May, 2017

Me And My Girl: a winner for the Shaw Festival

Reviewed by Jamie Portman

Photo: David Cooper

NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE, Ont. — The Shaw Festival’s main stage was alive with joy and laughter the other night thanks to a sterling revival of an 80-year-old British musical that brought a capacity audience to its feet at the close and clamoring for more

Me And My Girl, which has to do with a chirpy Cockney lad who inherits a title, a place in the House of Lords, and a vast fortune, may seem no more like a piece of piffle at first glance. But it’s catnip for the Downton Abbey crowd. Furthermore, when done with the inventiveness and energy shown by the Shaw in this superb production, its high spirits prove infectious. (more…)

Maestro’s frenetic beat fails to reach comic climax

Reviewed by Patrick Langston

Photo courtesy of The Gladstone Theatre

Has something been lost in translation?

Touted as a hilarious comedy about the off-stage shenanigans of musicians, classical and otherwise, Maestro by Québec playwright Claude Montminy opened Friday at the Gladstone in its English-language premiere. The play is running in both official languages and opened in French a day earlier.

Perhaps the show skims smartly along in its original French (I saw it only in Nina Lauren and Danielle Ellen’s English translation), but Friday’s opening had the buoyancy of a tuba. (more…)

Actor Tom McCamus in the Shaw Festival’s Madness Of George lll

Reviewed by Jamie Portman

Photo: David Cooper

NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE, Ont. — Rumors are afloat that the new regime at the Shaw Festival plans to move even further away from this illustrious theatre’s central mandate of honoring the plays of George Bernard Shaw and his contemporaries.

That could be a risky proposition — depriving the festival of its distinctiveness and uniqueness within the international theatre community. On the other hand, that hallowed mandate has evolved over the years and already shows more flexibility than anyone might have imagined at the time of the festival’s modest birth more than half a century ago. Furthermore, the debut playbill of its new artistic director, Tim Carroll, features seven items that do, in fact, fulfill the wider mandate reflected in more recent seasons. (more…)

Sister Act: Suzart Productions Puts on an Entertaining Show

Reviewed by Iris Winston

 

Photo: Suzart Producttions

Book by Cheri Steinkellner and Bill Steinkellner
Music by Alan Menken
Lyrics by Glenn Slater
Suzart Productions
Directed by Ellen Seguin

From gangster’s moll to cop’s heartthrob, Deloris leaves seedy discos and bars for the peace behind convent walls — almost.

Based on the 1992 movie starring Whoopi Goldberg, Sister Act is set in 1970s Philadelphia, where nightclub singer hopeful Deloris Van Cartier sees her gangster boyfriend commit murder, so putting her own life in danger. Her police officer admirer arranges for her to spend time in protective custody in a cash-strapped convent — a location as uncomfortable for her as it is for the Mother Superior who must keep her under wraps. But, as the sisters soon discover, the Lord works in mysterious ways, especially when Deloris turns the catastrophic chorus of nuns into a powerhouse choir worthy of performing for the Pope. (more…)

Arrabal: A Story of Love and Politics Told through the Tango

Reviewed by Jane Baldwin

Photo: Celia Von Tiedeman.

Arrabal, now playing at the American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge in its U.S. début, premiered in Toronto in 2014. In its present state, it is a fascinating theatre experience, a political drama told without words via the tango and music. It is also an immersive show where some audience members, supposedly at a tango club in Buenos Aires, sit at tables downstage as well as on the orchestra floor, which had several rows of seats removed. In the first scene which takes place in the present spectators are invited to join the performers onstage for a tango lesson.

The joyous mood changes abruptly as the story begins. A projection announces that it is 1976, the year in which Isabel Peron’s government was overthrown by a right-wing junta. We meet Rodolfo (Julio Zurita), an endangered resistant, bringing his infant daughter to his mother who lives in a slum (arrabal in Spanish) outside Buenos Aires. He dances a tender tango with baby Arrabal (a word also associated with the tango) before putting her into the bassinet and leaving her a red scarf. (more…)

TotoToo’s Priscilla a transport of delight

Reviewed by Jamie Portman

Photo: Maria Vartanova

Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (The Musical)
Book by Stephan Elliott and Allan Scott
Musical arrangements and orchestrations by Stephen ‘Spud’ Murphy
Developed for the stage by Simon Phillips
Based on the movie The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert
TotoToo Theatre
Directed by Michael Gareau

In a way, Priscilla: Queen Of The Desert revels in its own ramshackle, cheeky improbability. That’s what made it so endearing back in 1994 when it lumbered onto cinema screens as a delightful road movie. We were treated to the spectacle of two drag queens, along with an aging transgendered woman who serves as both nanny and mentor to them, journeying across the Australian outback for a performance gig at the remote Northern Territory town of Alice Springs.

(more…)

Priscilla, Queen of the Desert Offers Thoughtful, Flamboyant Fun

Reviewed by Iris Winston

Photo: Maria Vartanova

Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (The Musical)
Book by Stephan Elliott and Allan Scott
Musical arrangements and orchestrations by Stephen ‘Spud’ Murphy
Developed for the stage by Simon Phillips
Based on the movie The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert
TotoToo Theatre
Directed by Michael Gareau

It’s camp, caring, charming and costumed — Oh boy! Is it costumed!

Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (The Musical) is a highly entertaining jukebox musical that shoehorns 27 pop and disco favourites — especially drag performance favourites — from the 1970s and 80s into a rickety bus (Priscilla) traveling across the Australian desert from Sidney to Alice Springs. (more…)

Priscilla, Queen of the Desert: Brilliant production of an important play

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

Photo: Maria Vartanova

Toto Too never  stops outdoing itself  and this ultra-energized performance under the direction of Michael Gareau proves it once again. It all  glows and glitters with the marvelous costumes of the  drag Queen world,  (created by designer Lu-Anne Connell ), the stunning  singing voices , the  excellent acting  and Paddy Allen McCarthy’s all-encompassing choreography,  take over  the original  music and lyrics that transgress  the established codes of  the musical world.  Priscilla, Queen of the Desert is a brilliant monument to a shifting world where every human individual is given a space of one’s own.   (more…)

Kanata Theatre’s Treasure Island turns to dross

Reviewed by Jamie Portman

Photo: Kanata Theatre

“I don’t do nuance,” George W. Bush once famously observed. Neither does Kanata Little Theatre when it comes to bringing Treasure Island to the stage. The people involved in this noisy, strident, generally unsubtle offering seem to think it’s being mounted in the cavernous Canadian Tire Centre just down the road rather than in the intimate Ron Maslin Playhouse. Too often, Wendy Wagner’s production seems more of a shouting match rather than a proper performance with both the Robert Louis Stevenson
novel on which it is based, as well as Ken Ludwig’s stage adaptation, often perishing in the din.
To be sure, there are some good things about the production The design factor is spectacularly successful. Karl Wagner’s set works wonderfully both as the Admiral Benbow Inn and as a vessel in search of buried treasure. Wagner is also responsible for the atmospheric lighting, while Maxine Ball deserves credit for the outstanding costumes and Robert Fairbairn scores with the show’s soundscape. Fight choreographer Aaron Lajeunesse has come through with some nimbly executed swordplay. And the scene changes are fluidly managed. (more…)

Treasure Island: Mediocre production with great technical elements

Reviewed by Iris Winston

Photo: Kanata Theatre

Treasure Island
By Ken Ludwig
Adapted from the novel by Robert Louis Stevenson
Kanata Theatre
Directed by Wendy Wagner

The treasure to be found in the Kanata Theatre production of Treasure Island is its design and technical achievement.

But much of the rest of Ken Ludwig’s adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s adventure story — written to entertain his stepson, with “no need of psychology of fine writing”— is boring, repetitive and noisy in the KT production, directed by Wendy Wagner. (more…)

Past Reviews