Good Night, Sweet Prince: cast party ends historic moment in city's stage history
by Kevin Prokosh
The cast suddenly parted during the boisterous ovation, leaving the star of Hamlet alone at center stage to bask in the adoration of the closing-night audience.
A broad smile suddenly flashed on the flawless face of Keanu Reeves who gallantly bowed three times to his fellow actors surrounding him on the MTC stage.
The cast rejoined the movie star for a final bow as scores of cameras flashed, capturing forever this extraordinary moment in Winnipeg stage history.
Local actor Gebe Pyrz reciprocated by pulling his camera out on stage and snapping a picture of the audience.
Then it was over.
The curtain fell on the most ballyhooed stage play, the red-hottest theatre ticket this city has ever seen. What was once Keanu who? is now Keanu whooooo!
Almost 25,000 people attended the 28 performances, one preview, and four school shows of Hamlet, the $555,000 production starring Reeves and a sterling supporting cast.
The closing night audience was treated to a far more riveting, assured Prince of Denmark than the one who drew mixed reviews for his opening night performance Jan. 12.
This time Reeves was in complete control from his first lines, unlike opening night when it took him about an hour before he seemed comfortable in the skin of the melancholy Dane.
His delivery of his lines was far more measured and restrained. His "to be or not to be" soliloquy was much richer and evocative.
Although hard to believe, the spectacular sword-fight scene had improved. His mercurial performance was embroidered with new, intriguing touches that appealed.
At about 1 a.m. there were throngs of women, mostly young, waiting in the MTC lobby for a glimpse, an autograph, or perhaps an embrace with the dashing Prince Reeves.
MTC staff eventually shooed them out of the theatre in preparation for the cast party about to get under way in the theatre's boardroom and upper lounge.
The excitement of the occasion was tinged with sadness that Hamlet, the production that had brought so much attention to MTC and this city, was history. While the goodbye gathering kicked into gear, Reeves sat in his flower festooned dressing room (he has received 240 floral arrangements from admirers during his stay) receiving friends from Los Angeles and signing autographs for the cast. He also took a final stroll across the stage to say his farewell to his home for the past two months.
The 30 year old film superstar, whose generosity has been noted by many, sent Lewis Baumander, the production's director, a gift of an airplane ticket to Winnipeg so the Toronto director could attend the last show. Baumander said that if he ever writes a book about Hamlet he will entitle it "Mr Baumander: Your 15 Minutes are Up" a reference to his fleeting moment of fame.
At about 2 pm, one of the bartenders donned a toque similar to the one Reeves has been wearing here and bolted for a taxi waiting outside. Fans descended on the fleeing decoy, convincing the last die-hards lurking outside the MTC that their man had gone home.
MTC used the deception several times during the Hamlet run to thin out the crowd of girls waiting for Reeves after performances.
About 2:30 am Reeves appeared at the celebration dressed entirely in black. He was in the company of an equally darkly dressed woman, said to be a member of a local band.
He chatted amiably with cast members and took a seat in the board room where he was introduced to the media shortly after arriving here Dec. 9.
Reeves held court on a seat behind the food table and at 3:30 am showed every sign that closing night would soon become closing morning.
The often expressed lament for the ending of the Hamlet run continued in a taxi ride home where the driver sounded genuinely sorry Reeves would be leaving. "We will miss Mr. Keanu very much. He has been very, very, good for business."