The Burton Cummings Theatre is seeing a flurry of activity since being taken over by True North Sports and Entertainment.

Since April, when TNSE assumed management and operating control of the 107-year-old former vaudeville theatre, 20 acts have been booked. The group that operated The Burt before averaged about 35 in an entire year.

Kevin Donnelly, senior vice president of venues and entertainment for TNSE, has a goal of 45 to 50 acts per year, and possibly more.

It wasn't an easy start, however. Donnelly said promoters weren't exactly champing at the bit to get into The Burt.

While it's a great space for a performance, the backstage area and dressing rooms were dreary and uninviting. When he started actively going after acts, Donelly said the response was lukewarm to the venue  until he explained what they were doing.

The entire backstage area is undergoing a refurbishment and once that's done, the work will focus on the rest of the theatre, where the public will eventually notice a big difference.

"It was a tough beginning … [but] now that we're in and trying to improve the experience for the tours and for the promoters they're really excited," Donelly said.

"They don't build theatres like this, they don't build auditoriums like this. So the performers really enjoy something special when they're there and when you leave that and go to a sort of a dingy, dumpy backstage area you lose that charm.

"We've got this great building in the city that we just needed to give it some love and let it do what it's actually built to do."

Tickets go on sale Friday for Serena Ryder, who is playing The Burt this summer.

Other acts booked for upcoming shows include:

  • John Legend
  • Ziggy Marley
  • Art Garfunkel
  • Wu-Tang Clan
  • Modest Mouse
  • Pixies
  • Big Wreck
  • Comedian Gerry Dee