Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Locals Know - Winter's Tale

Winter's Tale is yet another success in what is proving to be a wonderful season. This production delivers a very well told story that is easy to follow, even for non-shakespeare followers.

The staging of this production is simple but effective, and the costuming is lovely. It has a well rounded out cast of characters that worked together to tell this lovely tale There are fantastic performances by a multiple characters. To name just a few, Seana McKenna has a strong stage presence about her in this role, and brings an energy and commitment that is often hard to find. As well, Yanna McIntosh captured the grace and style of Queen Mermione.

Once again the director has captured the comedic moments and managed to find the musicality in Shakespeare's words. Even the bear managed to make many audience members jump.
Simply put It is nice to see that Shakespeare can be performed traditionally and still be pertinent and current. Instilling intrigue and true emotion.

Locals Know - The Tempest

The highly anticipated production of the Tempest starring Christopher Plummer is up and running, and yes it was worth the wait. As expected, Mr. Plummer is fantastic, the way he commands the attention of his audience and his mastery of Shakespearian text is incomparable and those two aspects alone make this production a must see. There are also some surprise stellar performances in this production. The first of which is that of Julyana Soelistyo as the lovable sprite Ariel. Soelistvo brings an infectious energy and a childlike innocence to this character. So much so that it is hard to believe that in real life she is a married mother of two.
The play itself runs the risk of being a little dark, but Director Des McAnuff has managed to find the comedic moments in the script. Bruce Dow as Trinculo and Geraint Wyn Davies as Stephano lift the audience out of the darkness every time they walk on the stage. Dow's campy antics are absolutely hilarious.
A shout out should also be made to the many hands that are backstage making this show happen. All the technical elements from the slight of hand to big theatrical illusions are all presented with panache.
(As a side note, the first act is very long so be prepared and use the facilities before you are seated.)

Put all of these wonderful performances and technical talents together and the result is a show that should not be missed. It is no wonder that Bravo will be returning to record this production for the archives. I strongly suggest you take advantage of any opportunity to see it live.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Stratford Summer Music

Stratford Summer Music is celebrating it's tenth season this year and the line up is spectacular. Last night we had the pleasure of listening to a presentation by the events Artistic Producer, John Miller who gave us some wonderful insight on what one shouldn't miss this year.

Opening the five weeks of festivities is a wonderful concert that will be held on Tom Patterson Island. Although the concert is a private event for sponsors the music and fireworks display can be enjoyed by all. The piece de resistance of this evening will be a barge decorated with Chinese lanterns which will float down the Avon river, flanked by two Dragon boats. On the barge will be a choir, and if Mr Millers enthusiasm is any indication of how spectacular this will be, we are in for a treat.

The festival will be full of amazing talent, and I will try to point out a few of the highlights;
Canada’s great tenor to the world Ben Heppner will be performing five times during the first week of the festival including a performance with the National Youth Orchestra of Canada right next door to Hughson Hall at Central United Church. The Lanley Ukulele Ensemble is the most requested group in the festivals history and they will be returning this year. If you have an opportunity take advantage of Picnic Basket auctions that will take place every Saturday during the festival. These picnics are supplied by local restaurants and always prove to be a wonderful surprise.

Another festival favorite has been the Saturday night Cabarets at the Church Restaurant. These are after theatre performances that begin at 11:30 pm but this year there is also a dinner and show option that should prove very popular. The tickets in highest demand this year are the Bach at Rundles performances. Winona Zelenka, acting principal cellist of Toronto Symphony Orchestra, presents J.S.Bach’s Six Suites for Solo Cello on the famed Guarnerius/Starker cello which was built in 1707. Additional performances have been added so there are still some tickets available at this time.

In week three keep your ears peeled for local 60's rockers "Reload" who will be performing classic rock on the barge. You can also catch the three act performances of "My Audia" in the downtown core. Each act of this three act tragicomic street opera will be performed on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. The basis of the plot is "what happened to the children of Hamelin after the Pied Piper took them away." On another level this opera will explore the power of sound and how it can save us.

In week four check out Jan Lisiecki, a 15 year-old piano sensation from Calgary. After his performance in Stratford Jan will be heading to Warsa to perform at the 5th International Festival “Chopin and His Europe” On the barge this week check out the sounds of New Orleans with the female Cajun Band, Swamperella.

Finally in Week five watch for the Tivoli Boys Band from Copenhagen Denmark, and don't miss the RBC Festival Finale featuring Jackie Richardson. This performance will also be held next door to Hughson Hall at Central United Church.

It looks like an outstanding event, so please try to take in "Stratford's Other Festival" this summer.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Locals Know - Peter Pan

This production is a wonderful addition to the Stratford Festival play bill this season. Exposing a new generation of theatre patrons is never a bad thing. Offering a production that can be enjoyed by children and adults that are young at heart is even better.
As Antoni Cimolino has stated these children will be the next generation of theatre goers and this production is sure to leave them with a lasting memory that will draw them back to Stratford in years to come.
There are plenty of awe inspiring effects in this production that will be enjoyed by both young and old. The flying scenes are flawless, the alligator is highly entertaining. But the piece de resistance is the ship. WOW! The story line is darker than you may recall from your childhood memories, but the energy and dedication the actors put into their performances certainly transport you back in time. Michael Therriault's performance as Peter was awe inspiring! His movements, and speech pattern convinced us that he was indeed a fine example eternal youth. Playing opposite as his nemisis, Captain Hook, balances out this battle of good and evil.
We were fortunate enough to sit beside two young boys, ages 8 & 11, who's energy and enthusiasm made the show all the more enjoyable for us. At one point the 11 year old next to us exclaimed "Isn't this exciting! It's not every day that you experience something like this." We felt the same way, as the pirates scoured the audience for Lost Boys.

As a side note we have a challenge for you. There is one actor that plays two different characters in this production, can you figure out who it is? Best of luck and enjoy the show.

Check out this production clip.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Locals Know - Jacques Brel is Alive and Well

What a lovely nugget. We thoroughly enjoyed this production but the first thing we will address is the fact that this isn't really a play, but more of a collection of songs by the famous french songwriter Jacques Brel. If you are looking for a collection of beautiful songs that individually tell wonderful little stories you will love this production. The songs have been translated into English but have not lost their soul. A few songs are performed in their native language and although we are not french speaking we recognized the beauty these song held when performed in french.
The most impressive is the sound quality. This being the first musical staged in the Tom Patterson theatre the Festival has invested in a new sound system for the theatre. The result is superb and for the most part you could never tell the actors were mic'ed. This production also proves that this venue is perfect for intimate musical performances due to the fact that the audience is performed to from every angle. Making the audience feel as though they are an intimate part of the performance.
Another element of this performance that must be noted is Jewelle Blackman's rendition of "Carousel." I can't say that I remember her performance in Cabaret but after this show she will never again be forgotten.
In summary these enticing little nuggets exemplify the famous soliloquy from "As You Like It", this speech states that all the world is a stage and these little songs are further proof of that.

If you want to investigate the real life Jacques Brel check out the following link;
Jacques Brel Video

Check out this production clip.

Locals Know - Evita

I had the pleasure of attending the very first preview of "Evita" and the production was everything that I wanted it to be. As expected Chilina Kennedy absolutely shone. This production has gotten a lot of criticism even before it opened. Some Shakespeare purists believe a Lloyd Webber play shouldn't be a part of this festival, others simply believe that the real Eva Peron was a money hungry social climber and that there shouldn't be a play about her in the first place. To these nay-sayers I say expand your horizons. This is a lovely production with great performances, some catchy tunes and a wonderful set. The play manages to transport you to another time and place and that is what good theatre is all about.
One of the great things about this show is the set. They have developed a wonderful system that acts like the lens of a camera enabling the director to expand or focus the audiences viewpoint. I found this extremely enticing and loved the way the set was manipulated to help to tell the story. Furthermore the use of video imaging also enhanced the production making it new and interesting. The friend that I attended this show with made a comment at intermission that she found Chilina's voice a little shrill, but I assured her that I felt it was a part of her character, and as her character grew so would Chilina's voice and this was definitely the case. My hat goes off to Chilina for although she is a a very petite woman she caries the big role very successfully.
I have seen this show before many years ago, but over the years I have forgotten a couple of points. This show is somewhat a rock opera, and some of the songs reminded me a lot of "Jesus Christ Superstar." Having said that some of the music is loud and edgy so be prepared. Finally I had forgotten how abruptly this show ends. You discover that Eva Peron's body disappeared for 17 years and then boom bows begin. There is no big finale number to let the audience leave tapping their toes but this too is a representation of the the real life story. Eva Peron clawed her way to stardom, she eventually lived the flashy and glamorous life she had always dreamed of, but then suddenly it all came to an end.
I feel that this production is a welcomed and interesting alternative for Stratford patrons and I hope you enjoy the show as much as I did.

Check out this production clip.