Yanna McIntosh (left) and Seana McKenna get set to electrify Stratford in Elektra.
America's melting pot
One of the best musicals of the past 20 years, Ragtime takes to the Shaw Festival mainstage under Jackie Maxwell's direction and featuring the cream of Canadian musical theatre, including Thom Allison, Kate Hennig, Patty Jamieson, Alana Hibbert and Evan Alexander Smith. Based on E.L. Doctorow's novel, it's actually a blend of three tales involving well-to-do whites, Harlem blacks and Jewish immigrants. Writers Terrence McNally, Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty catch the essence of each group both dramatically and musically. Runs to October 14 at the Festival Theatre, Niagara-on-the-Lake. 1-800-511-7429.
VideoCab scales Stratford
Much-loved and admired Toronto indie troupe VideoCabaret takes one of its uproarious black-box shows, The War Of 1812, to Stratford on the 200th anniversary of the event. The festival is constructing a special stage to accommodate the production's specific requirements for intimacy and pinpoint lighting. No one else but writer/creator Michael Hollingsworth could direct (with the assistance of Deanne Taylor); an ensemble cast (Paul Braunstein, Greg Campbell, Richard Alan Campbell, Mac Fyfe, Jacobs James, Linda Prystawska and Michaela Washburn) brings dozens of outsized characters to life. Opens June 26 and runs to August 12 at the Studio Theatre Annex, Stratford. 1-800-567-1600.
Money and marriage
One of Shaw's cleverest plays, The Millionairess, brings together the richest woman in England, who plans to marry a man who can turn a pittance into a fortune in six months, and an Egyptian doctor, who will only wed a woman who can sustain herself on 35 pence for six months. Will falling in love change their intentions? Blair Williams, a Shaw Festival actor who's been making a name for himself as a director, helms a cast that includes the wonderful Nicole Underhay and Kevin Hanchard as the couple in question, supported by Kevin Bundy, Steven Sutcliffe, Wendy Thatcher and other Shaw actors. Opens June 20 and runs to October 6 at the Court House Theatre, Niagara-on-the-Lake. 1-800-511-7429.
There's a reason we keep returning to Greek drama: it's rich both theatrically and emotionally. One of its central tales is that of the troubled house of Atreus; the Stratford Festival returns to that saga in Sophokles' Elektra, in which the title figure seeks justice - or is it simply revenge? - against Clytemnestra, her mother, who murdered her father, Agamemnon. Directed by Thomas Moschopoulos, the production features two of the fest's best actors, Yanna McIntosh and Seana McKenna, as the battling daughter and mother, with Graham Abbey, Laura Condlln, Peter Hutt and Ian Lake also in the cast. Opens July 29 and runs to September 29 at the Tom Patterson Theatre, Stratford. 1-800-567-1600.
What's it like coming out in a farm community? Sky Gilbert's St. Francis Of Millbrook is the story of Luke, who in 1992 works on his family's farm, plays hockey, adores Madonna and is trying to deal with his emerging sexual identity. 4th Line Theatre presents the show - a striking one for a small-town summer theatre - featuring Nathaniel Bacon as Luke, Sherri McFarlane and William Foley as his parents and Ellen-Ray Hennessy and Robert Winslow as an old hippie couple, all under Kim Blackwell's direction. Opens August 13 and runs to September 1 at the Winslow Farm, Millbrook. 1-800-814-0055.
You won't find a better set of sparring partners in the Bard than Beatrice and Benedick, whose verbal war drives the comic Much Ado About Nothing. Offstage partners Ben Carlson and Deborah Hay, making a rare theatre appearance together, are sure to create sparks with their sharp-edged attacks in the Stratford staging, which also features Richard Binsley, Juan Chioran, Bethany Jillard and Tyrone Savage. Direction is by Christopher Newton, who knows a thing or two about how to harvest Shakespeare's laughs and humanity. Runs to October 27 at the Festival Theatre, Stratford. 1-800-567-1600.