Stratford Festival’s 2021 productions rolling out digitally; live performances continue

Stratford, ON ~ Productions from the Stratford Festival’s 2021 season begin streaming this Thursday, September 2, with a ticketed viewing party of selections from Why We Tell the Story: A Celebration of Black Musical Theatre on Stratfest@Home, the Festival’s streaming platform. It will feature a live chat for all those virtually attending at 7 p.m. ET on Thursday.

Tickets for the virtual season are $10 for Stratfest@Home subscribers and $20 for non-subscribers. Each ticket allows for a 24-hour viewing window. Multiple dates are available for each title.

Curated and directed by Marcus Nance, with music director Franklin Brasz, Why We Tell the Story takes you on a journey with the voices of legendary Black poets and the music of the African-American musical theatre canon. Nance performs alongside Neema Bickersteth, Robert Markus and Vanessa Sears – “excellent performers, all with unique voices, allowing all styles of music to be showcased” (BroadwayWorld).

Throughout the ages the African-American community has told stories of life, love, pain and hope through glorious expressions of musical theatre and poetry. These are shared in a cabaret that is “powerful, soulful and, at times, poignantly funny” (Postmedia). It leaves “actors and audience bonded, united by song and a sense of adventure” (Globe and Mail).

Next on the streaming calendar, with its first viewing party and live chat on Thursday, September 9, at 7 p.m. ET, is selections from You Can’t Stop the Beat: The Enduring Power of Musical Theatre.

Curated and directed by Thom Allison, with music director Laura Burton, this “high energy, joy-filled journey” (BroadwayWorld) celebrates why musicals have always been the ultimate tonic for the soul in good or troubled times.

It features Alana Hibbert, Gabrielle Jones, Evangelia Kambites and Mark Uhre – “magnificently talented singers” who “delicately and lovingly weave their way around and through [the] classics” in “a beautifully crafted and organized review of Broadway musicals, hitting on all the high points both modern and majestic” (Times Square Chronicles). This “thoughtful and well-executed cabaret” (Postmedia) is “exactly what everyone needs” (BroadwayWorld).

Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream premières with an accompanying live chat on Thursday, September 16, at 7 p.m. ET.

Peter Pasyk’s “bold, sexy production” (NOW) of Shakespeare’s great comedy of dreaming and desire follows spellbound lovers, quarrelling fairies and tradesmen with a fervour for amateur theatricals. The play famously culminates in a play within the play: a hilariously inept performance led by Nick Bottom – played by André Sills, who hits “a sweet spot of loveable gregariousness throughout” (Globe and Mail).

The production also features Eva Foote as Hermia, Snug and Peaseblossom; Craig Lauzon as Oberon and Theseus; Trish Lindström as Puck and Egeus; Jonathan Mason as Demetrius, Quince and Mustardseed; Amaka Umeh as Helena, Flute and Moth; Micah Woods as Lysander, Snout and Cobweb; Bahareh Yaraghi as Titania and Hippolyta. “The cast shows off great chemistry, especially as they quickly flip between characters” (Postmedia).

“Pasyk’s crackingly paced staging delivers the whole story plus a fun disco bop at the end” to leave you “thoroughly energized” (Toronto Star). “It’s sure to entertain you and distract you from your pandemic worries” (NOW).

Selections from Play On! A Shakespeare-Inspired Mixtape begins with a viewing party and live chat on Thursday, September 23, at 7 p.m. ET.

Curated by Robert Markus, and Julia Nish-Lapidus and James Wallis, who also directed the production, with music director Reza Jacobs, Play On! reveals Shakespeare lurking in the mainstream, as cool and as relevant as ever.

This “bonafide rock concert with the bard” features “four dynamic vocalists” (BroadwayWorld): Gabriel Antonacci, Jacob MacInnis, Jennifer Rider-Shaw and Kaitlyn Santa Juana. “You must find a way to see this show that truly brings together all the things that make the Stratford Festival magical” (BroadwayWorld).

Tomson Highway’s The Rez Sisters has its first viewing party and live chat on Thursday, September 30, at 7 p.m. ET.

Ribald, harrowing and mystical, this seminal work of Indigenous drama follows seven women – each with unique dreams and difficulties – and celebrates their resilience and powerful beauty and they travel on a quest for “the biggest bingo in the world.” This Globe and Mail “Critic’s Pick” is “a beautiful and relatable story about life, grief, trauma, and sisterhood, and it is beautifully told by all involved” (BroadwayWorld).

Directed by Jessica Carmichael, this “moving, funny production” features Jani Lauzon, Brefny Caribou, Lisa Cromarty, Christine Frederick, Nicole Joy-Fraser, Kathleen MacLean, Tracey Nepinak and Zach Running Coyote and is “a joyful celebration of sisterhood in all its prickliness” (Slotkin Letter). “35 years after its debut, Highway’s work has only deepened and become more resonant” (NOW).

More productions from the 2021 season will roll out digitally in the coming months. The first viewing party for each title features a live chat.

To book your viewing party ticket, visit https://www.stratfordfestival.ca/VirtualSeason or call the box office at 1.800.567.1600. Subscribe to Stratfest@Home for just $10 a month to purchase these special events at a significantly reduced price.

Support for the filming of productions in the 2021 season is generously provided by Richard & Mona Alonzo, The John and Myrna Daniels Charitable Foundation, The Henry White Kinnear Foundation, The McLean Foundation, Martie & Bob Sachs, Robert & Jacqueline Sperandio, Alice & Tim Thornton and by an anonymous donor.

In-person performances at the Stratford Festival continue until October 9. Productions still on stage are Edward Albee’s Three Tall Women, R+J, I Am William, Serving Elizabeth, and the cabaret Finally There’s Sun.

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