Press Release: Chilina Kennedy withdraws from season Natalie Daradich, Robin Hutton step in

February 12, 2014Chilina Kennedy has had to withdraw from the 2014 season for the happiest of reasons: she and her partner, Jacob James, are expecting a baby. She was to play Polly Baker in Crazy for You and Aldonza in Man of La Mancha, but she is now unable to undertake two such physically challenging roles. Ms Kennedy remains a valued member of the Festival family, and plans are underway to include her new concert as part of the 2014 Forum.

Natalie Daradich, most recently seen as Glinda in the U.S. tour of Wicked, will take on the role of Polly Baker. Ms Daradich, whose career took her to New York after she graduated from the Sheridan musical theatre program with Ms Kennedy more than a decade ago, will make her Festival debut in Crazy for You.

Robin Hutton will step into the role of Aldonza in Man of La Mancha and is also playing Irene Roth in Crazy for You.  Ms Hutton shone in the key roles of Louise in the 2012 production of Wanderlust, Irene in 2005’s Hello, Dolly! and Tzeitel in 2000’s Fiddler on the Roof, a musical she returned to last season, playing Rifka. Her other Stratford credits include Tommy, Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris, Henry V, As You Like It and The Three Musketeers.

“We are absolutely delighted that Natalie and Robin are able to take on these roles,” says Artistic Director Antoni Cimolino. “They are both exceptionally talented performers whom we are privileged to have on our stages. Our audiences have a real treat in store. I’m so happy for Chilina and look forward to welcoming her back to the company in future seasons.”

The first rehearsal for Crazy for You, directed and choreographed by Donna Feore with musical direction by Shelley Hanson, is on Monday, February 17. The production starts previews on April 21 and opens officially on May 27, running until October 12.

Man of La Mancha, directed by Robert McQueen and choreographed by Marc Kimelman with musical direction by Franklin Brasz, goes into rehearsal on March 1. Previews begin May 8 and the production opens on May 29, running until October 11.

The 2014 season of the Stratford Festival runs from April 21 to October 12, featuring King Lear; Crazy for You; two versions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream; The Beaux’ Stratagem; Man of La Mancha; Alice Through the Looking-Glass; Hay Fever; King John; Mother Courage and Her Children; Antony and Cleopatra; Christina, The Girl King; and more than 150 events in The Stratford Festival Forum. Tickets are available through the box office at 1.800.567.1600 or online at www.stratfordfestival.ca.

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Give thanks for Grapes

By: Christi Rutledge

Since Canadian Thanksgiving is right around the corner, I thought there would be no better time to talk about the power of the family. As we prepare to snuggle down this long weekend, let’s take a quick look at a production this season that makes me feel especially thankful: The Grapes of Wrath (it inspires gratitude in a very different way from The Homecoming – but that’s a whole other story and a whole other blog ). More powerful than the poverty, addictions, violence or tragedy is the force of family in this production. Frank Galati’s adaptation focuses on the heart of an incredible family as it brings Steinbeck’s story of the Joads to life on stage.

As the Joad family is tested and their material goods are taken away, what remains strong is the desire and the need for support from one another. The family is resilient throughout the production; in my opinion, this is largely thanks to the strong role that the women play in keeping the family together. Ma Joad, played by Janet Wright, harnesses the family and gives them direction, purpose and advice when the going gets tough — and it gets pretty tough. When Rose of Sharon (played by Chilina Kennedy) loses her baby and it seems that the family has nothing for which to be grateful, Ma once again pulls the family together. If you have read the book, then you already know about Rose of Sharon’s final act of benevolence. If you haven’t, I won’t spoil the end for you.

While some people might feel inclined to be upset by all of the loss, I think that there is a bigger picture to this play. This is a piece of theatre that reinforces the importance of families sticking together, placing one another before oneself and, most of all, being thankful for what you have. I’ve seen this show a couple times now and still leave the theatre feeling hopeful – and, more importantly, incredibly thankful.

Check out this great clip from The Grapes of Wrath as the family gives thanks at the dinner table:

I am in love with this production of The Grapes of Wrath and I want to make sure that you see it this season – so I’m sharing a special ticket deal with you and your families. Until the end of the season, enjoy $29 tickets to any production of The Grapes of Wrath. To redeem this great offer, go to www.stratfordshakespearefestival.com and log in with promotion code 40963.

Press Release: Jesus Christ Superstar to move to La Jolla Playhouse

The Stratford Shakespeare Festival is delighted to announce that its hit production of Jesus Christ Superstar, directed by Artistic Director Des McAnuff, is moving to La Jolla Playhouse in San Diego this November.

Lyricist Tim Rice and Composer Andrew Lloyd Webber both gave the production high praise after seeing it earlier this month and the production received glowing reviews across the board.

The Globe and Mail raved, “This production is an absolute miracle,” while the Toronto Star called it “the best show you’ll see this year.” “A sparkling production literally pulsing with life,” wrote the Toronto Sun; and Variety enthused, “McAnuff has managed to come up with a vision that is faithful to the original but manages to make it seem fresh to an audience in 2011.”

Jesus Christ Superstar will play at La Jolla Playhouse’s Mandell Weiss Theatre from November 18 to December 31.

“Given my long, happy and fruitful history with La Jolla Playhouse, I am naturally thrilled by the prospect of this collaboration between our two great theatres,” says Mr. McAnuff. “The pride I take in the magnificent work being done by our Festival artists in Jesus Christ Superstar is matched by my deep appreciation to La Jolla for giving us this wonderful opportunity to showcase that work to an audience of which I am very fond – an audience that, like Stratford’s, is accustomed to enjoying some of the finest theatre in the world.”

“We are absolutely delighted that we will be able to share this production with La Jolla Playhouse audiences,” says General Director Antoni Cimolino. “Jesus Christ Superstar has created a huge buzz in the media and the show has become one of our hottest tickets. It’s a pleasure to work with our colleagues in La Jolla to take this ‘Superstar’ on the road.”

“We are absolutely overjoyed to showcase the Stratford Shakespeare Festival’s stunning revival of Jesus Christ Superstar on our stage,” says Christopher Ashley, the Artistic Director for La Jolla Playhouse. “We have been looking for an opportunity to bring Des back home to the Playhouse, and this project was perfect in every way. I can’t wait to share this critically acclaimed production of this classic rock musical with our audiences.”

Set as an epic rock concert, this sensational new production of the ground-breaking rock opera features Paul Nolan as Jesus, Chilina Kennedy as Mary Magdalene, Josh Young as Judas Iscariot, Tony Award winner Brent Carver as Pontius Pilate, Bruce Dow as King Herod and Mike Nadajewski as Peter.

In addition to Mr. McAnuff as Director, the creative team includes Choreographer Lisa Shriver, Musical Director Rick Fox, Set Designer Robert Brill, Costume Designer Paul Tazewell, Lighting Designer Howell Binkley, Sound Designer Jim Neil, Video Designer Sean Nieuwenhuis, Dramaturge Chad Sylvain, Fight Director Daniel Levinson, Aerial Stunt Coordinator Simon Fon, Associate Choreographer Bradley “Shooz” Rapier, Associate Musical Director Laura Burton, Assistant Director Lezlie Wade and Assistant Choreographer Marc Kimelman.

Before joining the Stratford Shakespeare Festival as Artistic Director, Mr. McAnuff was Artistic Director of La Jolla Playhouse from 1983 to 1994 and 2001 to 2007 and is now Director Emeritus. A two-time Tony Award-winning director, Mr. McAnuff received an honorary doctorate in June from his alma mater, Ryerson University in Toronto.

The Tony Award-winning La Jolla Playhouse was founded in 1947 by Gregory Peck, Dorothy McGuire and Mel Ferrer, and is one of the most respected not-for-profit theatres in the U.S. Numerous Playhouse productions have moved to Broadway, including Jersey Boys, Big River, The Who’s Tommy, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, A Walk in the Woods, Billy Crystal’s 700 Sundays, and The Farnsworth Invention, all of which were directed by Mr. McAnuff.