Community Theatre

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…)

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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Plan B: Dated Play Redeemed By Fine Performances

Reviewed by Jamie Portman

Plan B by Michael Healey, Director and set: André Dimitrijevic

Quebec separatism  was still a burning issue when Canadian playwright Michael Healey wrote Plan B some 15 years ago. So the revival  on view at the Gladstone does seem something of an irrelevant period piece — with its lack of topicality now making the script’s deficiencies seem more pronounced.

On the positive side, there is the solid quality of  Andre Dimitrijavic’s Phoenix Players production — one in which the satirical barbs can still deliver and the great divide that continues to exist between two cultures can still be examined. (more…)

Plan B: A crisp production of a clever script

Reviewed by Iris Winston

Plan B By Michael Healey, directed by André Dimitrijevic, a Phoenix Players production.

Crying wolf too often may create indifference to a real threat. In Plan B, playwright Michael Healey presents a satirical and cynical look at Quebec’s regular return to the possibility of separation/sovereignty.

In the real world of the Quebec referendum of 1995, the threat almost became reality with less than one percentage point separating the go/stay votes. In Healey’s 2002 play, the separatists succeeded in a close vote (53%/47%).

In Plan B, set in a hotel room across the river from the nation’s capital, negotiations to arrange Quebec’s exit from Canada are underway. The catch, quickly revealed, is that these talks are merely a cover — complete with purposeful leaks to the media —while genuine negotiations take place elsewhere (more…)

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…)

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