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Hot Opening Week Reviews!

What a great start to the season, filled with cheers and standing ovations.

Audiences enjoyed an incredible opening week here at the Stratford Festival - and the theatre critics enjoyed it too! 
 
Guys & Dolls


"★★★★" (out of 4) 
 "gloriously choreographed" - The Globe and Mail

"★★★★" (out of 4) 
"pure, unbridled energy"
"jaw-dropping" - Toronto Star

"gravity-defying" - Postmedia

"Exhilarating" - Broadway World

"Don't miss it" - Hamilton Spectator



 Romeo and Juliet


"★★★½" (out of 4)
 "you feel as if you're hearing it for the first time" - The Globe and Mail
"on fire"
"must-see theatre" - Postmedia

"Sublime" - Broadway World

The School for Scandal
 
 "★★★½" (out of 4) 
 "Cimolino's production is clear and confident" - Globe and Mail

"★★★½" (out of 4) 
  "lavish"
 "top-gun cast, frothy costumes to die for, and a scenic design that had me in astonishment" - Toronto Star

"a master class in comedy" - Postmedia



 Twelfth Night

 "marvellous" - Postmedia

"truly hysterical" -  Broadway World

"Henry's Twelfth Night is one for the history books" - Hamilton Spectator


 
 HMS Pinafore

"never-ending pleasures" -  Postmedia

"Hits the High Seas, High Notes, and High Marks"
"phenomenal" - Broadway World
 
"The lead performances are excellent - Mark Uhre and Jennifer Rider-Shaw have exquisite voices; the always reliable Steve Ross is in excellent comic form; and Lisa Horner is a hoot." - The Globe and Mail
 


Treasure Island

 
"visually arresting"
"delight" - Toronto Star

"As Ben Gunn, Katelyn McCulloch impressively swings from silks while reciting monologues, springs from branch to branch and finds exactly the right tone to please adults and kiddies alike." - The Globe and Mail

"ideal fun-filled action for the family"
"exuberant" - Postmedia

"a swashbuckling stunner" - Hamilton Spectator

"Stratford strikes gold with Treasure Island" - Capitol Critics Circle



Timon of Athens
 
"the detail in design and performance is superb" - Toronto Star

 "Powerful"
 "impressive"
 "captivating and heartbreaking" - Broadway World

"a triumph" - Postmedia


 

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All Aboard: HMS Pinafore Sets Sail at the Avon Theatre!

You’ll give three cheers – and one cheer more – for Gilbert and Sullivan’s beloved classic.
For pure, delightful fun and escapism, there's nothing more enchanting than a voyage on board HMS Pinafore! Enjoy a taste of what's in store with a look at our trailer:


Director Lezlie Wade sets her production of this celebrated operetta in a manor house converted into a naval convalescent hospital, where the staff and patients join forces to present HMS Pinafore as part of their New Year's Eve celebration - just as Britain is about to enter the final year of World War I.

"Gilbert knew what he was doing when he wrote these comic operas: there are so many levels of enjoyment," says Ms Wade, who has worked on a number of Stratford projects, including as assistant director of Jesus Christ Superstar. "If you're an opera lover, there's Sullivan's music and beautiful vocal arrangements. If you like wit and satire, there is plenty of that to be had. If you like slapstick comedy, romance and happy endings, you won't be disappointed."

Living in the crazy world we do, a welcome break from reality is good for the soul. Sit back and let the glorious music of a long-ago era wash over you, with such familiar numbers as "We Sail the Ocean Blue," "I'm Called Little Buttercup" and "Never Mind the Why and Wherefore," all brought to life by a live 17-piece orchestra led by the Festival's Director of Music, Franklin Brasz.

The production's stellar cast features Jennifer Rider-Shaw as Josephine and Mark Uhre as her beloved Ralph Rackstraw, with Lisa Horner as Little Buttercup, Laurie Murdoch as Sir Joseph Porter and Steve Ross as Captain Corcoran.

Along with Sullivan's wonderful music and choreography by Kerry Gage, the show is a visual delight with its beautiful set by Douglas Paraschuk and stunning costumes by Patrick Clark - all illuminated by lighting designer Wendy Greenwood.



Explore more HMS Pinafore at the Forum!


Satire as Subversion | Wednesday, July 5
For this discussion on the use of satire as social commentary in the works of Gilbert and Sullivan, Lezlie Wade, director of HMS Pinafore, is joined by Annette av Paul, wife of the late Brian Macdonald (who directed the Festival's famous productions of Gilbert and Sullivan in the 1980s), and comedian Gavin Crawford, host of CBC Radio's Because News.

Mounting Musicals | Wednesday, July 26
Company member Sara Farb and Stratford native Britta Johnson present their original musical He Is Coming and discuss the current burgeoning of musical theatre creation with director Robert McQueen and Mitchell Marcus, Artistic Director of the Musical Stage Company.

This production is dedicated to the memory of former acting company member Richard McMillan and sound engineer Bill Gosling.

Individual production support is generously provided by Nona MacDonald Heaslip.
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Explore the Forum!

Discover the latest additions and must-see events in the Festival’s fascinating series of guest speakers, music, special performances and more coming up this season.

Check out the Forum's incredible range of offerings, and be sure to add some of these illuminating events exploring the Festival's 2017 theme of Identity to your personal playbill.

Upcoming featured events:

Brent Carver and Art of Time | June 24
Tony Award winner Brent Carver's well-known range is reflected in a program including material from the American songbook, pop music of the 1960s and, of course, musical theatre. Accompanied by a sextet of Art of Time Ensemble's finest musicians, Mr. Carver will perform songs by Charles Aznavour, Leonard Cohen, Kander & Ebb, Elton John, Jacques Brel, Noël Coward and others, arranged especially for this concert by a selection of the best composers and arrangers in Canada.

Support for Brent Carver and Art of Time is generously provided by an anonymous donor.
 
Assassinating Thomson | June 18
Art, politics, ambition, love and murder are intertwined in this one-man investigation of a Canadian icon's mysterious demise. Creator and performer Bruce Horak, who has spent his life painting with only 9% vision, paints a portrait of the audience live on stage as he explores the truth and lies behind the death of artist Tom Thomson, unofficial eighth member of the renowned Group of Seven.

Shakespeare and Company: The Playwright's World
|
July 30
Artistic Director Antoni Cimolino, National Post theatre critic Robert Cushman, Randall Martin of the University of New Brunswick and director Jeannette Lambermont-Morey discuss the social and theatrical conditions in which the Elizabethan and Jacobean dramatists operated, how the writers interacted, and why this was a Golden Age.

Not-to-be-missed panels:

Crafting a Nation |
 June 14
Arsinée Khanjian and other Canadian cultural icons discuss the intersection of art, politics and social sciences and how that shapes the uniquely Canadian narrative of who we are.
 
Caretakers of Story | June 21
In celebration of the 20th annual National Aboriginal Day, First Nations author and critic Lee Maracle, First Nations playwright and humourist Drew Hayden Taylor and scholar Jill Carter discuss the role of story in indigenous cultures.

Implications of Inclusivity | June 24
Dr. Adrienne Harris, professor of psychology at NYU, moderates a panel of company members as they delve into the complexities of inclusive casting in theatre. Actors Sean Arbuckle, Jani Lauzon, Anusree Roy, E.B. Smith and Brigit Wilson speak to their experiences playing roles that aren't explicitly written for their genders or ethnic backgrounds, and discuss the ripples that arise from that practice.

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Park and Play!

A new paid parking lot near the Avon and Studio theatres makes it easy for you to relax and enjoy your day.

Instead of searching for parking spots downtown or feeding meters every few hours, leave your car in our new lot and have a happy, worry-free visit to Stratford!

Available until October 22, the new lot is conveniently located at the corner of Waterloo and Grange streets, with its entrance off Waterloo and exit onto Grange. Forty spaces will be available, with no pre-sales, so be sure to arrive early to claim a parking spot on the day of your visit. At only $10 to park for the day, it's a great deal!

The lot will be staffed by a Festival employee two hours prior to each performance at the Avon and Studio theatres.

Enjoy your time in Stratford!

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Chilina Kennedy: A Beautiful Festival Favourite!

Chilina Kennedy reprises her hit Broadway role in Beautiful: The Carole King Musical at Toronto’s Ed Mirvish Theatre.

Fans of the Stratford Festival will remember Chilina Kennedy for her starring turns in such productions as The Grapes of Wrath, Evita, West Side Story, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to The Forum and Kiss Me, Kate. But it was her role as Mary Magdalene in our 2011 production of Jesus Christ Superstar that led to her Broadway debut when the show transferred to New York's theatre mecca in 2012.

In March 2015, Ms Kennedy took on the lead role in Beautiful and has been loving her time portraying the iconic Carole King on Broadway ever since. The upcoming tour of the musical gives this well-known Canadian performer a welcome chance to return and share the joy of the production with audiences here at home. What's it been like for her to be back in Canada after such a long stretch in New York City?

"Being in New York is such a huge contrast from home," she says. "I didn't really give the differences that much credit while I was there in the middle of it, but having a chance to step outside and get back to my small-town community really brought those differences home to me. I had to go back down for a bit of recording recently, and it really struck me this time returning there from Stratford. Just the sheer, mad pace of New York alone is astonishing."

Not that she hasn't loved living and performing on Broadway. Beautiful is a big hit with audiences, and throughout the long run, she has been touched by the number of people who make their way to the stage door to share personal stories about what the musical means to them.

"There has been such joy and love shown every night at the stage door," she says. "Carole King was a New York girl, so a lot of people - like old high school friends and her former nanny - have come to the show and told me stories about the Carole that they knew back in the day. That hometown NYC connection makes for a very personal touch in the audience.

"Carole's daughter, Louise, has been to the show, and Paul McCartney once came backstage to give me a hug! I also had the pleasure of taking part in a 2015 event honouring Carole King at the Kennedy Center, so I've had the chance to meet and work with Carole - we even sang together on the Today Show. She is incredibly kind and fearless and down-to-earth."

Sometimes the strains of performing in such a long-running show can be challenging for performers, but Ms Kennedy loves the musical and her role even more as time goes on.

"Beautiful is such a lovely, positive show," she says. "People can really relate to it. The music alone is worth the price of admission - Carole's Tapestry album occupies a special place in so many people's hearts, and they feel a deep personal attachment to it. There's a real sense of nostalgia for where they were in their lives when this music was first out.

"But it's not just the music: the show's overall message is uplifting and beautiful (pardon the pun!). Carole and Gerry's love story is at the heart of it, and there is a lot about her friendship with [fellow songwriters] Cynthia [Weil] and Barry [Mann]. There are moments of hardship along the way, and that makes it into something real we can all recognize - everyone can relate to these stories of family and love and relationships on a personal level, and the poignant moments of struggle along the journey will resonate with audiences everywhere.

"I look at my own life differently as a result of doing this production, and it adds to my life on a daily basis. I enjoy spending that much time with Carole King's life and music, so having a long run is great!"

The Toronto run of Beautiful: The Carole King Musical is from June 27 to September 3 at the Ed Mirvish Theatre. For more information or tickets call the Box Office at 1.800.461.3333 or visit their website at mirvish.com.