Capital Critics' Circle
Le cercle des critiques de la capitale

Reviewing Theatre in Canada's Capital Region
La critique théâtrale de la région Ottawa-Gatineau

Anne and Gilbert: A slick, attractive production and a worthy sequel to the 1965 musical Anne of Green Gables.

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region   ,

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Photos by Barbara Gray

Now a decade after its creation, Anne and Gilbert The Musical is firmly established as not only a worthy sequel to the much loved 1965 musical Anne of Green Gables, but also as a Canadian theatre standard.

Based on Lucy Maud Montgomery’s second and third novels about the feisty red-haired orphan, Anne and Gilbert follows her adventures at Redmond (a.k.a. Dalhousie University). She makes a new friend, the wealthy Philippa, finds a new beau in Roy and continues to deny that she loves Gilbert Blythe — when everyone else knows otherwise.

Knowing how the story will end is of no importance. Anne and Gilbert is primarily a celebration of a way of life in a small island village in the early 20th century. (Little wonder that P.E.I. tourism has set up a booth, complete with assorted Anne souvenirs, in the NAC lobby. A catchy number such as You’re Island Through and Through tempts you to take a trip to the island.)

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Anne And Gilbert: a “tuneful” and lively family show makes the spirit of Anne live on.

Reviewed by on    Musical Theatre, NAC english, Professional Theatre  

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Photo by Andrea Lanthier

Anne and Gilbert co-written by Nancy White, Jeff Hochhauser and Bob Johnston, is a musical sequel to ANNE OF GREEN GABLES and is based on the second and third books in L. M. Montgomery’s beloved series. Anne is now grown up but she still marches to her own drummer, especially when it comes to her relationships with the opposite sex. There have been a few changes since I first saw the show in 2007 in Gananoque. The major one is that Diana’s Act I solo has been replaced by a duet for Diana, well-played and sung by Brieonna Locche, and Anne. It’s about becoming a wife and is by turns entertaining and serious.

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Anget Square at the GCTC: A warm antidote to a dark December.

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region.  

Ottawa Citizen, Dec. 5 2015. Angel2SC_0052 Photographer, Vartanova

Ottawa’s Lowertown could be a rough place for 12-year-olds in the mid-1940s. Racism, pitched battles with other kids, nasty teachers: such hurdles sometimes made life something to be survived more than celebrated. But while Angel Square, Janet Irwin’s loving and vibrant stage adaptation of Brian K. Doyle’s 1984 novel of the same name, sharply limns the rough side of life, it also excites our envy of those urban kids of long ago – their freedom, their resilience, their sense of place and community.

Just as importantly, the family-friendly show makes us appreciate anew Doyle’s depiction of the rich imaginative life of Tommy, the story’s young hero. Fantasizing himself to be Lamont Cranston, AKA the crime-fighting Shadow of 1930s and ‘40s radio drama and print fame, Tommy sets out to solve the mystery of who badly beat the father of his best friend, Sammy Rosenberg. That quest in the days leading up to Christmas, 1945 serves as backbone to a fond recreation of life in a now-vanished Ottawa: the original Ritchie Feed & Seed Store on York Street (a Ritchie bag is key to solving the mystery); the squeaky floored Woolworth’s and the more upscale Freimans department store on Rideau Street; the vast, echoing Union Station, now the Government Conference Centre.

Irwin, who also directs, has cast just four adult actors to recreate

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Suzart’s “The Music Man” spreads a glow of excitement.

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region   ,

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Sign for the production.

The Suzart slogan of “If you can dream it, you can do it” is a partial explanation of the reason that the company is successful in mounting ambitious, large-cast musicals that aim to entertain whole families on stage and off.

In the case of Meredith Willson’s 1957 musical The Music Man, director Kraig Paul Proulx, supported by musical director Mark Allen, the always resourceful set designer Elaine McCausland and costume designer Ingrid Hunt, brings a delightful warmth to the story of con man Harold Hill.

Hill’s goal of cheating the townsfolk is tripped up by romance, while he promotes the “think system” to develop a band. Strange to tell, after a summer of dreaming it, the band members find they can do it.

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Les Reines: A play worth any stage in Canada!

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region  

Graphic courtesy of the Department of Theatre at the University of Ottawa

Graphic courtesy of the Department of Theatre at the University of Ottawa

Normand Chaurette’ play Les Reines is one of the best examples of surrealism in literature. Inspired by Shakespeare’s play Richard III, he looks at the political events of the late fifteenth century in England from the women’s perspective.

The play starts at the end of the 15th century when the king of England, Edward IV, is dying. His death is followed by a succession of tragedies. In his greed for power, the future king, Richard III, is about to kill two sons of the queen Elizabeth. At that time, urged by their own aspiration for the throne, six queens, Queen Elizabeth, the Warick sisters Anne and Isabelle, Queen Margaret, Anne Dexter and the old Duchess of York, come to the castle. There, they live out their nightmares, fight for royal ambitions and struggle with personal terrors. Either as mothers, present or future queens or wives, they wrestle their own demons. Craving power, they are unable to separate the royal from the personal. Therefore, in the atmosphere of inevitable death and in their confusion and powerlessness to change destiny, they throw their fears at each other. (Continue reading » )

Angel Square: GCTC’s production falls just short of the novel’s warmth

Reviewed by on    Professional Theatre  

Photo: Andrew Alexander

Photo: Andrew Alexander

1940s Ottawa childhoods, particularly those of the traditionally working class neighbourhood of Lowertown, could be as rough as they were exciting. As depicted in Brian Doyle’s classic novel, Angel Square, tensions ran high along racial lines and resulted in daily skirmishes between children in Angel Square, nestled between a Jewish, French-Canadian, and Catholic school. However, just as the children fight on a daily basis, so too are they close friends and allies. Through their eyes, the audience see the foolishness of racism and the value in being able to put aside petty differences and work together to achieve a goal. The Great Canadian Theatre (GCTC) partners with veteran director Janet Irwin to present her adaptation of the novel just in time for the holiday season. It contains some brilliantly vivid characters and evocative scenes, but doesn’t quite manage to match the warmth and atmosphere so plentiful in the novel.

Angel Square depicts the life of Tommy, an imaginative boy in Lowertown Ottawa the first winter after the end of World War Two. Tommy imagines himself as his hero, the crime-fighting Shadow of radio drama fame, which comes in very handy when anti-Semitism results in the injury of his best friend’s father. Together with his Jewish, Irish, and French-Canadian friends, he sets out to solve the mystery and catch the culprit. (Continue reading » )

Angel Square: A place that never loses its innocence, charm and puckish humour

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region.  

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Photo: Barb Gray

Crossing Angel Square in Lowertown Ottawa may have been risky in the 1940s, but, as recalled by Brian Doyle in his 1984 novel and adapted for the stage by Janet Irwin, it was also a place of warm friendships and special connections.

As adapted and directed by Irwin, this delightful dramatization, depicting the daily life of Tommy a.k.a. The Shadow, his friends, enemies and assorted adults, is anchored by solving the mystery of who attacked his best friend’s father. Honest in its descriptions of rampant racism and extreme poverty, Angel Square never loses its innocence, charm and puckish humour.

Enhanced by Jock Munro’s fine visuals, the set not only evokes a radio of the era but also serves as the focal point for projections of Ottawa landmarks and silhouettes in action.

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A Christmas Story: An attempt to create a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.

Reviewed by on    Community Theatre  

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Photo: Maria Vartanova

There is no denying the enthusiastic reaction of the audience to the opening-night performance of the Ottawa Little Theatre production of A Christmas Story. Neither is there any denying my total bewilderment that this set of charmless vignettes about a nine-year-old boy’s obsession with a BB gun would be of lasting interest.

Recalling the Christmas of 1939, the adult Ralph narrates his memories of his strategy to obtain the gun, as well as his father’s winning an extraordinarily ugly lamp, a young love interest, a friend freezing his tongue to a metal post and overcoming a bully. Ongoing jokes about the repetitive family menu, the whines of the younger brother, father’s battle with the furnace and the neighbour’s dogs wear thin. And a moment as a pink rabbit — don’t ask — is not worth even a snicker.

The OLT production, directed by Brian Cano, is clearly working hard to create a silk purse out of this sow’s ear and one is very conscious of the amount of effort involved.

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