This past week Ali and I took in our third show at Bard on the Beach, back for its 23rd season in Vanier Park in Vancouver! This time around we were seated in the more intimate Studio Stage on the Bard lot for the opening performance of Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor. I will say right off the top; this is one of my most favourite Bard on the Beach performances that I have ever seen! And believe, I have got to several over the years. I absolutely love when the creative team behind the performance adds a modern day twist to Shakespeare’s work, and with The Merry Wives of Windsor, they did just that!
The storyline was adapted and set in 1968 in Windsor, Ontario, which is just the tip of the ice berg. The cast and crew were specifically chosen for acting and musical talents, as several 1960s songs were infused into the plot to the point of almost classifying the play as a musical! The evolution definitely helped to liven up the play, and the ensemble cast was absolutely brilliant, earning a well deserved standing ovation at the end of the night.
I wasn’t too familiar with the plot of this particular Shakespeare comedy, so once again I turned to the trusted Bard on the Beach guide to give me the Coles-notes version of play. I was giddy to learn that the night would be filled with laughter and silliness as two ladies, Mistress Page, played by Katey Wright and Mistress Ford, played by Amber Lewis, would be trying to foil a plot laid by Sir John Falstaff, played brilliantly by Ashley Wright, to win both of their married hearts and in turn bed them both via romantic letters. The two ladies (who were phenomenal in their roles I might add) were long friends and were quick to learn of Falstaff’s conniving ways. Unbeknownst to their husbands, the two ladies decide to beat Falstaff at his own game. Fantastic!
There were a few standout performances throughout the night, starting with the two leading ladies already mentioned. Their initial entrance onto the stage, complete with a musical performance of Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Are Made for Walking“, is one I won’t soon be forgetting! Likewise, Wright’s performance as Falstaff was exquisite and laugh-inducing the whole night through. I absolutely loved the moment when Wright selected one lucky audience member to come up on stage to be serenaded, while he belted out the tune, “Don’t Get Hooked on Me“. Definitely my two favourite songs of the night.
My favourite character portrayal falls into the hands Patti Allan, playing Miss Quickly, and absolutely mastered the role. Her total embodiment of this character, literally from eyelash to toe-point, was astonishing. Every time Patti took to the stage I couldn’t take my eyes off her, grinning from ear-to-ear and eagerly anticipating the next comedic line or timing she was about to thrust on the audience. I absolutely adore her and hope she quickly becomes a Bard on the Beach regular for years to come!
I could just go on and on about this play-slash-musical, but I strongly encourage you to see it for yourself. Believe me, you won’t be disappointed! If there is one Bard performance to catch this summer, it’s The Merry Wives of Windsor!
For more information on the show, and to purchase tickets, head over to the Bard on the Beach website; www.bardonthebeach.org