Joel Greenberg (left) and Andrew Burashko.
THE NORMAL HEART by Larry Kramer, directed by Joel Greenberg (Studio 180/Buddies in Bad Times, 12 Alexander). Previews October 19-20, opens October 21 and runs to November 18. $20-$37. 416-975-8555.
THE WAR OF THE WORLDS adapted by Orson Welles from H.G. Wells, with HERRMANNTHOLOGY, based on the music of Bernard Herrmann (Art of Time Ensemble/Harbourfront Centre at the Enwave Theatre, 231 Queens Quay West). Opens October 30 and runs to November 4. $25-$59. 416-973-4000.
One of the pleasures of any theatre season is the opportunity to catch shows you might have missed the first time around.
And since you've likely heard good things about them, you know they're going to be worth seeing.
Why revive a production? One key reason is that Toronto's not-for-profit theatres have little opportunity for open-ended runs, especially if they've scheduled a full season of works and have subscribers looking forward to their next show. Also, venues are at a premium; someone's usually booked another production in the space where a company is performing.
Happily, the 2012 season includes eight works that are, in one form or another, revivals of solid productions.
One of the best is Studio 180 and Buddies in Bad Times' staging of gay activist Larry Kramer's autobiographical look at the early days of the AIDS crisis in New York City, The Normal Heart. Dated? Not one bit; it was one of our top shows of 2011.
"We wanted to let people know about the history of AIDS, and that real people were involved in suffering and fighting it," says director Joel Greenberg. "Audiences ranged across age, gender and sexual orientation, and it always seemed to be a moving experience for them.
"I don't think our three-week run saturated the market; by the last week, we were turning people away."
Studio 180 actively engages in outreach to schools, and Greenberg thinks word of mouth about the 2011 production will make the production even more of a draw for young audiences. It is, after all, a gripping piece of history, written before any of the students were born.
The current production features one new cast member, Martin Happer, but the rest of the company, including Jonathan Wilson in the Kramer-like role, is back at the Buddies space.
"Even though Studio 180 was performing in another company's venue, from the beginning we felt that we weren't tenants, that everyone was invested in the show," says Greenberg. "It's going to be great to return to that kind of environment."
The shortness of its initial run also prompted director Andrew Burashko to bring back the Art of Time's stage version of The War Of The Worlds, using Orson Welles's radio adaptation of the H.G. Wells sci-fi story originally heard on the Mercury Theatre on the Air.
It was originally staged in March 2011 for only five performances.
"It was gone before people knew it was here," smiles Burashko, who not only directs but also conducts Dan Parr's chamber suite drawn from the film scores of Bernard Herrmann, Herrmannthology, which accompanies Tess Girard's montage of the films themselves.
"The Welles piece works on two levels, since we watch the cast putting on a radio play, complete with foley accompaniment by John Gzowski. It's our attempt, as immaculately as possible, to weave together storytelling, radio drama and music."
This time around Seán Cullen plays Welles, the larger-than-life, charismatic director of the radio play.
"He's been great in rehearsals, playing the leader of this group, the one with the vision who also has to be a traffic manager so that everything runs smoothly. Seán has the right kind of energy for the role.
"Best of all, we're remounting the show at just the right time: it opens the day before Halloween, which was when Welles scared radio listeners with the first broadcast in 1938."