IASPM International Conferences - Proceedings, Situating Popular Musics

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Entertainment tourism: Musicals at the Stratford Festival in Canada
Lauren Acton

Last modified: 2013-01-22


Many cities in Canada show their colonial heritage in their names. Stratford, Ontario was named for its English counterpart, and both have Avon Rivers and world-renowned theatre festivals featuring the works of Shakespeare. Canada's Stratford is fairly close to Toronto and major cities over the US border, including Buffalo and Detroit. The Stratford Festival has brought tourists to the small city of 30,500 for more than fifty years. As the centre of Canadian classical theatre, the Festival tends to focus on works by Shakespeare, Molière, Sophocles and other well-known authors in addition to plays by established Canadian playwrights. In its early seasons, operettas by Gilbert and Sullivan and comic operas such as Mozart's The marriage of Figaro and Cosí fan tutte were also included in the Festival. However, in recent decades, comic opera has all but disappeared; its place in the repertoire has been supplanted by musicals. Initially, given the nature of the Festival, the musicals were tied to Shakespearean themes (e.g. West side story and Kiss me, Kate) but as musical theatre proved to be an excellent commercial and tourist draw, more and varied musicals were included in the subsequent seasons. This paper will examine the place of musicals at the Stratford Festival in Canada. I will question how the inclusion of musicals changed the nature of the Festival, the types of audiences and the tourism associated with the Festival.

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