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Everything has changed for live entertainment following pandemic


One of the region’s busiest theatres, the Flato Markham Theatre is halfway through their first season after the pandemic. caught up with the Flato’s General Manager Eric Lariviere, above, to see how the season is going and to look forward to upcoming acts, below, from left: Nikky Yanofsky, Jason Bishop, Jesse Cook and Myles Goodwyn, who will perform with Dan Hill. This is the first full season back to live since the pandemic. Can you describe the excitement heading back to presenting live entertainment?

Eric Lariviere: This was truly a moment to remember – gathering back with the team, the artists, and audiences after those two years. Everyone was a little awkward in seeing each other again, and also going through the whole spectrum of emotions, including when we had the artists on stage for the first performances of the season. How was the first half of your season? What have been the surprises thus far?

EL: In general, positive. Although all has been planned thoroughly, we set reasonable expectations. Many things have changed such as the way we relate to people, including staff, stakeholders, artists and patrons, and also the capacity of our former partners, sponsors. Many international tours have been cancelled for various reasons, including the steep increase in the cost of touring. Not all audiences are back yet, and we needed to adjust and change the model. I don’t use the narrative such as “things will be back as it was in 2019 at such and such time anymore; it is more about starting with a white page, and rebuilding the business from the ground up. After two years of lock down, in a nutshell, patrons want to have fun and go to the known and unique. Basically, “comfort food”; I believe this is an important behavioral shift, and is important for the way we are planning next season. In addition, there are still many issues to deal with post pandemic i.e. still lots of people sick, the economy, and the current global geopolitics are and will have an impact. For instance, if people have reduced disposable income due to high inflation, entertainment spending will decrease. What are you recommending over the holiday season?

EL: We are happy to welcome back the Nutcracker, by Ballet Jorgen. Sales are going very well, as the trend suggest. What are some of the highlights coming up in your schedule starting in the New Year? 

EL: So many great performances coming this winter, always difficult to establish “highlights”. We are happy to present and be part of the world premiere run of “Migis Saga” by Red Sky Performance, the premiere indigenous contemporary dance in Canada – artistic director Sandra Laronde; also the very best production touring in the world of Edith Piaf iconic work will start the 2023 programs with Piaf! The Show. Also not to miss, is Nikki Yanofsky, The Jason Bishop Show (great for families), Jesse Cook, and the very exclusive and intimate evening with Dan Hill and Myles Goodwyn. Is there anything coming that people would be surprised to see in such an intimate theatre?

EL: That’s part of our brand to bring artists that are usually only available in major halls. We had April Wine, The Tenors in the fall, coming up soon is Lawrence Gowan, and later on Jann Arden (sold out).  Many more to come in 2023-24. It seems people are excited to be back in theatres and other venues to see live entertainment. What are you seeing at the Flato?

EL: As mentioned, people who have decided to come back to live entertainment “inside” performing arts centres are very excited and thoroughly enjoy their time. Some of the core audience and loyal patrons are coming back slowly; they still rather prefer not to plan too much, preferring to buy single tickets. The key for the industry is to make sure we don’t stop our operations no matter what, and hope that we can keep building back in the best and most sustainable way possible.

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