Reviewer: Alvina Ruprecht

Alvina Ruprecht
Alvina Ruprecht is professor emerita from Carleton University. She is currently adjunct professor in the Theatre Department of the University of Ottawa.She has published extensively on francophone theatres in the Caribbean and elsewhere. She was the regular theatre critic for CBC Ottawa for 30 years. She contributes regularly to www.capitalcriticscircle.com, www.scenechanges.com, www.criticalstages.org, theatredublog.unblog.fr and www.madinin-art.net.

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…)

Minus One. Ohad Naharin’s high powered entertainment unites dance theatre with multiple voices and musical styles!

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht


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With its 35 dancers out in full force on the stage of Southam Hall, les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal under the spell of choreographer Ohad Naharin has created a synthesis of some of his past work bringing together the musics and dancers of many origins. Almost the way Peter Brook integrated the Hindu epic with actors from all the continents, Naharin’s company Batsheva Dance, actually founded by Martha Graham, has become a meeting place for dancers from around the world, and now, Naharin’s recent creation sends us into a spiral of hybrid creativity that sets one’s head spinning. (more…)

Outside Mullingar: Irish family drama with rich operatic undertones!

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

Born and brought up in New York, John Patrick Shanley , author of the screenplay for Moonstruck,   directed by Norman Jewison , captured a   modern Italian American love story that was told in the style of a Puccini opera. Now he has written  a play about  Irish families   deeply rooted in their  ancestral land,This one too has great  operatic undertones !  Structured as a series of solos, duos, trios and quartets, the  characters have to maintain  the music of the  accents  from Dublin to Mullingar in the northern most areas of the Republic , which is  what the  cast of Dave Dawson’s   production at the Gladstone did very well.  We were immediately immersed in a  swelling  of romantic  authenticity and thoughtful intensity   that keeps us captivated for the whole evening.    (more…)

Encount3rs/ Rencontr3s : World Premiere of three commissioned works at the National ArtsCentre.

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

Photo. Barb Gray
Alberta Ballet Caelestis

In view of an exceptional arts  event to celebrate the 150th Anniversary of Canada,  three choreographers and three composers were chosen from across Canada,  to create  specially commissioned works by the NAC. This was an exceptional opportunity  for audiences across the country but also for the artists to meet other companies and other dancers from other parts of Canada. They were invited to  develop their own work freely and to have the rare chance to work with a complete orchestra .Each event lasted 30 minutes in Southam Hall and the whole evening which opened last night and lasted just over two hours, left much to ponder about the future of dance in Canada. (more…)

Little Shop of Horrors – a first-rate performance of this grotesque campy musical!! Theatre Kraken is back on track!!

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

photo: Maria Vartanova

Theatre  Kraken  has never been my favourite Community Theatre but this new production of  Little Shop of Horrors just changed all that.   The show  began with a surge of vocal and musical  energy  blasting from the  five piece stage band under the direction of Chris Lucas. There was also the impeccable precision of  director Don Fex  and  choreographer Brenda Solman  whose efforts were right on the mark.

This story of Mr. Mushnik,(with the  ever powerful  and oh so versatile Lawrence Evenchick ) owner of a flower shop in the skid row district of New York, becomes the site of a strange event that suggests the War of the Worlds except that it is a hillarious  drama and love story,  peppered with Jewish jokes   and Yiddish expressions  and an underlying  tragic history of the second world war. Something that Mel Brooks himself could have created but this  musical was adapted from the film  by  Alan Menken- music,  and Howard Ashman-, book and lyrics. With strong musicians (the keybords were particularly noteworthy),  director Don Fex’s  captured the  underlying seriousness of these campy characters with great style to produce a very strong show.

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Vigilante: High Energy, Raging Fury, An Opera of Epic proportions.

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

Photo by David Cooper

Written composed and directed by Jonathan Christenson, produced by Catalyst Theatre (Edmonton) in collaboration with the NAC English Theatre

Massacre of the Donnelly family in Lucan, Ontario (1860) was one of the bloodiest crimes ever to take place in Canada.  The fact that it was never solved has kept historians, writers and researchers interested for many years. As rumours grew, imaginations were fueled and the family of seven boys and their parents, who had emigrated from Ireland, were transformed into a local legend of monstrous killers   who terrorized the community. Probably the best known  work  of fiction based on the murder,  was the Donnelly Trilogy, a verse drama  by James Reaney, first performed  in 1973 -1974 and finally published in 2000. It came to the National Arts Centre many years ago but, as I remember,  the impact of that event was minimal. The horror and the tragedy  did not click with a production that mainly foregrounded the literary qualities of the text that explained the story. (more…)

The Associates/Les Associés : Fine evening of dance performance!

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

Echo by Christopher House
(The Associates)

It is easy to understand how dance is at the forefront of all performance because it is constantly pushing the boundaries of the human body, investigating the relationship between the human body and the possibilities offered by all technologies involved in spacial creation, transforming the relationship between the text and the body. We are so lucky that the Director of Dance at the NAC has the courage to bring us programmes that may not always be easily understood but that help and have always contributed to forming a demanding dance public in Ottawa.

Marie Chouinard has always been synonymous with extreme originality on the Quebec dance scene and her work seems to be a constant investigation into the anthropological sources of the human being. Emerging from the green greasy Uhrschleim of creation, ritualized movements that take us back to pre-western civilization,(not unlike Romeo Castellucci!) her dancers now propel us into new relations between the human animal and our current technological revolution.

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The Ghomeshi Effect: Sexual assault results in something being broken! A cathartic encounter at the Gladstone Theatre.

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

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Photo: Andrew Alexander . from left to right: Marc-André Charette, Emmanuel Simon, Gabriel Lalonde, Front: Annie Lefebvre, Leah Archambault, Mekdes Teshome.

How could one name this performance that is now running at the Gladstone?? It could be docudrama; it could be multi-disciplinary theatre; it could be corporeal theatre although the text is central to the event; it could be verbatim theatre, or even socially engaged theatre that goes for the jugular as it tries to transform our culture in the same way R. Schechner and J. Beck in the 1970’s hoped to do with their political and ritual performances. Perhaps, it also wants to make people aware that many individuals are living in a “war zone” when it comes to sexual violence in our society. In fact it’s a bit of all that. A huge agenda that might seem almost overwhelming for director Jessica Ruano who also wrote the script, for the choreographer who conceived the movement portions, and for the actors who had to shift moods, narratives and characters nonstop during 75 minutes!

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Onegin: Magnificent ensemble work by the National Ballet of Canada brings to life this highly dramatic piece based on Pushkin’s verse novel

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

ONEG2 2014 21 (300) photo cred Aleksandar Antonijevic-1

Photo.  Aleksandar  Antonijevic,  with Xiao Nan Yu and McGee Maddox.

Spectacular narrative ballets are the forte of the National Ballet of Canada and Tchaikovsky’s work based on stories and fairy tales have become the mainstay of their production, not to discount that exquisite Romeo and Juliet set to the music of Prokofiev which brought Karen Kain to my attention many years ago. This was just after seeing her dance Nana (based on the novel by Emile Zola) with the Company of Roland Petit in Paris, Now, thanks to the choreography of John Cranko the Company has added to its repertoire, another exquisite production of storytelling on point, this one inspired by Russian poet Alexander Pushkin’s verse novel Evgeni Onegin written in 1823.

Based on the lyric opera Onegin created in 1879 and set to the music of Tchaikovsky, choreographer John Cranko created his own balletic version of Pushkin’s work which premiered in Stuttgart in 1965 and which became part of the National Ballet’s repertoire in 2010. Last night, we saw the premiere of this fiery example of Cranko’s highly dramatic choreography as it came swelling into Southam Hall, lifting up an adoring audience with its emotional power and magnificent artistic perfection! Who could ever forget Xia Nan Yu as Tatiana the rejected shy young girl, eventually , melting into the arms of the repentant Onegin act III, then she just as passionately tears herself away from his desperate embrace and then turns to the audience in a state of physical ecstasy and mental disarray in one last sign of denial! . The whole event is an extraordinary meeting of dancers who are also excellent actors and the collaboration of director Reid Anderson working with Cranko’s choreography gave us a performance which highlighted the strong dramatic power of Pushkin’s verse.

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Le Dire de Di : la naissance d’une petite créature mythique!

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

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Photo: Céline Bonnier  dans Le Dire de Di.

Le Dire de Di : Mise en scène de Michel Ouellette, interprété par Céline Bonnier à la Nouvelle Scène, Ottawa

Dans un premier temps, les phares alignés au fond de la scène nous aveuglent alors qu’une voix douce annonce l’arrivée d’une petite tête blonde tout ébouriffée, la merveilleuse Céline Bonnier en « Di(ane) » un ado de 16 ans. Elle sort lentement de sa boîte noire comme un animal qu’on a enfin libéré. Les phares s’éteignent doucement, la jeune personne avance vers la salle, sort de l’ombre, s’approche du lutrin (il s’agit d’une lecture-spectacle) , regarde le public furtivement et commence son « dire » en hésitant.

Bonnier capte la délicate fragilité de cette petite. Timide, elle choisit ses mots, consulte peu son texte et peu à peu, sa voix s’affirme et le texte s’évapore. On est hypnotisé par les trois couloirs de lumière qui tranchent l’espace au-dessus de sa tête comme un crucifix luisant, signe du grand malheur, le supplice qui va bientôt s’abattre sur la jeune fille. Et Di, naïve et fraiche, gaie et amoureuse de la nature, celle qui appartient à « la race des incivilisés humains, », un être profondément ancré dans le miracle de la création, nous livre son secret : une belle histoire d’amour avec la terre!

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Past Reviews