Stratford Festival celebrates 65th season with a plethora of Romeos and Juliets

“Give me my Romeo,” says Juliet in Act 3 of Shakespeare’s famous play. On Thursday, the Stratford Festival will give the audience six of them.

Same goes for Juliet, but round up to seven.

The festival, celebrating its 65th season, will mark its very first performance — of Richard III on July 13, 1953 — by gathering past and present stars of Romeo and Juliet after the July 13 matinee of the current production on the Festival Theatre stage.

So, for instance, Louise Marleau, who played Juliet in 1968 opposite Christopher Walken — yes, that Christopher Walken — will rub shoulders with Colm Feore and Seana McKenna, the young lovers of 1984.

Stratford’s Romeos and Juliets have included two alumni of the 1985 Anne of Green Gables miniseries. Anne herself, Megan Follows, played Juliet in 1992 opposite Antoni Cimolino, who’s now the festival’s artistic director.

Her Gilbert Blythe, Jonathan Crombie, played Romeo in 1997 opposite Marion Day. Crombie died in 2015, but Day is scheduled to be in Stratford on Thursday.

Also attending on Thursday: Stratford veteran Graham Abbey, 2002’s Romeo (his Juliet, Claire Jullien, is appearing at the Shaw Festival this season and can’t be there); Annette av Paul, who danced the role of Juliet at Stratford in 1979 with Les Grands Ballets Canadiens; another Stratford vet, Tom Rooney, who was Romeo opposite Celine Bonnier in a bilingual Robert Lepage version in 1990; Gareth Potter and Nikki M. James from 2008; and, of course, the current R&J, Antoine Yared and Sara Farb.

The festival first produced Romeo and Juliet in 1960, with Michael Langham directing. The leads were Julie Harris, a Tony and Emmy Award winner whose long film and TV career included a memorable role on 1980s soap Knot’s Landing, and Bruno Gerussi, best known in Canada as the star of CBC-TV series The Beachcombers.

The current Romeo and Juliet runs until Oct. 21. See stratfordfestival.ca for information.

This story has been edited to fix an incorrect use of a Romeo and Juliet quote.

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