KW and Beyond
by Irena Syrokomla
"Gigi" at Stratford Festival
In the world of entertainment, there are moments of deep thought and reflection, and then there are moments of pure unadulterated joy. Last year it was "My Fair Lady", this year it is "Gigi", a musical based on a novella written by Collette and then transformed into a musical masterpiece by famous collaborators Lerner and Loewe. This is one of their best creations, a light delightful French story, each song easy to sing, bringing memories for years to come.
Many of us (if not all) have seen the movie with Maurice Chevalier and Leslie Caron. So I do not need to elaborate on the story of a very young Parisian girl raised by her grandmother and her aunt. She is being educated in the fine arts of table manners, wine and jewellery appreciation, social skills and graces, with the objective to be set as one of the great courtesans of Paris. A young, handsome, and very rich man is procured and the story does not turn quite like the grandmother and the aunt planned. It is frivolous, uplifting and optimistic. It is a simply a joy.
It is directed by Richard Monette in the style of an old-fashioned movie, with credits flashed on the screen, the setting is Paris in 1901, the atmosphere recreated by stage design and costumes of Cameron Porteous. In current days, more and more attention is given to details: there is an actual orchestra playing in the orchestra pit, and the actors profess enchanting French accents!
Honore, the part acted and sang by James Blendick, comes out vibrantly alive with his famous songs ("Thank heavens for little girls"), his dance pieces and his French flair. Dan Chameroy is equally great in the part of Gaston and his singing carries well. Jennifer Gould as Gigi is youthful, with the awkward style of a teenage girl. Her voice was less impressive, but then is it reasonable to expect actors not only to act but to be great singers as well? I have always wondered about that. The choreography by Donna Feore is innovative and refreshing.
There are discs available in the souvenir store with the songs and scores from the musical as well as some other French songs just to put you in the mood. And Stratford itself has so much to offer for pleasant walks, light meals, shops and more.
"Gigi" runs in the Avon Theatre till October 20.
Summer entertainment in cottage country
Muskoka is one of the most popular areas for Torontonians – and Southern Ontarians – to spend a good part of the summer season: either by driving to their own cottage, or visiting friends and family, or renting one. The area is exceptionally beautiful, the lakes dark and cool, rocky shores bringing their own remarkable impression. Once you pass Port Severn and spot the first sight of rock at the roadside, you know you are arriving in Muskoka!
It’s been my fourth season to spend a week or two at a cottage just outside Gravenhurst. There is so much joy in arriving at known places, visiting the same farmers markets and antique shops, hunting for some local cottage-style memorabilia, seeing the same faces of friends or neighbours. Familiarity brings comfort and sense of belonging. What is even more enjoyable is to watch the steady development in entertainment available to the locals: concerts, theatres, and festivals. There is always something going on, something to do in this area or a short drive away.
Gravenhurst Opera House is increasing its repertoire – this time I have seen the sold-out "ABBAMANIA". It was an all-Canadian show recreating the sound and energy of Abba. The music and the songs appeal to both the middle age group from the 70’s as well as to the young, who were raised with Abba songs preferred by their parents. What a night it was!
Some other performances this summer: "The Fab Four" a show remembering the Beatles and the famous Ed Sullivan Show - staged earlier in July, "A Feast of Ragtime" with ever-popular Jack Hutton appealing perhaps more to the retired crowd than to the younger audience. At the end of August "The Canadian Tribute to Glenn Miller" will be offered. Check out website www.gravenhurst.net/theop.
Music on the Barge is another staple of summer entertainment in Gravenhurst. Every Sunday night, crowds of cottagers and local residents come to Gull Lake Park – with their own lawn chairs – to listen to some old and some new band music. "The Lincolnaires" are popular, also "Endless Summer Beach Band","The Toggles" and "The Good Brothers". Music on the Barge events are sponsored by the City and the audience is comfortable with the pay-as-you-can basis.
Dockside Festival of the Arts - planned for mid August - is set in Gravenhurst in Sagamo Park. It includes The Meeks Family Circus and over 130 artisans from all over Canada. This is one of the top 50 Festivals offering music, entertainment, food and shopping, overall good family fun.
Some other nearby entertainment can be found in Bala or Bracebridge. A little further, in Parry Sound (for some reason Parry Sound is always included in Muskoka’s events, maybe by virtue of its similar cottage country atmosphere and not-too-far distance), the Festival of Sound is gaining popularity and prestige. It started 24 years ago with a couple of concerts, now it runs for 4 weeks offering classic concerts, family concerts and musical cruises. The program is impressive, there is piano music with Chopin, Beethoven and Schumann, classics like Mozart, Brahms and Bach, Vienna and Italian music, and classic singers as well. There are several events each day and the quality is getting better every year. Individual tickets are in a relatively affordable range - between $19 to $40, weekly passes $135 to $155, the whole festival passport (depending on seat location and senior discounts) $325 to $550. The web site is firstname.lastname@example.org and the phone number 1-866-364-0061. If one would only have a cottage on Georgian Bay or Muskoka and the time to spend all Summer there!
Of course, there are other places and other events. I just did not have enough time to explore it all.
Provincial Information Centres can be found on Highways 11 and 69, also within individual municipalities. It amazes me in comparison to the olden-days how much there is to enjoy and so much to do, aside of barbeques, boat rides and listening to the loons. If one could only have more time!
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