Arts & Entertainment

The holidays come alive at Markham Theatre

Every holiday season, Markham Theatre can be counted on for multiple opportunities to share a night out celebrating with family. General manager Eric Lariviere and his staff take great care to mix tradition and a modern sensibility in their programming each year, and 2023 is no different.

“Our goal is to try and reach out and have something for every single citizen in Markham,” says Lariviere.

The holiday season hits full swing on December 15 with A Next Generation Leahy Christmas. The Leahy family use this performance to give audiences a sneak peek into their home at Christmastime. The show features the beautiful music of Christmas as well as fun family favourites filled with the high-energy, infectious Celtic-based music people associate with the Leahy heritage. Despite ranging in age from 13 to 21, these young people are professional and accomplished multi-instrumentalists who have been touring across North America for years.

“It’s so much fun to see these young artists evolve onstage,” Lariviere says. “It’s been a couple years since we’ve had them, and it is always quite spectacular what they do.”

Holiday spirit collides with rock ‘n roll royalty with Elvis: Wonderful World of Christmas from Dec. 21 to 23. World-renowned Elvis tribute artist Steve Michaels stars in the holiday show that fans wish Elvis had given. Expect faithful renditions of Presley’s holiday classics, such as Blue Christmas, Here Comes Santa Claus, and the gospel songs that were the cornerstone of Elvis’ identity and inspiration.

“We love to work with Steve; his work is flawless,” says Lariviere, “and this show has an incredible appeal to many of the diverse communities in Markham. We’re excited to have it back.”

Families looking for a post-Christmas thrill need look no further than Chris Funk’s Redefining Wonder. A ‘wonderist’ that merges magic, illusion, and live music. Funk has spent the last 15 years travelling the world and appearing on TV in NBC’s America’s Got Talent, CW’s Penn & Teller: Fool Us and Masters of Illusion. His two shows on Dec. 27 promise a multimedia experience that tells the story of Funk fostering a secret passion for magic while training to be an orchestral musician.

“This is Chris’ first time in Markham and we’re excited for his debut,” says Lariviere. “His combination of illusion and live music is really special. You have to check him out.”

There are few traditions that mark the holiday season like The Nutcracker. Tchaikovsky’s music combines wonder, joy, and innocence effortlessly as its classic story reaches across generations. Ballet Jörgen’s The Nutcracker: A Canadian Tradition returns for 3 shows on Dec. 30 and 31. Acclaimed ballet choreographer Bengt Jörgen’s telling of the classic draws modern visual inspiration from the renowned McMichael Canadian Art Collection but keeps both the music and the story in place, despite other choreographers changing the story liberally. The result is a production that features a uniquely Canadian take on an international classic.

“This production of The Nutcracker is always anticipated by so many local families,” Lariviere says. “Ballet Jörgen is a fantastic company that does beautiful work.”

Beyond the theatre’s Diamond Season, independent producers are bringing a little magic to the theatre this holiday season as well.

Kindred Spirits Orchestra is performing The Greatest Show, Stravinsky’s Circus polka, as the core of its Dec. 9 concert. The show will also feature Concertmaster of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Jonathan Crow as a guest soloist performing Bartók’s Violin Concerto No. 2.

“Kindred Spirits do a fantastic job of bringing the highest quality possible with a community orchestra,” Lariviere says. “We are truly grateful to have them with us.”

The afternoon of Dec. 17 features A Swingin’ Christmas with Toronto All-Star Big Band, a community band that has been performing at the theatre since 2009. The show promises seasonal favourites as well as big band classics.

“We are so blessed in Markham to have a robust cultural tradition, and the All-Stars have been part of that for years now,” says Lariviere.

Tradition and holiday spirit are certainly alive and well at the Flato Markham Theatre this year.

“Any show that you want to choose this month,” encourages Lariviere, “you’re gonna have a great time.”

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