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The Weekender: West Side Story, Chuck Hughes and six other items on our to-do list

Chuck Hughes, West Side Story and Jane Archibald as Semele

1. WEST SIDE STORY
Sharks versus Jets, “I Feel Pretty” and extended dance breaks are just a few of the elements that add up to West Side Story, the seminal 1957 Leonard Bernstein/Stephen Sondheim musical. A contemporary adaptation of Romeo and Juliet, it’s set in 1950s New York City and stars two gangs—the Puerto Rican Sharks and the white, working-class Jets—fighting for control of the neighborhood. Meanwhile, a forbidden romance springs up between Sharks-affiliated Maria and her Jets beau Tony. To June 3. $51–$180. Toronto Centre for the Arts, 5040 Yonge St., 416-644-3665, dancaptickets.com.

2. LEONARD COHEN STREET TRIBUTES (FREE!)
Part street concert, part performance art, this Leonard Cohen tribute takes place at locations throughout the city, including Nathan Phillips Square, the CBC building on Front and the corner of Bay and Bloor. The daylong salute to Cohen will feature 25 artists from several disciplines who will perform his songs and poetry. May 11 and 12.Various locations, glenngould.ca/street-tribute-leonard-cohen.

3. FRIDAY NIGHT LIVE @ROM: PHOTOGRAPHY
This week’s edition of the ROM’s new Friday night event series is a collaboration with the Contact Photography Festival, which takes place throughout the month. Partygoers can get up close and personal with works by Larry Towel and Deborah Samuel, dance to music by Düzi and DJ Jay Sea, and even make some art of their own in the Rec Room Photo Lounge. May 11. $9. Royal Ontario Museum, 100 Queens Park, 416-586-8000, rom.on.ca.

4. FESTIVAL OF IDEAS AND CREATION (FREE!)
CanStage’s annual new work–focused festival is all about encouraging artist development. It supports up-and-comers and established pros alike—there are workshops and readings from playwrights like Anusree Roy, Justin Rutledge, Gein Wong, Barbara Nichol and Tom Bellman. Don’t miss Nichol and Bellman’s The Sparrow Songs, the long-awaited remount of a “song-string.” Thought to be a totally lost art form until recently, the song-string is an after-dinner performance popularized in the 19th century American West, when people would string songs together to form a story. To May 13. Berkeley Street Theatre, 26 Berkeley St., 416-368-3110, canadianstage.com/festival.

5. SEMELE
In Chinese artist—and first-time director—Zhang Huan’s hands, this Handel opera, the story of an ill-fated romance between Thebian princess Semele (Jane Archibald) and the god Jupiter (William Burden), is seamlessly fused with Chinese mythology, art and architecture. The opulent costumes are by famed designer Han Feng, and Huan even imported an authentic, 450-year-old family temple from China to be the centerpiece of the set. To May 26. $12–$318. Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, 145 Queen St. W., 416-363-8231, www.coc.ca.

6. SPRING HAS SPRUNG AT CASA LOMA! (FREE!)
This Sunday’s flower-focused programming at Casa Loma promises to be fun for the whole family. For outdoorsy moms (and anyone else who likes gardening, of course), master gardener Bruce Scott hosts private tours ($25) of the castle’s gardens, including the Rhododendron Dell and wildflower garden. Not sold? Take the kids to a workshop of their own with Heritage Gardener Debra Anthony, who’ll teach gardening etiquette and hand out samples of edible plants and honey from Casa Loma’s own hives ($21). Last but not least, don’t forget to pick up some plants of your own at the second annual plant sale, featuring rare cannas, dahlias, annuals and heirloom vegetables. Registration required for the tours and etiquette class. May 13. Casa Loma, 1 Austin Terrace, 647-725-1826, casaloma.org.

7. CHUCK HUGHES (FREE!)
Chef and food TV celeb Chuck Hughes is in town to charm foodies by offering them the chance to get a copy of his new cookbook Garde Manger signed at the Bayview Village Indigo. This signing is happening ahead of the book’s official launch at the Drake Hotel on Monday. May 13. Chapters Bayview Village, 2901 Bayview Ave., chapters.indigo.ca.

8. CIRCUS! THE EXHIBITION
This Science Centre exhibit, while short on the sugary-sweet cotton candy (sigh), has plenty to teach us about what goes into a carnival. One display shows how muscles, collagen and, yes, a natural propensity for flexibility, work together to allow a body to contort into a human pretzel. As for the famed human cannonball acts of yore? At another station, kids can get a closer look at the physics behind shooting a (luckily non-human) projectile through the air. To May 31. $20. Ontario Science Centre, 770 Don Mills Rd., 416-696-1000, ontariosciencecentre.ca.

(Images: Hughes, Food Network Canada; West Side Story, Carol Rosegg; Archibald, Michael Cooper)