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Stratford Festival Preview: ‘Macbeth’, Narnia and ‘A Chorus Line’ headline 2016 live theatre season

After three straight years of profitability, the world renowned Stratford Festival is clearly on a roll with both their box office and audiences.

In their 2016 season, audiences who make the trek to Stratford, Ontario can experience 13 live theatre productions, ranging from traditional Shakespeare, modern and original plays, and big-budget musicals.

The first production to officially open will be Macbeth, directed by the festival’s artistic director Antoni Cimolino, on May 30. In the meantime, previews are ongoing for Shakespeare in Love, A Chorus Line, All My Sons, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and the aforementioned Macbeth.

Here’s a look at this year’s live theatre playbill.


Krystin Pellerin as Lady Macbeth and Ian Lake as Macbeth in Macbeth. Photography by David Hou.

Krystin Pellerin as Lady Macbeth and Ian Lake as Macbeth in Macbeth. Photography by David Hou.

Macbeth (Opens May 30)

ByWilliam Shakespeare
DirectorAntoni Cimolino
CastIan Lake, Michael Blake, Krystin Pellerin, Scott Wentworth, Sarah Afful
Approximate Runtime2 hours, 32 minutes (including intermission)
56 performancesMay 3 to October 23

Surrender to a haunting story of ambition and its dark consequences, as a military hero and his wife conspire to seize the throne of Scotland.


Cyrus Lane, Petrina Bromley. Photography by Don Dixon.

Cyrus Lane, Petrina Bromley. Photography by Don Dixon.

As You Like It (Opens June 3)

ByWilliam Shakespeare
DirectorJillian Keiley
CastPetrina Bromley, Cyrus Lane, Seana McKenna, John Kirkpatrick, Trish Lindström
49 performancesMay 16 to October 22

You’re invited to a celebration of love, liberty and glorious wit. Romance goes undercover in this beloved comedy of surprises, disguises and cross-dressing antics.


Tom Rooney (left), Graham Abbey. Photography by Don Dixon.

Tom Rooney (left), Graham Abbey. Photography by Don Dixon.

Breath of Kings: Rebellion (Opens June 22)

ByWilliam Shakespeare
Conceived and adapted byGraham Abbey
DirectorsWeyni Mengesha & Mitchell Cushman
CastGraham Abbey, Araya Mengesha, Tom Rooney, Geraint Wyn Davies, Michelle Giroux
37 performancesMay 30 to September 24

Richard II and Henry IV Part 1. Lust for power leads to political turmoil in this fast-paced new distillation of Shakespeare’s epic histories of a nation and its rulers –- their lives, their battles and their deaths.


From left: Graham Abbey, Araya Mengesha, Geraint Wyn Davies. Photography by Don Dixon.

From left: Graham Abbey, Araya Mengesha, Geraint Wyn Davies. Photography by Don Dixon.

Breath of Kings: Redemption (Opens June 22)

ByWilliam Shakespeare
Conceived and adapted byGraham Abbey
DirectorsMitchell Cushman & Weyni Mengesha
CastGraham Abbey, Araya Mengesha, Tom Rooney, Geraint Wyn Davies, Michelle Giroux
37 performancesMay 31 to September 24

Henry IV Part 2 and Henry V. Can victory abroad resolve crisis at home? Henry IV and his charismatic son, Henry V, are the major players in this second of two new distillations of Shakespeare’s great dramas of kingship.


Shannon Taylor. Photography by Don Dixon.

Shannon Taylor. Photography by Don Dixon.

Shakespeare in Love (Opens June 4)

Based on the screenplay byMarc Norman & Tom Stoppard
Adapted for the stage byLee Hall
North American Premiere by special arrangement withDisney Theatrical Productions & Sonia Friedman Productions
DirectorDeclan Donnellan
CastLuke Humphrey, Shannon Taylor, Tom McCamus, Stephen Ouimette, Karen Robinson
69 performancesApril 29 to October 16

A young playwright named Will Shakespeare comes down with writer’s block – until he finds a muse. Art mirrors life in a hilarious and passionate tale of romance and backstage fun.


Maev Beaty. Photography by Don Dixon.

Maev Beaty. Photography by Don Dixon.

Bunny (Opens August 18)

ByHannah Moscovitch
DirectorSarah Garton Stanley
CastMaev Beaty, Tim Campbell, Cyrus Lane, Krystin Pellerin, David Patrick Flemming
21 performancesJuly 29 to September 24

Sorrel has always felt like an outsider – even when she discovers the power of her own allure. But for all the interest she arouses, can she ever truly connect? A world premiere.


Members of the company in A Chorus Line. Photography by David Hou.

Members of the company in A Chorus Line. Photography by David Hou.

A Chorus Line (Opens May 31)

Conceived and originally directed and choreographed byMichael Bennett
Book byJames Kirkwood & Nicholas Dante
Music byMarvin Hamlisch
Lyrics byEdward Kleban
Co-Choreographed byBob Avian
Original Broadway production produced byThe New York Shakespeare Festival, Joseph Papp, producer, in association with Plum Productions, Inc.
Director and ChoreographerDonna Feore
CastDayna Tietzen, Juan Chioran, Eric Abel, Matt Alfano, Gabriel Antonacci
Approximate Runtime2 hours (no intermission)
95 performancesApril 19 to October 30

On stage, they move as one. But each member of that glittering line has a unique history of hope and heartbreak, as revealed in the life stories they share in this inspiring musical masterpiece.


Cynthia Dale. Photography by Don Dixon.

Cynthia Dale. Photography by Don Dixon.

A Little Night Music (Opens June 21)

Music and lyrics byStephen Sondheim
Book byHugh Wheeler
Orchestrations byJonathan Tunick
Suggested by a film byIngmar Bergman
Originally produced and directed on Broadway byHarold Prince
DirectorGary Griffin
CastBen Carlson, Cynthia Dale, Yanna McIntosh, Juan Chioran, Rosemary Dunsmore
75 performancesMay 21 to October 23

On a magical midsummer night, lovers old and new are swept up in a dizzying whirl of romance. “Send In the Clowns” is a highlight of this musical.


Clara Kittmer. Photography by Don Dixon.

Clara Kittmer. Photography by Don Dixon.

The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (Opens June 2)

ByC.S. Lewis
Dramatized ByAdrian Mitchell
DirectorTim Carroll
CastSara Farb, Ruby Joy, André Morin, Gareth Potter, Tom McCamus
60 performancesMay 10 to October 29

In a world where imagination and magic conquer all, this family escape is inspired by wonder, as four kids travel through a wardrobe to the land of Narnia to fulfill their destiny.


Joseph Ziegler as Joe Keller in All My Sons. Photography by David Hou.

Joseph Ziegler as Joe Keller in All My Sons. Photography by David Hou.

All My Sons (Opens June 1)

ByArthur Miller
DirectorMartha Henry
CastJoseph Ziegler, Lucy Peacock, Sarah Afful, Michael Blake, Tim Campbell
Approximate Runtime2 hours, 38 minutes (including two intermissions)
41 performancesMay 9 to September 25

Risk the security of your loved ones or gamble with the lives of strangers? In this gripping classic by acclaimed playwright Arthur Miller, all it takes is one dark secret to shatter a family’s American Dream.


From left: Lucy Peacock, Seana McKenna, Scott Wentworth. Photography by Don Dixon.

From left: Lucy Peacock, Seana McKenna, Scott Wentworth. Photography by Don Dixon.

John Gabriel Borkman (Opens August 19)

ByHenrik Ibsen
Translated ByPaul Walsh
DirectorCarey Perloff
CastSeana McKenna, Lucy Peacock, Scott Wentworth, Antoine Yared, Sarah Afful
21 performancesAugust 2 to September 23

In a compelling psychological drama that could be ripped from a news headline of today, a disgraced banker refuses to accept responsibility for his greed, as his family tears itself apart.


Gareth Potter. Photography by Don Dixon.

Gareth Potter. Photography by Don Dixon.

The Aeneid (Opens August 19)

ByOliver Kemeid
Translated ByMaureen Labonté
DirectorKeira Loughran
CastGareth Potter, Monice Peter, Lanise Antoine Shelley, Michael Spencer-Davis, Saamer Usmani
19 performancesAugust 2 to September 25

In a contemporary echo of Virgil’s famous poem, a band of refugees flee their devastated city and embark on the perilous quest for a new country to call home.


Stephen Ouimette, Brigit Wilson. Photography by Don Dixon.

Stephen Ouimette, Brigit Wilson. Photography by Don Dixon.

The Hypochondriac (Opens August 18)

ByMolière
In a new version byRichard Bean
from a literal translation byChris Campbell
DirectorAntoni Cimolino
CastStephen Ouimette, Brigit Wilson, Ben Carlson, Trish Lindström
24 performancesAugust 2 to October 14

This adaptation of Molière’s farce The Imaginary Invalid is about a father who’s healthy, wealthy and hilariously unwise.

Content Creator
Robert J. Ballantyne is a senior editor at Popjournalism and Creative Director at Artsculture.ca. Previously, he was a journalist at the CBC on a number of news programs including the fifth estate, Marketplace and The National. He also worked as a staff writer at the Toronto Star
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