Festival officially launches 60th season on Monday

May 25, 2012… The Stratford Shakespeare Festival launches its 60th season on Monday, May 28, with a gala performance of Much Ado About Nothing. This is the final season under the artistic directorship of Des McAnuff, and one that promises an array of wonderful theatre for every taste and age group.

“The 60th season is representative of Stratford in all its glory,” says Mr. McAnuff, who is directing Henry V and Christopher Plummer’s A Word or Two, both of which open later in the season. “Embodying Stratford’s hallmark marriage of tradition and innovation, the Cplaybill ranges from the very roots of drama to some of the finest playwrights working in Canada today. Shakespearean comedy, history and romance are complemented by a hilarious contemporary pastiche of Shakespearean tragedy, while the season’s varied musical theatre repertoire acknowledges our own era’s great contribution to the western dramatic tradition. Meanwhile, the strength of our acting company is being showcased not only in Stratford but also on Broadway, with the Tony-nominated Jesus Christ Superstar.”

“As we celebrate our Festival’s 60th season, the glorious heritage of our past provides us with a clear signpost to the way ahead,” says General Director Antoni Cimolino. “Our pioneering artists and those who supported them sought to create in Stratford nothing less than the finest classical theatre in the world. Thanks to their vision and determination, the adventure that began in 1953 with two productions in a tent is now North America’s premier repertory theatre, featuring 14 productions in five venues. That same spirit drives us today as we explore the classics of the past and give birth to the classics of the future.”

Much Ado About Nothing is directed by Christopher Newton, who was a member of the Festival’s acting company from 1966 to 1968. It features Ben Carlson as Benedick and Deborah Hay as Beatrice.

Five other productions will open during the week: 42nd Street, directed by Gary Griffin and featuring Sean Arbuckle as Julian Marsh, Kyle Blair as Billy Lawlor, Cynthia Dale as Dorothy Brock, and Jennifer Rider-Shaw as Peggy Sawyer; You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, directed by Donna Feore, featuring Stephen Patterson as Snoopy, Erica Peck as Lucy and Ken James Stewart as Charlie Brown; Cymbeline, directed by Antoni Cimolino, featuring Graham Abbey as Posthumus, Tom McCamus as Iachimo, Cara Ricketts as Innogen, and Geraint Wyn Davies as Cymbeline; The Pirates of Penzance, directed by Ethan McSweeny, featuring Sean Arbuckle as the Pirate King, Kyle Blair as Frederic, C. David Johnson as the Major General, and Amy Wallis as Mabel Stanley; and The Matchmaker, directed by Chris Abraham, featuring Tom McCamus as Horace Vandergelder and Seana McKenna as Dolly Levi.

The 60th season will feature a number of special events, including Christopher Plummer’s one-man show A Word or Two, which will run from July 25 to August 26. Most Rare Visions: 60 Years of the Stratford Shakespeare Festival is an exhibition of Festival artifacts, including rare footage of our pioneers, at a new space kitty-corner to the Avon Theatre, at 104 Downie Street. A symposium, Interpreting Shakespeare Across Settings and Media, featuring Colm Feore, Norman Lloyd, Dr. Katherine Lowe and the Festival’s Director of Archives, Dr. Francesca Marini, will be held on June 2. A dramatic reading of Edward Bond’s Bingo, about an aging William Shakespeare, will be held on June 15, with the playwright on hand for a Q&A with the audience. Lucy Peacock will hold a number of cabarets – Late Night with Lucy – in the new Studio Annex, in July and August, featuring music and conversation. The Celebrated Writers Series returns with Stephen Marche, author of How Shakespeare Changed Everything; Richard McCoy, author of Faith in Shakespeare; Michael Ondaatje, author of The Cat’s Table; and Margaret Atwood, author of In Other Worlds. Master voice and Shakespeare teacher Patsy Rodenberg will present three special events from July 18 to 22, to mark 60 years of the Festival’s extensive actor training activities. The Festival will launch a special 60th season book on June 2, Stratford: Behind the Scenes, which will available through the Theatre Store. These special events are all in addition to the Festival’s usual enrichment activities.

The Stratford Shakespeare Festival’s 2012 season runs until October 28, featuring Much Ado About Nothing; 42nd Street; The Matchmaker; Henry V; You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown; The Pirates of Penzance; A Word or Two; Cymbeline; Wanderlust; Elektra; MacHomer; The Best Brothers; Hirsch and The War of 1812.

Opening Week Itinerary

Sunday, May 27
Garden Party
1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Festival Theatre lobby and gardens

Monday, May 28
Gala Opening of Much Ado About Nothing
Festival Theatre, 55 Queen Street, Stratford
6:30 p.m. Pipe Band parades to front of theatre and performs
7:00 p.m. Red Carpet arrivals
7:30 p.m. Performance of Much Ado About Nothing begins
10:10 p.m. Performance concludes

Tuesday, May 29
11:30 a.m. Book Launch – Festival Lobby
The Adventures of Adrian and Tiddlywinks by the late John Sullivan Hayes, former Producer of the Stratford Shakespeare Festival
Opening of 42nd Street
Festival Theatre
8:00 p.m. Performance begins
10:20 p.m. Performance concludes

Wednesday, May 30
Opening of You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown
8 p.m. Avon Theatre
9:55 p.m. Performance concludes

Thursday, May 31
Opening of Cymbeline
8 p.m. Tom Patterson Theatre
11 p.m. Performance concludes

Friday, June 1
Opening of The Pirates of Penzance
8 p.m. Avon Theatre
10:35 p.m. Performance concludes

Saturday, June 2
10 a.m. to 1 p.m., Symposium, Studio Theatre (please contact Andrea Smitko to reserve tickets)
1:00 to 1:45 p.m. Book Launch – Stratford: Behind the Scenes. Rehearsal Hall 3, Studio Theatre.
Opening of The Matchmaker
8 p.m. Festival Theatre
10:40 p.m. Performance concludes

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Energizing tap musical 42nd Street starts previews | Cynthia Dale returns to the Festival with a sizzling performance

April 12, 2012… The inspiring story of a small-town girl chasing her dream in the big city is told through exhilarating tap dance numbers in the hit musical 42nd Street. Featuring Cynthia Dale and directed by Gary Griffin, this production begins previews at the Festival Theatre on Thursday, April 12.

The quintessential backstage musical, 42nd Street tells the story of Peggy Sawyer, a young girl from Allentown, Pennsylvania, who travels to New York City with the dream of becoming a Broadway dancer. To her delight she lands a part in the chorus of the new musical Pretty Lady, but when the show’s star is injured, Peggy is offered the chance of a lifetime.

“Based on the 1933 movie, 42nd Street reflects an era when the marriage of popular music and the theatre achieved unprecedented heights,” says Artistic Director Des McAnuff. “This show is a masterpiece of its kind: a song-and-dance spectacle that tells a tremendously inspiring story. In the hands of Gary Griffin, who has become a master of the Festival stage, it’s a dazzling highlight of our 60th season.”

“This is a classic and touching story that resonates with all of us,” says General Director Antoni Cimolino. “With the return of Cynthia Dale, Gary Griffin’s directorial leadership and the invigorating tap dancing numbers, this production will be an uplifting, wildly entertaining theatrical experience for theatre lovers of all ages.”

Set during the Great Depression, this piece shows how the hopeful innocence and will of one person can provide inspiration for all in the most challenging and difficult of times.

“This is a story about reawakening your dreams,” says Mr. Griffin. “Most of the characters have become jaded in one way or another. Their dreams have been jaundiced by the Depression, by disappointment, by failure. And then along comes Peggy Sawyer, this little light, who has a very simple dream: she wants to dance on Broadway. All of a sudden this girl has a very pure view that really reinvigorates everyone.”

The production features Sean Arbuckle as Julian Marsh, the director of Pretty Lady; Kyle Blair as Billy Lawlor, Pretty Lady’s lead male; and Cynthia Dale as Dorothy Brock, the show’s star and resident Broadway diva. Jennifer Rider-Shaw plays Peggy Sawyer, after two previous seasons at Stratford performing in Jesus Christ Superstar, Camelot, Kiss Me, Kate and Evita.

Other cast members include Naomi Costain as Annie “Anytime” Reilly, Kyle Golemba as Andy Lee, C. David Johnson as Pat Denning, Gabrielle Jones as Maggie Jones and Geoffrey Tyler as Bert Barry.

With music by Harry Warren, lyrics by Al Dubin, and book by Michael Stewart and Mark Bramble, this production boasts a rich and exciting score straight out of the big-band era, and features a 16-piece orchestra that, for the first time in Festival history, is positioned on stage in full view of the audience.

“This musical has a brash energy that befits its subject matter, and because of that I didn’t want the music to come through a sophisticated sound system from an invisible source up in the orchestra loft,” says Mr. Griffin. “I wanted the audience to see and feel the presence of the musicians. That’s why we’ve put the entire orchestra on stage. It was important to me to put the musicians into the world of the play.”

Artistic credits for this production include Alex Sanchez as choreographer and Michael Barber as musical director.

Other credits include Debra Hanson, designer, Paul Miller, lighting designer and Peter McBoyle, sound designer. Kerry Gage is the associate choreographer, Franklin Brasz is the associate conductor and Simon Fon is the stunt coordinator.

Production support for 42nd Street is provided by The Dominion of Canada General Insurance Company and Union Gas Limited.

This year, the Stratford Shakespeare Festival celebrates its 60th season, with 14 productions presented from April 12 to October 28:  Much Ado About Nothing42nd StreetThe MatchmakerHenry VYou’re a Good Man, Charlie BrownThe Pirates of PenzanceA Word or TwoCymbelineWanderlustElektraMacHomerThe Best BrothersHirsch; and The War of 1812.

Cast

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C. David Johnson returns for major roles in Pirates, 42nd Street | Jennifer Rider-Shaw to play Peggy Sawyer in 42nd Street

January 23, 2012… The Stratford Shakespeare Festival is pleased to announce that C. David Johnson, currently starring on Broadway in Priscilla Queen of the Desert, will return to the Festival for the 60th season.

Mr. Johnson was last seen at Stratford in 2001, when he played Captain von Trapp in The Sound of Music opposite Cynthia Dale’s Maria. The two, who also starred as lovers on the popular CBC TV series Street Legal from 1987 to 1994, will be reunited in 42nd Street, as Pat Denning and Dorothy Brock.

Mr. Johnson will also play Major-General Stanley in The Pirates of Penzance.

In his 30-year career, which began at Theatre New Brunswick, Mr. Johnson has appeared in numerous television series and on stages throughout Canada, including as Patrick Flanagan in Jitters, and Davison in Mary Stuart at Soulpepper; George Love in Tryst at the Segal Centre; and Helmut Schmidt in Democracy at Tarragon. He first appeared at Stratford in 1984, playing Speed in The Two Gentlemen of Verona and Poins in Henry IV, Part I. He is currently playing Bob in the Broadway production of Priscilla Queen of the Desert.

Mr. Johnson will be joined in 42nd Street by Jennifer Rider-Shaw, who will play Peggy Sawyer. Ms Rider-Shaw made her Stratford debut in 2010, appearing in Kiss Me, Kate and Evita, followed by Jesus Christ Superstar and Camelot last season. A graduate of Sheridan’s music theatre performance program, Ms Rider-Shaw was a contestant on CBC’s Triple Sensation, for which Cynthia Dale was a judge. She has also appeared in Ross Petty’s Robin Hood, Drayton Entertainment’s The Wizard of Oz, and Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story at Theatre Aquarius.

As previously announced, 42nd Street – directed by Gary Griffin – will also feature Sean Arbuckle as Julian Marsh and Kyle Blair as Billy Lawlor, with Naomi Costain as Anytime Annie, Kyle Golemba as Andy Lee, Gabrielle Jones as Maggie, and Geoffrey Tyler as Bert Barry.

The Pirates of Penzance – directed by Ethan McSweeny – will also feature Sean Arbuckle as the Pirate King, Kyle Blair as Frederic and Amy Wallis as Mabel Stanley, with Gabrielle Jones as Ruth and Steve Ross as the Sergeant of Police, as previously announced.

Production co-sponsors for 42nd Street are The Dominion of Canada General Insurance Company and Union Gas.

Production co-sponsor for The Pirates of Penzance is RBC. Production support is generously provided by Dr. Dennis and Dorothea Hacker.

Support for the 2012 season has been provided by the Canada Council, the Ontario Cultural Attractions Fund and the Ontario Arts Council.

Tickets are now on sale for the Stratford Shakespeare Festival’s 2012 season, which features 14 productions presented from April 12 to October 28: Much Ado About Nothing; 42nd Street; The Matchmaker; Henry V; You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown; The Pirates of Penzance; A Word or Two; Cymbeline; Wanderlust; Elektra; MacHomer; The Best Brothers; Hirsch; and The War of 1812. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit stratfordshakespearefestival.com or call 1.800.567.1600.

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