ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
The Stratford Festival lacks erotic
By Antonio Tan
YES; EROTIC, NOT QUITE. James Blendick, Domini Blythe,
Jennifer Gould and Dan Chameroy star in Gigi, a Lerner
and Loewe musical which touches on Parisian pedophiles.
Musicals tend to draw the largest crowds at the Stratford
Festival of Canada, despite its reputation as a specialist
in the works of William Shakespeare.
Indeed, the festival has come a long way since it first opened
in 1953. In recent years, under Richard Monette's reign as
artistic director, the Broadway musical has made Stratford
the target of critics for selling out to commercialism. You
can't blame Stratford for wanting to make a little cash on
the side, as long as they put on good productions. However,
that can't be said of this season's musical theatre selections.
The King and I
The Festival Theatre
At the Festival Theatre, Rodgers and Hammerstein's The King
and I, their 1951 musical about Anna Leonowens, tells the story
of an English school teacher in the court of Siam and her tumultuous
relationship with the King.
While the production has an impressive stage design (costumes
by Roger Kirk, sets by Debra Hanson), the overall performance
is missing a few key elements.
Lucy Peacock as Anna is fine (with the exception of her thin
raspy voice), as well as Victor Talmadge as the King, playing
his role quite differently than what we'd expect; he's calm
and sophisticated not barbaric like Yul Brynner's often-imitated
However, if there is one thing that must exist in a production
of The King and I, it's the erotic tension between Anna and
the King. That is what's missing here.
When the show reaches that erotically-charged moment when
the King asks Anna to dance in "Shall We Dance," you can't
help but realize there's been little to substantiate any romantic
feelings between the two.
This is where Susan H. Schulman's sumptuous production falters.
But the glorious and memorable score is still there - performed
beautifully - and that's mainly what makes this King and I
still worthy to see.
The Avon Theatre
Over at the Avon Theatre is the Lerner and Loewe musical,
Gigi, about a young girl who tames the heart of a Parisian
bachelor named Gaston. Best known as the 1958 Academy Award-winning
film, Gigi was eventually turned into a Broadway musical in
1973, but was a flop with audiences and critics.
As anyone could possibly guess after hearing the famous opening
number "Thank Heaven for Little Girls," the show was fashioned
to make the pedophilic insatiability of the Parisians in 1901
look charming (they never mention Gigi's age, but the educated
guess is she's 15).
Jennifer Gould is sweet as the title character, James Blendick
does a good Maurice Chevalier impression as Honoré (who performs
the opening number) and Dan Chameroy is a little flighty as
The songs are of the usual Lerner and Loewe standard, with
witty lyrics and memorable music, but it has shades of My Fair
Lady throughout. "The Night They Invented Champagne" is Gigi's
version of "The Rain In Spain" and the title song is its version
of "I've Grown Accustomed To Her Face."
Richard Monette directs this production rather poorly. It's
cartoonish, gimmicky and aims for cheap laughs. For example,
a screeching cat causes a fit of allergic reaction and Honoré slurps on mussels while uttering a speech to Gaston, distracting
the audience from paying attention to what he's actually saying.
Monette's been condemned for this before and he obviously
The King and I continues until Nov. 23 at The Festival Theatre
and Gigi continues until Nov. 1 at The Avon Theatre. For tickets,