Muskoka Summer Theatre Kicks Off in Gravenhurst
By Kim Kerr-Dearsley
You know Muskoka’s cottage season has truly arrived when the Gravenhurst Opera House throws open its historic doors for its always-awesome Summer Theatre program.
And this year, event organisers are rolling out the red carpet to celebrate the birth of Canada’s rich tradition of summer theatre right here in Gravenhurst 85 years ago.
“It is a little known fact, but we think it’s really worth tooting our horn over,” says Krista Storey, Manager of Arts and Culture in Gravenhurst. “In 1934 an actor by the name of John Holden was visiting his sister in Bala and decided that this was the perfect place to create what is known as summer stock.”
According to Storey, the Gravenhurst Opera House was an important part of that foundation, and hosted the John Holden Players, a group that later became The Good Companions. This group in turn led to the foundation of the Actors’ Colony Theatre, then the legendary Straw Hat Players, before winding up as the home of the long running Muskoka Festival.
“Many well-known names performed during those years,” says Storey. “One you might recognize is Donald Sutherland, who got his start right here during his stint with the Straw Hat Players in the late 1950s. So, what a legacy to celebrate, and one the Opera House is very proud to carry on.”
Muskoka Summer Theatre Legacy Continues
Adding to this rich theatrical tradition, the Gravenhurst Opera House has been an important part of the local community since being built in 1901. Indeed, a highlight of taking in a show here is enjoying the building’s beautiful wood interior, which also just so happens to boast some of the best acoustics in Canada.
This year’s full summer line-up promises no end of fun. Things kick off with Ken Cameron’s Harvest (June 26th – July 19th), the timely story of a rental deal that literally goes ‘to pot’. Based on the experiences of the writer’s parents, this very funny play is a brilliantly written must-see.
This is followed by the year’s big musical production, a journey back to the days of the partnership between Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis… or at least, what might have been had they stayed together. Dean & Jerry: What Might Have Been (July 24th– August 16th), written by Jesse Collins, includes plenty of jokes, along with accompaniment from a full band, and two great performers in Derek Marshall and Nicholas Arnold.
The season finishes up with Kalamazoo (September 11th– 27th). Written by Michelle Kholos Brooks and Kelly Younger, this lovely romantic comedy finds aging Peg and Irving meeting through an online dating site, with all kinds of hilarity ensuing.
That’s Not All, Folks…
Performances include matinee and evening shows, and are held mid-week and on weekends, with opportunities to combine a show with dining experiences, cruises, or Shopping in downtown Gravenhurst.
In addition to its successful summer theatre shows, the Opera House has a number of excellent concerts lined up. These include:
- The Jive Bombers (June 8th)
- Woodstock: 50th Anniversary (August 24th)
- Tapestry: Carole King Songbook (September 28th)
Tickets can be purchased online from www.gravenhurstoperahouse.com, or from the Box Office in person or via telephone (705-687-5550 / 1-888-495-8888).
Kim Kerr-Dearsley is a Muskoka-based freelance writer and theatre fan.