The 1902 play is the sort of title that the Shaw Festival has built its reputation on over the past 50 years: an idea-and-issue-filled period play by a contemporary of George Bernard Shaw. Performances play the flagship Festival Theatre; a $1 million advance was in place before previews began June 22. Morris Panych directs.
Here's how the Shaw Fetival bills the play: "Crichton (Steven Sutcliffe) is the perfect butler in the home of Lord Loam (David Schurmann), a lord whose radical desire to topple the natural order of things is completely at odds with his peers, not to mention his ultra conservative butler. Loam's ideas suffer a serious rethink, however, when the family gets shipwrecked on a desert island far from the shores of England. Slowly the group surrenders to the natural order of things — British class distinctions disappear and the social order is challenged. Who will lead this new society? Indeed, it is Crichton who ends up the master and man in charge, but when they are eventually rescued and returned to civilization, can they resume the roles they were born to play?"
Sutcliffe won a Theatre World Award and was nominated for a Drama Desk Award for creating Younger Brother in Ragtime on Broadway (and in the Canadian tryout).
Inspired by Charles H. Bennett's illustrated "Aesops Fables," set designer Ken MacDonald and costume designer Charlotte Dean "incorporate many of Barrie's descriptive stage directions into the action of the play," according to production notes. "Integrating animal masks and live music from the roaring 1920s, along with a few dreamlike dance numbers, results in an unconventional storybook frame for this delightfully subversive comedy."
The cast of The Admirable Crichton also features Nicole Underhay as Lady Mary Lasenby and includes Kyle Blair, Martin Happer, Marla McLean, Moya O'Connell and Cherissa Richards, with Guy Bannerman, Anthony Bekenn, Ijeoma Emesowum, Patty Jamieson, Melanie Janzen, Gabrielle Jones, Billy Lake, Colin Lepage, Anthony Malarky, Heather McGuigan, Katie Murphy, Gray Powell, Louie Rossetti, Kiera Sangster, Jonathan Tan, Devon Tullock, Kelly Wong, Ben Sanders and Kellan Ziffle. The Admirable Crichton has lighting design by Alan Brodie, music direction by Ryan deSouza, sound design by Emily Porter and choreography by Valerie Moore. The stage management team includes stage manager Allan Teichman and assistant stage managers Leigh McClymont and Kristopher Weber.
Barrie is best known for creating Peter Pan. Written in 1902, The Admirable Crichton was first produced in London, then in New York in 1903 and was produced at the Shaw Festival in 1976 (with Michael Ball as Crichton). The play was also made into a film called "Paradise Lagoon" in 1957, and starred Kenneth More as Crichton.
The production plays in repertory until Oct. 29.
The Shaw Festival's milestone 50th season began April 7 and runs until Oct. 30 on four stages. The playbill includes My Fair Lady, Candida, On the Rocks, Drama at Inish – A Comedy, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, The President, Maria Severa, Heartbreak House, Topdog/Underdog, When the Rain Stops Falling.