BWW Blog: A Clevelander's Views and Reviews of Canada's The Shaw Festival

BWW Blog: A Clevelander's Views and Reviews of Canada's The Shaw Festival

Roy Berko

(Member, Cleveland Critics Circle, American Theatre Critics Association)

"By the time the show is over, you will have been taken on a journey more compelling and magical than you could have imagined. For this, I think, is our principal function-as we delight, provoke and entertain, we must always surprise." These are Jackie Maxwell, the Shaw Festival's Artistic Director, hopes for those who attend one or more of the theatre offerings.

The Shaw is one of two major Canadian theatre celebrations, the other being The Stratford Festival in Stratford, Ontario. Both are professional, high quality venues.

The Shaw Festival is a tribute to George Bernard Shaw and his writing contemporaries.

Many Clevelanders take the four-hour drive up to The Shaw, as it is called by locals, to participate in theatre, tour the "most beautiful little city in Canada," shop, and eat at the many wonderful restaurants.

It's a good idea to make both theatre and lodging reservations early, especially with the B&Bs on weekends. Our home away from home is the beautiful and well-placed Wellington House (, directly across the street from The Festival Theatre, within easy walking distance of all the theatres. For information on other B&Bs go to

There are some wonderful restaurants. My in-town favorite is The Grill on King Street (905-468-7222, 233 King Street). Another small delightful eatery is Ginger Restaurant (905-468-3871), 390 Mary Street.

Having just returned from the Festival, I offer these capsule judgments of some of the shows on the schedule:

"When We Are Married"-- The Shaw's "When We Are Married" is a total delight. The laughs run throughout. The farce is extremely well-keyed by Director Joseph Ziegler. The comic timing is excellent, the exaggerations done to the point of ridiculousness without going overboard. This is a perfect example of what British farce is all about and how it should be done.

"Cabaret"-- "Cabaret" is one of the American musical theatre's greatest scripts. The Shaw production is technically and musically extremely well done. The production loses its compass as the conclusion leaves issues unresolved, with the shock value eliminated. Audiences who want entertainment should be very satisfied. Those wanting clarity of purpose will be frustrated.

"The Philanderer"-- The Shaw production of "The Philanderer," under the creative direction of Lisa Peterson, is filled with farcical interludes, melodramatic acting, and slapstick, while bannering Shaw's many political and social causes. All in all, it is both an enlightening picture of the past, carries implications for the present, and totally entertains.

"A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur"-- "A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur" is not one of Tennessee Williams best plays. The script just doesn't have the depth of his major works, and imitates much of the concepts better written about in "Streetcar Named Desire." The Shaw production gives the script a credible, but not compelling staging.

"The Philadelphia Story"-- The Shaw's "The Philadelphia Story," under the able direction of Dennis Garnhum, is a delightful theatrical experience, much in the mood of a Noel Coward drawing room comedy, set in the United States. It is well staged, well acted, and nicely paced.

To read the complete reviews of these shows go to:

Shows I didn't see, but are part of the season are: "The Charity that Began at Home," "Sea," "Arms and the Man," "Juno and the Paycock." Another offering is "The Mountaintop," a fictionalized story of the night before Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. I saw a production on Broadway and was blown away. Canadian friends, whose evaluations I trust, thought the Shaw production was compelling.

For theatre information, a brochure or tickets, call 800-511-7429 or go on-line to Ask about packages that include lodging, meals and tickets. Also be aware that the festival offers day-of-the-show rush tickets and senior matinee prices.

The Festival has announced its 2015 season. It features 11 productions including the reenvisioning of two Shaw comedies and two newly commissioned Canadian works. The featured plays are: "Sweet Charity," "Pygmalion," "Light Up the Sky," "Peter and the Starcatcher," "You Never Can Tell," "The Divine," The Lady from the Sea," "Top Girls," "The Twelve-Pound Look," "The Intelligent Homosexual's Guide to Socialism and Capitalism with a Key to the Scriptures," and "The Next Whiskey Bar-a Kurt Weil Cabaret."

Go to the Shaw Festival! Find out what lovely hosts Canadians are, and see some great theatre! Don't forget your passport as it's the only form of identification that will be accepted for re-entry into the U.S.

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Roy Berko Roy Berko, a life-long Clevelander, holds degrees, through the doctorate from Kent State, University of Michigan and The Pennsylvania State University. Roy was an actor for many years, appearing in more than 16 plays, 8 TV commercials, and 3 films. He has directed more than 30 productions. A member of the American Critics Association, the Dance Critics Association and The Cleveland Critics Circle, he has been an entertainment reviewer for more than twenty years.

For many years he was a regular on Channel 5, ABC-Cleveland's "Morning Exchange" and "Live on 5," serving as the stations communication consultant. He has also appeared on "Good Morning America." Roy served as the Director of Public Relations for the Volunteer Office in the White House during the first Clinton Administration.

He is a professor of communication and psychology who taught at George Washington University, University of Maryland, Notre Dame College of Ohio and Towson University. Roy is the author of 31 books. Several years ago, he was selected by Cleveland Magazine as one of the most interesting people in Cleveland.

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