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Friday, 9 June 2017

Knotty, Knotty… HMS Pinafore pokes fun at POTUS

Laurie Murdoch as The Rt. hon. Sir Joseph Porter, KCB, First
Lord of the Admiralty (centre), with members of the company.
Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann.

Book and lyrics by W.S. Gilbert; Music by Arthur Sullivan
Directed by Lezlie Wade
Designed by Doglas Paraschuk (set), Patrick Clark (costumes), Wendy Greenwood (lighting), Nick Bottomley (projections), Peter McBoyle (sound), John Stead (fights)
Featuring Lisa Horner, Laurie Murdoch, Jennifer Rider-Shaw, Steve Ross, Brad Rudy, Mark Urhe

Gilbert and Sullivan operettas are not everyone’s cup of Earl Grey.  Although initially popular for their subversive nature or poking fun at themselves as privileged white men (there is some debate on this), it can be hard to translate either the virtuosic musical style and vocals or Victoriana nationalism and satire into a modern-day context.

Director Lezlie Wade brings her vision of HMS Pinafore a few decades ahead of the Victorian era into WWI, when British pride was on another upswing. Fans of the wildly popular Downton Abbey will no doubt be familiar with this era, when once stately homes were appropriated by various government departments for the war effort, and Ms. Wade uses this historical fact to frame her production quite well; an estate becomes a convalescent home for injured naval personnel, with the musical becoming a New Year’s Eve diversion put on to entertain the sailors. In this context it is not shocking to see one sailor with disfiguring injuries, and he morphs into the character Dick Deadeye, one of the antagonists of the play.
Lisa Horner as Little Buttercup (centre) with members of the company.
Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann.

The set, designed by Douglas Paraschuk, also morphs quite brilliantly from estate foyer to the HMS Pinafore, roughly resembling an armoured cruiser or admiralty trawler, with the double staircases allowing some vintage Vaudevillian capering amongst the many sailors, sisters, cousins and aunts that make up the chorus, including a great Charlie Chaplin foot-stuck-bucket-nearly-falling-down-the-stairs bit. 

Ms. Wade brings the satire firmly into the 21st c,. however, with the appearance of The Rt. Hon. Sir Joseph Porter, KCB, First Lord of the Admiralty, played brilliantly by Laurie Murdoch. Given that this character is based on a real man who, never having set foot on a ship or in the sea (read: never held a political office) was appointed (read: elected) to the most important seat in a time of great national uncertainty (you get it now)… well. Give Mr. Murdoch an apricot-coloured wig perpetually askew and you can hardly miss the point.  Mr. Murdoch is spot-on with the patter, never misses a comedic pop, and his diminutive stature gives this Admiral a ridiculousness on par with the shenanigans south of the 49thIMHO he steals the show, though his brothers and sisters-in-arms are not far behind.

 Mark Urhe and Jennifer Rider-Shaw as Ralph Rackshaw and Josephine.
Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann
The story follows young sailor Ralph and his love for Josephine, his Captain’s daughter. Gilbert and Sullivan use the setting of a military ship to illustrate the absurdity – and hypocrisy – of class lines; as the captain’s daughter Josephine adores Ralph but feels he is below her rank, and is considering marriage to the foolish Admiral to preserve her station. This being G&S there is a barely-concealed dénouement in the end that reverses Ralph and Josephine’s fortunes making it ok for them to marry, and though the neat final pairings are still problematic to a 21st c audience, happy endings were a forgone conclusion so we might as well enjoy them.

The main couple in question, Josephine and Ralph, are given life by a sweetly comedic Jennifer Rider-Shaw and Mark Uhre, barely recognizable from his other superlative performance as Benny Southstreet in Guys and Dolls. They make a charming if chaste pair (you can’t get rid of all Victoriana at once), and are supported in their romantic liaisons by all the swooning sailors, sisters, cousins and aunts, gleefully playing along in the background; in particular the cute-as-a-mother-of-pearl-button Glynis Ranney. The dastardly Dick Deadeye is gamely played up by Brad Rudy, and Steve Ross and Lisa Horner are unforgettable as the beleaguered-father/beloved Captain and the devoted, fretting Little Buttercup.

Operetta really is not my favourite, but I love theatre that subverts my expectations, so I can fully appreciate this production of HMS Pinafore.  It continues in repertory until Oct. 21 at the Avon Theatre.


Steve Ross as Captain Cocoran, with members of the company.
Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann.



Sunday, 4 June 2017

Cimolino’s School for Scandal shows how times, they aren’t really a’changin’


theatre review School for Scandal Stratford Festival
Sébastien Heins as Charles (centre) with members of the company.
Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann.



The School for Scandal 


by Richard Brinsley Sheridan
Directed by Antoni Cimolino
Designed by Julie Fox (set, costumes), Michael Walton (lighting), Berthold Carrier (composer), Nick Bottomly (projections), Thomas Ryder Payne (sound), John Stead (fights)
Featuring Brent Carver, Sébastien Heins, Shannon Taylor, Geraint Wyn Davies, Joseph Ziegler 

In 1777, according to Mr. Cimolino’s director’s notes, fake news was as prevalent then as it is today, with society rags full of soul and reputation destroying gossip supplied not by journalists but by those in society themselves.  Oh, how times have not changed.
Cheekily employing strategic selfies (including an 18th century equivalent), torn-from-the-1777-headlines projections and a few well-placed, updated barbs at the political establishment south of the 49th and texts, Mr. Cimolino’s production of School for Scandal holds that mirror up to our own selves in an almost entirely relatable way. Almost, but not quite.


Brigit Wilson as Mrs. Candour.
Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann
The problem is evident and it is with the text, not the production itself – too many replicated scenes in the first half of the play of scandal-mongers disparaging a multitude of colleagues, most of whom never appear onstage. As overheard on opening night at intermission, “Yes, I get it, they [the scandal mongers] are awful and hypocritical for spreading gossip. Is that it?”

Well, do not despair, theatre-goers, it begins to pick up considerably with the appearance of the oft-mentioned Charles Surface, portrayed by Sébastien Heins.  Mr. Heins brings a much-needed charismatic boost later in the first half which promises (and later delivers) a little more action and excitement to come, but one does have those interminable gossip scenes first.  Thank goodness for Brigit Wilson’s Mrs. Candour who makes the comedic most of designer Julie Fox’s voluminous 18th c frock.  Athough the frocks and frock coats, while absolutely gorgeous, may also be literally weighing down the production, as they not only distract with their sumptuousness, but are also not as relevant to a modern audience. 

That being said, this edition of The School for Scandal is worth sticking out, not only to see all those gossip mongers get their comeuppance, but also for some very fine performances.  As mentioned, Sébastien Heins makes a thoroughly likeable rogue, with a 1000-kilowatt smile bestowed as liberally as his character Charles bestows wine.  His grins are matched by Shannon Taylor, who as Lady Teazle literally twinkles with mischief until she is chastened, and instead of playing it with frets and tears, Ms. Taylor gives Lady Teazle a subdued humility that suits the character far more strongly than the former might have done. 
Shannon Taylor and Geraint Wyn Davies as
Lady and Sir Peter Teazle.
Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann.

Ms. Taylor in turn is matched by Geraint Wyn Davies who seems completely at home in the role of Sir Peter Teazle, turning from apoplectic to cherubic and back on a dime, never missing a beat either comedic or dramatic.  When he giggles, the audience can’t help but giggle with him; when he is humiliated, the audience is sympathetic. His and Ms. Taylor’s portrayal of a couple learning to accept and love each other despite their differences is alone worth the price of admission.


Joseph Ziegler as Sir Oliver Surface.
Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann
But let us not forget a few other memorable characters.  We have Joseph Ziegler playing Sir Oliver Surface totally straight, which is far funnier than it seems; and Brent Carver as Rowley, the wisest person in the play and so of course the one who gets the least respect. Mr. Carver, plays the role with a good-natured unpretentiousness (he is clothed in the most modest costume to underscore this), the eternal optimist in a band of merry but often deluded players.  Let us also draw attention to the much abused and unnamed ‘Joseph Surface’s Servant’, played well above his station by Emilio Vieira, who made his tiny role in Twelfth Night memorable as well. 



Brent Carver as Rowley.
Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann

So regardless of a languorous first half, the overall intention of the play and production is preserved nicely in the end:  Haters might hate, but in the words of the wise Rowley, “Let them laugh, and retort their malice only by showing them you are happy in spite of it.”  Words to live by.  

The School for Scandal continues in repertory at the Avon Theatre until October 21.

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Stratford's Guys and Dolls: Starts with a bang and never stops

theatre review Guys and Dolls Stratford Festival
Centre: Evan Buling as Sky Masterson, with members of the company.
Photos by Cylla von Tiedemann


Guys and Dolls: A Musical Fable of Broadway 

based on a story and characters by Damon Runyon
Music and lyrics by Frank Loesser; Book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows
Directed and choreographed by Donna Feore, with music direction by Laura Burton
Designed by Michael Gianfrancesco (set), Dana Osbourne (costumes), Michael Walton (lighting), Peter McBoyle (sound), John Stead (fights)
Featuring Sean Arbuckle, Evan Buling, Alexis Gordon and Blythe Wilson

The hardest reviews to write are the ones for which you can only write positive things. This makes for a boring review (or an overly effusive one), and this production of Guys and Dolls is anything but boring. It is a show shot from a cannon that lands neatly on pointe in all respects.

The pacing of the production is incredible. One barely has time to catch a breath between rounds of applause before the next number / scene / laugh is upon us.  And everything else is nearly perfect:  the lighting is subtle except when it wants to be (nice scene change in Havana, Mr. Walton), the music is bang on, the choreography is awe-inspiring (those chorus men can fly) and the performances are stellar.


Very often in this show there are scenes, moments and duets shared by characters who wouldn’t normally interact, and Ms. Feore uses these to build a heart into the play that might be absent with less able directors.  Indeed, Ms. Feore can bring heart out in a show like no other musical director. Like how food keeps appearing from Nicely’s pockets in complete frustration to increasingly desperate Sky. Or how Big Jule is suddenly smitten with the diminutive Salvation Army officer Agatha.  Or the comradery that Adelaide and Sarah find in discussing their prospective husbands – the duet does not have to play out like a couple of sisters bonding over man-trouble, but in this production it does and you get the sense that both women will benefit from the friendship of the other – no matter how different their backgrounds. It works so very well at every turn.
theatre review Guys and Dolls Stratford Festival
Alexis Gordon as Sarah Brown and Evan Buling as Sky Masterson.
Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann.
Evan Buling and Alexis Gordon as Sky Masterson and Salvation Army Sergeant Sarah Brown create the most chemistry seen between an onstage couple in Stratford for years.  And while Ms. Gordon is known for her musical prowess she demonstrated a range yet unseen here, from operatic to sultry, and was yet vocally matched by Buling, best known on our stages as an actor first.  Ms. Feore’s use of classically trained actors in musical leads is well known and she proves once again it is a smart choice – Mr. Buling and Ms. Gordon’s pairing was surprising but pays out in spades.

theatre review Guys and Dolls Stratford Festival
Sean Arbuckle as Nathan Detroit and Blythe
Wilson as Adelaide. Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann.
The other pairing of Sean Arbuckle and Blythe Wilson as Nathan Detroit and Adelaide is a match made in comedy heaven. A 14-year veteran of the State of Fiancee, Adelaide's main goal is to get Nathan to the altar and away from his crap games; Nathan's main goal is to find a location for the crap game and stay on the good side of all his gambling cronies.  Never the twain shall meet, one is apt to think but Ms. Wilson gives her Adelaide such bouncy, ebullient, determination that Sean Arbuckle's stressed-out, love-sick Nathan never stands a chance. Ms. Wilson's Adelaide's Lament is gold, but a dollar will give you ten it's their duet Sue Me that will stay with you.

theatre review Guys and Dolls Stratford Festival
Members of the Guys and Dolls company. Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann
There is another pairing that often gets overlooked because it isn’t a romantic one, and this is a romantic musical comedy.  The buddies Nicely Nicely Johnson and Benny Southstreet share many scenes and numbers together, and inhabiting these roles are Steve Ross and Mark Urhe. From the get-go with Fugue for the Tinhorns (aka I Got the Horse Right Here, or Can Do), in this case shared by Marcus Nance as Rusty Charlie, through The Oldest Established and the near-show-stopper Guys and Dolls, these two song-and-dance men deliver the goods. Steve Ross gets an extra chance to shine – and does he ever, almost stopping the show for the third time – with Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ The Boat, but Mark Uhre’s adorkable performance as Benny is not to be overlooked. (Hey Stratford, can we keep him?)
theatre review Guys and Dolls Stratford Festival
Steve Ross (centre) as Nicely Nicely Johnson with members
of the company. Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann
With this production you cannot ignore the dancers – in fact considering the choreography and pace they manage in this show it would be an insult to do so. The men get the flashier routines – the Crap Shooter’s Ballet came the closest to a spontaneous standing-o in an entire evening of outstanding numbers – but the staging showcases their immense talent and discipline and are cause to celebrate them all. 

See, a boring review. But don’t miss it just because the review is boring – odds are you’ll regret it if you do.

Guys and Dolls continues in repertory until October 29th at the Festival Theatre.

theatre review Guys and Dolls Stratford Festival
Blythe Wilson as Adelaide and Alexis Gordon as Sarah Brown.
Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann.


Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Taylor and Carver Shine in Stratford’s Twelfth Night


theatre review Twelfth Night Stratford Festival
Shannon Taylor (Olivia), Michael Blake (Sebastian),
Sarah Afful (Viola), E.B. Smith (Orsino)
Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann

Twelfth Night

by William Shakespeare
Directed by Martha Henry
Designed by John Pennoyer (set, costumes), Louise Guinard (lighting), Reza Jacobs (composer / sound), John Stead (fights), Valerie Moore (movement)
Featuring Sarah Afful, Rod Beattie, Brent Carver, Lucy Peacock, Tom Rooney, E.B. Smith, Shannon Taylor, Geraint Wyn Davies

The Stratford Festival opened its 65th season last night with a solid production of William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night.

Under the direction of Martha Henry, long-time Stratford actor, director and leader of the Birmingham Conservatory, this production emphasized the text and thus focused on the actors, with few – but beautiful - scenic elements to distract.

Of the numerous fine performances of the evening, two in particular were transcendent: Brent Carver as Feste and Shannon Taylor as Olivia.  The Tony-award winning Mr. Carver returns to the Stratford stages for the first time since 2010, and presents a sweetly unassuming Feste with a voice to match. With little accompaniment, aside from some hauntingly effective glassware, it is Carver who brings a necessary sense of whimsy to the production, so appropriate for this “topsy-turvy” play.   Meanwhile it is Shannon Taylor as Olivia who gives a breakout performance.  Crystal clear in her speech, inconspicuously funny and completely convincing, Ms. Taylor is utterly delightful, and treats the audience to an unforgettable Olivia.

Not to say that the other leads are not as fine; the only thing undermining Sarah Afful’s wonderful Cesario / Viola is the decision to make E.B. Smith’s Duke Orsino a scowling, misogynistic, tyrant. Mr. Smith does this well, but it is an interesting choice, to create not a man in love with the idea of being in love but a man who is angry at being denied his prize - no wonder Olivia chooses to cloister herself against such a bully, and no wonder she falls for Ms. Afful’s kindly and jocular Cesario in contrast.  But why on earth would the clever and gentle Viola ever feel attracted to such a Duke either?  Despite this misstep in staging Ms. Afful demonstrates again an almost regal stage presence, holding her own against the like of the B Plot Rascals.
theatre review Twelfth Night Stratford Festival
Tom Rooney (Sir Andrew Aguecheek), Geraint Wyn Davies
(Sir Toby) and Lucy Peacock (Maria). Photo by
Cylla von Tiedemann
The spotlight is often stolen by this hilarious trio of Geraint Wyn Davies (Sir Toby), Lucy Peacock (Maria), and Tom Rooney (Sir Andrew Aguecheek).  I imagine Ms. Henry trying to reign them in during antic-filled rehearsals, as they were clearly having a lot of fun with their scheming scenes, so much so that sympathies are turned topsy-turvy towards Rod Beattie’s Malvolio – the poor guy was never going to stand a chance against these three scallywags, no matter how pedantic his speeches.  This triumvirate is just too larger-than-life for Malvolio, but so much fun to watch for the audience.

With strong performances from Michael Blake (Sebastian), Stephen Russell (Antonio) and Gordon S. Miller (Fabian) to round out the cast, this Twelfth Night is a textbook example of how good a creation can be when director, actors, design and text are working in complete harmony.  A fun, genuine production from a well-assembled team.  Nicely done, Stratford.

Twelfth Night continues in repertory until October 21 at the Festival Theatre.

theatre review Twelfth Night Stratford Festival
Brent Carver (Feste), Tom Rooney (Sir Andrew Aguecheek),
Geraint Wyn Davies (Sir Toby) in Stratford's Twelfth Night.
Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann.





Monday, 15 May 2017

MEDIA RELEASE: Martha Henry’s star-studded Twelfth Night begins previews


Brent Carver as Feste. Photo by Lynda Churillo.
Martha Henry directs an all-star cast in Shakespeare’s beloved comedy Twelfth Night. 

Previews begin this Saturday, May 13, and the production opens the Festival’s 65th season on Monday, May 29, at the Festival Theatre.

The cast, which Ms Henry calls “one of the greatest casts for this play ever assembled,” features Sarah Afful as Viola, Rod Beattie as Malvolio, Brent Carver as Feste, Lucy Peacock as Maria and Geraint Wyn Davies as Sir Toby Belch, with Tom Rooney as Sir Andrew Aguecheek, E.B. Smith as Orsino and Shannon Taylor as Olivia.

“Shakespeare’s gently piercing comedy Twelfth Night is such a great play, so singular in its characters, so deeply romantic, so bittersweet in its humour that it’s wildly popular,” says Ms Henry, “and a number of our gifted cast have been in it before – some multiple times, playing different roles. Yet each time we come back to it, as we are, as the adage points out, amazed to see how much the play has changed since we last took it on.”

“As teams go, this one is hard to beat,” says Artistic Director Antoni Cimolino. “Here we have one of Shakespeare’s most beautiful plays, helmed by the extraordinary Martha Henry, who played Viola early in her Stratford career, and brought to life by a company with remarkable skills and accomplishments. Together, they bring so much heart to this production, and the result is a pure delight.”

The creative team includes Designer John Pennoyer, Lighting Designer Louise Guinand, Composer and Sound Designer Reza Jacobs, Fight Director John Stead and Movement Director Valerie Moore.

This production is dedicated to the memory of former Artistic Director Robin Phillips.

Production support is generously provided by Jane Petersen Burfield & family, by Dr. Desta Leavine in memory of Pauline Leavine and by Jack Whiteside.

Support for the 2017 season of the Festival Theatre is generously provided by Daniel Bernstein & Claire Foerster.

The 2017 season opening night presenting sponsor is BMO Financial Group.

Twelfth Night Forum highlights

The Forum is a series of events, such as exclusive showcases, guest speakers, special meals, music and family fun, that offer theatregoers a unique opportunity to delve deeper into the ideas and issues raised by the 2017 playbill. Themes related to Twelfth Night will be explored through several Forum events, including:

•             Woman: Goods or Goddess?
Wednesday, July 19
Playwright Ann-Marie MacDonald and author, academic and activist Shereen El Feki speak to their experience as female writers in diverse social and cultural contexts, discussing how the female voice and perspective has shifted over time in literature and what that shift has meant, particularly to women in society.

•             WordPlay
Geraint Wyn Davies hosts a broad-ranging series of dramatic readings inspired by the season’s themes and performed by members of the company.
o             Sunday, June 18: Albert Speer by David Edgar
o             Thursday, September 28: The Rover by Aphra Behn
o             Friday, October 13: The Honest Whore by Thomas Dekker and Thomas Middleton

Support for WordPlay is generously provided by The Dorothy Strelsin Foundation.

The Stratford Festival’s 2017 season runs until October 29, featuring Twelfth Night, Romeo and Juliet, Timon of Athens, Guys and Dolls, HMS Pinafore, Treasure Island, The School for Scandal, The Changeling, Bakkhai, Tartuffe, The Madwoman of Chaillot, The Komagata Maru Incident, The Virgin Trial and The Breathing Hole. For tickets and more information, visit stratfordfestival.ca or call 1.800.567.1600.

Cast (in alphabetical order)

Viola.................................................................. Sarah Afful
Malvolio............................................................ Rod Beattie
Understudy....................................................... Maev Beaty
Sebastian........................................................... Michael Blake
Sea Captain, Priest............................................ Matthew G. Brown
Feste.................................................................. Brent Carver
Valentine........................................................... Mac Fyfe
Proteus............................................................... Farhang Ghajar
Fabian................................................................ Gordon S. Miller
Rose................................................................... Mercedes Morris
Maria................................................................. Lucy Peacock
Fuchsia.............................................................. Monice Peter
Sir Andrew Aguecheek..................................... Tom Rooney
Understudy....................................................... Anusree Roy
Antonio............................................................. Stephen Russell
Orsino................................................................ E.B. Smith
William.............................................................. Johnathan Sousa
Olivia................................................................. Shannon Taylor
Curio.................................................................. Emilio Vieira
Lily.................................................................... Brigit Wilson
Sir Toby Belch................................................... Geraint Wyn Davies
Jack.................................................................... Tim Ziegler

Artistic Credits

Director............................................................. Martha Henry
Designer............................................................ John Pennoyer
Lighting Designer.............................................. Louise Guinand
Composer and Sound Designer......................... Reza Jacobs
Fight Director.................................................... John Stead
Movement Director........................................... Valerie Moore
Producer............................................................ David Auster
Casting Director................................................ Beth Russell
Creative Planning Director................................ Jason Miller
Associate Director............................................. Graham Abbey
Assistant Set Designer...................................... Holly Meyer-Dymny
Assistant Costume Designer............................. Francesca Callow
Assistant Lighting Designer.............................. Bryan Kenney
Associate Fight Director................................... Anita Nittoly
Stage Manager................................................... Ann Stuart
Assistant Stage Managers................................. The. John Gray, Corinne Richards
Apprentice Stage Manager................................ Jane Honek
Production Assistant......................................... Steven Smits
Production Stage Manager................................ Cynthia Toushan
Technical Director............................................. Jeff Scollon


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MEDIA RELEASE: The School for Scandal now on stage

Geraint Wyn Davies and Shannon Taylor.
Photo by Lunda Churillo


Artistic Director Antoni Cimolino at the helm

May 15, 2017… The School for Scandal, Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s delicious comedy of gossip, rumour-mongering and “fake news,” debuts at the Avon Theatre today, directed by Artistic Director Antoni Cimolino.

As hilarious today as it was in the 18th century, this comedy also feels incredibly timely. It depicts a society obsessed with gossip and insinuation, in which the wealthy use malicious rumour and unfounded allegations to bolster their own reputations while destroying those of their enemies.

“The scandal sheets of the 18th century were the social media – and fake news outlets – of their day, and we’ll be drawing that parallel quite clearly in this production,” says Mr. Cimolino.

“Written in the months immediately after the Declaration of Independence, the play carries in its heart a longing for simple honesty and compassion. It ridicules those who manipulate facts and spin the truth to enhance their own reputations at the expense of others. It uses the device of theatre – disguise and role-playing – to reveal truth. In effect, it throws down the screen on hypocrisy and corruption.

“In this age of blogging, tweeting and relentless self-promotion, we need this play more than ever before.”

The stellar cast features Shannon Taylor as Lady Teazle, Geraint Wyn Davies as Sir Peter Teazle and Joseph Ziegler as Sir Oliver Surface, with Maev Beaty as Lady Sneerwell, Brent Carver as Rowley, Sébastien Heins as Charles Surface, Tyrone Savage as Joseph Surface and Brigit Wilson as Mrs. Candour.

The creative team includes Designer Julie Fox, who brings the opulence of the 18th century to the stage with a lavish set and breathtaking costumes, Lighting Designer Michael Walton, Composer Berthold Carrière, Projection Designer Nick Bottomley, Sound Designer Thomas Ryder Payne and Fight Director John Stead.

The School for Scandal officially opens on Saturday, June 3, and runs until October 21.

This production is dedicated to the memory of philanthropist and arts activist Joan Chalmers.

Production support is generously provided by M. Fainer, by Drs. M.L. Myers & the late W.P. Hayman and by the Tremain family.

Support for the 2017 season of the Avon Theatre is generously provided by the Birmingham family.

The School for Scandal Forum highlights

The Forum is a series of events, such as exclusive showcases, guest speakers, special meals, music and family fun, that offer theatregoers a unique opportunity to delve deeper into the ideas and issues raised by the 2017 playbill. Themes related to The School for Scandal will be explored through several Forum events, including:

•             Behind the Profile
Wednesday, September 20
Join Jennifer Hollett (Twitter Canada), Andrew Lundy (The Canadian Press) and Kirstine Stewart (Diply Goviral) as they discuss self-branding, respectability policing and survival on the new frontier of social media.

The Stratford Festival’s 2017 season runs until October 29, featuring Twelfth Night, Romeo and Juliet, Timon of Athens, Guys and Dolls, HMS Pinafore, Treasure Island, The School for Scandal, The Changeling, Bakkhai, Tartuffe, The Madwoman of Chaillot, The Komagata Maru Incident, The Virgin Trial and The Breathing Hole. For tickets and more information, visit stratfordfestival.ca or call 1.800.567.1600.

Cast (in alphabetical order)

Servant.............................................................. Jared Armstrong
Servant.............................................................. Patrick Avery-Kenny
Crabtree............................................................. Rod Beattie
Lady Sneerwell................................................. Maev Beaty
Mr. Balance....................................................... Michael Blake
Sir Toby Bumper............................................... Michael G. Brown
Rowley.............................................................. Brent Carver
Gentleman #2.................................................... Farhang Ghajar
Charles Surface................................................. Sébastien Heins
Trip.................................................................... Omar Alex Khan
Lady Teazle’s Maid........................................... Mercedes Morris
Maria................................................................. Monice Peter
Maid.................................................................. Kaitlyn Rietdyk
Sir Benjamin Backbite....................................... Tom Rooney
Snake................................................................. Anusree Roy
Servant.............................................................. Stephen Russell
Joseph Surface................................................... Tyrone Savage
Careless............................................................. Johnathan Sousa
Maid.................................................................. Carley Stastny
Lady Teazle....................................................... Shannon Taylor
Joseph Surface’s Servant................................... Emilio Vieira
Mrs. Candour.................................................... Brigit Wilson
Sir Peter Teazle.................................................. Geraint Wyn Davies
Sir Oliver Surface.............................................. Joseph Ziegler
Gentleman #1.................................................... Tim Ziegler

Artistic Credits

Director............................................................. Antoni Cimolino
Designer............................................................ Julie Fox
Lighting Designer.............................................. Michael Walton
Composer.......................................................... Berthold Carrière
Projection Designer........................................... Nick Bottomley
Sound Designer................................................. Thomas Ryder Payne
Fight Director.................................................... John Stead
Producer............................................................ David Auster
Casting Director................................................ Beth Russell
Creative Planning Director................................ Jason Miller
Assistant Director.............................................. Peter Pasyk
Assistant Set Designer...................................... Joshua Quinlan
Assistant Costume Designer............................. Mary-Jo Carter Dodd
Assistant Lighting Designer.............................. C.J. Astronomo
Associate Fight Director................................... Anita Nittoly
Stage Manager................................................... Anne Murphy
Assistant Stage Managers................................. Katherine Arcus, Corinne Richards
Apprentice Stage Manager................................ Hilary Nichol
Production Assistant......................................... Madison Kalbhenn
Production Stage Managers.............................. Julie Miles, Marylu Moyer, Anne Murphy
Technical Director............................................. Elissa Horscroft


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MEDIA RELEASE: Timon of Athens now on stage


Joseph Ziegler as Timon of Athens. Photo by Lynda Churilla.
Stephen Ouimette directs Joseph Ziegler in title role

May 8, 2017… Joseph Ziegler takes the title role in Shakespeare’s Timon of Athens, directed by Stephen Ouimette. Previews begin today at the Tom Patterson Theatre.

Having directed a highly acclaimed production in 2004, Mr. Ouimette returns to the play for a second time. He has chosen a modern backdrop for this searing drama, drawing stark parallels between the world of Timon and the one in which we live today.

“I think some plays work best in their own period, and some just demand to be done in a modern setting,” says Mr. Ouimette. “I think this one absolutely does: it speaks to a modern audience, and its message is really important to us today. There’s a little exchange right at the beginning: ‘How goes the world?’ asks the Poet. And the Painter replies, ‘It wears, sir, as it grows.’ I feel that line has become so important to us. Look at the wear and tear we’ve been putting poor old Mother Earth through. It was true then but it’s even truer now.”

“Stephen has a special history with this play and it’s exciting to see how bringing 13 more years of life experience to it has only made it more affecting,” says Artistic Director Antoni Cimolino. “Together with his extraordinary cast and creative team, he has taken the play to thrilling new heights. Just like his last production, I think this will be something people remember for years.”

Timon of Athens tells the story of the wealthy nobleman Timon, whose compulsive generosity makes him the most popular man in Athens, but he falls prey to flatterers and false friends, on whom he showers lavish gifts and extravagant hospitality. His loyal steward, Flavius, tries to warn him of the financial consequences of such reckless expenditure, while the cynical philosopher Apemantus mocks his naivety, but Timon ignores them both. When his money runs out and his creditors demand payment, Timon sends confidently to his “friends” for help. When all refuse him, he throws one last party – one that heralds a dramatic change in his attitude to the world.

The cast features Tim Campbell as Alcibiades, Ben Carlson as Apemantus and Michael Spencer-Davis as Flavius.

The creative team includes Designer Dana Osborne, Lighting Designer Kimberly Purtell, Sound Designer Thomas Ryder Payne, Fight Director John Stead and Movement Director Adrienne Gould.

Timon of Athens opens on Friday, June 2, and runs until September 22.

Production support is generously provided by Cec & Linda Rorabeck.

Corporate sponsor for the 2017 season of the Tom Patterson Theatre is BMO Financial Group.

Support for the 2017 season of the Tom Patterson Theatre is generously provided by Richard Rooney & Laura Dinner.

Timon of Athens Forum highlights
The Forum is a series of events, such as exclusive showcases, guest speakers, special meals, music and family fun, that offer theatregoers a unique opportunity to delve deeper into the ideas and issues raised by the 2017 playbill. Themes related to Timon of Athens will be explored through several Forum events, including: 

Shakespeare’s Beehive
Friday, June 23

Join George Koppelman and Daniel Wechsler, authors of Shakespeare’s Beehive: An Annotated Elizabethan Dictionary Comes to Light, as they explain the amazing discovery of this illuminating work and how the annotations contained therein shed light on and tie directly in to Shakespeare’s early plays. 

The Ellington/Stratford Connection
Monday, July 24

Duke Ellington visited Stratford many times both to perform and to compose. Bassist Michael McClennan leads a performance of Ellington’s 1963 score for Timon of Athens and his 1957 album Such Sweet Thunder, which was inspired by and dedicated to the Stratford Festival. 

Support for Forum Music is generously provided by Sandra Rotman in honour of Louis Applebaum through The Louis Applebaum Visiting Artists Program. 

The Stratford Festival’s 2017 season runs until October 29, featuring Twelfth Night, Romeo and Juliet, Timon of Athens, Guys and Dolls, HMS Pinafore, Treasure Island, The School for Scandal, The Changeling, Bakkhai, Tartuffe, The Madwoman of Chaillot, The Komagata Maru Incident, The Virgin Trial and The Breathing Hole. For tickets and more information, visit stratfordfestival.ca or call 1.800.567.1600. 

Cast (in alphabetical order) 

Jeweller.............................................................. Rodrigo Beilfuss

Alcibiades.......................................................... Tim Campbell

Apemantus........................................................ Ben Carlson

Old Athenian, Second Senator......................... David Collins

Third Stranger................................................... Mikaela Davies

Phrynia, Cupid, Second Stranger...................... Ijeoma Emesowum

Timandra, First Stranger.................................... Jacklyn Francis

Servilius............................................................. Sébastien Heins

Philota, Lucullus’s Friend................................. Jessica B. Hill

Caphis................................................................ Zara Jestadt

Lucilius, Second Bandit.................................... Josh Johnston

Sempronius........................................................ Omar Alex Khan

Merchant, Third Bandit..................................... Qasim Khan

Lucius................................................................ Robert King

Poet................................................................... Josue Laboucane

Ventidius, First Bandit...................................... Cyrus Lane

Painter............................................................... Mike Nadajewski

First Senator...................................................... Gareth Potter

Flaminius........................................................... Tyrone Savage

Flavius............................................................... Michael Spencer-Davis

Lucullus............................................................. Rylan Wilkie

Timon................................................................ Joseph Ziegler



Artistic Credits 

Director............................................................. Stephen Ouimette

Designer............................................................ Dana Osborne

Lighting Designer.............................................. Kimberly Purtell

Sound Designer................................................. Thomas Ryder Payne

Fight Director.................................................... John Stead

Movement Director........................................... Adrienne Gould

Producer............................................................ David Auster

Casting Director................................................ Beth Russell

Creative Planning Director................................ Jason Miller

Assistant Director.............................................. Jonathan Seinen

Assistant Designer............................................. Caitlin Luxford

Assistant Lighting Designer.............................. Hilary Pitman

Associate Fight Director................................... Anita Nittoly

Stage Manager................................................... Michael Hart

Assistant Stage Managers................................. Katie Honek, Holly Korhonen, Melissa Veal

Production Assistant......................................... Fran Barker

Production Stage Manager................................ Janine Ralph

Technical Director............................................. Sean Hirtle


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Book review: Keeper of Lost Things

Keeper of Lost Things
Ruth Hogan
2017

Imagine you’ve lost something precious. Something small, insignificant even, to anyone else in the world. But imagine that the loss of this tiny object haunts you for the rest of your life. And maybe even afterlife.  And imagine there is someone else in the world who treasures this object as much as you and would happily return it to you – except you each exist only on the periphery of each other’s lives, barely knowing each other exists.

This is just one of the premises at the heart of Ruth Hogan’s debut novel, The Keeper of Lost Things. The keeper is Anthony Peardew and those readers who know a smattering of French realize how apt his surname is. Anthony has been finding and keeping lost things for decades, ever since losing the one item and one person with whom he never wanted to part. He only tells his faithful assistant Laura of this collection in a post-mortem letter in which he leaves her everything, and asks of her the impossible – to reunite the lost things with their owners, if they want them. 
    
Laura is befriended by Sunshine, a young woman with Down syndrome (dancing dome, in Sunshine’s words) who is far cleverer than Laura realizes, and by Freddy, Anthony’s former gardener.  As they collectively decide how to approach this Herculean task, Laura comes to realize the house she loves is the least significant of the treasures Anthony has left her, and that the objects are connected in ways only fate could have orchestrated.   Every lost object has its own story, amusing or poignant, real and imagined.


There is a major subplot involving an unusual couple (for the day) which seems completely out of place until it isn’t. This is what I love about this novel - the hints, clues and small details that – like the lost objects themselves – keep the reader going back and forth within the pages, piecing together their puzzle. As the novel nears conclusion the moving parts and separate stories very gently coalesce in the most satisfactory way, making this my favourite release so far this year.  Enjoy – this book is a true keeper.  https://spl.bibliocommons.com List: Shelf Life

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Gilbert and Sullivan’s HMS Pinafore hits the stage

[Press release]  
May 4, 2017…  HMS Pinafore, Gilbert and Sullivan’s delightful operetta, sails into the Avon Theatre today with its first preview.

Director Lezlie Wade takes us back 100 years to a manor house turned naval convalescent hospital where the staff join their patients in presenting HMS Pinafore as part of a New Year’s Eve celebration, as Britain moves into what will be the final year of World War I. Filled with glorious music and witty dialogue, and anchored by a sweet love story, the musical is pure escapist pleasure.

“Gilbert knew what he was doing when he wrote these comic operas: there are so many levels of enjoyment,” says Ms Wade, who has worked on a number of Stratford projects, including as assistant director of Jesus Christ Superstar. “If you’re an opera lover, there’s the music and beautiful vocal arrangements. If you like wit and satire, there is plenty of that to be had. If you like slapstick comedy, romance and happy endings, you won’t be disappointed.”

“HMS Pinafore offers a lighthearted spin on our season’s theme of Identity,” says Artistic Director Antoni Cimolino. “It is, of course, a charming romantic comedy set to some of the most enjoyable music ever written for the stage, but it too has something to say about the disparity between the social roles imposed on us and who we really are inside. The lovers in the story face each other across a class divide, but come to realize that their core selves are more than the external identities constructed by their circumstances. This is one reason why musical comedies raise our spirits so well: they suggest we can become so much more than we are, or think we are. All you need is love.”

The sensational cast features Jennifer Rider-Shaw as Josephine and Mark Uhre as her beloved Ralph Rackstraw, with Lisa Horner as Little Buttercup, Laurie Murdoch as Sir Joseph Porter and Steve Ross as Captain Corcoran.

The brilliant score, including “We Sail the Ocean Blue,” “I’m Called Little Buttercup” and “Never Mind the Why and Wherefore,” is brought to life by a live 17-piece orchestra, led by Music Director Franklin Brasz.

The creative team also includes Choreographer Kerry Gage, Set Designer Douglas Paraschuk, Costume Designer Patrick Clark, Lighting Designer Wendy Greenwood, Projection Designer Nick Bottomley, Sound Designer Peter McBoyle and Fight Director John Stead.

HMS Pinafore officially opens on Wednesday, May 31, and runs until Saturday, October 21.

Book and lyrics are by W.S. Gilbert, with music by Arthur Sullivan.

This production is jointly dedicated to the memories of sound engineer William Gosling and former company member Richard McMillan.

Production support is generously provided by Nona Macdonald Heaslip.

Support for the 2017 season of the Avon Theatre is generously provided by the Birmingham family.


HMS Pinafore Forum highlights

The Forum is a series of events, such as exclusive showcases, guest speakers, special meals, music and family fun, that offer theatregoers a unique opportunity to delve deeper into the ideas and issues raised by the 2017 playbill. Themes related to HMS Pinafore will be explored through several Forum events, including:

•             Satire asSubversion
Wednesday, July 5
For this discussion on the use of satire as social commentary in the works of Gilbert and Sullivan, Lezlie Wade, director of HMS Pinafore, is joined by Annette av Paul, wife of the late Brian Macdonald, the director of the Festival’s famous productions of Gilbert and Sullivan in the 1980s, and comedian Gavin Crawford, host of CBC Radio’s Because News.

•             MountingMusicals
Wednesday, July 26

Company member Sara Farb and Stratford native Britta Johnson present their original musical He Is Coming and discuss the current burgeoning of musical theatre creation with director Robert McQueen and Mitchell Marcus, Artistic Director of the Musical Stage Company.

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Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Stratford Festival kicks off 65th season with Guys and Dolls

Blythe Wilson (centre) as Miss Adelaide with members of the company in Guys and Dolls.
Photography by Cylla von Tiedemann.
MEDIA RELEASE  April 17, 2017… You have never seen Guys and Dolls like this before! Following a long string of hit musicals at the Festival, Canada’s top director-choreographer Donna Feore thrills audiences once again with her stunning production of Guys and Dolls, filled with original choreography showcased in some of the most spectacular production numbers ever mounted on a Stratford stage. Rediscover this beloved musical, on stage now at the Festival Theatre.

Guys and Dolls is without question one of the finest pieces of musical theatre ever created,” says Ms Feore. “Branded a classic almost the instant it premièred, Guys and Dolls defies expectations. The very fact that crapshooters have a ballet lets us know that traditional ideas will be turned on their heads. The ‘dolls’ of the title are independent, employed and empowered. Guys and Dolls offers us a remarkably balanced view of the romantic transactions of this fabled Broadway bunch and it does it with great joy and precision. There is nothing extra or out of place. Every word, every note, every step earns its keep.”

Guys and Dolls is known as the perfect musical comedy and there is no more perfect director to bring it to life than Donna Feore,” says Artistic Director Antoni Cimolino. “It’s a show with special meaning to her – and to us – because it’s the show that launched her Stratford career as a dancer in our 1990 production. Since then, she has become a true master of our Festival stage, exciting audiences with hit after hit, and this production is no exception. She and her extraordinary group of artists are about to blow the roof off the Festival.”

The cast boasts 33 of the country’s most gifted performers, led by Sean Arbuckle as Nathan Detroit, Evan Buliung as Sky Masterson, Alexis Gordon as Sarah Brown and Blythe Wilson as Miss Adelaide, with Lisa Horner as General Matilda B. Cartwright, Laurie Murdoch as Arvide Abernathy and Steve Ross as Nicely-Nicely Johnson.

The production features, for the first time in 25 years, Michael Starobin’s vibrant orchestrations and Mark Hummel’s slick dance arrangements, originally created for the 1992 Broadway production. The glorious score, including “Luck Be a Lady,” “A Bushel and a Peck” and the rousing “Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat,” is brought to life by Music Director Laura Burton and a live 19-piece orchestra.

The creative team also includes Set Designer Michael Gianfrancesco, Costume Designer Dana Osborne, Lighting Designer Michael Walton, Sound Designer Peter McBoyle and Fight Director John Stead.

Guys and Dolls officially opens on Tuesday, May 30, and runs until October 29.

Guys and Dolls is a musical fable of Broadway, based on a story and characters of Damon Runyon, with music and lyrics by Frank Loesser, and book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows.

Production support is generously provided by Mary Ann & Robert Gorlin, by Riki Turofsky & Charles Petersen and by Catherine & David Wilkes.

Guys and Dolls is co-sponsored by RBC and Union Gas.

Support for the 2017 season of the Festival Theatre is generously provided by Daniel Bernstein & Claire Foerster.

Guys and Dolls Forum highlights

The Forum is a series of events, such as exclusive showcases, guest speakers, special meals, music and family fun, that offer theatregoers a unique opportunity to delve deeper into the ideas and issues raised by the 2017 playbill. Themes related to Guys and Dolls will be explored through several Forum events, including:

·         Song and Dance: Guys and Dolls
June 11 – September 30
10:30 a.m. to noon
Find out what it’s like to be in a musical at the Stratford Festival as company members teach you a song and dance from Guys and Dolls.

·         Runyon on Broadway
Thursday, June 22
11 a.m. to noon
Robert Cushman investigates the life, world and works of Damon Runyon, the great short-story writer and reporter whose gangster characters and their fantastic lingo inspired the fabulous world of Guys and Dolls. Featuring extracts from the stories, including one of the funniest and most touching of them all, “The Lily of St. Pierre.”

The Stratford Festival’s 2017 season runs until October 29, featuring Twelfth Night, Romeo and Juliet, Timon of Athens, Guys and Dolls, HMS Pinafore, Treasure Island, The School for Scandal, The Changeling, Bakkhai, Tartuffe, The Madwoman of Chaillot, The Komagata Maru Incident, The Virgin Trial and The Breathing Hole. For tickets and more information, visit stratfordfestival.ca or call 1.800.567.1600.

Cast (in alphabetical order)

Gambler, Ensemble........................................... Eric Abel
Gambler, Ensemble........................................... Gabriel Antonacci
Nathan Detroit.................................................. Sean Arbuckle
Gambler, Ensemble........................................... Matthew Armet
Gambler, Ensemble........................................... Alex Black
Gambler, Ensemble........................................... Devon Michael Brown
Sky Masterson................................................... Evan Buliung
Swing................................................................ Stephen Cota
Gambler, Ensemble........................................... Colton Curtis
Big Jule.............................................................. Beau Dixon
Sarah Brown...................................................... Alexis Gordon
Mimi, Ensemble................................................. Alexandra Herzog
General Matilda B. Cartwright......................... Lisa Horner
Carmen, Hot Box Dancer, Ensemble................ Bonnie Jordan
Lt. Brannigan, Joey Biltmore............................ John Kirkpatrick
Hot Box Dancer, Ensemble............................... Heather Kosik
Hot Box Dancer, Ensemble............................... Bethany Kovarik
Hot Box Dancer, Ensemble............................... Krista Leis
Gambler, Ensemble........................................... Jordan Mah
Swing................................................................ Lily McEvenue
Gambler, Ensemble........................................... Chad McFadden
Arvide Abernathy............................................. Laurie Murdoch
Rusty Charlie..................................................... Marcus Nance
Gambler, Ensemble........................................... Nicholas Nesbitt
Calvin, Gambler, Ensemble............................... Trevor Patt
Agatha............................................................... Glynis Ranney
Angie the Ox, Ensemble................................... Sayer Roberts
Nicely-Nicely Johnson...................................... Steve Ross
Harry the Horse................................................. Brad Rudy
Martha, Ensemble.............................................. Cynthia Smithers
Hot Box Dancer, Ensemble............................... Natasha Strilchuk
Benny Southstreet............................................. Mark Uhre
Miss Adelaide................................................... Blythe Wilson

Artistic Credits

Director/Choreographer..................................... Donna Feore
Music Director................................................... Laura Burton
Set Designer...................................................... Michael Gianfrancesco
Costume Designer............................................. Dana Osborne
Lighting Designer.............................................. Michael Walton
Sound Designer................................................. Peter McBoyle
Fight Director.................................................... John Stead
Orchestrations................................................... Michael Starobin
Dance Arrangements......................................... Mark Hummel
Producer............................................................ David Auster
Casting Director................................................ Beth Russell
Creative Planning Director................................ Jason Miller
Assistant Director.............................................. Ann Baggley
Associate Choreographer.................................. Stephen Cota
Associate Sound Designer................................ William Fallon
Assistant Set Designer...................................... Holly Meyer-Dymny
Assistant Costume Designer............................. Alison Marshall
Assistant Lighting Designers............................ Bryan Kenney, Angeline St. Amour
Associate Fight Director................................... Anita Nittoly
Stage Manager................................................... The. John Gray
Assistant Stage Managers................................. Krista Blackwood, Angela Marshall,
                                                                           Melissa Rood
Production Assistant......................................... Steven Smits
Production Stage Manager................................ Cynthia Toushan
Technical Director............................................. Jeff Scollon

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PHOTOGRAPHY:

FIRST LOOK:
Blythe Wilson (centre) as Miss Adelaide with members of the company in Guys and Dolls. Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann.

Promotional photography for Guys and Dolls:

RELATED VIDEOS:

Sneak peek: Guys and Dolls rehearsal

Meet Nathan Detroit:

Meet Sarah Brown:

Meet Miss Adelaide:

Meet Nicely-Nicely Johnson:

Ann Swerdfager
Publicity Director

Stratford Festival
55 Queen Street PO Box 520 Stratford ON | N5A 6V2
519.271.4040 x2297
M: 519.301.3569

Box Office: Toll Free 1.800.567.1600 Local 519.273.1600

2017 Season | April through October
Twelfth Night | Romeo and Juliet | Timon of Athens | Guys and Dolls | HMS Pinafore
Treasure Island | The School for Scandal | The Changeling | Bakkhai | Tartuffe
The Madwoman of Chaillot | The Komagata Maru Incident | The Virgin Trial | The Breathing Hole


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