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Elvis Stojko is starring in the musical Chicago (and other highlights from Mirvish’s 2013 anniversary lineup)

Elvis Stojko

Stojko competing in the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics (Image: Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

We had no idea Elvis Stojko was such a dynamo. The world figure skating champ is a full-on quadruple threat: professional skater, adult contemporary balladeer (album title: “100 Lifetimes”), martial arts aficionado and, as of March 2014, totally legitimate thespian. Next spring, Stojko will star in the jazzy, Prohibition-era musical Chicago at the Princess of Wales Theatre, part of Mirvish Productions’ 50th anniversary lineup. Stojko, whose previous acting experience includes bit parts in Robin Williams’s Death to Smoochy and a TV movie called Ice Angel, will take on the role of lawyer Billy Flynn, a part played by Richard Gere in the 2002 Oscar-winning movie.

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The Weekender: Potted Potter, Rhubarb Festival and six other items on our to-do list

The Weekender: Potted Potter, Children’s Story Jam and Hamlet Live

1. HAMLET LIVE
Part post-apocalyptic dystopia (it’s set in 2080, and the set-up name-checks everything from violent solar flares to displaced populations to wartime atrocities), and part Shakespearean classic, this Hamlet adaptation keeps Will’s wording but places the young prince, Claudius, Gertrude and the rest of the gang in a futuristic Denmark. King Hamlet oversees a bloody battle to maintain the country’s borders, only to die at his brother’s hand “at the very height of his glory.” Now his son, the young Hamlet, is out for vengeance. In the interest of accessibility—and achieving as large an audience as possible—the play will be live-streamed online ($5), complete with multiple camera angles and on-air editing. To Feb. 11. $20–$40. The Annex Theatre, 730 Bathurst St., hamletlive.com.

2. EROTIC ARTS AND CRAFTS FAIR (FREE!)
Sweetly handmade crafts meet X-rated content at this fair, and it’s the only event of its kind in the country. Think saucy prints, bondage-inspired jewellery and maybe even a choose your own adventure–style zine. Be sure to stick around for the after-show: a cabaret (PWYC or $7) and a sure-to-be raucous after-party. Feb. 11. Gladstone Hotel, 1214 Queen St. W., eroticartsandcrafts.com.

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The Argument: Why War Horse’s puppets win by flaunting their artificiality

War HorseSince it was first staged more than four years ago, War Horse has enjoyed the kind of success that’s usually reserved for Disney extravaganzas and jukebox musicals. The show, adapted from a 30-year-old children’s novel by the British author Michael Morpurgo, is about Joey, a spirited, rust-coloured stallion sold to the British cavalry during the First World War, and the valiant quest of his young former owner to retrieve him. After premiering at London’s National Theatre in 2007 and shattering box office records, it quickly moved to the West End and then to Broadway, earning the Tony Award for best play last spring.

On paper, War Horse seems like another formulaic tearjerker—a variation on Black Beauty or Seabiscuit, with some trench warfare thrown in. What sets the show apart is its use of puppets: Joey, like the other horses in the play, is a clunky-looking mechanical contraption made of wooden planks and nylon stretched over a corset-like cane frame. He bears little resemblance to a real animal. The three puppeteers who control him make no effort to conceal their presence. The one in charge of major head movements is not even inside the frame of the horse—he stands next to it in full view of the audience.

But from the moment Joey hobbles onstage as a young foal, stick-legged and unsteady, he’s as alive, and emotionally resonant, as any of his human co-stars.

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Today in Toronto: In the Heights and The Kills

In the Heights This Tony winner has contemporary trappings—freestyle rap, graffiti—but it’s really as old-fashioned a musical as they come. A bodega owner tries to decide whether or not to remain in Washington Heights, torn between the familiar neighbourhood and the long-dreamed-of shores of the Dominican Republic. Find out more »

The Kills After a stint with The Dead Weather, one of Jack White’s many non–White Stripes pickup bands, Alison Mosshart has rejoined her Kills co-conspirator Jamie Hince (a.k.a. Mr. Kate Moss) for more cooler-than-cool Jesus and Mary Chain worship. Though it’s still only the two of them, they’ve added a little more range and depth to their fuzzed-out new wave blues. Find out more »

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Today in Toronto: Clifford the Musical and The Great Mountain

Clifford the Musical The Big Red Dog is looking downright sprightly, despite turning 50 this year and being the size of a house. In this new production, the big fella and his canine friends do a lot of singing, dancing, frolicking and—as befits a family show—learning. Ages three and up. Find out more »

The Great Mountain This imaginative play, inspired by an ancient tale, is about curious young Nuna, who hears a mysterious cry for help and sets out on a journey. Guided by her Aboriginal grandmother (and perhaps the spirit of Al Gore), she makes her way to a melting glacier, where a great mountain weeps. Ages six to 12. Find out more »

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Stratford Shakespeare Festival artistic director Des McAnuff hits broadway in 2012 with Jesus Christ Superstar

Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rices Jesus Christ Superstar first hit Broadway in 1971, and now its Stratford incarnation is slated to return to New York’s famous theatre district in 2012, with Des McAnuff, artistic director of the Stratford Shakespeare Festival, taking his interpretation to the stage once again. The musical follows the life of Jesus Christ upon his entry to Jerusalem, focusing on the drama surrounding his popularity and teachings, his betrayal by Judas, his trial before Pontius Pilate and, ultimately, his crucifixion. While the official cast list hasn’t been announced, McAnuff expects to keep most of the original cast intact, including Chilina Kennedy as Mary Magdalene, Paul Nolan as Jesus, Josh Young as Judas Iscariot, Bruce Dow as King Herod and Brent Carver as Pontius Pilate.

With musical numbers that include “What’s the Buzz,” “Superstar” and “I Don’t Know How to Love Him,” Jesus Christ Superstar is a favourite among Broadway fanatics, and McAnuff recognizes the importance of paying tribute to the history of the production, which was first introduced as an album before being staged on Broadway. McAnuff makes it clear he’s faithful to the original recordings: “We’ve treated it more like an opera than a musical,” he told the Associated Press. McAnuff is no stranger to Broadway himself—he previously directed Tommy in 1993, as well as Jersey Boys in 2005 and Guys and Dolls in 2009—and Jesus Christ Superstar garnered rave reviews when it opened at Stratford in July. The production ends its run in Stratford on November 6, moving first to La Jolla Playhouse in California for tweaking before opening on March 22, 2012 in New York.

Stratford’s ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ heads to Broadway [Associated Press]

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Today in Toronto: Boubacar Traoré and Amelia

Boubacar Traoré A rare opportunity to hear the blues traced back to one of its many sources—in this case, the music of the West African nation of Mali, performed by Traoré. Find out more »

Musicals That Fly: Amelia This offering, by Billy Bishop Goes to Warco-creator John Gray, is about another daredevil flyer: aviatrix Amelia Earhart. Eliza-Jane Scott performs. Find out more »

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