Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Rainbow Stage

It's high summer.  Growing up, one of the highlights of the summer season for me was when Mom and Dad would take us to see a musical at Rainbow Stage, a covered outdoor theatre in Winnipeg.

Rainbow stage is Canada's longest lived outdoor theatre. Go figure in Winnipeg, the world's, nay, universes's, longest wintered city. It is located in a lovely park in Winnipeg's north end, Kildonan Park, where guys in muscle cars cruise for tube top sporting chicks slathered in a baby oil and iodine solution. 

We'd take our brown plaid wool blanket because it got chilly at night, and cushions for the chairs that were, and no doubt still are, not terribly comfortable. But it was, to me, magical. Outside, under the domed roof with the stars beyond, up late watching a play like regular grown up people.

photo: Chatelaine 

We'd buy a program from one of the program vendors who would shout:

Programs HERE. Get your souvenir PROgrams HERE! 

It was the same every year, same inflections. Maybe it was part of their training.

My first memory of Rainbow Stage was when I was 5 years old and my Mom and Dad and brother were going, but I did not get to go, because my mom said that you had to be 6 years old to go to Rainbow Stage. Of course this was a bold faced -  she's going to burn for this -  lie. But she was probably wise in not bringing a whiny, demanding, spoiled little angel to a night of musical theah-tah. I stayed home with a babysitter and probably tormented the crap out of her.

The next year, I did get to go - and I think it was Peter Pan. I don't remember much other than the bedroom set at the beginning and how the kids were able to FLY!  and how they used a tiny spotlight as Tinkerbell. At one point, when Tinkerbell was dying, they made the whole audience clap if they believed in fairies to bring Tinkerbell back to life. And WOW, we did it! We brought her back to life. I was so impressed that medical science had progressed that far. Tinkerbell came back to life. Even though my father did NOT clap!

Another year we went to see Sound Of Music and we brought my friend Pam with us. At the beginning, the woman playing Maria came down from the back of the theatre through the audience singing "The Hills are Alive..."  and Pam loudly piped up "That's not Julie Andrews!" Nearby audience members roared, quite ruining non-Julie's entrance.

I thought that was such a funny thing that for years I convinced myself that I had said it. Then my mother burst my bubble by informing me that other children said cute and adorable things. I did not, apparently, hold the monopoly.


Other musicals we saw were Brigadoon, My Fair Lady, The South Pacific, Fiddler on the Roof.

The line ups for the ladies room at intermission were really long. At what point will theatre designers figure out that ladies rooms need to have more toilets than mens? When, I ask you!

Sometimes we'd go to the Witch's Hut, nestled in a wooded area of the park.

It scared the pants off of me.

photo by:

After the play was over, it would be eleven at night by the time we would get through the long line up of cars filing out of the park. I used to love the ride home in the dark because I'd lay down in the back seat and look at the stars. Sometimes my mom would sing "I see the moon and the moon sees me". I will forever associate that song with my mom and feeling happy and safe.

Before there was the Muppet Show, in my mind, one was not famous unless one had performed at Rainbow Stage. One day.... one day....

Maybe I could get a gig selling programs. I know the lines by heart.


  1. Hi Ellen
    Ah, the memories! Thank you!
    Krista's Mom,
    Elaine in Saltair, BC

  2. Wasn't it a wonderful place. Still is, I imagine.
    I know who you are, just by YOU, Elaine! :-)


  3. My experience of Rainbow is similar. Every summer part of my birthday present was a family trip to Rainbow Stage. It was a huge deal. I haven't gone much in recent years, but a couple years ago, when they put on a new production of Peter Pan, I got tickets and took my cousins and their kids from Saskatchewan. They loved it, and it was great re-experiencing it all through their eyes.

    Plus I got to feel like a big man by getting them a tour backstage because of my "inside contacts". So really, win win.