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Shaw and Stratford's 2015 Musicals = money in the bank!

© by Mike Keenan

Ontario's two major theatre companies have geared up this season with new productions and hope to cash in on an influx of American money since our Loonie's fall promises to spark much greater tourism from the U.S. And when it comes to cash flow, Niagara on the Lake's Shaw Festival and the Stratford Festival regularly employ musicals to fill both seats and coffers which, of course, allows the artistic directors to run other productions that might not fare as well at the box office.

This season, Stratford's Antoni Cimolino offers two musicals by Rodgers and Hammerstein - The Sound of Music and Carousel while Shaw's Jackie Maxwell counters with Sweet Charity, originally conceived, staged and choreographed by Bob Fosse. No doubt, readers have fond memories of Shirley MacLaine (1969) in the latter and Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer (1965) in the former in their movie roles.


Maxwell is in her last season at Shaw, her thirteenth as Artistic Director. She directs Peter and the Starcatcher by Rick Elice and the world premiere of Michel Marc Bouchard's The Divine: A Play for Sarah Bernhardt. Born and educated in Belfast, Northern Ireland, Jackie studied drama at the University of Manchester, and acted in the U.K. before arriving in Canada in 1978.

Cimolino directs Hamlet and The Alchemist. Born in Sudbury, he graduated in 1984 from the University of Windsor's School of Dramatic Art, and began his Stratford career in 1988 as an actor, directing for Stratford in the mid-1990s.

At Stratford, Sound of Music includes favourites songs such as "My Favorite Things" and "Climb Ev'ry Mountain", while Carousel will have you singing "You'll Never Walk Alone," "If I Loved You" and "June Is Bustin' Out All Over." At Shaw, it's "Big Spender," "The Rhythm of Life," and "If They Could See Me Now."

Originally based on the 1956 Academy Award-winning film The Nights of Cabiria by Federico Fellini, Sweet Charity directed by Shaw's Morris Panych, pairs fun '60s music and hip dance numbers with a smart comedic script by Neil Simon. It captures the rhythm and talk of the late '60s. This musical delights with fast-paced, witty dialogue and the klutzy antics of its lovable heroine.

The Sound of Music directed by choreographer Donna Feore, is a multiple Tony Award-winning musical by Richard Rodgers, lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II and a book by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse. It is based on the memoir of Maria von Trapp, The Story of the Trapp Family Singers.

Carousel directed by Susan H. Schulman, is from the same Rodgers-Hammerstein team, based upon a 1945 work adapted from Ferenc Molnár's 1909 play Liliom, transplanting its Budapest setting to the Maine coastline. The story revolves around carousel barker Billy Bigelow, whose romance with millworker Julie Jordan comes at the price of both their jobs.

The Sound of Music opens at the Festival Theatre on May 26 and runs to October 18. Carousel opens on May 29 at the Avon Theatre and runs to October 16. Sweet Charity opens on May 16 at the Festival Theatre and runs to October 31

Theatre is getting pricey with top seats at Shaw for openings and weekends at $116 and at $150 at Stratford. Seniors should take advantage of Stratford's "Seniors and Students Midweek Matinée Specials" for tickets from $25 (Super Saver) to $81 (Premium) and previews at Shaw for $35-$89 with Seniors' rates from $48. All the information you need is contained on their websites: Shaw - http://www.shawfest.com/ Stratford - http://www.stratfordfestival.ca/

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Mike Keenan writes for QMI Agency (Sun Media) Canada's largest newspaper publisher, printing 44 daily newspapers as well as a web portal, Canoe.ca. Besides regular columns for the St. Catharines Standard, Welland Tribune, Niagara Falls Review and Seniors Review, Mike has been published in the Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, National Geographic Traveler, Buffalo Spree, Stitches, West of the City and Hamilton-Burlington's View Magazine. " Let us help put your business on the map! "
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