The Night I Fell for a Sweet Transvestite

I have never been a big fan of theatre.

Perhaps it was due to the traumatic experience of performing in a fourth-grade play where I had to remember page upon page of mind-numbing dialogue for an audience that just wanted to escape the building as much as I did. For the life of me, I don’t remember the name of the play, but I do remember my character’s name was Otto, and I believe he had something to do with ruining Christmas.

But now here I was 40 years later with my wife of 20 years, celebrating her 50th birthday with two tickets to The Rocky Horror Picture Showin Stratford, Ontario. Recreational marijuana had just been legalized three days prior so it’s probably not so surprising that we ended up meandering down a pathway next to the Avon River on a rather cold, crisp autumn evening.   

“Stratford first incorporated as a town in 1859 and became a city in 1886. The first Stratford Festival was in 1953 where Sir Alec Guinness stared in not one but two plays. The force was strong in that one! It’s the same festival where William Shatner first started overacting, way back in 1954. Since then, the festival has been world acclaimed for theatre of a mainly Shakespearean nature. That is, until now.”

There were decades old trees hanging over the river, their branches bobbing up and down on the water’s surface as if sipping a drink. There was a single duck, not really a duckling, but certainly not an adult – is there such a thing as adolescent water fowl? Its quack reverberated off the century homes lining the bank of the river on the opposite side, bringing our attention to the wonderful vision before us; a beautiful sunset dipping below a small green bridge to our left with the light shining off the majestic structures before us. To say it was picturesque would not be doing it justice. But alas, we had to leave to make our dinner reservation before the big show.

We made our way to Pazzo Pizzeria, which was billed as having “Stratford’s Oldest Cellar.” I thought it was a rather odd point of distinction until we journeyed down the stairs and got to our table. The restaurant was contemporary and warm, yet still held onto the essence of rustic charm.  The crust of the gourmet pizza we ordered was so thin, you could surely see through it if not for the wonderful array of farm fresh toppings. Fantastico!

It was then time to go to the theatre. Stratford is a truly walkable city and while the word “quaint” does seem cliché, I can think of no other word that fits. There were rows of “small-town” shops and an amazing assortment of restaurants and pubs. However, it was Saturday night and the Stratford Festival was on. There was an almost big city buzz you couldn’t see, but certainly feel. This city had some history!

Stratford first incorporated as a town in 1859 and became a city in 1886. The first Stratford Festival was in 1953 where Sir Alec Guinness stared in not one but two plays. The force was strong in that one! It’s the same festival where William Shatner first started overacting, way back in 1954. Since then, the festival has been world acclaimed for theatre of a mainly Shakespearean nature. That is, until now.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show was playing at the Avon Theatre and while I truly thought the “PO” on our tickets meant “Premium Orchestra,” it turned out to mean “Partially Obstructed.” That explains why I got the pair for $70. However, we were pleasantly surprised. While our seats were on a slightly strange angle, we were just four rows from the stage. We were so close, we were shivering in antici…pation!  Dan Chamerory played the role of alien transvestite, Frank N. Furter, to perfection. The rest of the cast was just as stellar, justifying the two standing ovations. 

The theatre itself was small and intimate, yet at the same time, very Broadway. There were plush red seats and fine red carpet. There were intricate light fixtures and ornate chandeliers. Posh boxes allowed a select few to be ensconced in their own private experience. But we loved our cheap seats.

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