Ontario Theaters Lift Capacity Limits On Short Notice, Meaning More Tickets For Follies With Eric McCormack

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Eric McCormack is one of many stars appearing in Follies in Concert, a benefit gala for Koerner Hall presented by the Royal Conservatory of Music.

VALERY HACHE / AFP / Getty Images

In a surprise announcement on Friday, the Ontario government removed capacity limits on theaters and concert halls – and, as a result, sent live event producers to scramble to figure out what to do with shows and concerts. imminent.

Good news for fans of Eric McCormack, the Canadian star known for his work on the sitcom Will and Graceis that there are now more tickets on sale for the concert production of a Stephen Sondheim musical he will perform in Toronto next weekend.

Madness in Concert, a star-studded gala fundraiser for Koerner Hall presented by the Royal Conservatory of Music, has only two performances scheduled – one on October 16, the other on October 17. 50 percent mandatory capacity.

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“It’s exciting to think that we have the potential to fill theaters again,” says McCormack, who will juggle rehearsals for Follies with the shooting of the third season of the thriller series Global TV Departure this week.

McCormack stars as Buddy in this concert performance of the 1971 Sondheim musical about a group of performers from a Ziegfeld Follies-like troupe meeting in a soon-to-be demolished Broadway theater. It was originally set to be produced in 2020 to celebrate the 90th birthday of the great composer / lyricist Sondheim, but has been postponed due to the pandemic.

“It’s a little ironic that the show is about people returning to the theater – and all the feelings and emotions that come with it,” McCormack said. “It is now an even happier choice than it would have been a year ago.”

Buddy, Phyllis, Sally and Ben – the four main characters in the musical – are played by McCormack, Cynthia Dale, Ma-Anne Dionisio and Marcus Nance respectively, all well known for their work in musicals at the Stratford and Mirvish Festival. Productions.

Rising stars Gabriel Antonacci, Tess Benger, Kimberly-Ann Truong, and Andrew Broderick play the younger versions of these characters.

The supporting cast, meanwhile, is packed with legends and icons such as Lorraine Foreman, a 92-year veteran of Stratford, Broadway and the West End; gospel and jazz icon Jackie Richardson; and even the great tenor Ben Heppner.

While Follies is presented as “in concert”, the director Richard Ouzounian (with whom I spent many years sitting in the audience when he was Toronto Startheater critic) says the 20-person cast is already mostly “off the book” and they won’t be standing behind desks. Instead, they will perform for a 24-piece live orchestra and there will be at least four choreographed numbers. McCormack even came up with something special in terms of stage activity for his large number. The blues of friends. (These are sock puppets!)

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Over the past decade, McCormack has returned to the Stratford Festival to perform The Fantastic in concert, performed in Gore Vidal The best man on Broadway and starred in a production of Glengarry Glen Ross in Vancouver.

But the last time he took the stage in his hometown Toronto was a long time ago. He thinks it could have been in a Canadian musical called The land of dreams, written by Raymond Storey and John Roby, since 1991.

“Being on stage the other day with the Follies company was really weird, ”he says, after only starring in plays on Zoom for a year and a half. “It’s like riding a bike, but it’s a rusty old bike.

While more tickets are now on sale, Madness in concert won’t sell 100% of its capacity to Koerner Hall – the plan at the moment is to keep an empty seat between the parties (fully vaccinated, masked).

It takes time for venues to make the logistical changes to reach full capacity – whatever, to sell tickets.

As far as I know, the first major theatrical event to perform at full capacity and sold out in Toronto will be Night of the Living Trail, a Halloween-themed traveling show featuring RuPaul’s Drag Race competitors including Violet Chachki, Alyssa Edwards and Aquaria.

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It takes place on Saturday at the 3,172-seat Meridian Hall – the venue formerly known as Sony Center, owned by the City of Toronto and operated by TO Live – and tickets are already sold out. The smart producer was already 100% selling and planned to split the show into two performances if the limits weren’t lifted, according to TO Live’s media relations manager Grant Ramsay.

How theaters in other parts of Ontario respond to change? At the Shaw Festival in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont., Shows continued at 50% capacity last weekend, even though the government lifted the limits.

“We wrapped up the summer shows on Sunday and weren’t able to make any changes to the house plans in one day,” executive director Tim Jennings wrote in an email Tuesday morning. “It takes a few weeks to rebuild the plans for the house. Hopefully everything is in place for the holiday shows soon.

Meanwhile, the Thousand Islands Playhouse in Gananoque, Ontario, announced on Twitter that he would stay at 50% for the remainder of his 2021 season, which ends at the end of November. “This safety plan was a commitment I made to our audience and changing mid-season would be a rejection of that commitment,” artistic director Brett Christopher said in a statement.

Quebec’s theater companies also hit 100% capacity last weekend – and most theaters in this province immediately took full advantage. But unlike Ontario, they’ve had a week and a half to prepare for the changes, and audiences have been back in theaters with reduced capacity since March.

Opening of two theater and performance festivals in hybrid form online / in person in Toronto this week.

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  • CAMINOS, a biennial theater festival of the Americas presented by Aluna Theater in partnership with Native Earth Performing Arts and Factory Theater, runs through October 24. Among the titles that caught my attention, A communist manifesto written for children by Bruce Gibbons Fell, an award-winning playwright from Chile who describes himself as “almost almost a Canadian citizen”.
  • Luminato runs from October 13 to 17. I underlined Henri G20, an audio piece with augmented reality elements, in my preview of the Fall Theater.

(I promise a less Ontario-focused newsletter next week.)

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