Spring has finally sprung, and it's time to plan for the 32nd year of the Post-Gazette's evergreen Critics Choice motorcoach tour to Canada's Shaw and Stratford festivals, heading northward June 17-21 and including a generous selection of six plays and one musical.
The playwrights, along with Shaw and Shakespeare, are Noel Coward, Philip Barry, Edward Bond and J.B. Priestley, plus composers George and Ira Gershwin. It adds up to five comedies, one somewhat darker and the greatest tragedy in our language.
Included are a comfortable hotel at each festival, welcoming dinner, picnic lunch and a post-show get-together over drinks, with discussions led by the tour's longtime leader, senior theater critic Chris Rawson.
First up is the Stratford Festival, where we stay at the Arden Park Hotel, on the edge of the main festival grounds. A musical comedy and Noel Coward gem are sandwiched around Shakespeare's masterpiece:
* "Crazy for You" is a spirited comic rewrite by Ken Ludwig, featuring one of the Gershwins' great scores.
* Shakespeare's "King Lear" will feature Colm Feore as the old king taking a journey to redemption. These first two are in the famous Festival Theater.
* Our Stratford finale, in the pretty Avon Theatre, is "Hay Fever," Coward's comedy of a spirited family and a weekend of social chaos.
Then we head to the Shaw Festival in the picturesque town of Niagara-on-the-Lake, where we stay at the Pillar & Post. The four shows are:
* In the jewel-box Royal George Theatre, Shaw's "Arms and the Man," a comedy that mocks romantic idealism.
* Also in the Court House, Bond's "The Sea," a mix of comedy and politics set off by a death at sea.
* In the intimate Court House Theatre, Priestley's "When We Are Married," a comic exploration of the ideals and reality of that blessed state.
* And in the main Festival Theatre, "The Philadelphia Story," Barry's comedy of life among the Main Line well-to-do, made famous by the film versions that starred Katharine Hepburn and Grace Kelly.
The tour price is $ $1,588 per person, based on double occupancy. The single supplement is $ $438. A deposit of $500 per person is required to hold a reservation; status of your reservation will be sent upon receipt of deposit.
Deposits are to be made payable and mailed to Gulliver's Travels, 460 S. Graham St., Pittsburgh, PA 15232-1210; phone 412-441-3131 or, outside Pittsburgh, 1-800-848-4084.
Call Gulliver's with questions about trip details, but call Mr. Rawson with questions about the plays.
Senior theater critic Christopher Rawson is at 412-216-1944.