Colm Feore as Cyrano
Written by Edmond Rostand
Translated by Anthony Burgess
Directed by Donna Feore, with Colm Feore as Cyrano
Stratford Shakespeare Festival Production
Festival Stage, Stratford
May 29 to November 1, 2009
Reviewed by Mary Alderson
Feore Fascinating as the Bilingual Cyrano
One of my favourite Stratford actors, Colm Feore, is starring in Cyrano de Bergerac on the Festival Stage, and as usual, he makes the show. I remember first enjoying Feore when he played Henry Higgins in Stratford’s My Fair Lady, absolutely stealing the show with his energy. Other memorable Feore shows were Shakespeare’s Coriolanus and Oliver! where he played a menacing Fagin.
In the role of Cyrano, Feore reminds me of the character he played in the movie Bon Cop Bad Cop, a bilingual police officer trying to solve a murder that took place on the Ontario-Quebec border. He plays Cyrano switching seamlessly from English to French throughout the show, conveying the meaning of every word through his acting, in case anyone has difficulty understanding either language.
The story of Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rosland is well-known. It first premiered on the French stage in 1897. Stratford’s version was translated Anthony Burgess of Clockwork Orange fame. It is cleverly written and credit must go to Burgess for maintaining the wit in translation.
Cyrano is a swashbuckling musketeer, who unfortunately has been blessed with a very large and long nose. He has made it to his colleagues that he doesn’t want any mention of his oversized proboscis. But whenever anyone sees him for the first time, they can’t stop themselves from staring and commenting.
Cyrano is in love with the beautiful Roxane, but realizes he has no chance with her because of his gigantic nose. When she confesses her love for Christian, Cyrano kindly tells Roxane he will look out for Christian and keep him safe in battle.
Cyrano also generously offers to help Christian woo the lovely Roxane. He tells the romantically-challenged Christian what to say and writes love letters for him. So of course, Roxane falls in love with the notion of the romantic Christian, even though he is inept as a suitor.
When Cyrano’s overbearing, older commanding officer, De Guiche, shows a lecherous interest in Roxane, Cyrano encourages the marriage of Roxane and Christian to thwart De Guiche’s dishonourable intentions. To retaliate, De Guiche sends Cyrano and Christian off to the front lines in battle, and tragically Christian is killed. Roxane is heartbroken. The show concludes with Roxane and Cyrano meeting many years later, and finally she learns whose words had impressed her so much.
There have been many movie versions of Cyrano de Bergerac, and even a Broadway musical. The humourous favourite is the Steve Martin – Daryl Hannah version Roxanne, in 1987. Canadian comedians Wayne and Schuster had an excellent parody Cyrano de Bergerac as part of their CBC TV specials. But it is always wonderful to see an original and Stratford’s version is well done.
The costumes are colourful and extravagant. The show opens with a play within the play, where the actors are delightfully made up and dressed.
Colm Feore is utterly outstanding as Cyrano. His huge nose is amazing: the makeup very realistic. Michael Shara is excellent as Christian with perfect comedic timing. His bungled attempts at romancing Roxane are laugh-out-loud funny, just before Cyrano steps in to assist. Amanda Lisman is an adequate Roxane, although misses opportunity for comedy. She is also unconvincing as she plays the aging woman. The rest of the colourful cast of 30 or more characters are exciting and engaging throughout the show. Credit goes to Director Donna Feore, Colm’s wife. A young Thomas Feore plays a page – it will be interesting to see the next generation.
The action of stage is remarkable, with fast action sword fights, and cannons exploding in war. The sets are incredible: there is even a full bakery complete with a huge inventory of goods. As Cyrano ages, fall leaves come fluttering to the ground.
For any Feore fan, it is well worth the trip to Stratford.
Cyrano de Bergerac continues at the Festival Theatre, Stratford until November 1. For tickets, call the box office at 1-800-567-1600 or check www.stratfordshakespearefestival.ca.