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EVENT: Hot summer concerts & live theatre in Toronto

Toronto’s problem isn’t a lack of hot summer concerts and live theatre to see. It’s finding the time to see all the acts that have been lined up at the city’s main venues this season.

“You’ll get all the big artists and they all come down almost literally back to back to back to back,” 680News entertainment reporter Rudy Blair says.

“We get everybody coming here and it’s great,” Blair says, adding that Toronto has the recipe concert promoters love: population and great venues.

The summer lineup has a musical act to suit everyone from folk to rock to boy bands to R&B. If you like folk music, there’s Bob Dylan at the Molson Canadian Amphitheatre on July 15 and Joni Mitchell at Massey Hall on June 18 and 19, as part of Luminato, which will celebrate the singer’s 70th birthday.

The Rolling Stones, who have a soft spot for Toronto, have already performed at the Air Canada Centre (ACC) on May 25. Their 50 And Counting tour returns for a second performance at the ACC on June. 6.

“I think it’ll be huge not just for old timers but for the young crowd too to see them live,” Blair says. “Plus it may be the last time to see them.”

If you’re into old-school boy bands, there’s 90s favourite New Kids on the Block, recently reunited 98 Degrees and R&B group Boyz II Men, who will all be performing at the ACC on June 7.

Beyonce will perform at the ACC on July 21 and Canada’s very own mega pop star Justin Bieber on July 25-26.

At Rogers Centre, there’s Taylor Swift on June 14 and 15, which “will definitely be a sellout” as well as Justin Timberlake and Jay-Z on July 17-18.

Many big shows will be playing at the Molson Canadian Amphitheatre, which kicked off its summer concert series on May 28 with the Dave Matthews Band.

Singer-songwriter Bruno Mars will also play there on July 3 and 6; Phish on July 9; Barenaked Ladies on July 11; and Marianas Trench on July 12. Others include: Great Big Sea on July 13; Train on July 14; and the Jonas Brothers on July 18.

The Vans Warped Tour comes to the Flats at the Amphitheatre on July 5. Veteran acts include Reel Big Fish, Silverstein and Big D and the Kids Table, as well as new bands and local favourites, The Saint Alvia, Acres of Lions and The Snips.

If techno music is your thing, there’s the two-day Digital Dreams Music Festival on July 29-30, featuring Tiesto and Dubfire.

“It’ll blow your ears and eyes out,” Blair says.

Other notable acts include Backstreet Boys on Aug. 9, Maroon 5 and Kelly Clarkson on Aug. 29 and Depeche Mode on Sept. 1.

The 4th annual OVO fest by Canada’s favourite rap artist Drake is on Aug. 4 headlined by Frank Ocean.

Must-see theatre productions

If you’re in Toronto this summer, several must-see theatre productions include: Cats, The Book of Mormon and Wizard of Oz, 680News’ entertainment editor Gloria Martin says.

Cats, formerly one of Toronto’s longest-running musicals, is returning to town, opening at the Panasonic Theatre in June. The show, which first ran at the Elgin Theatre in 1985, is back on stage thanks to Marlene Smith, one of the original producers. And it features a fabulous all-Canadian cast, including Ma-Anne Dionisio, who starred in the Toronto production of Miss Saigon.

“It’s a great family show,” Martin says. “You can shed a tear in the middle of it and still leave with a smile on your face.”

The Book of Mormon, which saw hundreds of people line outside the Princess of Wales Theatre in February when tickets first went on sale, has been very popular and with only has a six-week run until June 9 tickets have sold out.

The popular musical, a religious satire about two Mormon missionaries in Uganda, won nine Tony Awards in 2011.

While many shows are sold out, the Princess of Wales Theatre says additional seats do become available so check by calling (416) 872-1212 or (800)-461-3333 closer to the show dates.

The Wizard of Oz is a new stage adaptation by Andrew Lloyd Webber now playing at the Ed Mirvish Theatre until Aug. 18. Martin says it’s a chance for a Toronto audience to see a classic that doesn’t often make it to the stage.

Over the Rainbow winner Danielle Wade will steal your heart as Dorothy. Toto doesn’t miss a beat. Cedric Smith is delightful as the Wizard. And Toronto’s wicked witch Lisa Horner is the wickedest of them all!” she says of the Canadian cast.

For dance enthusiasts, the National Ballet of Canada has something different with The Man in Black, a four-person performance set to songs by legendary country singer Johnny Cash where you’ll see cowboy boots and line dancing instead of pointe shoes and pirouettes. The show runs June 19-23.

One of the two must-see productions at the Soulpepper Theatre Company is The Barber of Seville, says Martin adding, “they always do a great take on classics. That’s what they’re known for.”

The other one is Kim’s Convenience, the touching and hilarious play by Ins Choi about the life of a Korean family running a convenience store in Toronto’s Regent Park, Canada’s largest public housing neighbourhood.

The heart of the play is the father, whose story is revealed through his relationship with his photographer daughter, who, at 30 and single, is considered past her prime.

Toronto filmmaker June Chua took her own parents to see the play when they visited recently and it brought back their own memories of leaving Malaysia for Calgary.

“I will not forget sharing the play with them and recalling the sacrifices they made for me,” she says.

And, no Torontonian or tourist should go a summer without visiting Stratford and the Shaw Festival.

Shakespeare’s star-crossed lovers Romeo and Juliet (until Oct. 19), the Who’s rock musical Tommy (until Oct. 19) and Noel Coward’s play Blithe Spirit (until Oct. 20) are among this season’s big attractions at Stratford.

Another fabulous weekend getaway destination is to the Shaw Festival, which has been getting rave reviews for Guys and Dolls and Oscar Wilde’s Lady Windermere’s Fan, Martin says.

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