Sunday, April 12, 2009

Day Trip to Stratford: West Side Story

The Stratford Festival opened this weekend with the previews of West Side Story. Since my sister Rosi was visiting from Germany, it was the perfect opportunity to do a day trip and see some great theater at the same time. Stratford is about a three hour drive from us, so it is doable in one day, if the performance is a matinee. It was a lovely clear day for a drive, albeit a bit on the chilly side.

We arrived in time to do a little shopping on the charming main street in downtown after a forgettable hasty lunch at Bentley's Pub. We shopped at Scout, which was filled with modern design unusual one of a kind household items and Indigena, dedicated to Canadian crafts and art. I found the greatest silk wine gift pouches and silk/linen scarves for gifts.

Stratford has four theaters: West Side Story was at the Festival Theater, the largest of the four with 1,826 seats and a proscenium stage which juts out into the audience, enabling everyone to get a good view. Fifteen minutes before the performance you are alerted by a drumroll and a fanfare of four trumpeters announcing the start of the play. They repeat the fanfare from several different points around the theater.

I've seen West Side Story many times, but enjoyed it most at this venue. Perhaps it was the proximity to the actors which made it more personal for me, but I felt emotionally connected and was in tears at the end. The dancing was incredible. The original very challenging Jerome Robbins choreography is copyrighted and must be included in every production. The cast more than did justice to Mr. Robbins work. In fact, I felt the entire cast was equally responsible for the success of the show, rather than just the two leads, Chilina Kennedy and Paul Nolan. Of the pair, Chilina was most impressive with strong vocal and acting abilities. Jennifer Rias, as Anita and Josie Marasco as Anybodys were also outstanding and believable. If this was the first performance of the piece, it can only get better and better, which bodes well for a packed house to continue until the end of the run in November. I know I'd like to return for a repeat experience.


Before our drive home we took time out for a lovely dinner at Woolfy's in St. Mary's. Years ago we always included dinner at Woolfy's in our Stratford weekends. They have since moved to St. Mary's and morphed into a full fledged elegant restaurant. Owned and run by Chris and Mary Woolf, attention to detail is evident in the decor as well as food preparation and presentation.
Locally grown organic produce and meat is used on the menu. The proof is in the tasting. Flavors explode in your mouth and you savor every bite. I had to resist licking my plate. My bison filet with fig preserves was unique and delectible. For dessert, pavlova with mango and raspberry mousse a perfect ending. The service, which included the couple's 16 year old son, left nothing to be desired. When one of us dropped a fork, he appeared in two seconds with another. We asked him how he knew, and he replied that he had heard it fall. We wish them well and hope that they are around for a good long time to come.,_Ontario

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