Monday, August 1, 2011

2011 Stratford Shakespeare Festival Season Reviews
By David Grapes

Productions are listed in order of preference.


Jesus Christ Superstar (Avon Theatre) ****

• High energy production – Strong focused direction from Des McAnuff
• Excellent singing throughout the large cast
• Loved the rock and rock lighting and the LED scenic design
• Same cast that suffered horribly last year in a dreadful production of Evita, gave outstanding performances that were both imaginative and full of passion.
• Outstanding vocal and dance work from the large ensemble.
• Full of stunning visuals
• The sound design and mix was stunning
• If you can see just one production in the 2011 season then this is the show to see. Do not miss it!
• Rumor to be Broadway bound in 2012

The Little Years (Studio Theatre) ****
• Wonderfully acted production of a new Canadian play
• Interesting visuals that encompassed the floor as a scenic element
• Smart intelligent script
• Really enjoyed the sound/music design
• Excellent female ensemble
• Unpredictable plot with a touching ending

Twelfth Night (Festival Theatre) ***
• Solid production of a very familiar play
• I enjoyed the use of a musical score but thought the production was a bit too derivative of last year’s
As You Like It
• It felt as if director McAnuff wanted to visit the same territory again but without putting in the creative work that made As You Like It so magical
• I was confused by the costume design and did not feel that the eccentric set design added much to the production
• Production lacked humor from Malvolio and comic energy from Sir Toby (a very physically feeble and often verse challenged Brian Dennehy)
• The stage business was clever and often funnier than the character work
• Steven Ouimette’s Sir Andrew stole the evening
• An enjoyable evening of a production that held much more promise than it delivered
• It felt as if director McAnuff gave most of his energy and creative time to Superstar while Twelfth Night was left to flounder a bit.
• I thought the play was too long and needed a good trim
• The ending was too melancholy for my taste. I would have preferred something more upbeat with a more up-tempo musical number.
• I kept thinking how much more I had enjoyed As You Like It from the pervious season

Camelot (Festival Theatre) **1/2
• A visual delight.
• Full of color and style but not much heart
• Geraint Wyn Davies is right for the role of King Arthur but 10 years to old to be playing it
• The play lacked sexual energy from Guinevere as she did not seem much interested in any of the men
• Some nice vocal work from Lancelot but he lacked charisma and passion
• Some odd cuts to a show that is already too long and rambling
• The production felt a bit like it had been conceived by director Griffin for a Disney theme park.
• Lucy Peacock had several wonderful moment as Morgan Le Fay.
• An all too slick production of a musical that needs some passion and rough edges to really engage an adult audience
• Beautiful sounding orchestra
• Some strong vocal and dance work from the ensemble

Shakespeare’s Will (Studio Theatre)
Merry Wives of Windsor (Festival Theatre)
Titus Andronicus (Tom Patterson Theatre)

Richard III (Tom Patterson Theatre)

The Misanthrope
The Homecoming
The Grapes of Wrath

2011 Shaw Festival Season Reviews
By David Grapes

Productions are listed in order of preference.


Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (Royal George Theatre) ****

• Strong visuals and a majestic set
• Outstanding cast lead by Jim Mezon and Moya O’Connell
• Excellent casting
• Ensemble acting work was excellent right down to the children
• Best lighting design of the season
• Excellent use of music to evoke the period and location
• Production would have benefited from some cutting to the first and second act
• A long but highly satisfying evening in the theatre
• The type of ensemble acting that shows the Shaw Festival at its very best

The President (Royal George Theatre) ****
• A remount of the brilliant production from 2008
• Lorne Kennedy in a tour de force performance
• Some recasting but the show was still firing on all of its comic cylinders
• A real crowd pleaser
• I think this production might reappear again in a few years

On The Rocks (Court House Theatre) ***
• One of Shaw’s more obscure political plays given a new life and a few interesting twists by Canadian playwright Michael Healey
• Strong cast lead by Peter Krantz
• Good pacing and energy of a play that does not have much plot to drive it forward
• Nice utilization of the intimate Court House stage
• Overall a strong cutting and a solid production of a difficult and talky play

Drama at Innish – A Comedy (Court House Theatre)
Heartbreak House (Festival Theatre)

The Admirable Crichton (Festival Theatre)
Candida (Royal George Theatre)

My Fair Lady (Festival Theatre)
Maria Severa (Court House Theatre)
When the Rain Stops Falling (Studio Theatre)
Topdog/Underdog (Studio Theatre)