June, 2015

The Shaw Festival triumphs with a provocative Top Girls

Reviewed by Jamie Portman

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Photo: David Cooper.

NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE, Ont. — There’s no doubt about it. The Shaw Festival’s new production of Caryl Churchill’s Top Girls is a dazzler of a show — provocative, invigorating, hilarious, heart-wrenching. It allows us to feast on a seemingly effortless display of stunning ensemble acting that deserves a triple underlining in the memory books.

The show that made a triumphant arrival at the Court House Theatre Saturday night can claim any number of attention-grabbing sequences, thanks to Vikki Anderson’s incisive direction and the astonishing work of her seven-member cast, almost all of them in a variety of roles. But there’s a particularly pivotal scene involving Marlene, a woman obsessed with proving that women can be a success in business and ruthless in her determination to claw her way to power within the Top Girls Employment Agency.

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Timothy Vernon: New Artistic Director of Opera Lyra

News from Capital Critics Circle

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Renowned conductor begins immediately


"Timothy Vernon will bring a lifetime of opera success to audiences in the National Capital. His outstanding productions and innovations have won ovations across Canada and the world. What a musical coup for all of us!" – Victor Rabinovitch

Victor Rabinovitch, Chair of the Board of Opera Lyra, and John Peter Jeffries, General Director of Opera Lyra, announced today that Timothy Vernon has been appointed new Artistic Director of Opera Lyra, starting immediately with the 2015-2016 season. Maestro Vernon is one of the leading figures of the Canadian operatic scene and brings to Opera Lyra an exciting new artistic vision for the future of the art form in Ottawa.

"I am fully committed to Opera Lyra. As a conductor, I am very excited to work with the National Arts Centre Orchestra, that glorious orchestra.  As Artistic Director, I can’t wait to present opera with guts and imagination to Canada’s Capital." – Timothy Vernon

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The Twelve-Pound Look. A forgotten J.M. Barrie play delights at the Shaw Festival

Reviewed by Jamie Portman

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Photo: David Cooper.

When it comes to live theatre, some of the nicest surprises come in the smallest of packages.

This year’s Shaw Festival lunchtime presentation is an absolute gem — a 105-year-old playlet from Peter Pan creator J.M. Barrie who reveals himself here as a sympathetic advocate of women’s rights.

This funny and provocative one-actor, The Twelve-Pound Look by name, is not overtly political, but it was written at a time when Britain’s suffragettes were actively campaigning for a woman’s right to vote. And the suffrage movement has clear parallels to the play’s preoccupations — the right of a woman to think and behave independently and to be an equal partner in a relationship.

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The Pirates of Penzance: A campy musical comedy performance at the Springer Theatre that has its fun moments!

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

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Photo: Jay Kopinski.  Mabel (Alison MacDonald) and Frederic (Adam Charles).

Whatever one does to a Gilbert and Sullivan production, the original witty book and lyrics, the music, the operatic influences, the satire and the perfectly delightful characters /caricatures, all come through in the end. The works of Gilbert and Sullivan are indestructible and that is exactly what I kept thinking through this recent matinee performance in Gananoque as the pirates and the Major General’s daughters lapsed into a wild Charleston to celebrate their collective marriage . This new contemporary version, the first really campy production of G and S I have ever seen, was apparently done to show the Americans, those “Yankee Boozers” on the other side of the river who visit the Playhouse, that we too can do the kind of musical comedy they know best. We too have our own G and S or Gin and Soda style of stage fun.That was what we learned during the prologue to the show which preceded the overture. .

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The Elephant Girls….Critics’ pick for the Ottawa Fringe Festival 2015

News from Capital Critics Circle

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Best show:      The Elephant Girls: this original show was the result of  historical research which could possibly become an important text in the Canadian repertoire. Margo Macdonald’s excellent interpretation took the actor into an area of solo performance that was uncharted  for her and could be the beginning of a new orientation of her own stage work.

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The Secret Life of Emily / Frances

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

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Laurie Fyffe and Michelle Leblanc. Photo: Annette Hegel.

The Bytown Museum, with its historical atmosphere, physical references to the founding of Ottawa and the life of the early settlers in the area, provides the most perfect set one could imagine for this performance. It takes place between 1764 and 1769 between London England and Quebec City, several years after the battle of the Plains of Abraham (1759) when France lost its most important colony in North America. Laurie Fyffe incarnates the British playwright/novelist/essayist and translator, Frances Brooke (1724-89) annoyed by the male dominated theatre milieu in London, after her last play, Victoria was rejected by the reading committee. Her husbad is pastor in the the new British Colony in Quebec, “ that orphaned colony of French peasants” and she is rushing out to join him where she hopes to discover a new land, and revive her work as a writer. She arrives accompanied by her French maid Manon (Michelle LeBlanc) and the story explains how they pass those three years in Quebec City, discovering the history of the country, the elegant social and cultural life of the new British colony with all its military personal, and trying to adapt to Canadian winters which are unbearable.

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EFT-up: Just Like You

Reviewed by Rajka Stefanovska

Photo courtesy of the Ottawa Fringe

Photo courtesy of the Ottawa Fringe

Experimental Farm Theatre is a comedy collective who base their work on interesting contemporary stories. Given the fact that Ottawa improv-comedy is still small, they decided to jump in and enrich it by their endeavour. They produce funny sketches, and, as they say, “We’re trying to get people to just be present and be really perceptive listeners and to advance the story rather than just sacrifice it for the sake of jokes.” Very sound and admirable attitude!

Their first Fringe appearance, EFT-up: Just Like You, proves mean what they say. They find material for the script in the contemporary world: running for mayor, falling in love with the phone, having to spend a night in a disastrous hotel. Another point in their favour is that they don’t only rely on jokes, but rather try to develop strong characters. The audience’s reaction confirms that they are funny. Well, yes, they are energetic, fun to watch, and, sure, the potential is there. Some of material is hilarious, some not so much. Execution is engaging from time from time, though sometimes it is less successful. It is evident that there’s still a lot of learning and polishing to do, but I believe that Experimental Farm Theatre is on the right track. Hopefully, we will see them next year with even better material and acting skills. Still, EFT-up: Just Like You is an enjoyable show to watch.

EFT-up: Just Like You plays in Academic Hall.

Stratford’s She Stoops To Conquer Has Its Moments

Reviewed by Jamie Portman

stoops1297709031184_ORIGINAL Courtesy of the Stratford Festival

STRATFORD, Ont. — There’s genuine pleasure in watching two veteran
Canadian actors successfully mining the humor of Oliver Goldsmith’s
classic comedy, She Stoops To Conquer.
So when the curtain rises at the Stratford Festival’s Avon Theatre to
reveal Joseph Ziegler and Lucy Peacock in warm and witty conversation,
their world of comfortable privilege further defined by Douglas
Paraschuk’s amusing country-mansion setting, you feel that you’re in
safe hands.

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Lara Loves Leonard

Reviewed by Rajka Stefanovska

After seeing Lara MacMillan’s exquisite show, Lara Loves Leonard, one understands that it is not just a title of yet another performance at the 2015 Ottawa Fringe Festival. It’s the simple truth:  Lara MacMillan loves Leonard Cohen! That love is embedded in every song she sings and in every verse she says.

This show is a tribute to Cohen. MacMillan’s interpretation of his work oozes emotion – passion, desire, and affection. Her voice and her silence speak volumes equally and keep the audience under their spell. By her precise pace and tone, she electrifies every corner of the venue, from the simple stage where she stands alone, to the visitors in the last row. Increasingly, one moment after another, she builds a magic atmosphere of love and tranquility. By the end, one feels that a whole new world living in Cohen’s poetry and music opens up to those willing to listen. With her honesty, expressiveness and deep understanding of art, Lara MacMillan proves to be a perfect transmitter.

Lara Loves Leonard is an absolute must for those who love Leonard Cohen, music, poetry, or simply for those who are in search for an extraordinary 60 minutes.

Lara Loves Leonard plays at Studio Léonard Beaulne

“Three Men in a Boat”: A delightful and thoroughly professional show that carries the audience away on a hillarious theatrical adventure!

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

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Photo. Courtesy Ottawa Fringe.

Such a delightful , refreshing, witty, beautifully performed, impeccably choreographed show was truly an astonishing discovery at this Fringe. Scott Garland, Matt Pilipiak, and Victor Pokinko   breezed through this Jerome K Jerome adaptation as  though they really belonged in that world of middle class English snobbery (with accents and all) seeking a rousing experience in contact with true, unadulterated nature. Mark Borwnell’s adaptation respects the spirit of the story to the letter but it’s these three young men, deftly directed by Sue Miner, who  create magic in the Leonard Beaulne Studio.

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Past Reviews