Community Theatre

Kanata Theatre struggles to make The Melville Boys work

Reviewed by Jamie Portman

Norm Foster is a playwright with a modest intent — to write comedies about “ordinary people just trying to get by in life.”

That prescription can no doubt be applied to The Melville Boys — his much-produced piece about two brothers, wildly disparate in personality, who seek to re-bond by spending a weekend at the family’s  lakeside cabin.

Unfortunately Kanata Theatre’s new production merely shows how fragile the play really is and how easily it can collapse in performance. (more…)

The Melville Boys: Adequate production of play past its prime

Reviewed by Iris Winston

By Norm Foster, directed by Steve Truelove, a Kanata Theatre Production

The cottage is as much part of the Canadian psyche as hockey, so little wonder playwright Norm Foster set The Melville Boys at a lakeside retreat.

The second play of his long writing career, this dark comedy carries the signature one-liners that resulted in Foster being called the Canadian Neil Simon. It also has a familiar sit-com approach veiled with a coating of tragedy. (more…)

OLT’s Marion Bridge: More Pretension than Substance

Reviewed by Jamie Portman

There is an affecting moment of dramatic truth in Ottawa Little Theatre’s production of Marion Bridge, Daniel MacIvor’s overwrought drama about about three sisters whose relationship is in crisis.

It comes when Agnes, the booze-swilling failed actress back from Toronto to be at her mother’s deathbed, sits down for a game of cards and a chat with the sister who stayed at home —  the child-like, unimaginative Louise.

It’s a simple scene but subtle in nuance in what it tells us about two estranged siblings and the dynamics that both separate them and keep them together. It does work. And it’s a reminder of MacIvor’s  expertise in creating compelling individual scenes for a play. But whether they present us with an integrated whole is another matter. (more…)

Marion Bridge: much emotional baggage makes for a dreary drama

Reviewed by Iris Winston

Marion Bridge by Daniel MacIvor; director: Chantale Plante; a production of the  Ottawa Little Theatre

Carrying a lifetime’s worth of baggage, three sisters of a very dysfunctional family are brought together by imminent death. As their mother lies dying, each of the three reveals her insecurities, resentments, memories and false memories and periodic hostility towards the others and their parents.

Each sister is deeply flawed and hides from the world in her own way. Agnes fled from her Cape Breton home to an unsuccessful acting career in Toronto. Her other escape is alcohol — her mother’s choice towards oblivion, too. Meanwhile, the ‘good’ middle sister, Theresa, now having a crisis of faith, chose the nun’s veil and farming as her escape route, while youngest sibling, Louise — the only child still living at home — sinks into daytime television soap operas and love of automobiles. (more…)

A Man Of No Importance scores high at the Gladstone

Reviewed by Jamie Portman

Photo: Patrick Whitfield

It’s a pity that A Man Of No Importance is having such a brief run at The Gladstone, given that it is such a touching yet ultimately joyous experience.

Indie Women Productions have delivered a stand-out production of this award-winning 2003 Broadway musical about a lonely gay Dublin bus conductor who worships the works of Oscar Wilde.

It is a lovely, lovely show, graced by a solid acting ensemble headed by the ever reliable Shaun Toohey as Alfie Byrne, the amiable good-hearted transit man who’s given to entertaining his passengers with recitations of poetry during their daily transport.

A Man Of Importance began as a 1994 film starring Albert Finney as Alfie. Its transformation into a stage musical proves to be remarkably successful, thanks to an observant, witty and at times emotionally wrenching book from Terrence McNally, who is far more at home with this subject matter than he was with Catch Me If You Can, the show recently mounted in Ottawa by Orpheus. And the beguiling songs, which arise naturally from the dramatic material and run a gamut of emotions, are supplied by Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens, the proven team who gave us Ragtime. (more…)

A Man of No Importance, an engaging delight.

Reviewed by Iris Winston

A Man of No Importance Book by Terrence McNally Music by Stephen Flaherty Lyrics by Lynn Ahrens Directed by Maxim David indie women productions

Part of the charm of A Man of No Importance is its modesty. Almost reflecting the tone of the title in its approach, the award-winning chamber musical is gently low-key, gradually working its way into unfolding a moving story about a bus conductor in 1960s Dublin.

With book by Terence McNally, music by Stephen Flaherty and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens, the 2002 musical is based on the 1994 movie of the same name, starring Albert Finney as bus conductor Alfie Byrne. Byrne escapes his internal conflict and his mundane daily routine through his love of the works of Oscar Wilde — his role model — and his determination to mount a production of Wilde’s Salome in St. Imelda’s church hall (a most unsuitable location for a script that shocked from the outset and would certainly offend conservative Catholic sensibilities in 1960s Ireland.) (more…)

Catch Me If You Can: Well Worth Catching

News from Capital Critics Circle

Photo: Orpheus Musical Society

Guest Critic: Jim Murchison
Frank Abagnale Jr is a famous con man who eluded police authorities for years. He is well known because of the film version of Catch Me If You Can  and for his books including one appropriately titled The Art of The Steal. This  play with book by Terrence McNally, music by Marc Shaiman and lyrics by Scott Wittman & Marc Shaiman is largely true. It is at times a game show,  Film Noir,  and a night club act, with a hint of Dragnet thrown in. It is necessary to be as chameleonic as it’s antihero. While the tale doesn’t have the depth or social impact of some tales it is an entertaining story of a fascinating con man who evolved into someone better and used his talent for artifice for a better purpose.
(more…)

Catch Me If You Can: Orpheus shines with inferior material

Reviewed by Jamie Portman

Photo: Orpheus Theatre

Catch Me If You Can is a trifle of a musical based on a trifle of a movie from Steven Spielberg. It’s scarcely worth doing, but it is redeemed somewhat by Orpheus Musical Theatre Society’s ability to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.

The production currently at Centrepointe features deftly staged musical numbers, performances that manage to engage, and a rollicking narrative thrust. In other words, it’s good enough to make you forget, at least temporarily, how hollow the material really is. (more…)

Catch Me If You Can: Production quality more memorable than forgettable froth of material

Reviewed by Iris Winston

Photo: Orpheus Theatre

Catch Me If You Can
Book by Terrence McNally
Music by Marc Shaiman
Lyrics by Scott Wittman and Marc Shaiman
Orpheus Musical Theatre Society
Reviewed by Iris Winston

The Catch 22 of Catch Me If You Can is that the apparently innocent charm of the anti-hero/con artist is at odds with the reality of his crooked early life. It is also even more difficult to fit the story of the imposter/forger/thief into an upbeat and believable musical than it was to give jolly versions of other con artists in such musicals as The Producers or Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. (more…)

Sweeney Todd the Demon Barber of Fleet Street: Gory glory for Suzart

Reviewed by Iris Winston

Photo: Suzart After Dark

Sweeney Todd the Demon Barber of Fleet Street

Music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim

Book by Hugh Wheeler

Suzart After Dark

Directed by Kraig-Paul Proulx

Dark and difficult but never dreary, Sweeney Todd the Demon Barber of Fleet Street is recognized as extremely complex musically and very demanding technically. The massive challenge of the 1979 Tony award-winner was made even greater for Suzart Productions when the female lead dropped out just two days before the show opened.

This is the second time that this has happened to Suzart. The company had to deal with a similar last-minute crisis when mounting Hello Dolly last year. On that occasion, the musical director stepped into the title role a week before opening. At least, she had been present during the show rehearsals. For Sweeney Todd, the time frame was much shorter and the rescuer had not been involved in the lead-up to the production.

You would hardly know it, however, watching Jennifer Fontaine’s strong characterization of Mrs. Lovett. The only clue was the score she carried as a safety net. But she made time to have fun with the role of the meat-pie maker, whose baking became tastier, with the fruits of Todd’s murderous labours.

Neither was there any indication from the rest of the cast of any change of dynamic. Joseph Stone, in the title role, is strong both vocally and in his delivery of the tortured demon barber. Jay Landreville, as the simple Tobias Ragg, Mrs. Lovett’s protégé, relates to her effectively and their Not While I’m Around duet is one of the most touching moments of the show.  (more…)

Past Reviews