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As summer comes to an end, Drayton Entertainment is wasting no time preparing for the upcoming 2020 season.

The group last week released the future performance schedule at all seven of its theatres. It’s a list packed with an array of charming comedies, iconic dramas, as well as classic and contemporary Broadway hits.

“I’ve got a great, eclectic mix of shows to celebrate it. We’re opening with a show called Return to Grace – it’s a tribute to the King of Rock n’ Roll, as they say,” said Alex Mustakas, artistic director of Drayton Entertainment. “I think it’s going to be a very popular show because Steve Michaels is starring in it and he is probably the best Elvis I’ve ever seen.”

Return to Grace is a heartfelt homage to music icon Elvis Presley, featuring well-known jukebox standards of “Love Me Tender,” “Hound Dog,” “Suspicious Minds,” and “Heartbreak Hotel.” This opening show kicks off on May 13.

Other shows scheduled for the Drayton Festival Theatre include “The Dixie Swim Club,” a heartwarming comedy about the reunion of five lifelong friends, “Buying the Farm,” a rural romantic comedy about the charms and challenges of maintaining a family farm.

“It’s about this sales real estate guy who shows up on this farm wanting to buy the property so they can develop. It’s about what’s going on right now – development companies wanting to buy land, we’re losing some farm land, and that sort of thing. It’s also very much about relationships as well,” said Mustakas.

Next, “A Close Walk with Patsy Cline,” tells an in-depth story of the legendary performer and her colourful life and career.

Mustakas noted that deciding the lineup is one of the most challenging aspects of his job.

“Part of our model is to transfer shows from theatre to theatre … so knowing what fits where and what your demographics are,” he explained.

“There’s a whole list of decisions that I have to make: how big the shows are, what your demographic is like. Is it an older audience? A younger audience? Is it the kind of show that will draw a younger audience to build an audience? Is it politically correct these days? Is it a period piece? Usually, a period piece will cost more money because of costuming.”

There is also consideration given to what shows can be considered for which theatre. For instance, whether or not the theatre has a fly system that can accommodate flying elements.

As well, the award-winning, not-for-profit festival theatre is celebrating 30 years in the industry, growing from a grassroots theatre in 1991 and growing into one of the most successful theatre companies in the country. Mustakas is the founding and current artistic director.

“We could call it the mothership – we operate seven theatres now across the province, but it all began in the little village of Drayton. It’s hard to believe that it’s 30 years later,” said Mustakas.

Several local locations will also see some Drayton Entertainment. The St. Jacobs Country Playhouse will play host to “A Few Good Men,” a powerful courtroom drama inspired by actual events. The show will start on March 4.

Following this will be “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder,” a musical comedy that follows a penniless clerk down a murderous path, “Rock of Ages,” a musical comedy that will appeal to fans of the 80s era, with hits including  “We Built This City,” “The Final Countdown,” “Wanted Dead or Alive,” and “Here I Go Again.”

“Driving Miss Daisy” is a comedy of unlikely friendship between an elderly Jewish widow and an African American chauffeur named Hoke. “Evita” will tell the story of the meteoric rise of Argentina’s Eva Perón, affectionately known as Evita. “Wizard of Oz: The Panto” follows the classic family favourite story, with a brand new twist.

Last but not least, the St. Jacobs Schoolhouse Theatre is set two shows: “Billy Bishop Goes to War” on April 8, a high-flying Canadian classic that tells the story of the WWI flying ace. “We’ll Meet Again” which serenades the audience with morale-boosting melodies and lovelorn ballad to high-energy swing tunes.

The full list of shows and locations can be found online.

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