If the sound of a trumpet horn is to call for attention, or for a crowd to assemble, then Theatre Aquarius started their fiftieth season announcement just right.
As the trumpet sounded, leadership of the theatre company announced their much-anticipated fiftieth season. In doing so, they made a point to celebrate their past; in particular, the longtime staff and subscribers, many of whom have been with the company for the majority of its half-century. They also welcomed, or rather said “welcome back” to those in attendance who may have been absent for the past few years and are returning in time for next season’s celebrations.
“This season is about celebrating our past with some recognizable favourites including the return of the big family musical for the holidays,” says Executive Director, Kelly Straughan.
That big family musical is Pollyanna The Musical, based on Eleanor Porter’s classic story of the eternally optimistic orphan. The musical will replace Theatre Aquarius’ hit Hamilton-based holiday musicals of the past few years, playing at the Theatre from December 6-23.
The season opener is also a nod to Theatre Aquarius’ history, with the return of a Norm Foster production; the company’s first since their 18-19 season production of On a First Name Basis. Playing from September 23-October 14, Jonas and Barry in the Home tells the story of a gregarious retired stage actor and his unlikely sidekick as they embark on an adventure.
The final nod to their past comes through playwright Willy Russell, whose work has been performed at Theatre Aquarius several times. During the announcement, it was noted how much Russell’s work has meant to the theatre company over the years, making it a fitting choice for a significant season. The 23-24 season will represent the thirtieth anniversary of Aquarius’ first production of Shirley Valentine, which is being reprised for the fiftieth. The comedy, onstage from March 6-23, is a joyous, life-affirming story of a woman lost in marriage and motherhood who finds her purpose and passion after being offered a plane ticket to Greece.
As part of recognizing their history, the presentation of next season also recognized the community that Theatre Aquarius is building and the new voices and new productions that are key to their future.
Partnerships, in particular, play a key role. Audiences will recognize Talk is Free Theatre’s Boy Falls From the Sky; a production that started at the Toronto Fringe Festival before it’s month-long run at Toronto’s CAA Theatre was a smash critical and audience success. The showbiz tell-all shares stories of rejection, stage fright and heartbreak behind Broadway’s Jake Epstein’s seemingly successful career. The production runs October 25-November 4.
Theatre Aquarius has also partnered with Crow’s Theatre to present Anton Chekhov’s classic Uncle Vanya. While there’s no confirmation as to whether the cast will be the same as the Toronto run (including acclaimed Canadian actors Tom Rooney and Eric Peterson), the modern adaptation will be staged from January 10-27, 2024. In their Crow’s Theatre run, the production also received rave reviews, and was called “worth the wait” by the Globe and Mail.
Local partnerships are also plentiful in Theatre Aquarius’ golden anniversary season. Onstage, audiences can experience the world premiere of Beautiful Scars from April 24-May 11. Created by local rocker Tom Wilson and Shaun Smyth, the story is inspired by Wilson’s search for identity amongst steel workers, wrestlers and a deeply kept secret.
Offstage, local partnerships continue with the Brave New Works Festival; a multi-day event showcasing Hamilton-based creators through dance, talks, workshops, plays and more. Theatre Aquarius will also continue to host the Hamilton Fringe’s Festival Club during the two-week July festival this summer. It was also announced that the Theatre Aquarius continues to partner with The Hamilton Seven; a popular storytelling collective on select Sunday nights in their Studio Theatre.
“We are honoured to launch our 50th Season with such an incredible line-up of productions,” said Artistic Director, Mary Francis Moore. “We have so much to celebrate together, and we can’t wait to share this milestone with our audiences, as we launch our next fifty years.”
Both Straughan and Moore made it clear that there will be more to share in the weeks and months ahead to commemorate the fiftieth season. As a starting point, those present at the announcement received a sneak peek of a new Theatre Aquarius logo. A new wordmark is present on the company’s website, which will also be refreshed for the upcoming season.
Subscriptions will be available for mainstage shows beginning June 5, 2023.
Editor’s Note: Written with files from Arthur Bullock.