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Banana Shpeel packs up, while The Tempest heads for the big screen



Banana Shpeel, Cirque du Soleil's attempt to break into Broadway-style entertainment in New York, closed over the weekend, a couple of months ahead of expected.

The New York Times has a very interesting post-mortem on the show which, reporter Patrick Healy writes, "will go down as one of the most frustrating failures in Cirque's history":

[T]e closing notice stands as the first time that Cirque has quickly shuttered a major show, said Daniel Lamarre, the company's president and chief executive. And the experience has clearly had an effect: Mr. Lemarre said it was too early to say if Cirque would try a theatrically driven entertainment like "Banana Shpeel" again.

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"We tried something very new and very different for Cirque, which is what we love doing - tackling new creative challenges - but obviously this was a difficult and somewhat surprising process for us," Mr. Lamarre said in a telephone interview from the company's headquarters in Montreal. "I think it will take some time to understand what happened with 'Banana Shpeel' in New York."

The show's failures in Chicago and then in New York may not be the end for Banana Shpeel, however. Playbill says that "a North American tour is promised for fall", while the New York Times reports that "the show is expected eventually to have a run in Toronto, where, Mr. Lamarre said, Cirque was hopeful that the show would finally find an audience."

For that, perhaps, Torontonians may have Toronto Star critic Richard Ouzounian to blame. He was the sole critic to give the New York run of Banana Shpeel an unambiguously positive review. Wrote Ouzounian: "[F]llowing the turnaround they've effected on their latest project, Banana Shpeel, I can only suggest [Cirque du Soleil]be appointed to Barack Obama's cabinet and he'll never have trouble getting any legislation passed again."

Obama has not, to date, followed this advice.

(Before anyone brings it up, yes I did like The Lord of the Rings musical. Getting into the spirit of the G20 protests in Toronto, I am throwing stones in my glass house. Here's my review of Banana Shpeel, if you're curious what I thought.)

Unable to procure a ticket to Christopher Plummer's performance as Prospero in The Tempest this summer? Don't despair: The recent Oscar nominee's latest turn at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival is being recorded for future broadcast on television and in cinemas.

A festival spokesperson has confirmed that artistic director Des McAnuff's production, which officially opened Friday night, will be filmed on July 6 and 7, though exact broadcast and distribution deals are still being negotiated.

In 2008, McAnuff's Stratford production of Bernard Shaw's Caesar and Cleopatra - also starring Christopher Plummer - was filmed and subsequently shown in Cineplex movie theatres and on the CTV and Bravo! networks. Producer Barry Avrich, who was involved in that project, is back on board for The Tempest.

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