Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Shaw Festival Announces 2009 Season!

The Shaw Festival in Niagara on the Lake, Ontario, Canada, has announced its 2009 season. Press release here.

The Shaw Fest is probably my favorite theatre in the world. As the name suggests, the primary focus is on the plays of George Bernard Shaw (one of my favorite playwrights) and on other plays written during and about his lifetime, 1856-1950. They do productions in repertory in three theatres: The Festival, an 860-seat proscenium, the Court House, a 325-seat thrust, and the Royal George, a 325-seat proscenium.

The biggest news this year is that the festival is doing all of the Noel Coward Tonight at 8:30 plays. These were ten one-acts that Coward wrote for himself and Gertrude Lawrence. Coward and Lawrence would play the lead couple in all of the plays, of which three would be presented per night. The Shaw Fest production will be the first time that all 10 have been presented by a professional company since the premiere in the 1930's. They are being presented in three bills of three, one in each theatre, with the tenth presented as a noon-time stand alone production in the Royal George. For Coward lovers such as myself, this is pretty extraordinary. Very few of these plays are ever done any more. In fact, the only two I have seen, Still Life and Shadow Play, were presented as one-acts at previous seasons of the Shaw Festival. The chance to see all 10, to drown in Coward, is something like heaven. No word yet on casting, but I'm betting that each of the 10 gets a different pair of leads. Lord knows there are enough great actors in the ensemble!

As for the rest of the season:

There are two Shaws this season. The Festival is hosting The Devil's Disciple, set in Revolutionary America. It's a rather strange melodrama, whose most interesting character (General Burgoyne) doesn't appear until Act III. I'll be interesting to see how it plays. In the Royal George they are doing In Good King Charles' Golden Days, an obscurity about which I know nothing. However, the Shaw does his obscure plays remarkably well, so we'll see if it is worth resurrecting.

The musical is Sunday in the Park With George, by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine. Hot damn. Love this show, and it is so rarely given a first-class production. I'm expecting magic here.

Two classic American plays are on the docket, one serious and one funny: Eugene O'Neill's A Moon for the Misbegotten and Garson Kanin's Born Yesterday. The O'Neill has had two successful Broadway revivals in the past 10 years, and it holds up beautifully. In the intimate Court House, I bet it'll be spellbinding. Born Yesterday is more discussed than performed these days, but it was a huge hit in the 1940's, and I think a really strong production would still be highly entertaining. 

They are doing a production of a 1986 French-Canadian play called Albertine in Five Times, by Michel Tremblay. I know nothing about it. Anyone out there know anything?

Finally, and perhaps oddest of all, the eleventh production of the season isn't appearing in one of the theatres. John Osborne's The Entertainer is being presented in the Festival Theatre's rehearsal studio. It's brief run, so I'm guessing this is a pretty experimental thing. I don't know Osborne's play, but apparently with the right lead it's absolutely riveting. I'm curious to see how it works.

Overall, I think it's going to be an amazing season. I haven't been up to Niagara on the Lake in the last two years, but for this, I think I need to start making plans now!


Mr. K said...

Oh god, The Entertainer is a great play. A third-rate music hall performer whose life falls apart just as the Britain goes through the Suez Crisis. At the same time, it's never a "beat you over the head with a stick" allegory.

And the film version with Olivier and Joan Plowright is amazing. It's some of Olivier's best and most subtle work, understanding of the character without apologizing or hiding his flaws.

Zev Valancy said...

Sounds fantastic--I'll try to go when it's playing. I imagine it takes guts to do a play that is both star-driven and intensely unpleasant at the same time. HOpe it works--it'll probably be riveting if it does!