This being a senior (Yikes! see first blog) does have its pluses. One, is being a grandparent. The ‘I love you Nana’ from Rose 9 years, and June 6, naturally fills my heart with joy, but there is nothing as delightful as watching the girls entranced at a play. Well not just any play, but The Lion,The Witch and the Wardrobe that we just saw at the Stratford Festival.
I looked over at the girls during the show and could see their rapt expressions of enchantment and wonder as the adult cast captured the childlike essence of this Narnia tale. The music was charming, the dancing, and the magical re-creation of the animals held us all in thrall.
How marvellous that we were three generations enjoying a wonderful afternoon together. Our son, James, all 6’4 of him, who thoughtfully slouched during the play, had a broad smile on his face. If you go with young ones, and you should, remember to pick up a booster seat at the entrance to the Avon Theatre. Please note that the shows are almost sold out. Remember too that there is the Stratford Bus that is a real bargain and takes the strain out of driving.
We drove and arrived early in this Southwestern Ontario town, about one and a half hours from Toronto. There is a terrific children’s play area/park with a sponge like, waterproof floor, not far from the Festival Theatre. Colourful swings, spinners and jungle gyms kept the girls busy and active for about an hour, then we ordered takeout from a snack bar called Dukes Grill and Ice cream Shack and ate lunch; great onion rings and schnitzel sandwiches.
Girls on spinner in great play ground
We also booked a tour of Rheo Thompson’s chocolate factory. It took about an hour and was thoroughly enjoyable, although I would suggest doing this during the week when the factory is up and running. We were there on a weekend and watched a video of production before we toured the factory with a well-informed member of the staff. Yummy samples are part of the tour; perfect after lunch.
Looking glamorous for tour of chocolate factory
I don’t think it is news that the Stratford Festival is incredible. If you can swing it, plan to stay for a few days and take in more than one show. There are forums, and musical offerings as well as some very good restaurants. We prefer to stay at the Bruce Hotel. It is truly lovely and comfortable, and a short walk from the Festival Theatre. The food is creative, and the breakfast that comes with the room is excellent. The hotel is pricey though. Other options include the Mercer Hall and The Parlour Inn, both downtown and close to theatres. There are numerous B&B’s. If you are considering going you can find out about accommodation, restaurants and other activities on the tourism site called Visit Stratford. Best to plan ahead, as during the summer peak season places get booked early.
Every year, Charles and I go opening week. I love the rush of seeing new productions, and making my own mind up about the shows and not waiting to see what the critics say. Frankly, no matter how bad a review, a good show will do very well on ‘word of mouth’ and the opposite also holds true. Thank goodness.
My special favourites this season are Macbeth because it is fast paced and compelling. I liked the raw sexuality of the youthful Macbeth and his lady. You could almost understand why he was driven to do what he did, and also why his conscience finally caught up with him.
A Chorus Line was terrific. I saw it three times. I should explain that Charles and I are co-sponsors of this Donna Feore production. We would bet on anything this brilliant, vibrant, imaginative force directs, and we will be involved again next summer for Guys and Dolls. So when I talk about A Chorus Line I am very subjective. It is a special show and because I spent my life as an opera singer I totally get the angst of the performers, and the audition process. 5-6- 7- 8- ‘One singular etc.’As soon as I say those numbers ad start singing the tune, I wish I were a dancer and could wear the gold costumes and hoof it around the thrust theatre stage. Alas, not to be.
Perhaps the most riveting and surprising production is All My Sons. The story is absorbing and true, which adds a special scariness to it. The acting by all is astonishing, and the direction of Martha Henry is magnificent. The Tom Patterson theatre is so immediate that you feel part of this horrific tale and I held my breath throughout most of the performance, and only exhaled after the final applause.
There are many shows at Stratford and you can easily check out dates, availability etc. online at Stratford Festival Guide. I know this all sounds like a commercial for the Festival, and I guess it is because I am truly proud of our national treasure and want as many people as possible to derive the pleasure I get from attending.
This started as a paean to being a grandparent, and I will end with saying that it is a great gift to view life through the eyes of the young, and a giggle too.
Till next time,