REVIEW: The Merry Wives of Windsor

Bard on the Beach scores with a very merry comedy

Review of The Merry Wives of Windsor plays Bard on the Beach to September 24 - Photo: David Blue featured on

The Merry Wives of Windsor plays Bard on the Beach to September 24 – Photo: David Blue

Review by Max D’Ambrosio

The Merry Wives of Windsor is one of the Bard’s most accessible comedies, and is well placed to become one of Bard on the Beach’s most popular shows.

The sight of the buffoonish rogue Sir John Falstaff (Ashley Wright) being taken for a ride by the inhabitants of Windsor is no less of a delight, for all that it doesn’t take place in the Windsor that Shakespeare originally intended. The 1968 Windsor, Ontario setting is simultaneously novel and familiar, portrayed through a detailed design (Pam Johnson).

Staging reveals timeless essence

Setting Shakespeare’s plays in different times and locations is a practice almost as old as the plays themselves. At its best, it reveals the timeless and universal essence of these stories. That’s certainly the case for this edition of Merry Wives, as it brings the tale close enough to Vancouver’s cultural frame of reference that the events feel as though they could occur in any era… if it weren’t for their comedic implausibility.

The actors each manage to pull off a seamless fusion of the original dialogue with characterizations appropriate to late 60s Ontario culture. Quite a feat, when you consider the challenge in presenting Shakespeare smoothly under normal circumstances.

Entertaining tale

This adaptation also takes every possible opportunity for a mood-setting musical number (directed by Ben Elliott and choreographed by Valerie Easton), thereby injecting even more levity into an already entertaining tale. Every one is perfectly placed within the proceedings, and given full justice by every cast member involved. In some particularly crowd-pleasing moments, the Host of the Garter Inn (Anton Lipovetsky) plays a mean guitar, and Falstaff hams it up in both prose and lyric. Most captivating of all, though, were the duets of the Wives themselves, Mistresses Page (Katey Wright) and Ford (Amber Lewis). Ford also gets a fantastic solo number.

The Bottom Line

This is the perfect show for anyone new to Shakespeare, or even someone new to theatre. Timeless Shakespearean comedy, classic tunes, and a happy ending – what more could one ask for from an evening at Bard on the Beach?

Plays in repertory with Romeo and Juliet

The Merry Wives of Windsor
BMO Mainstage
Bard on the Beach, Vanier Park
Runs to September 24
Purchase tickets


Romeo and Juliet,  The Merry Wives of Windsor,  Othello,  Pericles
Read Artistic Director, Christopher Gaze: “We have so much further to go”.


The Merry Wives of Windsor

Cast: Scott Bellis, Andrew Chown, Daniel Doheny, Victor Dolhai, Ben Elliott, Hailey Gillis, Amber Lewis, Jennifer Lines, Anton Lipovetsky, David Marr, Andrew McNee, Dawn Petten, Tom Pickett, Ashley Wright, Katey Wright

Production: Johnna Wright – Director, Drew Facey – Costume Designer, Pam Johnson – Scenery Designer, Gerald King – Lighting Designer, Ben Elliott – Musical Director, Alison Matthews – Head Voice & Text Coach, Nicholas Harrison – Fight Director, Stephen Courtenay – Production Stage Manager, Kelly Barker – Assistant Stage Manager, Elizabeth Wellwood – Apprentice Stage Manager, Rohit Chokani – Directing Apprentice, Bronwyn Carradine – Set Design Apprentice

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