Mike Fischer at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel saw 10 shows and has ranked them, less as a reductive prescription than as an invitation to conversation.
1) Macbeth: “one’s deepest and darkest thoughts emerge into what little light there ever is; watching this world unfold, one feels an unsettling, primeval connection to characters who are both a millennium old (this production is set in eleventh-century Scotland) and a reflection of ourselves and our neighbors.”
2) All My Sons: “…marvel anew at how much his play still has to say to us and the way we live now…”
3) A Chorus Line: from the tryout at the top of the show to the symbolic, outward facing circle the ensemble creates near journey’s end, we’re reminded that “love’s what we’ll remember.”
4) Bunny: ” I’m not pulling punches when predicting a rousing success for this darkly funny and also wrenching account of a woman (beautifully played by Maev Beaty) in her late thirties, looking back on a lonely life in which her need to be needed results in numerous sexual relationships.”
The New York Times Charles Isherwood notes Stratford’s unique quality as “a town where actors can afford to live and raise children.”
Isherwood includes brief notes about a few shows, including:
“All My Sons” – Superlative
“Shakespeare in Love” – an ebullient crowd-pleaser
“Macbeth” -Ian Lake giving a galvanizing performance as an unusually young and sexually magnetic Macbeth.
“Night Music” was not a great production, unfortunately, but Cynthia Dale — a veteran of 13 seasons at Stratford — was marvelous in the smallish role of Charlotte.
Paul E. Robinson writes about both “A Little Night Music” and “A Chorus Line.”
Before I arrived in Stratford for my annual review of the festival’s music theatre productions, I was especially looking forward to Gary Griffin’s production of Sondheim’s A Little Night Music. In its history, the Stratford Festival has programmed only one other Sondheim show — Into the Woods in 2005 — although its vastly experienced ensemble is perhaps uniquely equipped to do justice to many of Sondheim’s sophisticated works. As it happens, I found Stratford’s A Little Night Music disappointing. On the other hand, I had limited expectations for A Chorus Line, and it turned out to be sensational in every respect.
In a review that includes 5 shows Jones noted: The Stratford “Night Music” is not Griffin’s strongest Sondheim (although it is worth noting the 19 players in the pit), but it has some formidable competition there, most from thrust productions at Chicago Shakespeare Theater. This latest show feels confined by the stage of the Avon Theatre, seeming as a production that wants to breathe more, to occupy more space, to travel alongside the thrusts and paries of its characters, to experience the humor of the pathetic with more certitude.
Cynthia Dale is no stranger to musical theatre at the Stratford Festival, having played some of the most famous leading ladies in musical theatre, such as Eliza Doolittle, Maria Rainer, Edythe Herbert, Guinevere, and Aldonza…but here, she gets to do something a little different as well! As Countess Charlotte Malcolm, she is a comedic catalyst that helps set up the romantic chaos. Charlotte may not be the ‘leading lady’ in A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC, but what makes her such a great character, and what Ms. Dale clearly understands in her portrayal, is that Charlotte is very much the leading lady in her own story.
A Little Night Music is a musical as delicate as a feather on the breeze but with heightened emotions. Characters are fraught, conflicted and often emotionally fragile. It requires a delicate, but firm, directorial hand to realize the subtleties in the piece. Unfortunately it doesn’t have that in Gary Griffin. I am grateful for Ben Carlson, Yanna McIntosh, Juan Chioran and Rosemary Dunsmore for giving performances that are beautifully rendered with all the nuance and shading that is necessary in realizing this difficult, elegant musical.
The multiple-Tony winning musical’s plot resembles a British bedroom farce, albeit ornamented with intriguing music…Throughout, a chorus of aristocrats — Sean Arbuckle, Barbara Fulton, Ayrin Mackie, Stephen Patterson and Jennifer Rider-Shaw — performs the vocal gymnastics of Sondheim’s demanding score (featuring complicated metres, unexpected pitch changes, counterpoint and polyphony) while mimicking the plot’s romantic convolutions…As a divine Désirée, McIntosh confirms she’s as gifted assuming musical roles as she is classical roles. The award for most unexpected performance goes to Gabriel Antonacci as the angst-riddled Henrik. He generates wonderful stage chemistry with Gordon’s Anne.
When the Shaw Festival did the show in 2008, it was with a five-person band. And even Trevor Nunn’s revival on Broadway in 2009 had an orchestra of just eight members…Here in Stratford, however, director of music Franklin Brasz is conducting 19 musicians through Jonathan Tunick’s original orchestrations – and the sound is so sumptuous that at times tears came to my eyes. For those who care about the musical part of musical theatre, the Stratford Festival has become a must-visit destination; few other places can afford, or are willing to pay for, this sound these days.
…there’s Farb as Petra, one of the play’s smaller roles but with a show-stopping solo in the second act with “The Miller’s Son.”…Unleashing her voice for the first time for Stratford audiences, she turns “The Miller’s Son” into a brash defence of Petra’s promiscuity in the face of her employers’ sexual frustration. Petra is loud, unremorseful, playful, yet wary of her inevitable future of marrying and settling into financial security. In fact, you might walk away humming “The Miller’s Son” rather than “Send in the Clowns.”
While the play talks about love, it is most certainly about adultery. But the characters don’t fall recklessly in and out of bed, instead weighing their actions against whatever moral standard they have, or at least sensing the need to justify their actions in some way — if to no one else but themselves…That’s where Griffin’s production shines, ensuring that the play moves beyond a vacuous comedy to something at least a little more insightful.