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 ~ Peter Pan

From left: Tom McCamus as Captain Hook, Michael Therriault as Peter Pan and Sean Cullen as Smee. Photo by: Andrew Eccles

Peter Pan

by J. M. Barrie

April 16 to October 31 – Opens June 12

It has been some time since the Stratford Shakespeare Festival has done a show geared specifically to children. The last one, in fact, was Alice Through the Looking Glass in 1996, and many people have felt that it was time for another production of that kid-friendly kind to hit Stratford’s stages. Enter 2010’s Peter Pan – which, like Alice, is actually a play that appeals just as strongly to adults as it does to children.

This Peter Pan isn’t a musical or a pantomime – it’s the original play by J. M. Barrie that made its debut 106 years ago. From the appearance of a strange face at the Darlings’ nursery window to the climatic fight on the Jolly Roger (the most dreaded pirate ship to sail the seven seas), this is a drama guaranteed to delight and inspire. Preview audiences of all ages have been responding tumultuously to Peter’s plea to save Tinkerbell’s life by clapping their hands, and some patrons have been seen to wipe away a tear at the end before jumping to their feet for a standing ovation.

We all know the story of Peter Pan – or at least we know who he is. The question flying through everyone’s head right now may be: why would I want to see this familiar story at Stratford? Well, the reasons are endless, but here are a few why this Peter Pan is not to be missed.

To begin with, there’s the amazing cast. Festival favourite Michael Therriault has returned to Stratford, after stints on Broadway and in the West End, to play the title role – and his arch-enemy, the vile Captain Hook, is brought to sinister, sneering life by another of the Festival’s best-loved performers, Tom McCamus. (Here’s a bit of trivia for you: McCamus played Peter some 20 years ago, in a production at the Shaw Festival.)

As the Darling children, adult actors Paul Dunn, Stacie Steadman and Sara Topham capture the wonder of childhood so authentically you’d think they really were the ages they’re playing, while Seán Cullen, returning to the Festival after last season’s A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, brings all his comedic skills to his portrayal of Hook’s sidekick, Smee. To see all these great actors on one stage is a treat in itself.

The show is stunningly designed by Carolyn M. Smith, whose previous Stratford credits include the Swanne trilogy, The Duchess of Malfi and last season’s Bartholomew Fair. From the Edwardian elegance of the Darlings’ nursery to the fantasy world of the Never Land (complete with dancing dinosaur), this is eye candy at its most delicious. And that’s to say nothing of the spectacular costumes she has also come up with.

Finally, director Tim Carroll – a former Associate Director at Shakespeare’s Globe in London, England – has filled the production with lots of delightfully unexpected touches, most of them springing from his innovative idea of bringing J. M. Barrie himself on stage to make the story up as it goes along. For that reason alone, this is a Peter Pan unlike any you’ve ever seen before.

Barrie originally wrote his play for adults, not children, so it’s full of resonances that will be appreciated by those of maturer years. But of course Peter Pan is also ideal family entertainment, and because the Festival wants as many children as possible to come and enjoy it, there are a couple of special offers available to people with young families.

Children (18 and under) can see Peter Pan for only $36 each when they’re accompanied by an adult, so you could bring the whole family. And if you have a child with a birthday coming up between now and October 31 (when the show closes), and if that birthday coincides with a performance of Peter Pan, you can bring your child to that performance absolutely free!

Peter Pan runs in rep at the Avon Theatre from April 16 through to October 31, with its official opening on June 12. So don’t miss your chance to join us in Never Land – it’s second to the right, and then straight on till morning.

Cast (in alphabetical order)

Amazon………………………………………………………………………… Mary Antonini
Mullins………………………………………………………………………… Quincy Armorer
Gentleman Starkey…………………………………………………………….. Oliver Becker
Bill Jukes………………………………………………………………………… Nigel Bennett
Slightly…………………………………………………………………………… Shane Carty
Mrs. Darling…………………………………………………………………….. Laura Condlln
Smee………………………………………………………………………………. Seán Cullen
John………………………………………………………………………………….. Paul Dunn
Lily……………………………………………………………………………….. Martha Farrell
Cecco……………………………………………………………………………… Paul Fauteux
Amazon………………………………………………………………………….. Barbara Fulton
First Twin………………………………………………………………………… Bruce Godfree
Ensemble…………………………………………………………………………… Adrian Griffin
Cookson………………………………………………………………………….. Scott A. Hurst
Amazon…………………………………………………………………………… Bethany Jillard
J. M. Barrie……………………………………………………………………… James Kirriemuir
Curly………………………………………………………………………………….. Cyrus Lane
Nibs…………………………………………………………………………………… Richard Lee
Captain James Hook……………………………………………………………… Tom McCamus
Second Twin…………………………………………………………………………. Trent Pardy
Ensemble……………………………………………………………………….. Jennifer Paterson
Amazon……………………………………………………………………………. Stephanie Roth
Nana……………………………………………………………………………… Jay T. Schramek
Michael………………………………………………………………………….. Stacie Steadman
Mr. Darling………………………………………………………………………….. Sanjay Talwar
Peter Pan……………………………………………………………………….. Michael Therriault
Wendy………………………………………………………………………………… Sara Topham
Tootles………………………………………………………………………………… Ari Weinberg
Liza……………………………………………………………………………………… Brigit Wilson
Noodler……………………………………………………………………………….. Sandy Winsby
One-Man Band………………………………………………………………………. Henry Zielinksi

Artistic Team

Director…………………………………………………………………………………… Tim Carroll
Designer…………………………………………………………………………… Carolyn M. Smith
Lighting Designer………………………………………………………………………. Kevin Fraser
Composer………………………………………………………………………………. Claudio Vena
Sound Designer………………………………………………………………………………. Jim Neil
Video Designer…………………………………………………………………… Sean Nieuwenhuis
Fight Director……………………………………………………………………………… Simon Fon
Movement………………………………………………………………………………. Shona Morris
Assistant Director…………………………………………………………………….. Ken Schwartz
Assistant Set Designer……………………………………………………………….. Scott Penner
Assistant Costume Designer…………………………………………………………….. Joanna Yu
Assistant Lighting Designer………………………………………………………….. Davida Tkach
Assistant Fight Directors…………………………………………. Casey Hudecki, Kevin Robinson
Stage Manager……………………………………………………………………. Maxwell T. Wilson
Assistant Stage Managers…………………………………………. Martine Beland, Anne Murphy
Production Assistant………………………………………………………. Megan Mitchell-Downey
Production Stage Managers…………………………………….. Bona Duncan, Maxwell T. Wilson