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The Niagara Blog:     The Shaw announces Festival Theatre's 2014 playbill

Festival Theatre
Festival Theatre

At Wimbledon , it's called Centre Court. That's the venue where the big matches are contested before the largest crowds to determine who is awarded the coveted prized tennis silverware. In Niagara-on-the-Lake at the Shaw Festival, that corresponding venue is the Festival Stage, the largest of the four theatres, and the venue where the "big plays" are usually staged, those special offerings that Artistic Director Jackie Maxwell hopes will draw the biggest crowds. Today, Shaw announced how it intends to repeat this year's impressive hat-trick of Guys and Dolls, Lady Windermere's Fan and Enchanted April in 2014 at the Festival Theatre.

The major musical is Cabaret , the Tony Award -winner based on stories from the Christopher Isherwood novel, Goodbye to Berlin, with music by John Kander and lyrics by Fred Ebb. Set in 1931 Berlin as the Nazis are rising to power, Cabaret focuses on the decadent nightlife in the seedy Kit Kat Klub , led by its eerily compelling Master of Ceremonies and cabaret singer Sally Bowles, and the world of landlady Fräulein Schneider's apartments. It is here that Sally meets American writer Cliff Bradshaw as political realities begin to infiltrate their lives. Chosen for its strong book, fascinating story and resonant political context, Cabaret will be directed by Peter Hinton, an outstanding choice after this year's brilliant production of Lady Windermere's Fan. Mr. Hinton is a truly talented director, and it's exciting to see him in command of such a terrific period piece.

Of Hinton, Maxwell says, "Anyone who has seen Peter's work will appreciate his ability to evoke an era from a new and contemporary point of view. He thinks conceptually and visually and I know he will bring the world of Cabaret to the Festival stage in a rich, detailed and wonderfully surprising way."

Creative team members for Cabaret include choreographer Denise Clarke, a Calgary-based, internationally hailed artist in dance and theatre who is making a welcomed debut at The Shaw; resident Music Director Paul Sportelli, set designer Michael Gianfrancesco, costume designer Judith Bowden and lighting designer Bonnie Beecher.

George Bernard Shaw   Edouard Manet, photo by Wikimedia Commons   Seurat Can-Can, photo by Wikimedia Commons   Tomas Tomke, Cabaret, photo by Wikimedia Commons

The second production planned for the Festival Stage is The Philadelphia Story , a romantic comedy written in 1939 by American Philip Barry and made famous by the film starring Katherine Hepburn as socialite Tracy Lord. A high-end East Coast household is thrown into disarray as Tracy's wedding plans are complicated by the simultaneous arrival of her ex-husband and a journalist determined to dig up some tabloid dirt.

The Philadelphia Story will be directed by Dennis Garnhum, Artistic Director of Theatre Calgary, with Shaw's Head of Design William Schmuck, taking on sets and costumes, and lighting by Kevin Lamotte, Head of Lighting Design. After the close of the Shaw's 2014 season, the production will travel to Calgary to be part of Theatre Calgary's 2014/15 season.

"Building connections with other theatre companies across Canada and the United States is something we are very focused on here at The Shaw," says Ms Maxwell. "Over the last 10 years, we have visited companies in cities such as Toronto, Ottawa, Chicago, and Detroit and are thrilled to add Theatre Calgary to the list, currently one of the most vital regional theatres in Canada."

Rounding out the Festival Theatre's 2014 playbill is a popular early work by the Festival's namesake, The Philanderer . Yes, Shaw himself is back at the largest theatre, his absence noted last year by literati in Toronto. The Shaw is thrilled that Lisa Peterson, a two-time Obie Award winner, self described Bernard Shaw fan and one of North America's most sought after freelance directors, will make her Shaw Festival debut with this delightfully barbed comedy. Written in 1893, The Philanderer is set in the fictitious Ibsen Club where unusually both sexes can become members. The only stipulation is the men must prove they are unmanly and the women unwomanly! Forced to make changes to the script by the British censor, Shaw wrote a new third act. The 2014 production will feature Shaw's original version. Ms. Peterson will be joined by designer Sue LePage, who has designed set and costumes for many Shaw plays at the Festival. Plans are already afoot to create a whole new landscape in which to view this provocative story.

It certainly looks like Maxwell is capable of yet another hat-trick!

Liza Minnelli - Mein Herr - Cabaret

Liza Minnelli, Cabaret

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