Give My Regards To Toronto

A highlight of the June 12 Tony Awards ceremony will be a live performance of Ol' Man River, the classic from the musical Show Boat. Inclusion of the song reflects the belief that a new version of Show Boat will be a hot ticket on Broadway. But the Tony production will actually be staged 500 miles to the north--in Toronto, where Show Boat is playing with most of the stars who will open it at New York's Gershwin Theater on Oct. 2.

Show Boat is one reason increasing numbers of U.S. residents are traveling to Toronto for theater. The city offers more Broadway-style musicals than any other in North America after New York. And thanks to the weak Canadian dollar, now worth about 72 U.S. cents, it has become more affordable.

Theater lovers can choose from four musicals: Phantom of the Opera, Crazy for You, Miss Saigon, and Show Boat. Prices are New York scale: Orchestra seats cost about $65 on a Friday or Saturday night, $43 for a midweek matinee of Crazy for You, for instance. But if you get your tickets through one of the Remarkable Summer Value Packages (RSVPs) available until Oct. 31 from the

Metro Toronto Convention & Visitors Assn. (800 363-1990), you can cut the total cost of your stay.

With an RSVP, you custom-design your trip. In addition to preferred seating for musicals--plus events such as home games of the World Champion Toronto Blue Jays--you get 10% to 30% off at any of 64 hotels and a coupon book good for discounts at restaurants and city attractions. The luxurious King Edward is marking down rooms to about $110; other hotels are featuring rates under $100 and throwing in extras such as breakfast and parking.

TOP SQUADS. In addition to the big-name shows, Toronto offers dozens of other plays, such as The Mousetrap and Forever Plaid. The city is less than two hours from two fine repertory theaters in Ontario: The Stratford Festival (800 567-1600), known for its Shakespearean productions, and the Shaw Festival (800 267-4759), specializing in plays by George Bernard Shaw.

You might also plan a trip around upcoming special events. From June 24 through July 3, the du Maurier Jazz Festival will bring more than 1,000 musicians to town. From Aug. 4 to 14, you can catch 16 top squads at the 1994 World Basketball Championships. And from Sept. 17 to Dec. 31, Toronto will welcome the Barnes Foundation's collection of French Impressionist and post-Impressionist paintings on tour. The show is expected to be a sellout, as it was in Tokyo and Paris. But some hotels, including the Four Seasons, are offering packages with exhibit tickets.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.