Monday, April 11, 2011

Chris Plummer Shines In The Tempest

How many times have I seen The Tempest?
I just finished watching a 1960 TV version on You Tube with Maurice Evans (Prospero), Richard Burton (Caliban) and Roddy McDowall (Ariel).
And, of course, there was Bill Hutt's turn at Stratford just a few years ago.
Even Helen Mirren has gotten into the act by turning Prospero into a woman. Next up I'm sure she'll be tackling Queen Lear.
And now from Canada's Stratford there's 80-years young Christopher Plummerin a magical version smartly directed by Des McAnuff.
It's on Bravo Monday night art 9.
Yes, Bravo! That's what I just wrote. Not CBC which has ditched its commitment tp high art in favor of Jeopardy, Wheel Of Fortune and reruns of Ghost Whisperer.
At one time taping a Stratford production every season was a firm CBC commitment.
These immaculate productions were considered part of CBC's public TV mandate and although expensive were quite popular.
Indeed at one time CBC was even taping Shaw Festival productions.
In those dear, dead days CBC commissioned its own operas and ballets always directed with finesse by Norman Campbell --CBC even named one of its great TV studios after him.
Then the fiscal crunch came and Campbell never did get to direct a sinigle production in the Norman Campbell studio.
Bravo! picks up the fallen baton with a super quick (110 minutes) production of Chris Plummer's latest Stratford triumph. Watching these kind of shows always makes me want to be right there.
And all the actors here, Plummer included, at times delightfully overact to the last row rather than scaling down the theatricals for the probing TV cameras. But that's all right, too, we are in the midst of the Festival theater along with an overflow audience and we want to be part of the experience, too.
And this one seems to work better artistically than last season's filmed production of Plummer in Antony And Cleopatra.
Because even on the Festival stage McAnuff's production was thoroughly cinematic from the wafting in of the music to the brilliance of the magic.
The wonder is that at 80 Plummer gives up nothing physically to portray the stranded Duke. Here he can give full bent to his mellifluous voice, his grand patrician airs, his very command of the stage. TV's relentless battery of close ups only add to his undoubted star power.
You'll also notice Trish Lindstrom as daughter Miranda, Julyana Soelistyo as a very tiny and blue tinged Ariel, Dion Johnstone as a reptilian Caliban and Geraint Wyn Davies as Stephano complete with broad Scottish accent.
In fact even PBS these days is staying away from the filmed drama we'd once have seen on American Playhouse or Theater In America.
So Bravo! deserves full marks for stepping in where public TV now fears to tread.
MY RATING: ****.

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