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 and a lightning-fast computer, Gross agreed to be a guest on an America Online live chat I was producing.
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 meserized by Constable Benton Fraser’s trusty companion a wolf hybrid dog named Diefenbaker.
“Hamlet” marked Gross’ last appearance at the Stratford Festival and now he is slated to return in 2023 to star in “King Lear.”
Gross and Festival artistic director Antoni Cimolino say they have 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?”
If I get to interview Gross, I’ll be sure to ask him about a re-boot of the darkly comic TV series “Slings and Arrows.” The cult classic is set at a fictional Shakespeare festival. The 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 will prove to be the impetus for Martin and co-creators Mark McKinney and Susan Coyne to make it happen finally.
King Lear will run at the Festival Theater from April 24 to Oct. 29.
Another Festival favourite, Geraint Wyn Davies, returns to Stratford to play the lead, Otto Marvuglia, in Eduardo De Filippo’s dark comedy Grand Magic.
Other Stratford Festival 2023 cast highlights include:
Liam Tobin, Jonathan Goad, Aaron Krohn and Jennifer Rider-Shaw in “Monty Python’s Spamalot.”
Sean 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.”
Tickets for the 2023 season will go on sale to Members of the Stratford Festival beginning November 6, 2022. Early-bird sales are open to everyone on Monday, December 12.
Stratford Festival 2023 – Festival Theater productions
King Lear: Paul Gross, 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: Jonathan Goad returns to the Festival in 2023 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 Condell 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 Sermons. Morris Panych will direct alongside music director David Coulter and movement choreographer Wendy Gorling.
Stratford Festival 2023 – Tom Patterson Theater productions
Grand Magic: Festival favorite 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 Theater productions
Casey and Diana: Nick Green’s moving new play Casey and Diana, directed by Andrew Kushnir, features Sean Arbuckle as Thomas, Laura Condelln 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.