The Stratford Festival is rolling out the red carpets for the 2023 season’s opening night.

Tuesday was the official red carpet kick-off ceremony, which coincided with the opening ‘King Lear’ starring Canadian actor Paul Gross.

With 13 productions on the playbill across four theatres, theatregoers will have until the end of October to visit the festival and see plays ranging from Shakespeare to Monty Python. There’s also a rock musical written by renowned playwright Jonathan Larson.

“Everyone at the festival – whether they work on stage or behind the scenes – has been focused on making this first full season post-COVID as spectacular as possible,” a spokesperson for the festival said in an email.

“Many of the preview performances have been sold out and it is extremely gratifying to see the City of Stratford humming with activity as visitors return in large numbers once again.”

A Canadian legend on the screen and stage, Gross, will be taking on the role of King Lear. It’s been 23 years since Gross was on stage in Stratford. In 2000, the Due South star played the lead in Hamlet.

His career spans 45 years in television, film and on stage.

In an interview with CTV News Kitchener in April, Gross said being back in Stratford is a special feeling.

"This is one of the great theatre companies in the world, certainly the largest and most important theatre company in North America,” Gross said. “The whole staff, all of the acting company, the directing staff the research staff, there are a lot of people here and they are all at the top of their profession, so to come here you are really in good hands.”

Before going backstage Tuesday, Gross told CTV News about what a performance night is like for him.

"I tend to come really early and wander around the stage before the doors are open and go through bits and pieces of it," said Gross. "It's a way of letting the world fall to the wayside for 3-4 hours and then go back to the world."

One show that has been catching a lot of buzz this season is Rent.

"It's important, especially for this type of show, it's about community and about supporting each other and lifting each other up in times of adversity," said Masini McDermott, a soloist in Rent. "It's honestly easy getting along with each other. It doesn't feel like hard work. That's the bonus of the job."

The two well acquainted stars of Much Ado About Nothing are hoping to treat audiences to a special kind of show.

"This is our fourth time playing a couple over the last several seasons at the festival," said Maev Beaty. "This one is the dream come true. This is the original romantic comedy."

While some of the productions have been in preview since April, many official opening nights fall within the next few weeks – while some open as late as mid-July.

Those enjoying ‘Spamalot’ on Saturday got a lot more than they paid for.

Eric Idle on stage

Eric Idle was in the audience of the Saturday evening performance, but theatre-goers only discovered this when he was called up on stage.

The British actor, comedian, musician, and creator of the musical sang and whistled along with "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life."

The appearance was also a surprise to many of the cast too.

"It's 50 years on June 3 since Monty Python arrived at Pearson Airport," said Idle. "50 years since we toured Canada. It's really fabulous."

The full list of productions can be found by clicking here.