburn as Marie-Adele Starblanket.
The production, directed by Jessica Carmichael, will also include Justin Many Fingers as Nanabush.
The indomitable Mike Shara as an actor belessed and cursed by Hamlet
Directed by Alisa Palmer
Based on an idea by Alisa Palmer
August 5 to September 26 | Opens August 19
In “Hamlet-911,”Guinness Menzies has just landed his dream role: he’s playing “Hamlet” at the Stratford Festival. But just before a matinée performance, he suddenly finds himself in the Underworld, a realm as frightening as it is hilarious, where time is seriously out of joint.
Has he gone mad? Is he dreaming? Has he died?
Mike Shara, a long-time leading player at Stratford, will take on the lead role of Menzies.
You won’t believe how nervous Shara was the first time he performed iambic pentameter at the Stratford Festival. In our podcast, he explains how he overcame his feelings of inadequacy while rehearsing for his first appearance in a Shakespeare production.
Directed by Alisa Palmer, the production also features Amelia Sargisson as Sue, Scott Wentworth as Rex and Gordon Patrick White as Yorick.
Also in the cast are: Marion Adler, Eva Foote, Jacklyn Francis, Andrew Iles and Wahsonti:io Kirby.
For more information about the Stratford Festival 2020 season, visit stratfordfestival.ca. Tickets go on sale to the public on Jan. 3, 2020.