Catch these acts on stage in Toronto this summer

Don't think the stage season ends in the summer. A lot of shows simply move outdoors or happen at festivals like Luminato, Fringe and SummerWorks


See something new at Luminato 

This year’s Luminato lineup doesn’t feature as many starry names as past editions have, but it should still provide the kind of entertainment you don’t see all the time. The fest opener, Tributaries, for instance, is a four-part celebration of Indigenous culture in which over 60 artists pay tribute to the resilience of Indigenous women and the power of land and water. Other highlights include the reappearance of The Famous Spiegeltent, where performers like Stew and Heidi Rodewald, Jean-Michel Blais and Wolf Saga take to the stage. Marching band aficionados will want to see En Avant, Marche!, a multi-genre piece showing how marching bands bring communities together. And King Arthur’s Night brings together Marcus Youssef and James Long, creators of the successful touring show Winners & Losers, with Niall McNeil, an artist who lives with Down syndrome, with original music by Veda Hille, co-writer of the current hit Onegin. 

June 14-25 at various venues, various prices and free events, luminatofestival.com

Laugh at the funniest guy you’ve probably not heard of 

Chris Gethard is a comedy genius, but you probably don’t recognize his name. He’s worked as a writer and producer on a lot of TV shows and films, and he hosts the addictive podcast Beautiful/Anonymous, in which he takes random calls from complete strangers. His show Career Suicide, which played JFL42 a couple of years ago and earned the No. 1 spot on NOW’s Top 10 comedy shows, completed a hugely successful off-Broadway run this year and was recently made into an HBO special. This summer he tapes a live version of his podcast for one night only at the Royal. Trust me, you’ll love it.

June 8 at the Royal (608 College), $25-$30, empirecomedy.net

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Go big with Morro and Jasp

In the last 12 years, the bickering clown sibling duo played by Heather Marie Annis and Amy Lee have cracked us up about puberty, corporate culture and even cooking. Their last show, Of Mice And Morro And Jasp, was funny but also dug deep into serious social issues. Now, after travelling to New York City and Las Vegas to study circus and spectacle, the duo mount their biggest and most ambitious show yet, Morro & Jasp In Stupefaction. For the first time, they’re joined by guests – including Anand Rajaram, Elliott Loran and Sefton Jackson – as well as some surprises. M&J will be big, but expect them to keep the same soulfulness that characterizes their shows. 

June 14-24 at Streetcar Crowsnest (345 Carlaw), $20-$40, crowstheatre.com

See the Carole King musical Beautiful

Sure, this is another jukebox musical manufactured to lure those boomer bucks. But King is a genuine talent – you know her songs, whatever your age – and her story, from selling songs as a teen to her troubled relationship with husband/fellow songwriter Gerry Goffin, is inspiring. Canada’s own Chilina Kennedy, who starred in the Tony Award-winning show on Broadway for over a year, plays King. Don’t wait until “It’s Too Late” and tickets are sold out.

June 25-September 3 at Ed Mirvish Theatre (244 Victoria), $50-$180, mirvish.com

Take in Shakespeare under the stars

Now in its 35th year, Canadian Stage’s Shakespeare in the Park has become Canada’s longest-running outdoor theatre festival. It’s presenting new takes on King Lear (reimagined from a feminist perspective) and Twelfth Night. If it’s your first time, here are a few cautionary dos and don’ts. Don’t bring your pets (unless it’s a guide dog). And don’t bother driving. Public transit is faster, and besides, it’s a nice walk to the hill next to Grenadier Pond where the amphitheatre is located. Do bring a friend and blanket (no lawn chairs allowed) and something stiff (preferably in a wine skin) to drink. You may want to pack mosquito repellent if bugs aren’t your thing. 

June 29-September 3 at High Park, pwyc, canadianstage.com

Take in The Fringe, rebranded

Now that the Fringe has moved from Mirvish village (cue sad face), the festival is establishing itself this summer at Scadding Court. Their rebranded program (now in colour!) looks different. They’ve added the Theatre Centre as a venue. But the same spirit of discovery and cheap and cheerful fun will prevail. Look for perennial Fringe faves Sex T-Rex, Peter N’ Chris (who are putting on a Christmas show in the summer), and Barbara Johnson, Suzy Wilde and Morro and Jasp director Byron Laviolette.

July 5-16 at various venues, $10-$15, fringetoronto.com

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See Arj in charge

Probably best known as Dave on Flight Of The Conchords, Arj Barker is also one of the best stand-ups and storytellers around- which we’ll be able to see first-hand when he hits Comedy Bar to talk about Uber vs. taxis, TV spoilers and why his girlfriend convinced him to eat organic and gluten-free.

July 13-15 at Comedy Bar (945 Bloor West), $25, comedybar.ca

See Ricky Gervais uncensored

As an awards show host, Ricky Gervais gets away with a lot – sometimes to his career’s detriment. Now, the star of The Office, Extras and Derek is embarking on his first worldwide tour in seven years. His show is called Humanity, so obviously you can expect a lot of kind, empathetic observations. Not.

July 14-16 at Massey Hall (178 Victoria), $65.50-$79.50, ticketmaster.ca

Sample SummerWorks’ stars

The full lineup comes out mid-June, but the late-summer festival of new performances and music did release an intriguing teaser list of artists involved. Among those who have whet our appetites are: Audrey Dwyer, Bobby Del Rio, Cara Spooner, Christine Brubaker, Claire Burns, DA Hoskins, Donna Michelle St. Bernard, Ed Roy, Jajube Mandiela, Jordan Tannahill, Jason Maghanoy, Julia Lederer, William Ellis, Rock Plaza Central, Katie Sly and Shaista Latif. Check back soon for an in-depth look at this year’s festival. 

August 3-13 at various venues, $tba, summerworks.ca

Dance me outside

It wouldn’t be summer without al fresco dance festivals. There’s nothing like Porch View Dances, Kaeja d’Dance‘s walking-tour of Seaton Village, where local families work with professional choreographers to dance their stories. Audiences travel from house to house in a big group, ending up in a park for a big finale led by Karen Kaeja. In August, Dusk Dances brings dance to gorgeous Withrow Park. This year’s lineup includes works by Ofilio Sinbadinho, Sashar Zarif and Dana Gingras. Don’t miss the free YogaDance workshop. And while it’s not outdoors, the inaugural Dancemakers MiniFest promises some great shows by Andrea Spaziani, Amanda Acorn, Australia’s Antony Hamilton and, just back from the Venice Biennale where she won the Silver Lion for Innovation in Dance, Dana Michel

Dancemakers MiniFest, June 13-24 at Dancemakers (15 Case Goods Lane) and the Winchester Street Theatre (80 Winchester), $12-$70

Porch View Dances, July 19-23,location TBA

Dusk Dances, August 7-13 at Withrow Park (725 Logan), pwyc

See more from this year’s Hot Summer Guide here!

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