The Taming of the Shrew

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Written by William Shakespeare

Directed by Chris Abraham

Seen June 28, Festival Theatre, Stratford Ontario

Sounds like the beginning of a bad joke: three feminists walk into a theatre to see The Taming of the Shrew. From a woman’s point of view, this Shakespeare classic can be stomach-churning. However, taking a look at cast and director, we trusted the material to be in good hands. Thankfully, we were right. Continue reading

Hamlet

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Seen June 23 & 26 2015; Festival Theatre, Stratford, Ontario

Written by William Shakespeare

Directed by Antoni Cimolino

Confession time: the plan for summer 2015 originally wasn’t to go to Stratford, but visit Scotland and spare ourselves the jetlag. Then during our stay in Stratford last year, Hamlet was announced to be on the playbill in 2015 and those who know me well will attest to the fact that I am physically unable to stay away from a production of this play. To make matters worse, a few days later news got out that the title role had gone to Jonathan Goad and I distinctly remember saying I would like to see him as Hamlet in a few years when we walked out of the Patterson after Othello in 2007. Bye bye fried Mars bars, hello Paulette Bunyon. Continue reading

Man of La Mancha

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Seen: September 3, Avon Theatre

Cast: Matt Alfano, Matthew Armet, Shane Carty, Stephen Cota, Paul Duncan, Harry Edison, Sean Alexander Hauk, Robin Hutton, Kayla James, Galen Johnson, Monique Lund, Ayrin Mackie, Chad McFadden, Marcus Nance, Cory O’Brien, Stephen Patterson, Kevin Ramessar, Kimberley Rampersad, Tom Rooney, Steve Ross, Jason Sermonia, Shawn Wright

Directed by Robert McQueen

My sister and I started going to the Stratford Festival (back then still the Shakespeare Festival of Canada) more than a decade ago when I was finally deemed old enough to rent a car with a European drivers license. We returned almost every year since (it is quite a distance from Vienna, so it doesn’t always work out) and are bringing a friend with us for the third time now. I’m starting to think the Festival is affiliated with the Borg – resistance is futile.

First up in this year’s edition of our annual-ish visit was Man of La Mancha starring Tom Rooney in the roles of Miguel de Cervantes and his creations Don Quixote/Alonso Quijana, Robin Hutton as Aldonza/Dulcinea and Steve Ross as Sancho Panza/Manservant.

For someone who doesn’t consider herself a big fan of musicals, I surely watch a lot of them at Stratford. That could be because they haven’t disappointed me yet. On the contrary, their stellar production of Jesus Christ Superstar a few years back garnered so much critical acclaim and attention, it went on to Broadway. I also couldn’t say when I had as much fun in a theatre as two years ago at the Pirates of Penzance.

Man of La Mancha didn’t disappoint either. Even before the actors arrived on stage, the stage setting was a sight to behold. It’s incredible what the set designers and carpenters at Stratford create every year.

The musical itself stands and falls with the lead and the always wonderful Tom Rooney carries it with grace, stage presence and a set of pipes I didn’t know he had, having seen him only in plays before. I had a serious case of goosebumps during The Impossible Dream and judging from the audience’s reaction, I wasn’t the only one. Rooney brings something different to author and showman Cervantes, the knight of the woeful countenance and the frail old man respectively.

Steve Ross was a delightful Sancho Panza, who knew when to dial back so he didn’t end up just the comic relief, but had some really touching moments too. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for Robin Hutton. Her Aldonza was one-dimensionally angry at times, without any shades where there could have been some and had issues with some higher notes at the beginning, that she managed to hit just so, but she sounded unintentionally shrill in some parts. At least I hope that wasn’t planned, I’m not a fan of atonality and wouldn’t expect it in a musical that is not about Schönberg.

The supporting cast was great, unfortunately this musical isn’t written in a way that gives them ample time to shine. Having seen Marcus Nance in action before, I have to say he was grossly underused.

Our seats were on the balcony, and there was one big fight scene where I wondered if anyone had bothered to watch it from up there during rehearsals. It is however probably close to impossible to stage such a scene in a way that it looks like an actual fight from all angles, so I’m not griping about this too much.

All in all, it was a very entertaining evening that left the Avon Theatre’s patrons humming the way down the stairs and probably all the way back to their accomodations.

Steve Ross was a guest in Stratford Festival Review‘s podcast. If you want to hear about his journey so far, have a listen here http://theinadequatelife.com/2014/10/