But the title of this post is "A Tale of Two Cities" and neither is London!
Instead, the two cities are Niagara-on-the-Lake and Stratford. In both places we saw musicals by Stephen Sondheim. The plays were as different as the cities.
So today, we'll visit Niagara-on-the-Lake and "Sunday in the Park with George."
Carriages with their stately horses line up in front of the Prince of Wales Hotel, willing to take tourists for a ride (the operative term no doubt being "take.")
Flowers line the sidewalks and the median.
They hang in baskets from poles, rest in window boxes, and simply fill the town with lush color, even on a gray, often rainy and blustery day.
It's very picturesque, and people will go to great lengths to photograph one another!
Of course I had a few favorite shops.
I did some damage in the book store (and so did Suzanne, who is checking out!)
This shop is tiny with a minimum of categorization. For example, the fiction, classics and mysteries are all together alphabetically. So one stumbles on books they weren't really looking for. I found a book written by Julia Child's television assistant that intrigued me, along with a collection of short stories about Paris. I hadn't planned on finding either of these.
Moving down the street, we passed the Christmas shop (and no, for once I didn't go in!).
But they had wonderful windows!
The gourmet shop had plenty of samples and a couple of good sales from us. So did the bakery.
And Suzanne couldn't resist a praline from the caramel apple store!
Or the bakery! (Of course, we both succumbed to that!)
Everything was just so darned pretty!
Of course we had to pay homage at the Shaw statue!
While many of the plays performed at this festival are by George Bernard Shaw, they also do others, including musicals and classic and contemporary comedies.
A couple of years ago, when Rick was with us, he and Jim bemoaned Niagara as too cute. I think the place made their skin crawl. So Saturday, Jim dropped us off so we could go buy "overpriced cute things" and met up with us for dinner.
And of course, I had to take a picture of my friends!
Then it was off to the Royal George Theatre, the middle-sized theatre of Shaw's three stages.
I liked the downstairs lounge where we could wait till they opened the house.
It even had a wee stage for cabaret acts -- but don't worry, we didn't perform!
And should you think Jim was TOTALLY camera shy, well -- the answer is no!
Our first play was "Sunday in the Park with George," which was in what I call Sondheim's "middle period." (This is purely my categorization!)
It is two related one-act musicals. The first focuses on painter Georges Seurat and his relationship with his model "Dot" as he works on his massive "Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jette."
Georges' other work hasn't been all that well received. He's hoping this massive canvas will be included in an upcoming exhibition.
Throughout the act we see George grow, and in the final number, "Move On," realize he needs to evolve, take chances. (OK, I cried. Because that's what I do.)
There's a lot of meat in this musical. It's not particularly tuneful -- the discord in the harmonies often reflects the discord in both Georges' lives. But it is so meaningful -- especially for anyone who loves art, who has ever been "stuck" -- whether we know it or not.
(There is a splendid production of the original Broadway cast on DVD. I recommend it, if musicals are your thing. You won't leave humming a song, but you will leave it moved.)
The staging -- eloquent, with great use of the art and beautiful scenery and costume design. As the first act finale falls into place, the actors take the positions of the famous Seurat painting and it is breathtaking.
The performances were spot on, particularly Stephen Sutcliffe as Georges/George. The season is nearing its end, but if you have the opportunity to visit Niagara and see this production, I'd certainly recommend it. It's not an "easy" show, but it's a splendid one.
A beautiful little town at the peak of loveliness, despite the gloomy weather. A wonderful theatrical experience. What does tomorrow bring?