By Mike Keenan.
I recently watched two new Shaw Festival plays, one whimsical, The Magician’s Nephew at the Festival Theatre, the other farcical, Stage Kiss at the Royal George Theatre. Shaw opens on a light touch this season.
Approximately 20 actors are not returning to Tim Caroll’s second season as Artistic Director, including big names and long-time cast members such as Benedict Campbell, Jim Mezon, Peter Millard, Moya O’Connell, Sara Topham, Donna Belleville and Wade Bogert-O’Brien. Of course, the new big name is Stephen Fry, English comedian, actor, writer, presenter and activist in a world premiere of Mythos, a humorous trilogy featuring Greek gods, heroes and men. Mythos is expensive, top seats ranging from $120-$225.
Which gets me thinking about economics and geography. Glancing through Shaw’s website, costing out tickets and hotel prices, I think it’s high time that St. Catharines took advantage of Shaw’s proximity. After all, it’s only 21.9 k to the Festival Theatre (28 minutes by car).
Accommodations costs at the Vintage Inn hotels – Pillar and Post, Queen’s Landing, Prince of Wales all feature an average nightly rate of $239.00 and the Moffat Inn (the bargain basement price), $169.00. In comparison, the Best Western Hotel, St. Catharines sets one back $134.99 versus $198-$229 at NOTL’s Best Western. And because NOTL Hotels are so expensive, their B&Bs have also risen astronomically in price.
The weekday price of a Shaw gold ticket (mid-range) is $92; platinum (best) $106; blue, (cheapest) $76. Thus, a substantial housing savings, compared to the top three Vintage Inn hotels amounts to $104, allowing one to purchase a Shaw platinum ticket with some cash left over for treats and even a much lower price ($34) compared to the Moffat Inn, allowing one to purchase a decent meal. St. Catharines hoteliers should pursue this cultural tourism traffic in more aggressive fashion.
The Magician’s Nephew is a world premiere. I watched it with 400 elementary students, the cast so good and the play so magical that there was no noise from the kids for over two hours except loud cheers and applause at the end. Shaw bills it as an “enchanting trip to Narnia” and “the MUST-SEE family show of the year!” I think it’s the perfect vehicle for grandparents who might like to introduce grandchildren to theatre. They will love Steven Sutcliffe as uncle Andrew and the clever masks worn by the cast. Shaw technicians perform absolute magic with the sparse setting and cardboard boxes that occupy the set. Prior to all matinees, there’s an actor-led children’s workshop from 11am-12pm at the Court House, 26 Queen St (3rd floor) for a mere $5 with a ticket to the performance.
Have you ever wondered about the chemistry of actors when kissing on stage? Stage Kiss explores those feelings when two bitter exes are cast as passionate lovers in a forgotten 1930s melodrama. They deal with desires they thought had faded away long ago. The set and costume designs by Gillian Gallow feature multiple locales and eras – a modern-day rehearsal hall to an opulent 1930s Art Nouveau-styled apartment to a grungy 1970s apartment to a theatre’s backstage. Stage Kiss is particularly funny in the first act, but the farce sags a tad in the second – with a solid cast dominated by Neil Barclay, Martin Happer, Jeff Meadows and Fiona Byrne.