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June 2014 - Nr. 6
Irena Syrokomla

Stratford Festival - Man of La Mancha by Dale Wasserman

Music by Mitch Leight, lyrics by Joe Darion directed by Robert McQueen

A new season has opened at Stratford with more plays, concerts and forums. The Festival experience is expanding from year to year, after several years of combined directions of three artistic directors, then two – we are left with Antoni Cimolino unifying this season under the theme of madness. There are several plays clearly dealing with madness – or mental break downs, if you please – and initial impressions of King Lear and Man of La Mancha are eye opening.

Man of La Mancha
is a musical with some famous tunes like The Impossible Dream or To Each His Dulcinea but it is not a comedy. It is a story of Miguel de Cervantes, a tax collector (played by Tom Rooney) being thrown to jail for daring to question the financial status of the medieval Spanish church and staging a self-created play of Don Quixote, Man of La Mancha to the joy of other prisoners.

Tom Rooney is great and his voice carries above all others. The quick changes of the costumes assisted by Sancho Panza (Steve Ross) are done on stage and add to the notion of personality changes as experienced by Cervantes. The sense of madness is tactile and convincing, gradual involvement of Aldonza/Dulcinea (Robin Hutton) in the impossible dream is done one step at the time and dramatically touching by the end.

The live music coming from the pit is full and encompassing the play, the part of Kevin Ramessar playing guitar through the play adds to the medieval Spanish atmosphere.

If you attend: be prepared the setting is crowded, the lighting is dim and there are definitely too many actors on the stage at any given time. It is a bit confusing. Some fights are more like dance, some dances a bit more like fights. Tom Rooney is a great singer, Robin Hutton sounds better in slower parts and is losing at a faster pace. It is difficult.

For Robert McQueen it is a debut at Stratford.

The show goes on at Avon Theatre till mid-October.

Mother Courage and Her Children
by Bertolt Brecht directed by Martha Henry at Stratford Festiva

Another play not much performed but very worthwhile written by Brecht, a strong anti-war activist, who left Germany for America in 1933. He wrote Mother Courage in the 1940-ties his reflections of unending continuance of wars and the effect they have upon people.

The play is set during the 30 Year War (1618-48) in Poland during the Swedish invasion. It could be set anywhere pretty much in any war times. Mother Courage runs a wagon selling supplies to the army, being food, drinks or clothes. She does not belong to either side, changing the flag on her cart depending on who won the last battle. There are three children travelling with her and she is a tough woman managing her life and resources amidst battles, the wounded and the dead. She loses both of her sons and her daughter is maimed, but Mother Courage keeps on going. Surviving no matter what is her motto. She is a survivor, a tough woman.

The title role is played by Seana McKenna, a fabulous actress with 23rd seasons of Stratford seniority, again and again coming through the most demanding parts with flying colours. She is tragic but never cries and never gives up. Geraint Wyn Davis is great as Cook and her partner in misfortunes and Carmen Grant as her damaged daughter takes your breath away. Great performances, great show.

I also liked the bareness of the setting on the 3-way open stage at Patterson Theatre. And the new take on music and mix of costumes of the soldiers, some of them wearing present day battle attire and looking like they just came from the un-ending wars in Near East or Asia. All wars are the same, again and again. This is what history is all about: wars.

Martha Henry does a great job directing Mather Courage. Her initiative of very natural conversations mixed with casual costumes and updated music is showing its class. Thank you, Martha.

Mother Courage will continue at The Paterson Theatre till September.

Seasonal information is available at phone number is 1-800-567-1600. It is worth driving to Stratford!

Alfred Kunz leads Millennium Choir in
Thank You For The Music
in Kitchener and Baden

Alfred Kunz has a talent for bringing the best out of the community, unifying people into a common effort and giving them the joy of singing together. It was evident at two concerts performed by a choir of nearly 100 singers and hundreds of people who came to listen and join in singing with them.

This time it was a collection of well-known songs from the 60ties and 70ties, ABBA songs (Thank You for the Music), Roy Orbison (Pretty Woman), Presley (Burning Love), Frank Sinatra (I’m Gonna Live Till I Die) and The Beatles (Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da) and many more. The crowd was swinging with the music remembering the days of their youth. The choir was proud of having an opportunity to show its accomplishments to the community.

Aside of the choir performance there was also a solo singer. Christian Bellsmith interpreted Buddy Holly singing and playing the guitar. There were numerous comments of how well he embodied the famous singer with his voice and stage mannerisms, it was fun to watch him.

Mr. Kuntz is open to new ideas and putting together innovative concerts. He is also deeply involved in the community and we are thankful for that.

Bertha von Suttner – A Life of Peace – concert and exhibit at Conrad Grabel University College, Waterloo, May 20 to August 15.

Bertha von Suttner was a woman ahead of her times. Born in 1843 into a life of Austrian nobility she initiated the peace movement in Europe and was the first one to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1906. She also wrote a book titled “Lay Down your Arms”.

Since 2006 the exhibit commemorating her life and achievements has been travelling around the world and is presently on display in Waterloo.

At the opening night Susan Schultz Huxman, President of the Conrad Grabel University College and Arno Riedel, Austrian Ambassador to Canada had the opportunity to speak about Bertha von Sutter life and her contribution to world peace.

Elena Denisova (violinist) and Alexei Kornienko (pianist) performed the sonata by Leos Janacek, the concert by Maximilian Kreutz and the breath taking sonata by Richard Strauss. They are both based in Vienna, internationally known for their superb performances with European symphonies.

Conrad Grebel University Collage is home to the Peace and Conflict Studies Department of the University of Waterloo, Professor Lowell Ewert, Director, spoke about current conflicts in Africa and Middle East and the un-ending effort to come to peace and cooperation between world powers. It was both an educational evening as well as an artistic one.

The peace movement started over a hundred years ago by Bertha von Suttner, is still continuing and is still needed.

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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