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Broadway, ballet and a boat: NAC braces for a busy summer


In all, there are 200 shows on the summer calendar.

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Back-to-back Broadway shows, a concert series on a boat, another one on a terrace and the return of Ballets Jazz de Montreal are among the highlights of a lively summer at the National Arts Centre. 

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It will be the first time in the NAC’s 53-year history that a full summer of programming is planned. Like many performing-arts institutions, it traditionally follows the fall-to-spring subscription model, which considers the summer to be the off season. 

Not this year. According to music and variety producer Heather Gibson, there are several reasons to fill the building during the summer months, starting with the desire to continue welcoming audiences back to the live setting after long months of COVID-19 shutdowns. 

“It seemed like the right year to welcome people back with free or inexpensive shows,” Gibson said in an interview. “I’ve taken the approach of booking shows that are accessible to audiences in terms of cost, but people can expect the same quality of work in the summertime that they’re used to seeing on our stages all the way through the year.” 

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Of course, also at play was a need to rebook some top-dollar shows postponed during the pandemic, including the Broadway Across Canada productions of Hamilton, Dear Evan Hansen and Anastasia. All three will be presented at Southam Hall this summer, as will the French-language musical Notre Dame de Paris. 

In all, there are 200 shows on the summer calendar, ranging from folk legend Judy Collins and tap-dancer Travis Knights to the 50th-anniversary program by Les Ballets Jazz Montreal and the rescheduled tribute to playwright Tomson Highway, plus a host of other Canadian, Indigenous, Nordic and international artists. 

Among the new initiatives is a free concert series on the NAC’s wooden terrace overlooking the Rideau Canal and featuring Tuesday and Wednesday performances by the likes of Djely Tapa, OKAN, Moneka Arabic Jazz and Aysanabee. In the case of rain, those shows will move indoors. 

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Returning this year is an expanded version of the boat series, which features live music being played from an electric boat travelling the length of the Rideau Canal to the delight of bicyclists, dog-walkers and others watching from shore. The twice-weekly shows will include performances by NAC Orchestra ensembles, indie rockers The Lionyls and Cuban-Canadian phenom Miguel de Armas. 

Meanwhile, the Fourth Stage focuses on emerging theatre, with a new play almost every week and a ticket price set at just $8. Some will be scheduled during the day to see if there’s a market for daytime entertainment that’s not aimed at families, Gibson said. 

For families, the main development is a string of summer camps for creative kids. There will be six week-long camps, offered in English and French, for children under 10, with bursaries available for low-income families. 

The extra activity is expected to help boost the beleaguered tourism industry in the nation’s capital, a strategy championed by NAC president and CEO Christopher Deacon and welcomed by Mayor Jim Watson, a member of the NAC’s board of trustees. 

“I believe our festivals and cultural institutions will help us attract tens of thousands of visitors to the nation’s capital to relaunch our tourism industry in a meaningful way,” Watson said in a release.  

For complete details and ticket information, go online to nac-cna.ca.

lsaxberg@postmedia.com

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