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What to see, do, hear and read in Toronto this June

A celebration of love in all its forms, a one-woman show about mortality, a sparkling tribute to the queen of rock and more

What to see, do, hear and read in Toronto this June
Photo by Arturo Hernandez/Canadian Press

1 It’s almost that time of year again. With a month of parades, street fairs, parties and art installations across the city, Pride Toronto is always a good time. This year’s edition of the annual festival features more than 700 artists across eight stages, plus more than a hundred community events celebrating acceptance, diversity and love. Musical acts include Tokischa, Debby Friday, Lu Kala and Tommy Genesis. Appearances by RuPaul’s Drag Race stars Sapphira Cristál, Plane Jane and Dawn are also on deck. Various locations, June 28 to 30

2 Japanese composer and conductor Joe Hisaishi wrote the luxurious scores that back Hayao Miyazaki’s famous Studio Ghibli films, including Ponyo, Princess Mononoke and The Boy and the Heron. After three sold-out shows with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra in 2022, Hisaishi returns to the city this month to conduct his suite from Spirited Away, Miyazaki’s beloved 2001 film. Hisaishi will also conduct performances of French composer Maurice Ravel’s waltz La Valse plus a 2021 work of his own, Symphony No. 3 “Metaphysica.” It’s a chance to be swept away—without getting turned into a pig. Roy Thomson Hall, June 20 to 22

3 Since 1987, the Toronto Jazz Festival has been showcasing the best of the genre at storied venues across the city, including Massey Hall, the Rex and the Concert Hall. Drawing more than 500,000 patrons and 1,500 artists annually, the 10-day event returns this month with a star-studded lineup of international and local artists. André 3000, Al Di Meola, the Yussef Dayes Experience and others are set to play the month away. Various locations, June 21 to 30

Bayeux Tapestry

4 Made from existing materials, quilts might just be the first iteration of upcycling. Some, like the Bayeux Tapestry, are documents that commemorate historic events—such as battles, marriages and births—while others are purely decorative. A new exhibition at the ROM, Quilts: Made in Canada, displays several quilted Canadian artifacts from the museum’s permanent collection. With pieces dating from the 1850s to the present day, each thread tells a story. ROM, June 29

5 British writer, essayist and critic Olivia Laing spent the early days of the pandemic occupied with a familiar pastime: gardening. That included restoring an 18th-century walled garden at her home in Suffolk, England—an experience that inspired her latest book, The Garden Against Time. In it, Laing explores the exclusivity of paradises throughout history, from private aristocratic Edens founded on slavery to queer beach utopias (Hanlan’s, anyone?). The result is a hymn to the garden as a communal place to encounter and embrace the world—and it arrives just in time for spring. Out June 25

Norah Jones
Photo by Claudio Lavenia/Getty Images

6 Nine-time Grammy-winning singer and pianist Norah Jones is bringing her celebrated fusion of jazz, blues, folk and pop to Toronto. The show is part of a North American tour promoting her ninth album, Visions, named after those thoughts that come in the middle of the night. The record’s lead single, “Staring at the Wall,” is a warm lo-fi blues-rock tune that sets the stage for the artist’s joyful, stripped-down new sound. Budweiser Stage, June 27

7 Actor and playwright Haley McGee’s one-woman play, Age Is a Feeling, took the UK by storm when it premiered at Edinburgh Fringe in 2022. It sold out two straight runs at London’s Soho Theatre and earned an Olivier Award nomination. Now, Soulpepper is bringing McGee’s mortality-grappling soliloquy home for its Canadian premiere. The play looks at how death shapes our lives, tracking the sublime experience of hitting life’s milestones, from age 25 until the end. It’s a celebration of the uncertainties of life where no two shows are the same—the audience chooses how the story unfolds. Soulpepper, May 29 to June 16

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8 From the author of the widely praised Outline trilogy comes a new novel that defies character and plot. Rachel Cusk’s Parade follows an artist, G, who represents multiple characters, including a middle-­aged man who paints grotesque portraits of his wife and a young woman whose paintings displease her husband. Meanwhile, a woman is attacked in Paris by a person who admires her victim the way an artist might, and two siblings confront their late mother’s legacy. How these stories connect is just part of the mystery. Out June 18

Kurt Vile
Photo by Rick Kern/Getty Images

9 Kurt Vile, known for his lo-fi guitar-and-piano-driven jams and distinct vocal twang, has led a successful solo career since leaving the War on Drugs and dropping his first album in 2008. Vile’s latest EP, Back to Moon Beach, is similar but different. With slower, longer tracks, the album reveals a quieter, more restful side of the indie rock musician. Along with his band, the Violators, Vile brings his lush, contemplative tunes to venues across the US and Canada, including the Danforth Music Hall this month. Danforth Music Hall, June 28

10 Celebrated UK set and costume designer Mark Thompson has worked on international stage hits like Mamma Mia! and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Now, he’s heading up The Tina Turner Musical, a celebration of the queen of rock’s life that spans three fashionable decades. Directed by Phyllida Lloyd and written by Frank Ketelaar, Kees Prins and Katori Hall, the musical is stopping in Toronto this month as part of its North American tour. Told through the singer’s memories as she waits to take the stage for a record-smashing 1988 concert, the story charts Turner’s career from her early R&B beginnings to winning eight Grammys and selling over 100 million records. Using vintage pieces gathered from shops across London, Thompson created a wardrobe of leather dresses, sequin shifts and denim jackets. Here, he tells us how he paid homage to one of music’s greatest stars. CAA Theatre, June 18 to July 28

Ari Groover as Tina Turner
Ari Groover as Tina Turner

1. This wig is partially made of yak hair. “At first it was floppy, and it didn’t work at all,” says Thompson. “But, as it got dirtier and full of products, it started looking better.”

2. Thompson tailored this jean jacket to be as true to the real deal as possible. “The waistband had to be raised, and we noticed that Tina had some buttons on her jacket in the reference photo, so we added them,” he says.

3. This leather dress, made from scratch, was put together based on photos of Tina’s past performances.

4. “One of the only notes I ever got from Tina was, ‘I never wore black fishnets,’” says Thompson. “She insisted they were brown. I checked all of my reference photos, and I think she was wrong.” Tina’s fishnets are black in the show.

Elesha Paul Moses as Tina Turner
Elesha Paul Moses as Tina Turner

5. “This dress has a glass bugle bead fringe, because it looks the most shiny,” says Thompson. It’s interspersed with rayon in alternating layers to give it more bulk and movement.

6. After belting out “Proud Mary,” Tina gets into a fight with her husband and bandleader, Ike Turner. “In rehearsals, the dress was getting broken and smashed,” says Thompson. Now, the dress comes off before the fight, revealing a nude slip.

Karis Anderson as Tina Turner
Karis Anderson as Tina Turner

7. At this point in the musical, Tina has divorced Ike, but she’s being sued by the venues where she was due to perform and starts playing in Las Vegas to raise money. “This is her campy Vegas look,” says Thompson.

8. This sequin dress, a homage to fashion designer Bob Mackie, is made from long beaded strands of rayon and lurex.

Zurin Villanueva as Tina Turner
Zurin Villanueva as Tina Turner

9. “Tina comes up at the end of the show, sparkling and triumphant, like a goddess,” says Thompson. Glued-on diamante gems from Swarovski boost the effect.

10. Inspired by a beaded fishnet dress Turner wore at a photoshoot, Thompson made this piece by placing badminton netting over a crêpe de chine slip. He then added a beaded fringe at the bottom.

11. For the show’s last number, Tina has to do 20 minutes of dancing—and that demands good shoes. “These have a metal strap running underneath them,” says Thompson. They’re also decorated with Swarovski gems.

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