As pandemic bellwethers go, Alex Mustakas has been extra dependable than most.

Each time we’ve spoken since COVID shut down dwell leisure in March 2020, the Drayton Leisure chief govt officer has had his ear to the bottom, all the time cautious, by no means leaping the gun, cautiously plotting the way forward for his seven-theatre empire, from one tentative reopening to the subsequent, as new variants wreaked havoc on the performing arts.

The 2022 season, which kicked off Could 25 and wraps up subsequent month, was the check run, with some reduced-capacity performances, some requiring proof of vaccination and — to keep away from placing solid members in danger — a dearth of the large-ensemble musicals and comedies on which Drayton constructed its title.

“Let’s consider this as a cautious reopening, with plenty of flexibility relating to capability decisions,” Mustakas mentioned in March.

“We’re not going to get everyone again, however the urge for food is there.”

Eight months later, after audiences turned out in droves for musicals similar to “Mamma Mia!” and “The Sound Of Music,” the corporate’s 2023 season — which kicks off April 5 and runs via subsequent December — is being touted as a return to pre-pandemic heights, with scaled-up productions that mirror the boldness Mustakas feels from audiences.

“I’m not apprehensive about shutdowns,” he says, including Drayton will observe provincial directives on masking.

“2022 has turned out higher than I imagined. We fully offered out ‘Mamma Mia!’ and ‘The Sound of Music’ is near promoting out. You may inform individuals wish to get out of their homes.”

What this implies in sensible phrases is a rebound from 2022’s decreased playbill of 15 productions to a full roster of 20 — when you embody “Legally Blonde” (Feb. 15 to 26), Drayton’s first student-only manufacturing, courtesy of its new Youth Academy — and the welcome restaging of aborted 2020 productions similar to “Kinky Boots,” crushingly cancelled throughout previews.

If there’s an unofficial spotlight, it’s the Broadway smash “Stunning: The Carole King Story,” which can be directed by Chilina Kennedy, the Stratford Competition alumnus who performed the title function on Broadway for greater than 1,200 performances.

“It’s a little bit of a coup,” says Mustakas of the critically hailed musical that chronicles the lifetime of legendary singer-songwriter King.

“It’s the primary absolutely produced Canadian manufacturing.”

It should have loads of competitors from a busting-at-the-seams roster of musicals that features all the pieces from “Evita,” “Fiddler On The Roof” and “The Promenade” to “Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story,” “Sh-Increase: Life Might Be A Dream,” “Rock of Ages,” “The Crooner,” “Fiddler on the Unfastened,” “Wizard of Oz: The Panto,” “Peter Pan: The Panto,” “Joseph and the Wonderful Technicolor Dreamcoat” and “Bittergirl: The Musical.”

Singing and dancing not your factor?

There are additionally dramas (“A Few Good Males,” “Mary’s Wedding ceremony,” “American Son”) and comedies ( “The New Canadian Curling Membership,” “Excellent Wedding ceremony”).

“It’s an eclectic playbill that can enchantment to ages 5 to 95,” predicts Mustakas, all the time the optimist.

“It’s a very good mixture of common titles — we wish to get individuals again to the theatre. We’re hoping that by subsequent April or Could issues are much more again to regular.”

It’s a far cry from the pandemic’s early days, when the lights have been off in all seven theatres and Mustakas was decreased to flushing bathrooms to stop plumbing points.

“I used to be in a standing committee on arts and tradition within the Home of Commons after which went round to ensure the water was nonetheless operating,” Mustakas says with amusing.

“In the event that they solely knew the glamorous lifetime of an inventive director.”

Tickets for the upcoming season go on sale to Drayton members Dec. 1, to subscribers Dec. 9 and to most of the people Dec. 14 by telephone, in particular person and at choose field workplace areas.

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