Earlier this month we were up in Stratford for the beginning of opening week, and saw four shows: As You Like It, Kiss Me, Kate, Peter Pan and The Winter’s Tale. We’ll be up again for the entire month of August, re-seeing all of these shows at least once and seeing the rest of the season. Since I’ve missed the opportunity to write reviews that coincide with the actual openings, and since I’ve got a lot of other writing to do before then, I may wait until August to write my reviews of these four shows. Or I might not. We’ll see.
But I will take the time now to tell you: based on those four shows and based on the reviews of the other shows that have opened since then, this looks like it might be the best season at Stratford in quite a long time. This was the best As You Like It I’ve seen, in terms of the overall quality of the cast, in terms of the beauty and wit and inventiveness of the staging and design, and, most important, in terms of the number of ways that it surprised me. This was also the best Winter’s Tale I’ve seen, again in terms of the overall quality of the cast but also in terms of the depth of feeling for the story (although the first production I ever saw, the 1998 Stratford production directed by Brian Bedford, was truly marvelous, and is the reason I fell in love with the play in the first place, so I’m actually quite reluctant to prefer Marti Maraden’s production to my first love). This is the only full-scale production I’ve ever seen of Barrie’s play, Peter Pan (not the musical) and it absolutely took my breath away – did so from the opening scene and wouldn’t give it back until the lights went on. And while this Kiss Me, Kate probably isn’t one for the ages, it’s an awful lot of fun, certainly a successful staging and worth seeing.
Point being: if you ever intended to get up to Stratford, Ontario, this is the year to do it. If you go up there most years, this is not a year to miss – it’s a year to stay longer and see more.