Saturday, November 12, 2011

News and Notes on local theatre in November

Last week I wrote about some of the local theatre in the area on right now, from Lyndesfarne Theatre Projects, Department of Drama a Brock University and Garden City Productions.  I still have to get to GCP's production of Gypsy before it closes next weekend, and unfortunately this weekend I have too much on the plate to catch anything at all, but I did attend the season opener for Lyndesfarne and want to pass along a few comments here before getting on to other things.

I have often written of the quality of the productions from Kelly Daniels, Artistic Director of Lyndesfarne Theatre Projects.  Most shows have a small cast and the set changes are kept to a minimum if needed at all. Most times, the set stays the same throughout the show, which is great in the theatre space they use, the Sullivan Mahoney Courthouse Theatre in downtown St. Catharines.  The season opener is Willy Russell's entertaining Educating Rita, starring Daniels' husband Ric Reid and Jenny L.Wright, both members of the Shaw Festival acting ensemble.

Ric played Dr. Frank Bryant in two previous productions of Educating Rita over the past number of years, the last one a few years ago when he suffered a heart attack while onstage.  He came through it, of course, and is probably a lot healthier now than he was at the start of the last production.  He also has experienced a lot more about life since the first time years ago as a young man, making this portrayal of Bryant a much more rewarding and richer experience for both him and us.  His co-star in this production, Jenny L. Wright,   has great fun with her role, a 30-something mother in England who feels her education is wanting.  She turns to Bryant for some special tutoring, and in the process teaches him more than he probably teaches her.

Both have interesting perspectives on their respective characters, making for a fairly satisfying theatrical experience for the audience.  The pivotal scene happens in the second act when Jenny, playing Rita, finally overtakes her teacher when it comes to what has been learned, vividly illustrated as each is finally seated in the other's spot on the stage; Frank sits in the guest's chair while Rita takes charge behind his desk.   It is then you see the fundamental shift in focus take place.

Educating Rita may not be the best production Lyndesfarne has given us, but it is a darned good one, and well worth your consideration during the month of November.  You have performances this evening and Sunday afternoon this weekend, and performances again next week from Wednesday to Sunday at the Sullivan Mahoney Courthouse Theatre in downtown St. Catharines.  Tickets for all performances are available by calling the box office at 905-938-1222 or going to

Now, some news to get caught up on at the Shaw Festival in Niagara-on-the-Lake before we call it a day today.  The 50th season ended October 30th, and the season was a good one both artistically and financially.  Shaw reported a 5% increase in attendance over the 2010 season, due in no small part to the smash hit musical My Fair Lady at the Festival Theatre.  In fact, My Fair Lady is the best-selling production in Shaw Festival history.

Financially, the numbers tell the tale:  according to Executive Director Colleen Blake, season attendance numbers reached 274,800, an increase of 13,000 over the past season.  Box office revenues translate into an overall economic impact of more than $ 100-million annually for the Province of Ontario, bringing added tourism to the Niagara Region in particular and Ontario in general.

Now, the 51st season gets underway in April, 2012, with eleven different productions on four stages, with casting being announced for many shows this past week.  For the flagship musical Ragtime, for example, the musical will showcase Thom Allison and Kate Hennig and will be directed by Artistic Director Jackie Maxwell.  More information on the upcoming season can be found on the Shaw Festival website, at  And if you just can't wait to get your tickets, call the box office at 1-800-511-7429.  If you are a member, you can order tickets now; if not a member yet, you have to wait until January 14th.

Enjoy the weekend!

November 12th, 2011.

No comments: