An international event - local dignitaries, foreign visitors throng to glittering premier
by Brad Oswald
The only thing missing was a bank of klieg lights stabbing their beacons into the misty night air.
There was an air of big time showbiz excitement at the premier of MTC's much anticipated production of Hamlet, starring Keanu Reeves.
Limosines pulled up out front, local dignitaries rubbed shoulders with tuxedo-clad first-nighters overseas tourists awaited the moments away payoff for their halfway around the world journeys; bouquet bearing teenages shook in anticipation of their first in person glimpse of their Hollywood hero.
Yuko Yoshimura, 27 a flight attendant from Tokyo and a friend Mariko Kawabe, 26, flew to Winnipeg last weekend hoping to land tickets for 10 performances. They settled for three.
The list of local luminaries spotted at the premiere included Mayor Susan Thompson, Lt Gov Yvon Dumont, Janice Filmon (whose husband, Premier Gary Filmon was also reportedly in the theatre), provincial Liberal leader Paul Edwards and city councillor Johnb Prystanksi.
Chicago resident Maureen Ber said it was a pair of influences - a love of Shakespeare and an interest in the Hollywood star's work - that prompted her to make a solo journey north for the show.
"I studied Shakespeare in high school and college, and this is even more special because Hamlet waw one of the last plays my mother and I read together before she passed away two years ago." said Ber, 26.
She said she has seen many of Reeves' films and was expecting a well rounded performance from the actor.
"I think he has developed as an actor, and I think he's ready for this," said Ber, who also has a ticket to tomorrows' performance.
Before the performance, many patrons headed toward the coat check, clutchiung copies of Coles Notes version of Hamlet, the result of a publicity stunt by a local radio station.
Others stopped to visit the souvenir stand set up for the play, where posters bearing Reeves likeness were selling for $10 and appropriately black T shirts, bearing the quotation "to thine own self be true" where fetching $25.
Longtime season ticket holder Karen Malette said she didn't mind the disruption caused to opening night by the media throng and one time theatre goers.
"It's good for MTC," she said. "I'm just looking forward to seeing a good production of Hamlet"
Meanwhile a pair of Reeves's fans who snatched tickets at the last moment said they felt like they'd won the lottery.
"We got tickets two days ago." said Darcy Gamble, who shared her box office good fortune with friend Debra Janella. "I knew it was sold out, but I just stopped in because I was in the area and asked if they had any openings. She said. "You're in luck. Two people just cancelled. The look on my face when she told me must have been really something."
Minutes before curtain time, MTC artistic director Steven Schipper expressed quiet optimism about Reeves as Hamlet.
"I think (the play) is good, and for that I'm very grateful," he said. "I hope that people have come to see Keanu Reeves as Hamlet and not Kenneth Branagh or Derek Jacoby. It would be a shame if they came hoping he would impersonate someone else playing the part.
"I think if they have come to see Keanu Reeves as Hamlet, they'll be rewarded with an honest, sensitive and courageous performance."
MTC marketing and communications director Joan Stepens said the theatre's offices have been besieged during the past few days with last minute requests for tickets, from both out of town Keanu seekers and local name droppers trying to work various angles to gain entrance to the sold out show.
"In some cases, it's almost as if they hadn't heard this was happening." she said. "They're calling and saying 'Oh,I just found out about it'...We've also had a fair number of calls that were the friend of a friend type of a thing."
By mid afternoon, yesterday the media throng had already started to gather at the Market Avenue builing, local TV station CKY had three vehicles - two news vans and a satellite truck - parked outside MTC in preparation for the big event.
Stephens said out of town media in attendance last night included representatives of the CBC, CTV and Toronto Star, the Globe and Mail MacLeans' magazine and a pair of British newspapers, The Guardian and the Sunday Times.