Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Locals Know - Jesus Christ Superstar

Both Andrew Lloyb Webber and Tim Rice have made the treck to Stratford to see this production, and now that we have seen it we know why. Yes all the hype is true. This is a huge hit and you shouldn't miss this one. Webber was quoted as saying the show is “very probably the best acted performance of the show I have ever seen.
Paul Nolan & Josh Young do an outstanding job in carring the show. The strength of this production seems to be infectious because the rest of the ensemble carries the show with equaled strength of the leads. This show has a very fast tempo and drive. There are no pauses required for audience approval. There was so much energy on this set it seemed like the cast would have delivered the same performance even if there was no audience in the seats.

The set of this production is amazing. It isn't a lavish Shakespearean set, but a high tech set that one would expect to see at a rock concert. How this set is used, manipulated and worked is in itself a Tony award winning performance. The transitions and set changes are awe inspiring. The sense of speed, angst and purpose that carried every transition was almost palatable. The updated costumes and choreography were also a plus.

Act 1 flew by so quickly we thought it was minutes.

Yes I will admit it, I am gushing. Simply put, GO SEE THIS SHOW.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Locals Know - The Merry Wives of Windsor

Last week I had the pleasure of seeing the Merry Wives of Windsor with a dear friend. I asked her if she would be so kind as to write us a review. She did such a wonderful job, and I agree with her whole heartedly. Therefore I will post her review in its entirety.

Yay for good friends and good theatre.

The Merry Wives of Windsor was a scrumptious, and unexpected, treat! And one of the best performances by an entire cast that I can remember. Each player was equally as good as the next, and honestly, the word "good" doesn't do them credit; they all performed exceptionally well. In fact, it's difficult not to rave about every one of them, but I'll endeavour to pick out a few highlights:

First, it's interesting to note that this is one of the only plays that Shakespeare set in London and, I believe, the only play that he wrote entirely in prose, which explains why MW is extremely accessible (meaning, easy to understand), because it is not riddled with poetic dialogue. Legend has it that Queen Elizabeth asked the bard to write a play about her beloved character, Falstaff, and that in this play the fat knight should be in love. Oh, and the play must be ready in two weeks! The result: a rich comedy -- a precursor to the modern-day sit-com -- full of farcical moments, and ridiculous characters!

Geraint Wyn Davies captures the character of Sir John Falstaff so completely, you quite forget that he's not a real person! And Davies imbues this delightful character with a warmth that is undeniable. You are drawn into his delusion that, although obese and quite unattractive, he can attract and seduce two lovely married women by sending them an ill-written love letter (the same one to each). And as he endures humiliation after comedic humiliation, you grow to love the fat knight more... and more.

Equally impressive performances are given by the "Wives", Lucy Peacock and Laura Condlln, who capture the wit and high spirits of their characters, drawing you in to their delightful scheme to undermine the would-be seducer, Falstaff. Their complicity is tangible, and you are caught up in their glee as each plot unfolds to repay Falstaff for jeopardizing their honour, and insulting them by sending identical letters!

Although the entire cast shone, it would be unfair not to mention Tom Rooney's absolutely delicious portrayal of the outrageously jealous husband, Master Ford. To learn whether his wife is indeed being unfaithful, Rooney's character disguises himself in foppish clothes and a ridiculous wig; it's a pleasure to watch as Rooney escalates his character's manic jealousy scene after scene, with superb comic timing. If you saw his performance in "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum", you will understand; Tom Rooney has a superlative talent for comedy.

Nigel Bennett is also hysterically funny with his almost unintelligible French accent, and Christopher Prentice does a great job of bringing Master Slender's stupendous stupidity to life!

I could go on and on and on... each character was played so well, it seems unfair not to mention every single one of them! Suffice to say that MW is a wonderful, funny play, very easy to understand (even for those who aren't fans of Shakespeare), and ideal for any age! Even the high school students who filled most of the audience the day I saw it were laughing... and at the right spots!

The Old Prune - Still a favorite

Last night we had the pleasure of dining at the "Old Prune." Although the restaurant is under new management we are pleased to say that our evening was as wonderful as ever. Ross was pleased to see a vegetarian option on the menu and even happier when he saw that it was risotto.
The whole experience at Old Prune is delectable. The service is impeccable and the food is divine and that is what makes this restaurant one of our favorites. If you are looking for a fine dining experience this is the place to find it.

Check out their website for more details.
The Old Prune

Weight Watchers Points Plus Program

Hughson Hall is pleased to announce that we now offer Points Plus menu options for guests that are on the Weight Watchers program. We have some excellent meals planned for the season. If you have any questions please give us a call, or drop us an e-mail.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Locals Know - The Grapes of Wrath

Over the weekend the Festival posed the question “How would you celebrate the Bards birthday”? Well we went to see a play of course. We had the pleasure of seeing the opening preview of “The Grapes of Wrath.” Although it wasn’t classical Shakespeare it is a classic American story, and this production is a beautifully intimate nugget.

First of all the audience should go into this play with the realization that the story being portrayed here is not a happy one, this is a slice of life from a tumultuous time period in American history, but what makes it beautiful is the story’s portrayal of the sense of family, and the struggle to survive no matter what heartbreaks we are faced with.

We had very close seats for this production and this had positive and negative effects on our overall opinion of the production. One of the positives of sitting so close was that we were drawn into the play. It is a play where you need to feel for the characters, and the kindness they exude. The production became very intimate for us, but we wondered whether that same feeling was conveyed to the patrons at the back of the theatre.

Although minimal the set is beautiful. There are moments when the truck is alone on stage, and it gives you the feeling of isolation this family endures on this daunting journey. In the next minute they transform the stage into such wonderful visual images the likes of which, we had never experiences on the stage before.

One of the negatives of sitting so close was that we could see into the wings and saw far too much of the set entering and exiting. We hope that this will be worked out as the crew becomes more comfortable in moving the set on, and off, and we have to admire the work that goes on back stage to make the transitions in this play so seamless.

In terms of great performances there are many. Janet Wright is perfect as Ma, and Chilina Kennedy pulls off another magical chameleon like performance and transforms herself into a naive country girl who must face new harsh realities of life. (The final image of the play with Chilina is breathtaking.) Tom McCamus has a hit in his portrayal of Jim Casy while Evan Buliung holds it all together with his strong portrayal of Tom Joad. The cast understands the rhythm of this play, and work in ensemble to pull off the nuances needed to make this play work.

Friends have told us they left this production depressed, but we left filled with the spirit of family and the strength to survive. No matter what this production will inspire many conversations and debates this season.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Locals Know - Camelot

With the weather we have been having lately it is hard to believe that yes indeed, it is spring time in Stratford. But last weekend we had the opportunity to see one of the first previews of the season…. “Camelot.”

It was wonderful to see a patron filled Festival Theatre. The room was filled with anticipation and excitement for the new season and we were not to be disappointed. This production is a delicious dose of classical, and romantic Musical Theatre. Director Gary Griffin has created a production that is a true both to the script, and plays homage to the timeless romance of the 1950’s Musical format.

This production doesn’t take itself too seriously, and many of the characters are presented with a tongue in cheek sense of frivolity. This keeps the production light and entertaining, but isn’t as over the top as “Kiss Me Kate” was last year.

The songs themselves were a pleasant surprised for us. We went into this production with few expectations, as we knew the storyline but didn’t really remember the show itself. As each musical number developed we found ourselves saying, “Oh, I forgot this song was from this play.” There were plenty of magical moments, but one that really stood out was Jonathan
Winsby’s rendition of “C’est Moi.”

As always the set and costumes are spectacular and our hats go off to everyone involved in the backstage departments of this show. The show is a visual feast from the opening moment, (which takes your breath away), to the majestic scene of pomp and ceremony where Arthur knights Lancelot in front of the entire court. We sat in the balcony this time, and the shapes and patterns created by choreographer Warren Carlyle, during the show are breathtaking.

We had the privilege of sitting next to the family of Jimmy Mallett, who plays the young Arthur, and Tom of Warwick. He did an outstanding job for a youngster on the Festival Stage, and the pride and support of his family made the show that much more memorable for us.

This show has been promoted as this year’s family friendly production and we completely agree. The story being about kings and knights should be enough to capture the interest of a younger audience. (The sword fights won’t hurt either) The feeling that we left with was that we had seen a great introduction to the musical theatre craft that will hook a young audience.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Looking Forward to a New Season

Everyone appears to be ready to bust down doors in order to get out of the house and welcome spring with open arms. We too are excited, anticipating another wonderful season at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival. Last season we posted our views on each performance as we saw them throughout the season. We will try to do this again this year, but at this time would like to share what we have heard about the upcoming play list.
While perusing the Visitor’s Guide we have noticed a re-occurring theme this year. That theme is amazing casting. This may be because we are now heading into our fourth season and becoming more and more familiar with the company and their amazing talents. Each and every play seems to have at least one cast member that we can’t wait to see in a given role.
In Merry Wives of Windsor, we are awaiting the performances of Lucy Peacock, Tom Rooney and Geraint Wyn Davies, for we anticipate their antics will be very amusing. As always we are suckers for the musicals and this year will be no different. We are expecting great things from Paul Nolan and Chilina Kennedy in Jesus Christ Superstar, as they have such great chemistry on stage. Ross is longtime fan of Brent Carver so will be waiting to see him in Camelot.
A lesser-known face to the Stratford Audience is Melissa O’Neil. Melissa was originally from Calgary and won Canadian Idol, and we can’t wait to see her on the Stratford Stage.
We think that Brian Dennehy could single handedly draw in the masses to both Twelfth Night and The Home Coming but the rest of the casts are extremely talented as well. On the heals of his success on Broadway in The Importance of Being Earnest it will be great to see what Brian Bedford will do with The Misanthrope both as an actor and director.
Corner Gas fans will see a different side of Janet Wright in The Gapes of Wrath. Another reason not to miss this American Classic will be to witness the chameleon like talents of Chilina Kennedy. Last year she did this with her lead role in Evita and Lois in Kiss Me Kate.
We can’t write about casting without noting the roles of Seana McKenna. We have never see Richard III cross cast but if anyone can pull it off Seana can. In opposition to this it will be great to see Seana’s more feminine side as Shakespeare’s widow Anne Hathaway in Shakespeare’s Will.
With the passing of Peter Donaldson it will be interesting to see the re-casting of Titus Andronicus. David Ferry is stepping into the role originally slated for Peter to play, so we wish him well in this endeavor. We will also be watching the performance of Amanda Lisman.
We have always had a special fondness the productions performed on the Studio Stage. This space is so intimate and the productions are always new and fresh. With this predisposition we look forward to seeing Yanna McIntosh & Chick Reid in The Little Years. And that leaves us with Hosanna. With the breathtaking success of Michel Tremblay’s For The Pleasure of Seeing Her Again last year we think that this play is going to be the hard to get ticket of the season. We are curious to see Gareth Potter journey as he transforms himself into a transvestite. Furthermore in light of the recent loss of the iconic actress Elizabeth Taylor this production should prove to be even more timely and poignant.
So as the buds try to break through the surface of their frozen beds we too await the opportunity to bask in the light of the many brilliant performances of the upcoming season.