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Friday, 31 May 2013

Tommy: An Embarrassment of Technological Riches

Music and lyrics by Pete Townshend, book by Pete Townshend and Des McAnuff; additional music and lyrics by John Entwhistle and Keith Moon

Directed by Des McAnuff; Musical Direction by Rick Fox; Choreography by Wayne Cilento

Designed by John Arnone and David C. Wollard; Lighting design by Howell Binkley; Sound design by Andre Keister; Projection design by Sean Nieuwenhuis


The story: Rendered deaf, dumb and blind after witnessing a murder as a young child, Tommy Walker endures more trauma at the hands of various family members but nevertheless becomes a legend in his own time when it is discovered he is a wizard at the game of pinball.

Originally a 1969 concept album by The Who, then a rock opera in 1971, then a movie in 1975, and later again re-conceived by Des McAnuff into the Broadway sensation of 1993 (winning five of the ten Tony Awards for which it was nominated), Tommy is the voice of a generation. One very specific generation, whose parents came through WWII, and witnessed the mod movement before becoming the children of Woodstock.
Robert Markus as Tommy (centre) with members of the cast.
Photo by Michael Cooper.
Being of a generation after that, neither the music nor story resonates with this reviewer, and I cannot comment on or compare it to the versions of it that came before. What I can ask, is why, when the trauma Tommy witnesses is a direct result of war, does the story gloss over the horror of war? Why, when the story was revamped in 1993, does it gloss over pedophilia which at the time was finally coming to light as a blight on society? And why, when Tommy is supposed to suffer from a traumatically-induced catatonic state, would the current production give him a rocking tic that indicates he instead is on the Autism spectrum, a biologically-based condition?

Given the hugely enthusiastic response of opening night, however, I'm guessing the story of Tommy is secondary to its staging, which is an embarrassment of technological riches.  Visually, the production is stunning. Literally. As in, the many gun-shots, flashing lights, projections and fireworks are gloriously jaw-dropping, but renders enviable at times the sensory-deprivation from which Tommy suffers. (Ironic, wot?) The multiple projections, inspired by the pop art of Gilbert & George,  are colour-saturated and gorgeous in their own right, but they have the unfortunate effect of drawing one's focus from the live actors on stage, giving the whole production more the feel of a live music video than live theatre. There's theatre, then there is blatant theatricality, and Tommy belongs to the latter category. (Insert wistful sigh.)

From left: Conor Bergauer as ten-year-old Tommy, Kira Guloien
as Mrs. Walker and Jeremy Kushnier as Captain Walker in Tommy.
Photo by Michael Cooper.
The actors work their collective tushes off, however. Wayne Cilento's aggressive, almost violent choreography is all angles and stomps and has dancers popping on an off pinball-platforms with frenetic energy. Kira Guloien and Jeremy Kushnier portray Mrs. and Captain Walker as haunted by guilt throughout the production, making them quite sympathetic, and their voices are well-matched (Mr. Kushnier must have been born to do rock opera). Paul Nolan's Cousin Kevin is a crowd-pleasing thug with a heart of gold, who with GabrielAntonacci nearly stopped the show with the first rendition of "Pinball Wizard", and Jewelle Blackman's goose-bump-raising Gypsy channels the iconic Tina Turner (the blonde wig gives it away), subtly moving from mere charlatan to jonesing drug addict in seconds.
Robert Markus (centre) and members of the cast.
Photo by Michael Cooper.
The title character, Tommy, is played by newcomer Robert Markus, who one hopes is getting danger pay for all the climbing, hanging-from-wires and riding bucking pinball machines he is asked to do. While singing. Mr. Markus has the pipes for rock opera and is an enigmatic, strong presence on stage, and makes the role of Tommy seem easy... almost too easy for his talents, if one has also seen him in Fiddler on the Roof


Paul Nolan as Cousin Kevin.
Photo by Michael Cooper.

It is said in theatre that for every actor out on stage there are dozens of behind-the-scenes folk who got him there, and nowhere is this more evident than in this production of Tommy.  So I would like to acknowledge and thank those teams who made it happen: The  carpenters, painters, engineers and electricians (24), wig and makeup crew (3), prop builders (14), stage crew (13), wardrobe teams (estimated between 40-60) and wardrobe attendants (9)... count 'em up, that is at least - at least - 123 professionals working behind-the-scenes as hard as the actors on stage, who also deserve applause for the technological marvel that is Tommy.


Tommy continues in repertory at the Avon Theatre until October 19th and has its eye on Broadway.

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Performances Redeem Shakespeare's Oddest Play: Measure for Measure

Measure for Measure, by William Shakespeare
Directed by Martha Henry; designed by John Pennoyer
Stephen Russell as Provost, Geraint
Wyn Davies as the Duke,
and Christopher Prentice as Claudio.
Photo by Michael Cooper.
The Story: Duke Vincentio leaves Angelo in charge of cleaning up Vienna by applying the laws he has neglected for years. Angelo starts by ordering the execution of Claudio, who impregnated Julietta before their wedding, until a visit from Claudio's sister, Isabella - a novice nun - awakens lust within him. He makes her a very indecent proposal, little aware that the Duke has remained in Vienna in disguise as a monk, and knows all.

Measure for Measure is listed as a comedy, and many scholars argue that it indeed bears many of the hallmarks of Shakespeare's more well-known romps - there are multiple marriages in the end, an intelligent leading lady, a witty interloper... yet Measure for Measure remains, particularly for modern audiences, an  odd play, and for modern directors, a challenge to produce.

Such is the case with Martha Henry's production. Set in 1949 Vienna is a smart enough choice; Shakespeare's Vienna of corruption and chaos is suited to a bombed-out city where citizens are cobbling out lives after surviving World War II. However many staging choices were distinctly not of that era, pulling the audience momentarily out of the production, and that is never a good thing.

For instance, much is made in the production notes of a 'film noir' influence, and Patricia Collins as Mistress Overdone certainly looks the part in a Veronica Lake peek-a-boo bob, but why choose a cockney accent when Marlene Dietrich's sultry tones would sound more authentically Viennese? The discordant sounds of the tympanic "Gordaneer" machine is distinctly not of the late 40's, yet it suits the play to such a degree that throwing in a few lines of a standard 1940's ballad is more jarring than funny. The first appearance of Pompey and Froth has too strong a resemblance to two of the Three Stooges to be accidental. And why would the Duke stop, mid-soliloquy, to deliver part of it in a rap, a mode of expression that came decades later than 1949?

Anyway.

Geraint Wyn Davies as the Duke. Photo by Michael Cooper.
The strangeness of the play and some of the staging is redeemed by some superb acting. Geraint Wyn Davies takes an insecure, equivocating sort of Duke and imbues him with such charm, warmth and likeability that in a "what happens next" scenario, one could, for once, see Isabella accepting his abrupt marriage proposal. As the part is written the Duke is an arrogant puppeteer, and while Mr. Wyn Davies portrayal (and some judicious tinkering with the text) does not entirely remove the morally outrageous ambiguity of the Duke's actions, he certainly makes it easier to live with them.

Carmen Grant as Isabella and Tom Rooney as Angelo.
Photo by Michael Cooper.
As the beleaguered Isabella, Carmen Grant provides a brilliantly clear picture of an unassuming, intelligent woman conflicted by the determination  to call her life her own, and the wish to save her beloved brother. It is an unforgiving role, but Ms. Grant moved some in the opening night audience to tears,  and proves both herself and her Isabella  more than a match for Tom Rooney's Angelo, whose performance may be a tad too understated for audiences to see how (and when) such a cold fish could so rapidly fall for a devoted novitiate. 

The witty interloper role of Lucio is filled by Stephen Ouimette, who could probably deliver his lines in Swahili and still communicate every nuance with crystal clarity. Taxed with providing most of the laughs of the play (along with Randy Hughson as Pompey), Mr. Ouimette's Lucio is the requisite smarmy yet surprisingly warm in his support of Claudio and Isabella - this warmth turns Lucio into more than a comic caricature and into a fully-rounded and appealing human being.

Stephen Ouimette as Lucio.
Photo by Michael Cooper.
Other impressive performances to note include StephenRussell as the Provost, Christopher Prentice as Claudio and Peter Hutt as Escalus. Known for his stoic, dry delivery, it is nice to see Mr. Russell soften, just a bit, when pleading for Claudio, unobtrusively tying the shoes of the pregnant Julietta, and describing with anxious awe the fearsome murderer, Barnadine. Christopher Prentice expresses Claudio's fear and resignation with haunting perfection, and Peter Hutt gives Escalus, the voice of reason in the play, a nice temper-tantrum near play's end like a man whose patience has finally run out.

The hypocrisy of each character, the philosophical debates that are never sorted out, the unbelievable coincidences that appear to solve the characters' dilemmas... quite simply, Measure for Measure is a bizarre play that stretches one's suspension of disbelief to the tipping point. But thanks to Msrs. Wyn Davies, Ouimette, Prentice and Ms. Grant, Stratford has a more straightforward  telling of this tale than one is likely to get anywhere, and that is no small feat.


Measure for Measure continues in repertory at the Tom Patterson Theatre until September 21.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

A Bittersweet Heart Beats in Fiddler on the Roof

Fiddler on the Roof, based on the stories of Sholem Aleichem by special permission of Arnold Perl. 

Book by Joseph Stein, Music by Jerry Bock, Lyrics by Sheldon Harnick.

Directed by Donna Feore; Musical Direction by Shelly Hanson; designed by Allen Moyer and Dana Osborne


The story: It is 1905 in the small shtetl village of Anatevka, where Tevye the milkman scratches out a living to support his wife Golde and their five daughters. Their lives are based solidly in the traditions of their Jewish faith, but the world outside Anatevka is changing, and those changes threaten both their familiar customs and the very existence of the only lives they have ever known.

Those who fondly remember the last incarnation of Fiddler at Stratford will find Donna Feore's production much warmer, richer and thus more rewarding. Where as "the other" production was very much a Broadway show, Ms. Feore's Fiddler is very much focused on the family and community. That it has the intimate feel of a Tom Patterson-staged show in the massive space that is the Festival Theatre is a credit to both director and cast.


One of the ways they create this warmth is by concentrating on getting the traditions - a core of Tevye's being and the play itself - correct. To do this, Ms. Feore took the extra step of working with a Jewish cultural consultant, Dr. Darren Marks, who made sure the cast had a good grounding in Jewish rituals, gestures, dress and the like. The result is authenticity in every aspect, from the prayer shawls to the Schuckling - the way Jews rock back and forth to intensify their prayers. This authenticity allows the audience to glimpse through a window in time to a way of life that has completely disappeared, which is enlightening and somewhat sad, particularly since modern audiences know what came 30 years later for European Jews.
Barbara Fulton as Grandma Tzeitel and members of the cast. Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann.

Another way Ms. Feore and her designers created this understanding is with the inclusion of colour in what in reality would be a brown and grey existence. While the people of Anatevka are in neutral, muted tones, everything Tevye imagines - the heaven above, the nightmarish, hastily-invented masks of the dead and Fruma-Sarah, even the Fiddler - is in bright, Chagall-inspired colour. This allows the audience to be privy to Tevye's mind, the way he thinks, the way he hopes. 

The beating heart of this production is Scott Wentworth as Tevye.  A master craftsman of his art, Mr. Wentworth's gravelly voice suits the hard-working, care-worn Tevye, but it is his acting that solidifies this performance as iconic - the care he takes in connecting to Tevye's family, to his Maker, and to the audience, is unmistakably real.
Scott Wentworth as Tevye and Kate Hennig as Golde.
Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann
As much a master as Mr. Wentworth is Kate Hennig as Golde. Her performance for the most part is a force of nature, so her transformation into a giggling bride when she and Tevye realize they do, in fact, love each other, is a revelation. It is just one small, sweet moment, but it completely anchors their relationship and a theme of the play.

Andre Morin as Motel, Jennifer Stewart
as Tzeitel. Anna Atkinson as the Fiddler
(top). Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann.
Of Tevye's five daughters the two with the strongest performances (perhaps because they are written that way) are Jennifer Stewart as Tzeitel and Jacquelyn French as Hodel. Ms. Stewart gives Tzeitel almost enough courage to stand up to her Papa, but it is tempered with capitulation; Ms. French conveys all the surprised hopefulness and fear of a girl who finds herself in love with a man (Perchik) so against her practical and ambitious nature, particularly in the melancholy song "Far from the Home I Love". Their "Matchmaker" number, performed with Keely Hutton as Chava, paints a perfect and enviable picture of sisterly bonding.

André Morin and Mike Nadajewski both inhabit their characters of Motel and Perchik so completely it is hard to imagine anyone else performing them. Mr. Morin is simply hilarious as the nebbish Motel, awkward and gawky, yet able to express passion (in a Motel kind of way )for his two loves - Tzeitel and his sewing machine. As Perchik the "radical" student bent on changing the world, Mr. Nadajewski also embodies his character, finding as much humour in him as fervor, as surprised as Hodel to find himself in love.

A few other performers to note include Robert Markus, who takes the small role of Mendel and makes him memorable by being simply wholly present - there is no other word for it - in every moment he is given; as well as Gabrielle Jones, whose Yente is less a caricature in her hands and more a solid centre of the community. And for the immense feat of rousing a somewhat stuffy opening night crowd into applause mid-note (an unbelievably long, goose-bump-raising note), Lee Siegel deserves a salute, if not a raised glass, for some incredible lung capacity.

Matt Alfano (centre) and members of the cast.
Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann
Just one more word for the team of male dancers who perform the taxing "bottle dance" and "cossack" dance: although it is not yet possible for men to fly unassisted, this extraordinary team is close to achieving it. Highest kudos to Matt Alfano, Matthew Arnet, GabrielAntonacci,  Stephen Cota, Galen Johnson, and Julius Sermonia for their incredible aerodynamic feats.

There is no doubt Ms. Feore assembled the best of the best for her production of Fiddler, but it is her attention to detail and the actors' heart and craftsmanship that make this bittersweet story soar. Upon leaving the theatre, one audience member was heard to exclaim, "I didn't want it to end! What happened next?"

Can there be any higher praise for a director and her company?



Fiddler on the Roof continues in repertory until October 20th at the Festival Theatre.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

2013 Season Opens: An OP R&J @ SF

Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
Directed by Tim Carroll; Designed by Douglas Paraschuk and Carolyn M. Smith
The story: Lad with romantic inclinations falls in love at first sight with young girl who returns his love; their long-feuding families force them to keep their love and subsequent marriage a secret, but much tragedy ensues as a result.

Much has been made of the fact that director Tim Carroll (Peter Pan, 2010) has chosen to employ "original practices" in his Stratford production of Romeo and Juliet - that is, trying to duplicate as best one can in 2013, the production values of 1597. The set, designed by Douglas Paraschuk, is the original Tanya Moseiwitzch stage with the bones of the Globe Theatre of London, UK, superimposed upon it. There are few props, the house-lights remain on (slightly dimmed), and there are few, if any, lighting effects to simulate an open-air theatre. The costumes (by Carolyn M. Smith) are Elizabethan, the incidental music (indeed, even the pre-show Fanfare) is performed on Elizabethan instruments, the play ends with an Elizabethan dance, and though Mr. Carroll does not go so far as to insist on men playing the women's roles, he has obviously asked his cast to perform with neat iambic pentameter - as much as they are able. (Their ability, or perhaps willingness, to do so is debatable but we will get to that.)

Mr. Carroll has also played around a bit with the text, chopping out the choral prologue about star-crossed lovers, in favour of members of the cast giving a brief, entertaining introduction to "OP" and theatre etiquette. This avoids the spectre of death which usually casts a pall on most versions of Romeo and Juliet from the start, and has the added effect  of setting up a more humourous production than one might be used to experiencing - since the fourth wall is missing entirely by opening this way, the actors can engage the audience whenever they choose, and they do, often.  As well, it is a nice little conceit to introduce the feuding factions of Capulets and Montagues; one is immersed in the play before one fully realizes what they are up to.

Jonathan Goad as
Mercutio, Kate Hennig
as Nurse, Mike
Nadajewski as Peter.
Photo by David Hou.
This must be what Mr. Carroll intended in employing OP, of course. It allows an extraordinarily quick pace for this tragedy, and allows the actors to do what they do best - act.  The best of the bunch is Kate Hennig as the wonderfully hearty, lusty yet tender Nurse, who not only delivers the Nurse's great rambles to perfection but also plays her silent moments beautifully. In fact, the best chemistry in the play is between Hennig's Nurse and Sara Topham's surprisingly coltish Juliet - their playful smacks, tickles, anxious glances, and tight hugs all illustrate a wonderfully close bond between a girl barely out of her teens and her nursemaid.

As Juliet Ms. Topham has the advantage of being a mature enough actor to understand the depth of her role, with the fortune to be youthful, and skill to be as girlish as the role requires (indeed, she must have studied a few tweens to get those mannerisms of immature impatience just right). As a result her performance is delightfully engaging in both the light and dark moments, although the sparks between Juliet and Romeo never catch fire.

This appears to be the fault, unfortunately, of Daniel Briere as Romeo. Mr. Briere has a firm enough grasp of the text, but one never quite believes he is in passionate love, nor capable of the incited rage it takes to kill Tybalt (Tyrone Savage). It will be interesting to return throughout the season to see if this was a case of opening night jitters, because there were momentary flashes of a Romeo of whom it would be nice to see.

Tom McCamus as
Friar Laurence. Photo
by David Hou.
Let us return to the iambic pentameter for a moment. It appears Mr. Carroll asked his cast to give it a whirl, but only Tom McCamus (Friar Laurence) and Jonathan Goad (Mercutio) really use it consistently and to any advantage. (Scott Wentworth as Capulet uses it for punctuated emphasis in a wonderfully-played scene as a furious father, but the lack of it elsewhere was noticeable to my ears, particularly from the younger members of the cast. Whether it would be noticeable at all to anyone not listening for it is doubtful.) The iambic gives a curious lilt to the lines, breaking them where they are written, not where they are punctuated. This allowed Mr. McCamus to more clearly illuminate some of Friar Laurence's text, but it removes the rather schizophrenic element from the Queen Mab speech of Mercutio, to the detriment of the scene. Both men give excellent performances, however, and help ground the production as a whole.

Whether Nehassaiu deGanne's choice or Mr. Carroll's, they have created a Lady Capulet who is a distant mother while her daughter is alive, but one who is very demonstrative when she believes her daughter is dead. Picture Juliet 's body discovered by Nurse and her parents on what would be her wedding day. In comes Paris, the groom, dancing a lively caper in front of his dead bride's bed, while Lady Capulet gently picks up and sways in time with her daughter's corpse in a ghoulish dance. Later, when Juliet has died for real, she giggles and falls to hold her daughter's hem. Both moments are gruesomely appealing  to an Elizabethan audience, who would appreciate the gallows humour.

As enamouring as it is to revisit Elizabethan England for a time, there are two quibbles:  the chiming clock in the background is apt to take one out of the play while trying to count the peals, whether it is to indicate the passing of time (a three-day play in three hours), or to simulate nearby church-bells of an open-air theatre; and the device of addressing the audience nearly disappears after the intermission, though there are opportunities to do so, which gave the production an unbalanced feel overall. Elizabethan audience members - particularly the 'groundlings' - would be expected to reply to the actors if addressed; it will be interesting to go to a student matinee to see if a less formal audience than opening night might do more than just chuckle appreciatively at the actors' efforts to engage them.

Overall Tim Carroll's production of Romeo and Juliet is an interesting experiment in time-travel, but that aside the production is solidly acted for the most part and deserving of appreciative audiences. It continues in repertory at the Festival Theatre until October 19.

Cast of Romeo and Juliet. Forefront: Sara Topham as Juliet, Daniel Briere as Romeo.
Photo by David Hou.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

GUlNNESS WORLD RECORDS™ attempt at Stratford Festival’s Pinballapalooza in Toronto


PRESS RELEASE 
May 14, 2013… The Stratford Festival will attempt to set the GUINNESS WORLD RECORD for greatest number of pinball machines being played simultaneously at a single venue this Thursday in Toronto.

Pinballapalooza will also feature live performances by the cast of Tommy, on stage now in the Stratford Festival’s sensational production, directed by the show’s original Tony Award-winning director Des McAnuff, who worked with Pete Townshend to transform The Who’s concept album into the multiple Tony-winning Broadway musical.
.
EVENT: Pinballapalooza

Date: Thursday, May 16, 2013
Location: First Canadian Place, 100 King Street West, Toronto
Time: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Record attempt time: 12:40 p.m.
Live performances: 12:15 p.m. and 1:15 p.m. on the Waterfall Stage
Record presentation: 1:30 p.m.

Photos and video may be taken at all of the above times.
Contact: Amy White 226.921.5665

Tommy, now in previews at the Festival’s Avon Theatre, opens May 30 and runs until October 19. Tickets are available through the box office at 1.800.567.1600 or online at www.stratfordfestival.ca

Try the Stratford Festival’s online Tommy Pinball game: tommypinball.com.


Thursday, 2 May 2013

Stratford Festival set for a GUlNNESS WORLD RECORDS™ achievement at Pinballapalooza


[Media Release] May 2, 2013
Calling all pinball wizards! The Stratford Festival invites you to be a part of history. On Thursday, May 16, the Festival will be in Toronto to host Pinballapalooza, an exciting event to celebrate the opening of its much-anticipated rock musical, Tommy.

One hundred pinball machines will fill the main lobby of First Canadian Place in an official GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS attempt to log the greatest number of pinball machines being played simultaneously at a single venue. An all-day occasion, the event will feature free game play, exclusive Tommy ticket deals through an on-site pop-up box office and spectacular live performances by Tommy cast members Robert Markus, Paul Nolan, Gabriel Antonacci and Matthew Armet.

“Tommy is the biggest musical we have ever mounted in Stratford,” says Executive Director Anita Gaffney, “and what better way to celebrate it than by throwing a larger-than-life pinball tournament that would impress even Tommy, the pinball wizard himself.

“Hosting the event outside of Stratford gives us a rare opportunity to showcase our theatre to a wider audience – an audience we hope to see more of with the help of Stratford Direct, our new daily return bus service between Toronto and Stratford. Whether you are a pinball pro, a theatre fan or you just happen to be in the area, come on out and help us make history!”

For those who cannot attend, the Festival offers two other opportunities to practise your pinball moves: a Tommy-inspired pinball machine found at different locations in Stratford throughout the season and a virtual pinball game at http://tommypinball.com.

EVENT: Pinballapalooza
Date: Thursday, May 16, 2013
Location: First Canadian Place, 100 King Street West, Toronto
Time: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Attempt time: 12:40 p.m.
Live performances: 12:15 p.m. and 1:15 p.m. on the Waterfall StageAdmission and all game play is free.
For more information on the event, please visit: www.stratfordfestival.ca/pinball. 

Based on The Who’s 1969 concept album of the same name, Tommy tells the story of a young man who, despite having lost the faculties of speech, sight and hearing, becomes a pinball virtuoso – and the centre of a celebrity cult. In a new production helmed by its original Tony Award-winning director, Des McAnuff (who co-wrote the show with The Who’s Pete Townshend), the explosive rock opera features such unforgettable hits as “Pinball Wizard,” “See Me, Feel Me,” “Acid Queen” and “We’re Not Gonna Take It.”

Set to start previews on Saturday, May 4, at the Avon Theatre, the production features Robert Markus as Tommy, Jewelle Blackman as the Gypsy, Kira Guloien as Mrs. Walker, Jeremy Kushnier as Captain Walker, Paul Nolan as Cousin Kevin and Steve Ross as Uncle Ernie.  Set Designer John Arnone, Choreographer Wayne Cilento and Costume Designer David C. Woolard, key members of the original creative team, have reunited for this production to join Musical Director and Supervisor Rick Fox, Lighting Designer Howell Binkley, Sound Designer Andrew Keister, Projection Designer Sean Nieuwenhuis and Fight Director Steve Rankin.

Tommy is sponsored by Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation. Production support is generously provided by Richard Rooney & Laura Dinner and by the Ontario government.Support for the 2013 season of the Avon Theatre is generously provided by the Birmingham Family.

Stratford Direct, the new daily return private bus service between Toronto and Stratford, began May 1. Departing once daily from May 1 to 25 and October 1 to 20 and twice daily from May 27 to September 29 (on performance days only), the round trip costs only $20.

Support for Stratford Direct is generously provided by The Peter Cundhill Foundation.The Stratford Festival’s 2013 season runs until October 20, featuring Romeo and Juliet, Fiddler on the Roof; The Three Musketeers, The Merchant of Venice, Tommy, Blithe Spirit, Othello, Measure for Measure, Mary Stuart, Waiting for Godot, Taking Shakespeare, and The Thrill, along with more than 150 events at The Forum.

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Shakespeare as Shakespeare would have done it: Romeo and Juliet starts previews


[Media Release] May 1, 2013

One of Britain’s leading directors, Tim Carroll, returns to the Stratford Festival to present the most famous love story ever told. Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare’s timeless tragedy of star-crossed lovers who risk everything to be together, begins previews on Wednesday, May 1, at the Festival Theatre.

A founding member of The Factory and Associate Director at Shakespeare’s Globe in London from 1999 to 2005, Mr. Carroll has had a prolific career in theatre. He recently directed Mark Rylance – the Globe’s first Artistic Director – in Globe productions of Richard III and Twelfth Night, and in 2010, he made his Stratford debut as director of the wildly popular Peter Pan.

“It is an incredible honour to be asked to do Shakespeare on the amazingly beautiful stage of the Festival Theatre,” Mr. Carroll says. “I think of the truly great theatre artists who designed and built this theatre, and who have worked on it over the last 60 years, and now here I am doing one of the big ones on that stage. If that doesn’t excite you, it’s time to check you still have a pulse.”

In its tenth Stratford production, the classic story will be performed in Original Practices, a style of performance that evokes the manner in which Shakespeare’s plays were originally staged in the Elizabethan era.

“I have staged Romeo and Juliet as though it were indeed an afternoon performance in an Elizabethan playhouse,” says Mr. Carroll. “The light will not change to suit the scenes, any more than the scenery will move to reflect new settings. We will know where we are, what time of day it is, and everything else from the starting point of Shakespeare’s theatre: the actors and the words they speak.”

The title roles will be played by Stratford newcomer Daniel Briere and Festival favourite Sara Topham. The cast also features Nehassaiu deGannes as Lady Capulet, Jonathan Goad as Mercutio, Kate Hennig as the Nurse, Tom McCamus as Friar Laurence and Scott Wentworth as Capulet.The production’s artistic team includes Set Designer Douglas Paraschuk, Costume Designer Carolyn M. Smith, Lighting Designer Kevin Fraser, Composer Claudio Vena, Sound Designer Jim Neil, Movement Coach Shona Morris and Fight Director John Stead.

In a playbill that explores communities in conflict, Romeo and Juliet is a particularly apt choice. “I have assembled a season with a particular focus on examining how we reach across our differences to find our common humanity, and few plays do this better than Romeo and Juliet,” says Artistic Director Antoni Cimolino. “Although written over 400 years ago, it’s a story that remains incredibly pertinent today and one that, I think, matters so much to young people. It speaks to them; it speaks to their experience of the world. I’m thrilled to have Tim back to open our 2013 season with this beautifully imagined interpretation of Shakespeare’s classic play.”

Romeo and Juliet Forum Highlights
The Forum, the new festival within the Festival, is a series of activities and events designed to make a visit to Stratford an immersive, all-encompassing cultural experience. Through debates, talks, concerts, comedy nights, hands-on workshops and more, The Forum will offer theatregoers more ways to discover and examine the themes running through this season’s productions.

Themes related to Romeo and Juliet will be explored through several Forum events, including: Ancient Grudges and New Mutinies, in which John de Chastelain, the former Chief of the Defence Staff and former ambassador to the U.S, reflects on the Prince of Verona’s role as peacekeeper in Romeo and Juliet and relates it to his own experiences; Original Pronunciation, with Tim Carroll, in which the director explores the implications of how Shakespeare’s text was originally pronounced; and Sex and Love in Verona, Venice and Vienna, a talk by Stanley Wells, Honorary President, Life Trustee and former Chairman of the Shakespeare
Birthplace Trust and general editor of the Oxford and Penguin Shakespeares.

Support for the inaugural season of The Forum is generously provided by Kelly and Michael Meighen and the Province of Ontario, in partnership with the University of Waterloo, with media sponsorship provided by The Walrus. Support for the Speakers Series, including the appearance of John de Chastelain, is generously provided in memory of Dr. W. Philip Hayman.

Romeo and Juliet is sponsored by Sun Life Financial. Production support is generously provided by Claire & Daniel Bernstein and M. Vaile Fainer.

Stratford Direct, the new daily return private bus service between Toronto and Stratford, begins May 1. Departing once daily from May 1 to 25 and October 1 to 20 and twice daily from May 27 to September 29 (on performance days only), the round trip costs only $20.

Support for Stratford Direct is generously provided by The Peter Cundill Foundation.The Stratford Festival’s 2013 season runs until October 20, featuring Romeo and Juliet, Fiddler on the Roof; The Three Musketeers, The Merchant of Venice, Tommy, Blithe Spirit, Othello, Measure for Measure, Mary Stuart, Waiting for Godot, Taking Shakespeare, and The Thrill, along with more than 150 events at The Forum.

Cast (in alphabetical order)
Montague……………………………………. Wayne Best
Escalus………………………………………. Michael Blake
Benvolio…………………………………….. Skye Brandon
Romeo………………………………………. Daniel Briere
Musician - Percussion…………………….… David Campion
Lady Capulet………………………………... Nehassaiu deGannes
Gregory……………………………………... Victor Ertmanis
Citizen of Verona…………………………… Sara Farb
Citizen of Verona…………………………… Jacquelyn French
Citizen of Verona…………………………… Barbara Fulton
Mercutio…………………………………….. Jonathan Goad
Musician - Recorder/Flute…………….….… Ian Harper
Citizen of Verona…………………………… Valerie Hawkins
Nurse………………………………………... Kate Hennig
Lady Montague……………………………... Gabrielle Jones
Abraham/Apothecary……………………….. Robert King
Balthasar………………………………….…. Andrew Lawrie
Friar John…………………………………… Roy Lewis
Musician - Violin………………………….... Mel Martin
Friar Laurence………………………….…… Tom McCamus
Musician - Lute…………………………....... Terry McKenna
Petruchio……………………………………. AndrĂ© Morin
Old Capulet…………………………………. Sam Moses
Peter………………………………………… Mike Nadajewski
Citizen of Verona…………………………… Andrew Robinson
Citizen of Verona…………………………… Sabryn Rock
Sampson…………………………………….. Brad Rudy
Tybalt……………………………………….. Tyrone Savage
Juliet……………………………………….... Sara Topham
Capulet……………………………………… Scott Wentworth
Paris……………………………………….… Antoine Yared
Artistic Credits
Director……………………………….…..… Tim Carroll
Set Designer……………………………….... Douglas Paraschuk
Costume Designer…………………….…….. Carolyn M. Smith
Lighting Designer……………………….….. Kevin Fraser
Composer…………………………………… Claudio Vena
Sound Designer……………………………... Jim Neil
Movement…………………………………... Shona Morris
Fight Director………………………………. John Stead
Producer………………………………….… David Auster
Casting Director……………………………. Beth Russell
Creative Planning Director……………….… Jason Miller
Associate Fight Director……………………. Geoff Scovell
Assistant Director…………………………... Ken Schwartz
Second Assistant Director………………….. Graham Abbey
Assistant Set Designer……………………… Brandon Kleiman
Assistant Costume Designer………………... Alyssa Prigioniero
Assistant Lighting Designer………………… Tristan Tidswell
Assistant Fight Directors……………………. Anita Nittoly, Kostas Tourlentes
Fight Captain………………………………... Wayne Best
Movement/Vocal Captain…………………... Barbara Fulton
Stage Manager………………………………. Bona Duncan
Assistant Stage Managers…………………… Bruno Gonsalves, Margaret Palmer,
Crystal Skinner
Production Assistant………………………… Linsey Callaghan
Production Stage Manager………………….. Margaret Palmer
Technical Director………………………….. Jeff Scollon
-30-

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