Reviewer: Iris Winston

Iris Winston
A writer, editor, reporter and theatre reviewer for more than 40 years, Iris Winston has won national and provincial awards for her fiction, non-fiction and reviews. A retired federal public servant, she has seven books in print and writes regularly for local, regional, national and international newspapers and magazines, including Variety and the Ottawa Citizen. Iris lives in Almonte.

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…)

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…)

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…)

Ghost of a Chance: Production offers some uneven pacing

Reviewed by Iris Winston

Photo courtesy of Rural Root Theatre Company

Ghost of a Chance
By Flip Kobler and Cindy Marcus
Rural Root Theatre Company
Directed by Valerie Jorgensen

The three most annoying things about Ghost of a Chance are: its heavy borrowing from the Noel Coward classic Blithe Spirit early on; the unreasonable return of one thieving character, simply to engineer a happy ending; and the misdating of deer hunting season by a character who is supposed to be a hunting/shooting/fishing macho type.

There is also an issue with the 1996 comedy by husband-and-wife writing duo Flip Kobler and Cindy Marcus being cluttered with too many complications and silliness. Even so, this ‘spirited’ sit-com includes a number of funny lines. But, unless a production of this type moves at a consistently fast pace, it stands more than a ghost of a chance of falling flat. (more…)

Towards Zero: True to period production would have benefitted from some editing

Reviewed by Iris Winston

Photo courtesy of Ottawa Little Theatre

Towards Zero
By Agatha Christie and Gerald Verner
Ottawa Little Theatre
Directed by Sarah Hearn

You know the drill of a classic whodunit: A small group of people, most of them with a grudge or a secret, gathers in an elegant country or seaside house, probably on a dark and stormy night. At least one among them is murdered (usually off stage) and it seems that the killer is an insider. (more…)

Outside Mullingar: A pleasant evening’s entertainment

Reviewed by Iris Winston

Photo: Black Sheep Theatre

Outside Mullingar
By John Patrick Shanley
Black Sheep Theatre Company
Directed by Dave Dawson

It is no surprise that a romantic comedy set in Ireland should focus on a land dispute between neighbours and begin on a rainy night in the aftermath of a funeral. Neither is it unusual for the talk to center on death: Tony, the professional curmudgeon on one side of the fence, predicts that Aoife, the widow next door, will die within the year and adds that he does not expect to live more than two more months.

Both predictions are correct (yes, this is a comedy — Irish style). Before the two months are up, Tony delivers his zinger: he does not intend to leave the family farm to his only son, Anthony, because he fears that the young man will never marry. (more…)

Kill Me Now: A Play About Courage and Love

Reviewed by Iris Winston

By Brad Fraser, A Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre (Winnipeg) Production coproduced with the NAC English Theatre.

Disability comes in many guises. And each of the character’s in playwright Brad Fraser’s latest play, Kill Me Now, is disabled to a greater of lesser degree, whether through physical or mental challenges or emotional and relationship issues.

But, says Fraser in the program notes, “this is not a play about disability. It is a play about courage and love.”

So it is. At the centre is the love between father and son. In the next circle of love is that of a sister for the older brother who raised her and an aunt’s caring for her nephew. Then the love ripples out to include friends and lovers. (more…)

Little Shop of Horrors: Show explores the darker side of the human condition.

Reviewed by Iris Winston

Photo: Maria Vartanova

Little Shop of Horrors
Book and lyrics by Howard Ashman
Music by Alan Menken
Theatre Kraken
Directed by Don Fex

Frequently referred to as a cult musical, Little Shop of Horrors delivers as much blood and gore and almost as many bodies as Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street.

Funny but too frightening for the younger set to be called family entertainment, the book and lyrics by Howard Ashman, with music by Alan Menken (the team responsible for The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin) combines a tentative romance, an abusive relationship and a dictatorial blood-sucking plant in a somewhat unpleasant morality tale. (Be careful what you wish for. The end does not justify the means. Even bad guys deserve fair treatment. Take your pick.) (more…)

1979: A clear demonstration of the entertainment value of Canadian politics

Reviewed by Iris Winston

1979 by Michael Healey GCTC/Shaw Festival co-production  Directed by Eric Coates

Principles are just part of the equation on the road to success in political life. Also pertinent are viable policies, cunning, surface charm and a willingness to change course, step away from principles, promises and even integrity to stay in power. (The old dictum of the Ins wanting to stay in and the Outs wanting to get in by almost any means has not changed much over the centuries.)

But, to Joe Clark, Canada’s 16th and youngest Prime Minister, principle and integrity were more important than power. Therefore, he remained in the PM’s chair for just nine months. (more…)

From Paris to Broadway: Pops Concert at the NAC

Reviewed by Iris Winston

 Pops Concert, National Arts Centre, Conductor: Jack Everly

In introducing From Paris to Broadway, principal Pops conductor Jack Everly said that the aim of the French-themed concert, which had been two years in the making, was to create the spirit or feeling of Paris.

And this is exactly what happened in a joyous collection of music, song and dance that evoked visions of the Folies Begères — the famous cabaret musical founded in Paris in 1869 — (think rhinestones and feathers, Everly advised) such singers as Maurice Chevalier and Edith Piaf, and composers closely associated with the glitter of French entertainment, such as the German-born Jacques Offenbach (think Cancan). Music from the musical Gigi and the delicate rendition of the Moulin Rouge Waltz added a further dimension to visions of Paris. (more…)

Past Reviews