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July/August 2012 - Nr. 7/8

Stratford 2012

42nd Street - Music Harry Warren, lyrics Al Dubin, directed by Gary Griffin, choreography Alex Sanchez

The summer season has arrived: hot days, lazy evenings, flowers in full bloom, leisurely music - and - comedy theatre!

42nd Street is so much in this spirit, responding to the summer mood. It is welcomed by the audience and the press, the theatre is full, and Stratford is swinging!

The Star is about to return to the theatre in New York – or is it Stratford? – and accidentally breaks her ankle. At the same time a young hopeful girl from Allentown, Pennsylvania, arrives full of dreams and wishes and miraculously takes the Star’s place on opening night. That’s the whole story.

The Star is indeed returning, Cynthia Dale left Stratford in 2007 and now comes back in the role of Dorothy Brock. It is a great role for her, her voice, dancing and appearance could not be better. The role of the young aspiring newcomer is beautifully played by Jennifer Rider-Shaw. Other parts worth pointing out are C. David Johnson as Pat Denning (he has been Cynthia’s partner in other musicals in the past) and Kyle Blair as Billy Lawlor.

What is absolutely amazing is the choreography: Alex Sanchez is new to Stratford, his credits come from the United States and at the moment he is here in Canada only for this show. But his style, the intensity and accuracy in coordinating and varying dances is breathtaking. I have not seen anything so good in a long time and hope Mr. Sanchez shows his talents in Canada again.

Another spectacular aspect of this productions are the costumes, their variety, the pace of change, Debra Hanson, after 21 years with Stratford, is great and using her experience to the fullest.

The songs are known from a long time ago (the 1930’s): “We’re in the Money” or “Lullaby of Broadway”. They are great; the audience remembers them and gets into the swing. Altogether: this is a great success of Summer 2012 , as Stratford Theatre comes to its level every time and delivers. Thank you, Mr. Griffin, Cynthia Dale, and all others for a wonderful evening!

The Pirates of Penzance – by Gilbert and Sullivan, directed by Ethan McSweeny

This traditional operetta first staged in 1879 is back in a newly styled production: it is a brazen parody of a Victorian style play in acting, singing and overall display. As I was a bit hesitant about this 19thcentury composition ,the current version and interpretation swept me off my feet. It has somehow more of the style of the school play where teenage actors pretend to be old people, the plastic toys pretend to be real guns and the audience is just laughing their heads off. This Gilbert and Sullivan masterpiece is well done and well-acted taking us back into Victorian England theatre without the feeling of being painfully out-of-date.

The pirates are friendly and do not kill or rob anyone. The young pirate apprentice is charming and confused about his contract enabling him to leave the pirates’ career on his 21st birthday – the problem being that he was born on 29th of February and so far has had only 5 birthdays. The group of young school girls is equally charming; the props on stage (like the mountain to be climbed) giving them a desired variety. Again, the choreography is great, from another choreographer based in the US appearing for the first in Canada – Marcos Santana. In the atmosphere of general insanity the fact that somehow there is too much of scaffolding on the stage and the story gets a bit overdone is lost and forgotten. The old well-known songs flow above: “I Am the Pirate King” and others.

The character of the Pirate King is played and sung with flair by Sean Arbuckle, young Frederic is Kyle Blair and numerous others, singing, dancing and making the 2012 Summer outing memorable. Great play, great fun!

The Matchmaker by Thornton Wilder, directed by Chris Abraham

Thornton Wilder is best known for Our Town, the play that can be placed in the depressed 1930’s or today, and the novel “The Bridge on San Luis Rey”. The Matchmaker, written in the 50’s is less known. The current version is the outcome of some research by the Stratford team and some lines from The Merchant of Yonkers (earlier version of the play) incorporated into this production.

Parts of the story are predictable and reminiscent of some other similar stories (Moliere comes to mind), some other parts are very unique and – if I may say so – very American in their style.

The wealthy elderly merchant Mr. Vandergelder from Yonkers, played with great flair by Tom McCamus, decides to seek a wife. He engages a matchmaker Dolly Gallagher Levi, played by Seana McKenna, to find him a suitable prospect. At the same time he is sending his niece and ward Ermengarde (Cara Ricketts) away in order to prevent her from marrying an unsuitable prospect – Ambrose, played by Skye Brandon. Dolly has her own plan in mind and after some wonderful scenes in 2nd and 3rd acts in the milliner’s shop and the restaurant in New York everything turns out well: three couples come together and are to be married and live happily ever after.

The scenes in the milliner’s shop and then in Harmonia Garden’s Restaurant are wonderful and well directed. The pace and style are very well done and acted. The last part taking place in Mrs. Van Huysen’s residence is stretched a bit much and weaker. It happens when the writer runs out of energy and ideas.

Tom McCamus is great in this role and with the help of make-up and costume, is hardly recognizable. Seana McKenna is a departure from her traditional dramatic serious roles and quite a change for the audience. The stage decor is worth commenting; the changes of scenery done on the open stage at the Festival Theatre were much enjoyed and appreciated by the audience.

Stratford – Festival Theatre – both 42nd Street and The Matchmaker – both run until the end of October.

Pirates of Penzance at Avon – also till October 27.

Dates and tickets available either by calling 1-800-567-1600 or at

Have a great Summer!

Irena Syrokomla reviews arts, entertainment, the performing arts such as theatre, musicals, stage performances.
Email to Irena Syrokomla
Irena Syrokomla, reviews, arts, entertainment, performing arts, theatre, musicals, stage performances, Toronto, Kitchener, Waterloo, Stratford, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada

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