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 ~ Kiss Me, Kate

Monique Lund as Lilli Vanessi and Juan Chioran as Fred Grahm. Photo by: Andrew Eccles

Kiss Me, Kate
Music and Lyrics by Cole Porter
Book by Sam and Bella Spewack

April 10 to October 30 – Opens June 8

Yesterday a number of staff at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival got the opportunity to sit in on the dress rehearsal for Kiss Me, Kate directed by two time Tony award winner John Doyle.  And I must say that it was hugely enjoyable and had a lot of colour.

If you’re not familiar with this Cole Porter hit musical, here’s a brief synopsis of the story.  Fred Graham and Lilli Vanessi celebrating the first anniversary of their divorce, while at the same time putting on a musical version of William Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew.  This Shrew is directed by Fred and stars Fred and Lilli as Petruchio and Katherine.  And if that’s not enough of a tricky situation, Bill Calhoun, a member of the acting company with a gambling problem, has written an IOU for his latest loss – using Fred’s name.  Lo and behold, a pair of gangsters arrive to collect the IOU, and from that moment on chaos ensues.

Kiss Me, Kate is full of wonderful songs by Cole Porter that you are bound to recognize, even if you don’t know their titles.  These are tunes that seem to be implanted into all our subconscious at birth – and right from “Wonderbar,” the first number, we are humming along.  Among the best-known numbers are “Too Darn Hot,” “So In Love,” and “Brush Up Your Shakespeare”.

Under the direction of John Doyle (most recognizable for the revivals of Company and Sweeney Todd on Broadway, in which the characters also fill in as the orchestra) the cast of Kiss Me, Kate put on a show you’re sure to remember for quite some time.  Be it because of the wildly fanciful asymmetrical costumes for Fred’s Shrew musical or new imagining of the “Too Darn Hot” number, you’ll fall for this show.  And that’s to say nothing of all the fantastic singers and dancers in the cast – who, by the way, not only play their “real” roles throughout but also stand in as set pieces in the show-within-the-show production of Shrew.

Kiss Me, Kate starts this Saturday April 9 at 2pm and runs in rep until October 30 at the Festival theatre.

Cast (in alphabetical order)
A Boy / Gregory………………………………………………………….. Jordan Bell
Fred Graham / Petruchio……………………………………………….. Juan Chioran
Wig Mistress / Padua Lady……………………………………………. Naomi Costain
Flyman / Philip…………………………………………………………….. Stephen Cota
Props Mistress / Padua Lady………………………………………….. Lindsay Croxall
Hattie, Lilli’s Dresser / Padua Woman……………………………… Keisha T. Fraser
Swing………………………………………………………………………… Nicko Giannakos
Stage Carpenter / Gremio………………………………………………. Kyle Golemba
Prompter / Padua Lady…………………………………………………. Eran Goodyear
Harry Trevor / Baptista…………………………………………………. Douglas E. Hughes
Bill Calhoun / Lucentio………………………………………………….. Mike Jackson
Lois Lane / Bianca……………………………………………………….. Chilina Kennedy
Lilli Vanessi / Katherine…………………………………………………. Monique Lund
Wardrobe Mistress / Haberdasher…………………………………… Lorena Mackenzie
Swing………………………………………………………………………… Josie Marasco
Assistant Stage Manager / Padua Lady…………………………….. Jennifer Rider-Shaw
First Man……………………………………………………………………. Steve Ross
Second Man……………………………………………………………….. Cliff Saunders
Stage Electrician / Hortensio…………………………………………… Jaz Sealey
Dance Captain / Nathaniel……………………………………………… Julius Sermonia
Ralph, the Stage Manager……………………………………………… Vince Staltari
Harrison Howell / Cab Driver…………………………………………. Kristian Truelsen
Pops, Stage Door Man / Priest……………………………………….. Rudy Webb
Paul, Fred’s Dresser / Padua Man…………………………………… Josh Young

Artistic Team
Director……………………………………………………………………… John Doyle
Choreographer…………………………………………………………….. Tracey Flye
Musical Director………………………………………………………….. Franklin Brasz
Designer…………………………………………………………………….. David Farley
Sound Designer……………………………………………………………. Peter McBoyle
Fight Director………………………………………………………………. Daniel Levinson
Associate Sound Designer……………………………………………… Michael Laird
Assistant Director…………………………………………………………. Rachel Slaven
Assistant Choreographer……………………………………………….. Kelly Fletcher
Lighting Design Execution………………………………………………. Siobhán Sleath
Assistant Set Designer…………………………………………………… Andrea Mittler
Assistant Costume Designer…………………………………………… Laura Gardner
Assistant Lighting Designer…………………………………………….. Jennifer Lennon
Assistant Sound Designer………………………………………………. Verne Good
Assistant Fight Director…………………………………………………. Kevin Robinson
New Musical Arrangements / Musical Supervisor………………. Rick Fox
Stage Manager…………………………………………………………….. Cynthia Toushan
Assistant Stage Managers………………………………………………. Marie Fewer, Holly Korhonen,
Zeph Williams
Production Assistant……………………………………………………… Loreen Gibson
Production Stage Manager…………………………………………….. Margaret Palmer