By Keith Tomasek, Nov. 1, 2022
Following the news that Paul Gross is returning to the Stratford Festival in 2023, I couldn’t help but recall an encounter with Gross at the turn of the century.
It was the year 2000, and Gross had risen to fame as the lead actor, Constable Benton Fraser, in the hit TV show “Due South,” as well as guest appearances on “The Red Green Show” and his role in the film adaptation of Paul Quarrington’s novel “Whale Music.”
At a time when an internet connection required a telephone modem Gross agreed to be a guest on a live chat I was producing for America Online.
Always a progressive thinker, Gross was up for the adventure of, what, at the time, was an unusual opportunity to connect online with fans and promote his upcoming appearance in the title role of Hamlet at the Stratford Festival.
Expecting the usual audience of a few hundred tech-savvy Canadians, our web developers were overwhelmed by the number of attendees from around the world. I’ll never forget an enthusiastic group of fans from England who were mesmerized by Constable Benton Fraser’s trusty companion: a wolf-dog hybrid named Diefenbaker.
“Hamlet” marked Gross’ most recent appearance and now he is slated to appear on the Stratford Festival 2023 playbill in “King Lear.”
Gross and Festival artistic director Antoni Cimolino say they had been considering doing Lear for some time.
Quoted in The Globe and Mail about why now, Gross said, “It did kind of occur to me, well, maybe I should do it before I lose my mind, you know?”
Slings and Arrows
If I get to interview Gross again, I’ll be sure to ask him about a re-boot of the darkly comic TV series he starred in “Slings and Arrows.”
The cult classic is set at a fictional Shakespeare festival where egotistical theatre people run amok with arrogance and self-importance. Could it have been inspired by the Stratford Festival?
Rumors of a re-boot came up in my podcast with one of the show’s creators Bob Martin, who confessed there had been a lot of interest in new episodes.
One can’t help but wonder if this return to Stratford by Gross will prove to be the impetus for Martin and co-creators Mark McKinney and Susan Coyne to finally create new epsiodes.
“King Lear” will run at the Festival Theatre from April 24 to Oct. 29.
Another Festival favourite with roots in TV, “Forever Knight” as well as the aforementioned “Slings and Arrows,” Geraint Wyn Davies returns to Stratford to play the lead, Otto Marvuglia, in Eduardo De Filippo’s dark comedy “Grand Magic.”
Andrea Macasaet, who at the age of 10 toured with Mini Pop Kids and is now getting rave reviews on Broadway where she plays Anne Boleyn in “Six: The Musical” makes her debut on the Stratford Festival 2023 playbill as Mimi Marquez in “Rent.”
No word yet on the cast of “Love’s Labour’s Lost.”
Other Stratford Festival 2023 cast highlights include:
Liam Tobin, Jonathan Goad, Aaron Krohn and Jennifer Rider-Shaw in “Monty Python’s Spamalot.”
Seana McKenna and Lucy Peacock in “Les Belles-Soeurs.”
Graham Abbey and Maev Beaty as Benedick and Beatrice in “Much Ado About Nothing.”
Cyrus Lane in “Wedding Band.”
Jenna-Lee Hyde and Keith Barker in “Women of the Fur Trade.”
Stratford Festival 2023 – Festival Theatre productions
King Lear: Paul Gross as King Lear, Michael Blake as Edmund, Déjah Dixon-Green as Regan, Anthony Santiago as Gloucester, Tara Sky as Cordelia and Gordon Patrick White as the Fool.
The cast also includes Austin Eckert, Allison Edwards-Crewe, John Kirkpatrick, Josue Laboucane, Devin MacKinnon and Rylan Wilkie.
The play will be directed by Kimberley Rampersad.
Rent: Jonathan Larson’s moving and evocative musical “Rent” will feature Andrea Macasaet as Mimi Marquez, Robert Markus as Mark Cohen and Kolton Stewart as Roger Davis.
The cast also includes Jahlen Barnes, Nestor Lozano Junior, Erica Peck, Celeste Catena, Nick Dolan, Christine Desjardins, Kelly Holiff, Masini McDermott and Danielle Verayo.
Thom Allison will direct alongside choreographer Marc Kimelman and music director Franklin Brasz.
Much Ado About Nothing: One of Shakespeare’s finest comedies, “Much Ado About Nothing,” will feature Graham Abbey and Maev Beaty as Benedick and Beatrice, Michael Blake as Don John, Austin Eckert as Claudio, Allison Edwards-Crewe as Hero and Anthony Santiago as Antonio.
The cast also features Déjah Dixon-Green, John Kirkpatrick, Kevin Kruchkywich, Josue Laboucane, Cyrus Lane, Devin MacKinnon, Gordon Patrick White, Rylan Wilkie and Micah Woods.
This production will be directed by Chris Abraham.
Les Belles-Soeurs: The beloved Michel Tremblay comedy “Les Belles Soeurs” will feature Seana McKenna as Rose Ouimet, Lucy Peacock as Germaine Lauzon and Diana Leblanc as Olivine Dubuc.
The cast also includes Joella Crichton, Déjah Dixon-Green, Allison Edwards-Crewe, Antonette Rudder and Tara Sky.
The production will be directed by Esther Jun.
Stratford Festival 2023 – Avon Theatre productions
Monty Python’s Spamalot: The Stratford Festival 2023 playbill marks the return of Jonathan Goad to play King Arthur in “Monty Python’s Spamalot” alongside Eddie Glen as Patsy, Aaron Krohn as Sir Lancelot, Trevor Patt as Sir Robin, Jennifer Rider-Shaw as the Lady of the Lake and Liam Tobin as Sir Galahad.
The uproarious musical also features Carla Bennett, Devon Michael Brown, Aidan deSalaiz, Amanda De Freitas, Josh Doig, Evangelia Kambites, Bethany Kovarik, Ayrin Mackie, Anthony MacPherson, Heather McGuigan, Kyla Musselman and Jason Sermonia.
Lezlie Wade will direct and Jesse Robb is choreographer.
A Wrinkle in Time: Director Thomas Morgan Jones’ imaginative new adaptation of Madeleine L’Engle’s “A Wrinkle in Time” will feature Celeste Catena as Meg Murry, Kim Horsman as Mrs. Which, Nestor Lozano Jr. as Mrs. Whatsit and Khadijah Roberts-Abdullah as Mrs. Who.
The cast also features Jahlen Barnes, Aidan deSalaiz, Christine Desjardins, Nick Dolan, Kelly Holiff, Evangelia Kambites, Robert Markus, Masini McDermott, Erica Peck, Jennifer Rider-Shaw and Liam Tobin.
Frankenstein Revived: The new dramatic movement piece, “Frankenstein Revived,” will feature Charlie Gallant as Doctor Frankenstein, Laura Condlln as Mary Shelley and Marcus Nance as the Creature.
The ensemble also includes Sean Arbuckle, Carla Bennett, Devon Michael Brown, Amanda De Freitas, Josh Doig, Mateo Galindo Torres, Eddie Glen, Bethany Kovarik, Aaron Krohn, Ayrin Mackie, Anthony MacPherson, Heather McGuigan, Kyla Musselman, Trevor Patt and Jason Sermonia.
Morris Panych will direct alongside music director David Coulter and movement choreographer Wendy Gorling.
Stratford Festival 2023 – Tom Patterson Theatre productions
Grand Magic: Festival favourite Geraint Wyn Davies returns to play Otto Marvuglia while Sarah Orenstein will play Zaira Marvuglia in John Murrell’s new translation of Eduardo De Filippo’s dark comedy, “Grand Magic.”
The cast also includes David Collins, Sarah Dodd, Jordin Hall, Kim Horsman, Stephen Jackman-Torkoff, Khadijah Roberts-Abdullah, Andrew Robinson and Steve Ross, and will be directed by Antoni Cimolino.
Richard II: Stephen Jackman-Torkoff will take on the title role in a revolutionary new adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Richard II” by Brad Fraser.
David Collins will play John of Gaunt, Jordin Hall will play Bolingbroke and Sarah Orenstein will play Helen Percy, Earl of Northumberland.
The cast also includes Sarah Dodd, Mateo Galindo Torres, Charlie Gallant, Marcus Nance, Andrew Robinson, Steve Ross and Danielle Verayo.
Jillian Keiley will direct.
Wedding Band: Cyrus Lane and Antonette Rudder will play the lead couple, Herman and Julia, in Alice Childress’s “Wedding Band,” directed by Sam White.
They will be joined by Maev Beaty as Annabelle and Lucy Peacock as Herman’s Mother.
The cast also features Joella Crichton, Kevin Kruchkywich and Micah Woods.
Stratford Festival 2023 – Studio Theatre productions
Casey and Diana: Nick Green’s moving new play “Casey and Diana,” directed by Andrew Kushnir, features Sean Arbuckle as Thomas, Laura Condlln as Pauline, Krystin Pellerin as Diana and Sophia Walker as Vera.
Women of the Fur Trade: Frances Koncan’s funny and insightful play, “Women of the Fur Trade,” directed by Yvette Nolan, will feature Jenna-Lee Hyde as Cecilia, with Keith Barker as Lous Riel and Nathan Howe as Thomas Scott.
Love’s Labour’s Lost: To be directed by Peter Pasyk. The cast for this beloved early Shakespearean comedy will be announced at a later date.
Tickets for the Stratford Festival 2023 season will go on sale to Members beginning November 6, 2022. Early-bird sales are open to everyone on Monday, December 12.