Angels' return flight
One of the best shows of 2013, Soulpepper's production of Angels In America, flies back with the same excellent cast: Troy Adams, Raquel Duffy, Diego Matamoros, Michelle Monteith, Nancy Palk, Gregory Prest and Mike Ross. Damien Atkins also returns as the linchpin character, Prior Walter, a gay, HIV-positive man who's declared by one of the play's several angels to be the new messiah. That's an audacious plot twist, given that Tony Kushner's superb two-part epic is set during the 1980s AIDS crisis. Director Albert Schultz's production gives the text both universal resonance and emotional immediacy. Performances begin June 12 and run through July 12 at the Young Centre (50 Tank House). 416-866-8666, soulpepper.ca.
The annual curated theatre festival, now in its 24th year, offers mostly new Canadian works and other exciting components such as a music series and a developmental collaboration between musicians and theatre and dance artists. Though shows won't be revealed until the June 6 launch at Campbell House Museum, the festival runs from August 7 to 17 along Queen West from Theatre Passe Muraille to the Scotiabank Studio Theatre; this year's hub venue is the new Theatre Centre. There'll be 28 mainstage shows, five site-specific events, a dozen live art shows and an eight-hour durational production. Companies will be visiting from Kingston, Guelph, Vancouver, Victoria, Calgary, Montreal, St. Catharines and New York. 416-628-8216; summerworks.ca.
In only a few years, the revived Shakespeare in the Ruff troupe has made a name for its riveting spins on the Bard's work. This year's entry, again staged between two large trees in Withrow Park (south of Danforth, east of Logan), is one of Shakespeare's late romances, Cymbeline, a kind of fairy tale complete with beset princess, evil queen, Machiavellian villain and triumphant hero. In the hands of artistic director Brendan McMurtry-Howlett, the show will draw on some other Shakespeare texts as well as a 1778 version of the story. It features a cast of six, among them Hume Baugh, Kaitlyn Riordan, Jesse Griffiths, David Patrick Flemming and A.J. Richardson. Performances run August 12 to 31. shakespeareintheruff.com.
There's no more revered name in contemporary American musical theatre than Stephen Sondheim, who had his first solo hit with 1970's Company. Theatre 20 revives the work, whose central character, Bobby, is a single man unable to make an emotional commitment despite the help of all his married friends. Dan Chameroy stars as the skittish Bobby, surrounded by a galaxy of fine musical theatre artists, among them Brent Carver, David Keeley, Nora McLellan, Louise Pitre, Eliza-Jane Scott, Carly Street, Steven Sutcliffe, Jeff Lillico, Sarah Slean, Nia Vardalos and Joe Matheson. Gary Griffin directs, with music direction by Scott Christian. Performances begin June 21 and continue to July 13 at the Berkeley Street Theatre (26 Berkeley). 416-368-3110, theatre20.com.
Frolicking at the Fringe
Toronto's biggest theatre festival enters its second quarter-century with another big bash, this year featuring 136 shows, including 14 site-specific productions, at 29 venues. In addition to the shows there'll be informative tent talks, the Visual Fringe art market, alley plays, buskers, underground parties and the 24-hour playwriting contest. New this year is a Fringekids Club, with activities and crafts for pint-sized audience members. Among the participants are comedy duo Peter n' Chris, New Zealand's You Rung? Productions (who last year brought a very funny one-man Richard III), Momentum Dance Toronto, Keystone Theatre, Baby Gumm Productions and Pea Green Theatre Group. The festival runs July 2 to 13. 416-966-1062, fringetoronto.com.
Canadian Stage had such a success last year rotating a pair of works by the Bard at the annual Shakespeare In High Park that they're repeating the format. This year's shows are the forest-set comedy As You Like It, which has always been perfect for the park, and the far darker Titus Andronicus, a tale of bloody revenge set in ancient Rome. Nigel Shawn Williams directs As You, and Keira Loughran helms Titus, with an ensemble cast that includes Shauna Black, Gwenlyn Cumyn, Beau Dixon, Sean Dixon, Chala Hunter, Omar Alex Khan, Alexander Plouffe and Amy Rutherford. Performances begin June 26 and run to August 31 at the High Park Amphitheatre. 416-368-3110, canadianstage.com.