For thousands of Ottawa residents, no summer calendar is complete without a trip to the Classic Theatre Festival in Perth. This award-winning professional company – celebrating its 10th anniversary – hosts some of Canada’s top theatrical talent performing timeless hits from the golden age of Broadway and the London stage along with historic walking plays and a lunchtime/dinner theatre.
Perth – voted Ontario’s prettiest town by TVO viewers – is only a short hour out of Ottawa, yet a world away, with gorgeous, tree-lined heritage streets, unique shops and galleries, 5-star dining, and stunning bed and breakfasts and boutique hotels.
With 17 shows a week, visitors have no trouble finding memory-making, family-friendly entertainment. With their focus on a warm, small-town welcome and top-notch professionalism, audiences quickly discover why one of Canada’s leading theatre reviewers, Jamie Portman, enthuses: “One of the pleasures of an Ottawa Valley summer is Perth’s Classic Theatre Festival, which has an impressive track record for mounting quality fare.”
Legendary World War 2-era Romantic Comedy
That tradition continues this summer with three of the longest-running shows ever to grace the Broadway stage. The Festival’s mainstage theatre opened with The Voice of the Turtle (running to July 14). Written by John Van Druten (I Am a Camera, Bell, Book & Candle), it’s the 9th-longest running play in Broadway history, one reflecting the passions and excitement of World War II-era New York City. It was an era when young people from across the nation converged on the Big Apple to discover new loves, share their dreams, and navigate the challenges of rapidly changing moral codes. A swinging 1940s soundtrack helps set the mood, while the storyline recalls the best of Hollywood’s golden age romantic comedies.
It’s followed by George Bernard Shaw’s most popular play, Pygmalion (July 19 to August 11), the source material for the ever-popular musical that made Julie Andrews an international superstar, My Fair Lady. Audiences will be laughing all the way home recalling memorable moments from this remarkable play, in which a bombastic professor of dialects tries to turn a working-class flower girl into an upper-class lady. Unforgettable Shavian characters – Henry Higgins, Eliza Doolittle, Colonel Pickering, and Alfred Doolittle, among others – enliven this legendary satire on class, gender, and particularly British mannerisms, all served up with gentle and loving humour.
The Festival’s annual edge-of-your-seat mystery thriller, Deathtrap (August 16 to September 8), follows the story of a formerly successful playwright who engages in a deadly game to steal a “killer script.” Filled with ingenious plot twists, quirky characters, and a string of bodies, it’s the product of playwright Ira Levin’s creative imagination. One of the top writers of the post-WW2 era, Levin also wrote the memorable Rosemary’s Baby, The Boys from Brazil, and The Stepford Wives.
All mainstage shows run Tuesday to Sunday at 2 pm, with 8 pm shows every Wednesday and Saturday at 54 Beckwith Street East (free parking, wheelchair accessible, air-conditioned, audio-assist available). A pre-show chat takes place 30 minutes before curtain, explaining the history and context of the play and the playwright. Audiences can savour an ice cream sandwich and coffee at intermission as they browse thousands of loonie and toonie book titles at the Festival’s popular book sale.
The annual Perth through the Ages historic walking play (running Wednesday to Sunday from 11 am to 12 noon and Thursday and Friday from 7 to 8 pm) features Laurel Smith’s The Forgotten Ones. It’s a family-friendly, hour-long, Depression-era Perth mystery about a recently evicted farm girl arriving in town to search for her missing grandmother.
New Lunchtime Sittings for Dinner Theatre
Those seeking a most entertaining meal will enjoy the Classic Dinner and Lunchtime Theatre’s production of Androcles and the Lion, Laurel Smith’s adaptation of G.B. Shaw’s hilarious satire on the Roman Empire, as seen through the eyes of a Christian slave and a very different “king of the forest.” It runs every Tuesday at Michael’s Table, a downtown Perth 5-star favourite featuring home cooking at its best, 11 am to 1 pm (show first, then lunch) and 5 to 7 pm (dinner, then show), but seats are limited and tickets go fast, so best to book in advance.
Plan a getaway to Perth this summer and see why the Classic Theatre Festival has become an annual summer tradition for thousands of tourists and residents alike. Grab your calendars, give them a call, and they’ll get you prepared for a summer of wonderful memories.
Reach them toll-free at 1-877-283-1283 or anytime at www.classictheatre.ca.