The Stratford Festival opens a wide-ranging 2013 season this week, with the latest slate of productions spanning romance, rascals and the quintessential rock opera.

"It’s always been a goal of mine to star at Stratford," actor Robert Markus, making his festival debut in the title role of Tommy, told CBC News on Monday.

For opening day, "I think everyone’s excited. It’s great to get ramped up," he added.

The season kicks off Monday night with Romeo and Juliet, with the evening performance expected to draw a host of famous faces and dignitaries including Ontario Lt. Gov. David Onley, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and federal finance minister Jim Flaherty.

For his first official season as artistic director, Antoni Cimolino has brought back the tragic William Shakespeare romance Romeo and Juliet — in which he had his Stratford breakout as an actor, performing opposite Anne of Green Gables star Megan Follows back in the early 1990s.

This time around, the veteran Shakespearean director Tim Carroll is helming the famed tale of star-crossed lovers, with Daniel Briere and Sara Topham portraying the enamoured pair.

The rogues of The Three Musketeers are also on the bill, with stage and screen star Graham Abbey portraying Athos, the senior member of the titular trio. Abbey will also play Iago in the festival's later-summer production of Othello and is an assistant director of Romeo and Juliet.

Stratford veteran Seana McKenna also has multiple roles this season, starring as Elizabeth I in Mary Stuart and Madame Arcati in the Noel Coward comedy Blithe Spirit, directed by award-winning actor-director Brian Bedford.

One of this year's highest-profile productions is Tommy, which sees former Stratford artistic director Des McAnuff return to helm a revival of the classic rock opera penned by The Who's Pete Townshend.

As with most of the company, Tommy star Markus is also taking the Stratford stage in another show, in his case, Fiddler on the Roof.

"It’s great to have polar opposites in your day," he said.

Director Donna Feore offers her take on the beloved musical Fiddler, which stars Kate Hennig and Scott Wentworth as matriarch and patriarch Golde and Tevye, eager to find suitable husbands for their daughters.

Other shows on the 2013 playbill include:

  • The Merchant of Venice, featuring Bedford as Shylock.
  • Measure for Measure, directed by Martha Henry.
  • Taking Shakespeare, the recent John Murrell play starring Henry and Luke Humphrey.
  • Waiting for Godot, starring Brian Dennehy (who also appears in Mary Stuart).
  • The Thrill, starring Lucy Peacock.

The Stratford Festival continues in Stratford, Ont. through mid-October.