Anand Rajaram makes SummerWorks sizzle, while Kathy Griffin gets A-list laughs at Massey Hall.
SummerWorks, Dusk Dances and Frankie Valli help heat up the final weeks of the season
You can't beat the combination of quality and number of productions in the 18th annual SummerWorks. The 11-day theatre festival is being helmed for the first time by artistic producer Michael Rubenfeld, who's added new features and concentrated the fest along Queen West. In addition to 42 plays by playwrights including Anand Rajaram, Erin Shields, One Reed Theatre, Claire Calnan and Jonathan Wilson, there's a SummerWorks Music Series featuring indie bands and a performance gallery called Inside The Box. August 7-17 at Factory Theatre, the Cameron, Theatre Passe Muraille, the Theatre Centre and the Gladstone Hotel. 1-888-222-6608, summerworks.ca, totix.ca.
Attempting to partially fill the gap left by the Fringe dance festival, performance ARTERY brings together mid-career artists to showcase works in different stages of development. It's the brainchild of Four Chambers dance project's Darryl Tracy and Heidi Strauss, who have created a new piece for themselves and sound artist Jeremy Mimnagh. Other movers and shakers on the lineup include Susie Burpee (who was on NOW's Top 10 Dance Shows list last year), the luminous Kate Holden and the fearless Allison Cummings, who's created work inspired by a recent trip to Ghana. August 8-9 at the Winchester Street Theatre (80 Winchester). 416-323-1715, email@example.com.
By now, stand-up Kathy Griffin's claim that she's a D-List star is little more than an in-joke. Surely she's worked her way up to C+ status, no? A few months ago - as chronicled recently in her highly addictive reality show, Kathy Griffin: My Life On The D-List - the funniest redhead since Lucille Ball sold out Madison Square Garden with her gossipy act targeting Oprah, Scientology, Barbara Walters and all those talk shows that have banned her ass. Trying to add a Grammy to her Emmy Award, she'll be hawking her new CD, For Your Consideration, when she hits the sold-out Massey Hall (178 Victoria) for a single show. August 8. 416-872-4255.
Walk Like Men
Think you don't know Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons? Just listen to the music from Jersey Boys, the Broadway smash about four blue-collar guys who became a pop music sensation in the 60s; in fact, the show uses their songs to tell the story of their rise. Directed by Stratford head Des McAnuff, the production makes its Toronto debut August 21 at the Toronto Centre for the Arts (5040 Yonge) as part of the Dancap season. 416-644-3665.
You won't find a better director for comedy than Jim Warren, so we're glad Soulpepper's letting him loose on a pair of British farces, Tom Stoppard's The Real Inspector Hound and Peter Shaffer's Black Comedy, which rely on physical as well as verbal humour. The cast, including Caroline Cave, Mike Shara, Oliver Dennis and Corrine Koslo, will have you falling in the aisles. From August 20 at the Young Centre (55 Mill). 416-866-8666, soulpepper.ca.
Park yourself here
In a few months the idea of seeing a show outdoors will seem like a cruel joke, so you better take advantage of Dusk Dances, the annual al fresco series of music and movement. This year's lineup at the rolling-hilled Withrow Park is an especially strong one, with veterans like Karen Kaeja, Santee Smith, Sashar Zarif and others on the slate. Opening band the Goodtimes begin each show, and host Lisa Anne Ross walks you through the show. South of Danforth between Logan and Carlaw. August 12 to 17. 416-504-6429, ext 41, duskdances.ca.
Cirque du Soleil returns with hit show Saltimbanco - the title's Italian for a street performer or acrobat, from "saltare in banco" (to jump on a bench) - featuring the combination of circus artists, acrobats and clowns that has wowed audiences worldwide. Exploring the urban experience with a blend of poetic imagery and comedy, Saltimbanco plays here August 13-24 for the first time in an indoor arena, the Air Canada Centre (40 Bay). 416-870-8000, cirquedusoleil.com.