English theatre shines in Montréal

Richard Burnett

Richard “Bugs” Burnett is a Canadian freelance writer, editor, journalist, blogger and columnist for alt-weeklies, mainstream and LGBTQ publications. Bugs also knows Montréal like a drag queen knows a cosmetics counter.

This article was updated on December 9, 2022.

Theatre goers will enjoy Broadway musicals, blockbuster dramas and rip-roaring comedies produced by some of Canada and Montréal’s most exciting professional and independent English-language theatre companies this Winter 2022-23.

Musicals, comedy and drama!

Montréal’s two big English-language theatres – the venerable Centaur Theatre Company in Old Montréal, and the Sylvan Adams Theatre at the Segal Centre for the Performing Arts in the west end – offer varied programming.

Centaur Theatre

Jazz and theatre legend Ranee Lee remounts her critically-hailed Dark Divas, a musical journey about the lives and times of Black pop icons Josephine Baker, Billie Holiday, Lena Horne, Pearl Baily, Dinah Washington, Sarah Vaughan and Ella Fitzgerald. Two nights only: December 16 and 17.

After the holiday season, the 2022-23 Centaur Theatre season continues with playwright Steve Galluccio’s highly-anticipated At the Beginning of Time, an autobiographical story of a gay man in his late 50s who thought his life was settled only to be thrown into a new world where he has to reimagine everything. Features a stellar cast directed by theatre legend Peter Hinton-Davis, from February 21 to March 12.

The English language premiere of the Théâtre Duceppe production of Alexandre Goyette’s King Dave, translated by and starring Patrick Emmanuel Abellard, last seen onstage at the Centaur in Choir Boy (Season 50). Playing an impressionable young Haitian man living in Montreal North who falls prey to the toxic culture surrounding him, Abellard brings a charged story to the stage that confronts clichés, gun violence and revenge. Runs from March 28 to April 16.

Master puppeteer Ronnie Burkett and his Daisy Theatre are back with Little Willy, a hilarious brand-new production based on Romeo and Juliet. Runs from May 2 to 14.

Segal Centre for Performing Arts

The not-for-profit Segal Centre for Performing Arts is back with a full slate of shows this season. This winter the Segal presents award-winning playwright Sanaz Toossi’s intricate play English about a group of adults in Iran preparing for the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) in an “English Only” classroom. Runs from March 19 to April 2.

The Segal then presents NYC playwright Joshua Harmon’s Prayer for the French Republic about a Jewish couple in 1944 Paris who face the aftermath of the Holocaust. More than 70 years later, their great-grandchildren find themselves facing the same question as their ancestors: “Are we safe?” Runs from April 23 to May 14.

Though this play doesn’t open in Montreal until spring, it will likely sell out: get your tickets early for the highly-anticipated multi-award-winning production of Josephine, the biographical musical starring Tymisha Harris as the African-American international superstar in a sensational tour-de-force performance. Runs from May 28 to June 18.

Bright lights on Broadway!

The Broadway musical The Sound of Music (La mélodie du Bonheur) runs at Théâtre St-Denis from December 3 to 23. Directed by Gregory Charles, it is performed in separate French and English presentations.

Evenko presents seven performances of the national tour of the Tony and Olivier Award-winning hit musical Come From Away at Salle Wilfred-Pelletier at Place des Arts, from January 10 to 15. Come From Away tells the incredible true story of 7,000 stranded passengers and the small town in Newfoundland that welcomed them on September 11, 2001.

Adapted from the animated Disney film and centuries-old folktales including One Thousand and One Nights, the hit Broadway musical Aladdin sweeps audiences into an exotic world of daring adventure, classic comedy and timeless romance. This new production features a full score, including the five songs from the Oscar-winning soundtrack and more written especially for the stage. Evenko presents eight performances of the national tour at Salle Wilfred-Pelletier at Place des Arts, from March 28 to April 2.


Montréal, arts interculturels

Located in the Plateau-Mont-Royal, the innovative Montréal, arts interculturels cultural organization – better known as “The MAI” – presents an eclectic slate of multi-disciplinary productions (visual arts, dance and theatre) each season. Highlights of the MAI’s 24th season includes rock bottom by choreographer Emile Pineault and author Gabriel Cholette (January 25 to 28); 3 Queer Happenings (February 16 to 18) featuring live music, drag, performance art and burlesque; and the interdisciplinary Because You Never Asked (April 19 to  22) performed by David Albert-Toth, Marie Lévêque, Brianna Lombardo, and Maxine Segalowitz.

Indie theatre

Youth Theatre Canada presents their adaptations of Treasure Island (December 17 at 5 and 8 pm) and The Snow Queen (December 18 at 4 and 7 pm) at Mainline Theatre.

Over at Hudson Village Theatre, John Sheridan wrote and directs Little Red Riding Hood Strikes Back! which comically riffs on the classic fairy tale. Runs from December 16 to January 15, with matinée and evening performances.

Founded in 2006, Talisman Theatre produces English-language premieres of Quebec plays in translation. Talisman’s 18th production is playwright David Paquet’s critically-acclaimed tragicomedy Wildfire originally designed and produced by Théâtre d’Aujourd’hui. Structured as a generational triptych, Wildfire is set in a triplex inhabited by twisted triplets with a toxic family heritage. The play is being mounted at La Chapelle Theatre from January 16 to 28.

La Chapelle also presents celebrated performer-writer Vivek Shraya’s acclaimed 2020 debut theatrical work How To Fail as a Popstar (February 6 to 8), as well the interdisciplinary theatre piece Landscape Grindr (April 11 to 15) which explores sexual violence and the destruction of nature, featuring a group of queer and trans artists in a new work written by and featuring theatre artist Michael Martini.

Geordie Theatre’s annual Geordie Theatre Festival returns to La Maison Théâtre (January 23 to 29) to present two plays for young audiences, What If and POOF.

The National Theatre School of Canada’s Graduating Class of 2023 presents Middletown by Pulitzer-nominated playwright Will Eno – whom The New York Times called “a Samuel Beckett for the John Stewart generation” – at the Monument-National, from February 28 to March 4.

Dawson College’s Professional Theatre Department presents Steven Berkoff’s brilliant adaptation of Franz Kafka’s masterpiece The Trial which has become a classic work of 20th century theatre and a widely studied syllabus piece, 52 years after its first performance in London. Runs from April 24 to May 6 at Dawson’s New Dome Theatre.



Circus arts

The only presenter specializing in contemporary circus in North America, some TOHU (located at the centre of the Cité des arts du cirque) shows include Air Play by Acrobuffos (December 14 to January 1) – part comedy, part sculpture, part circus and part theatre – already seen by 150,000 people on five continents; Circa’s internationally-acclaimed Humans 2.0 (February 15 to 19) about the challenge of being human; and Passagers (March 23 to April 8) by Les 7 Doigts, the arts collective who expand the boundaries of the stage experience by combining dance, physical expression, acrobatics and projection.

Evenko presents the Cirque du Soleil production Corteo for 17 shows at the Bell Centre from December 21 to January 1.

Then Cirque du Soleil ECHO runs Under the Big Top in the Old Port of Montreal from April 20 to August 20.

Richard Burnett

Richard “Bugs” Burnett is a Canadian freelance writer, editor, journalist, blogger and columnist for alt-weeklies, mainstream and LGBTQ publications. Bugs also knows Montréal like a drag queen knows a cosmetics counter.

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