The Stratford Festival in Ontario, Canada made its debut in July of 1953 with a production of "Richard III", and 60 years later, the celebrated company is going strong, presenting productions of both classical and contemporary works, some of which eventually end up on the New York boards. NY1's Frank DiLella recently traveled up to Stratford to check out some of the offerings for the 2013 season.
STRATFORD, ONTARIO - The pinball wizard, also known as "Tommy," is scoring big points and heating up the Stratford Festival in Ontario, Canada.
Almost two decades after its premiere on Broadway, the musical "The Who's Tommy" has made its way to the Canadian mainstay.
The show, which is based on The Who's 1969 rock opera about a boy viewed as "gifted and special," is being looked after by director Des McAnuff and rock n' roll master Pete Townshend. The two artists reunite on the project after giving birth to the show at California's La Jolla Playhouse in the early '90s and then taking it to Broadway.
McAnuff says he considers this production "a Tommy for the 21st century."
"We're very faithful in many ways to the original production, but the technologies are brand new," he says.
Townshend, the lead force behind the British rock group "The Who," is billed as the show's composer/lyricist and co-book writer. He admits that the themes in "Tommy" reflect his life, and every time he watches a performance of the musical, it proves to be an emotional experience.
"It's been a strange journey for me," Townshend says. "I never expected to be around pushing 70, watching this thing, sitting in an audience and watching how the music still affects people and the journey that it takes them on, and being able to kind of sit sideways and look and observe."
"Tommy" aside, among the other selections at this year's festival include "Fiddler on the Roof", Noel Coward's "Blithe Spirit" directed by Brian Bedford, "Mary Stuart" and "Waiting for Godot." The latter two shows star Tony winner and Stratford regular Brian Dennehy.
"When you consider the fact that you're doing very high-quality productions with wonderful actors and usually very good plays, it's a great place to work," Dennehy says.
While "Tommy" is scheduled to play in Stratford through October, director Des McAnuff says he's not ruling out a national tour or even a Broadway run.