Opening Week

It was a triumphant opening week for the Stratford Shakespeare Festival, and everyone here is delighted with the success of the season so far – and eagerly looking forward to all the openings still ahead.

For the gala season opening night on Monday, June 7, we held a live video feed from the red carpet at the Festival Theatre entrance. The webcast was hosted by Stratford favourite Bruce Dow (who is back this season in The Tempest and The Two Gentlemen of Verona). It was a great opportunity to meet Festival actors and other artists, and also some of the many people who work behind the scenes. We’ve put together a little montage of people Bruce spoke to:

After everyone was ushered to their seats and we sang the national anthem, the productions of opening week got underway.

Monday night the audience was treated to a wonderful production of William Shakespeare’s As You Like It. Set in the 1920s, it has a fabulous cast and an irresistibly tuneful score to accompany the many songs that Shakespeare incorporated into the play. Tuesday, the Cole Porter musical Kiss Me, Kate, inspired by Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, dazzled us in a bold and colourful interpretation by Tony Award-winning director John Doyle.

The middle of the week brought us a rarely produced Shakespeare drama, The Winter’s Tale. Beautifully staged in the intimate Tom Patterson Theatre, it had a warm reception from both patrons and critics. Thursday, the Festival rocked out with Evita at the Avon theatre – the first rock opera Stratford has ever staged.

Friday’s opening show, the revue Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris, was a real treat for music lovers – and then, to round off the week, patrons were whisked off with Wendy, Michael and John to the Never Land in J. M. Barrie’s classic Peter Pan. The obvious excitement of the younger theatregoers (and the not-so young ones too) was a clear sign that the week had come to a suitably thrilling conclusion.

But opening week is just the beginning of the excitement here at Stratford: there’s lots more to come. Next to open, for instance, is a production that many newspapers – and even National Geographic – are calling the must-see event of the summer. That’s The Tempest, with the internationally renowned Christopher Plummer in the role of Prospero.

We look forward to seeing you before the season’s up at the end of October.

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Dress Rehearsal ~ As You Like It

As You Like It From left: Brent Carver as Jaques, Ben Carlson as Touchstone, Cara Ricketts as Celia, Paul Nolan as Orlando and Andrea Runge as Rosalind Photo by: Andrew Eccles

As You Like It

By William Shakespeare

April 30 to October 31 – Opens June 7

Last week the company was invited to the dress rehearsal of As You Like It, and I must say it was a real treat to have the opportunity to watch this show. Having grown up in Stratford, I have watched a number of productions at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival, the first of which was a production of As You Like It – which for me, like many others, was a life-changing experience.

Walking into the Festival Theatre is an experience itself, and I am in awe every time I enter that theatre. So when I went in to watch the 2010 production of As You Like It, directed by our Artistic Director, Des McAnuff, I thought I knew what I was going to see. But even so, I didn’t expect it to be quite so gorgeous. This production is set in the 1920s, a beautiful period with stunning clothing and eye-popping surrealist art.

As You Like It takes place in two different realms. The first is that of the court, where a coup has just taken place. Duke Senior has been usurped by his brother, Duke Frederick, and banished from the court. Frederick then also banishes his niece Rosalind, who decides the best thing to do is disguise herself as a man before she enters the Forest of Arden (which is of course the second realm). To make a long story short, Rosalind and Orlando (who was smitten with her even before they entered the forest) fall in love, as do three other couples. In the end they all get married, and all is restored.

One aspect of this show that really stands out is its music. The Festival has had a number of composers write music for past productions of As You Like It, the last time being in 2005, when the Barenaked Ladies supplied the score. This time we have a descendant of Duke Ellington as the composer of the songs ¬– and what wonderful music he has created! Other music for this production was created by Michael Roth who was musical director on Disney’s The Princess and the Frog. The tunes have a twenties feel to them and make you want to Charleston along with the cast. Once the songs started, I didn’t want them to stop.

The cast is as talented as the design is beautiful. Several members are from this season’s Conservatory class, including two favourites from last season: Paul Nolan (who played Tony in West Side Story) and Andrea Runge (Cecily from The Importance of Being Earnest). Playing beside them is a fine mix of others who have delighted us before at Stratford, including Ben Carlson and Brian Tree and the return of Brent Carver.

As You Like It runs from April 30 through October 31, opening June 7.

Cast (in alphabetical order)

First Forest Lord………………………………………………………………… Sean Arbuckle
Phoebe………………………………………………………………………………….. Dalal Badr
First Page……………………………………………………………………… Jewelle Blackman
Dennis………………………………………………………………………………. Skye Brandon
Touchstone…………………………………………………………………………… Ben Carlson
Jaques………………………………………………………………………………… Brent Carver
Charles / William…………………………………………………………………… Dan Chameroy
Ensemble……………………………………………………………………………… Victor Dolhai
Oliver Martext……………………………………………………………………… Victor Ertmanis
Le Beau………………………………………………………………………………… Xuan Fraser
Musician…………………………………………………………………………………. Ian Harper
Ensemble……………………………………………………………………………… Alana Hawley
Corin………………………………………………………………………………… Randy Hughson
Ensemble………………………………………………………………………………. Robin Hutton
Silvius………………………………………………………………………………………. Ian Lake
Hymen…………………………………………………………………………………….. Roy Lewis
Musician………………………………………………………………………….. George Meanwell
Understudy……………………………………………………………………………. Ginette Mohr
Amiens…………………………………………………………………………….. Mike Nadajewski
Hisperia……………………………………………………………………………… Nathalie Nadon
Orlando……………………………………………………………………………………. Paul Nolan
Fourth Forest Lord…………………………………………………………….. Stephen Patterson
Audrey………………………………………………………………………………… Lucy Peacock
Second Forest Lord………………………………………………………….. Christopher Prentice
Jaques de Boys…………………………………………………………………… Jonathan Purdon
Celia……………………………………………………………………………………. Cara Ricketts
Duke Frederick / Duke Senior………………………………………………………… Tom Rooney
Rosalind……………………………………………………………………………….. Andrea Runge
Oliver……………………………………………………………………………………… Mike Shara
Adam………………………………………………………………………………………. Brian Tree
Second Page……………………………………………………………….. Abigail Winter-Culliford

Artistic team

Director……………………………………………………………………………….. Des McAnuff
Scenic Designer…………………………………………………………………….. Debra Hanson
Costume Designer………………………………………………………………….. Dana Osborne
Lighting Designer………………………………………………………………….. Michael Walton
Composer, Original Songs…………………………………………………………. Justin Ellington
Composer, Musical Director…………………………………………………………. Michael Roth