Stratford Festival’s “Man of La Mancha”

I was so fortunate to attend Stratford’s Man of La Mancha on Sunday, June 29th with my whole family this time! It is so much fun for me and my family to share our love of Stratford and musicals with the rest of our family. Everyone loved the show and talked about it long into the ride home. Man of La Mancha is definitely geared to a more adult audience than Alice or Crazy for You, so while I highly recommend this play, it is not one for the little ones in your life.

I’m going to try not to use too many spoilers, but I figure this musical is well known enough that I can talk about the plot without it ruining too much for anyone.

Man of La Mancha is a beautiful, powerful, emotional musical that I simply couldn`t get enough of. At intermission, I was disappointed, because I knew the show was already half over. The story itself is engrossing and enchanting, carrying the audience away into the beautiful mind of Don Miguel de Cervantes, and his legendary character Don Quixote de La Mancha. I loved the frame narrative of Cervantes in jail during the inquisition, and how he is able to almost transform his fellow inmates through his story, just as Don Quixote is able to change Aldonza into Dulcinea by allowing these other people into the worlds of their imagination.

The songs in this musical are so anthemic and inspirational and beautiful. It is a very 60’s musical, without a definite overture and with very powerful songs. It reminded me of Fiddler on the Roof in this was. This production was so wonderful. The songs were played beautifully by the band and sung incredibly by the actors. I was blown away at how beautiful the singing was, especially the leads Tom Rooney, Robin Hutton and Steve Ross. But really, the whole cast sang beautifully; I wish they could make a cast recording of this show as well!

The sets and costumes for this play were out of this world. I love that they didn’t try to hide the set, they just let us take it all in and visually explore the space, which I really enjoyed. There was so much to take in and to watch even before the play began. As soon as those actors appeared, they brought that beautiful set to life, and kept it alive until that last note was sung. It was a visual feast, with an ever changing sky and windmill arms, many nooks and crannies for the actors to use and explore, and an overall grunginess that sealed the feel of a Spanish jail. The contrast between the Conquistadors and the prisoners was stark: the inquisitors dressed in gleaming armour and helmets and yet there is Don Quixote wearing worn armor and a shaving dish as a helmet.

The actors were just superb. I was so thrilled with everyone in the play. I know I often say that I can’t find a weak link in these shows, but that is just the calibre of theatre that is produced at Stratford and I’ve learned to expect nothing less. As I previously mentioned, the 3 leads were impeccable. Tom Rooney was an entrancing Cervantes/Don Quixote. Robin Hutton’s Aldonza was rough but beautiful, just perfect to become the inherently regal Dulcinea. Steve Ross’ Sancho was loveable and so loyal, you can’t help but adore him. The rest of the cast should not go without mention; everyone was wonderful, and they all sang so beautifully. When they all get together and sing “The Impossible Dream” at the end of the play, it gave me goose bumps and made me tear up; their voices blended so well together and the song is so powerful, that to have so many people singing it was overwhelming in the absolute best of ways.

I really can’t say enough good things about this play. As usual, I must urge you to see this play, it will be an experience you shall not soon forget, I can promise you that!

If you’d like to purchase tickets, here is the link to do so! : http://www.stratfordfestival.ca/OnStage/productions.aspx?id=24353&prodid=52399

Stratford Festival’s “Crazy for You”

On Sunday, June 22nd I had the delight of seeing Stratford Festival’s production of Crazy for You, a sweet and energetic Gershwin musical that was a joy for the entire audience. There are a few spoilers, but I’ve tried to keep them to a minimum.

Crazy for You was a bundle of laughter and song, all wrapped in glitzy western wear. First of all, the premise of the show itself was adorable. I loved that it was a man who was trying to break onto the theatre scene and not the stereotypical female character. I felt that it gave a whole new spin to some of the songs that I knew from other places, as well as making the plot unique and interesting. The one-liners in this play were amazing! We laughed so hard at the dialogue, and some really slapstick scenes as well, that my cheeks hurt by the end from smiling. The songs that are used in this play were wonderfully familiar. It makes for a great time of toe tapping and humming along, listening to these catchy and familiar tunes. I still have “I’ve got rhythm” stuck in my head! And when the songs are already so amazing, to have such entertaining dialogue in between makes the show a pure joy to be a part of.

The sets and costumes were beautiful and made a feast for the eyes as well as the rest is for the ears. The stage especially caught my eye; it embodied the beautiful colours of a southern sunset, but was able to endure the intense amount of dancing that occurs throughout the show. The changes between New York and Nevada were beautiful, and each set was very distinctive and flashy all its own. I loved the curtain and tassels that you see when you first walk in the theatre; it sets the stage for the beautiful story that was about to unfold.

Speaking of the dancing, it was absolutely incredible. Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever seen such impressive tap dancing as I did at this show. There were so many actors and for all of them to be so in sync was mind blowing. Donna Feore, who both directed and choreographed this beautiful show, derives a huge BRAVO for this one! While I am always impressed by the plays that she is involved in, this one was a cut above the rest, mostly because of the number of people who are involved at any one given time. It seemed like there were huge tap ensemble numbers every other song, and it just made the play so invigorating. It made me remember why I used to love to dance, because I wanted to be able to dance like that!

I thought that the play was very well cast. I especially enjoyed the singing cowboys played by Marcus Nance, Steve Ross and Stephen Patterson. They were adorable, and their harmony was just amazing. The lead couple Bobby and Poppy, played by Josh Franklin and Natalie Daradich, were absolutely lovely. Their voices were beautiful, and they sounded so good together and danced so well. Tom Rooney was just hysterical. I loved his character and the scenes that he did were so funny, I could hardly stop laughing. Not to mention he’s a great singer and dancer!  Another fan favourite was Lally Cadeau’s portrayal of Lottie Child, Bobby’s mother. She had the perfect voice and presence for the role and left a lasting impression on the audience. Monique Lund and Shawn Wright’s performances were also hilarious and should be mentioned. They had us all rolling with laughter. Truly, there was not a weak link in the show!

This is definitely another family friendly play! While I didn’t see as many young ones as at Alice, I certainly think this is one the whole family can enjoy, especially if you want to introduce your kids to the Gershwin brother’s fabulous music.  I would certainly recommend this show to anyone and everyone looking for a fun and entertaining theatre experience! Who could ask for anything more?

If you’d like to purchase tickets, here’s the link: http://www.stratfordfestival.ca/OnStage/productions.aspx?id=24041&prodid=52392

Also, the Stratford Festival has recorded the songs from this show and made their first ever Original Cast Album! Here’s the link to the store if you’d like to purchase one! (I highly recommend it!) http://store.stratfordfestival.ca/Crazy-For-You-CD-Stratford-Festival-Cast-Recording-688368-CD/

Stratford Festival’s “Alice Through the Looking Glass”

On Saturday, June 21st I had the pleasure to attend a performance of Alice Through the Looking Glass at the Stratford Festival. This was a fabulous, family-oriented show that had just as many jokes for the adults as it does for the children.

This show was filled with many surprises for its audience, so I won’t be giving away any spoilers about the magical things that happen in Wonderland, and focus instead on the play itself as a piece of theatre and its technicalities.

Alice Through the Looking Glass was certainly a beautiful show. The main set and moving set pieces were simply delightful to behold. From giant flowers, to trees whose leaves fall off and also back on, to a train car filled with anthropomorphic animals (and all propelled by ‘Alices’ on bicycles), the audience is clearly transported into the world of the imagination of young Alice. Everything seemed larger than life, and certainly made Trish Lindström, who played Alice, look the size of a 7 year old girl. The set pieces for the Gnat and Humpty Dumpty were especially fascinating; they were very intricate, and watching the actors interact with and be a part of these set pieces was amazing. The costuming was magical as well! To see all the chorus members in looking-glass land versions of Alice’s dress was hilarious, especially because they were not restricted to the female members! And the regal characters looked just that, with fabulous wigs and flowing outfits, they looked beautiful. With all the little stories that were told, it’s amazing to think of just the sheer number of costumes they must have for this show alone!

The actors in this show were marvellous! Most of them played several parts within the play, and it was so amazing to watch them transition from one role to the other. I have to mention Trish Lindström again, because her portrayal of Alice was just wonderful! It is so difficult to convincingly play a small child on stage, but Trish did it so well. Plus, with her petite size and then massive set pieces around her, it certainly made her look very young and small, perfect for Alice. The play was very well cast overall, and everyone certainly did their part in making the experience simply magical. To be able to bring to life these fairy tale characters that everyone knows so well is quite a feat, but one that they easily and skillfully accomplished.

The play itself was interesting in its own right. It had just as many intellectual jokes for the adults as it had slapstick humour for the youngest patrons. I was actually quite surprised at just how advanced some of the topics were of the jokes in the play. Knowing that it is inspired by a children’s novel, I hadn’t anticipated jokes about the arbitrariness of language or the histories of England. But for the little ones, nothing could top Humpty Dumpty’s extraordinarily long arms or the White Knight barely being able to stay on his horse! It truly makes for a wonderful family experience as everyone is entertained, and with the little surprises thrown in, it makes for a great interactive experience as well.

A really cool thing that the Festival has introduced this year (or at least I haven’t seen them in the past) is a special Children’s House Program for the little ones who are attending the show. The little booklet is filled with mazes, puzzles and word games for kids that are linked to all of the shows on at the Festival this season. I think this is an absolutely fabulous idea! It gives the kids something to do while waiting for the show to start or during intermission, but then also makes for a neat souvenir afterwards. And I know most moms already have crayons in their purse, so you should be set for some fun even before the curtain goes up!

I really enjoyed seeing this show, and I highly recommend seeing it, especially if you have children. They’ll love it, and you’ll love it. It’s a perfect show to start off your child’s love of theatre.

If you’d like to but tickets, here is the link to Stratford’s Website: http://www.stratfordfestival.ca/OnStage/productions.aspx?id=24390&prodid=52402