Musical Theatre

Old Stock. A Refugee Love Story. A contemporary Jewish folktale superbly performed!

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

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Old Stock.  Ben Caplan as the narrator. Photo: National Arts Centre English  Theatre

Old Stock : A Refugee Love Story  written by  Hannah Moscovitch. Songs by Ben  Caplan and Christian Barry. Directed by Christian Barry.

An old man emerging from the smoky top of an apparently abandoned train, the suggestion of a painful transportation that took place during WWII, suddenly transforms this structure into the site of a travelling theatre, resounding with music, that has “appeared” out of the past with its lively Klezmer Rumanian Jewish /Gypsy background bringing together a huge audience ready to hear its tales, including a love story that must be told.  With music that brings much to the dramatic intensity of the show, this theatrical company of theatre within theatre, is  transported into the present with its  four musicians/actors and a narrator-superb singer, dancer and actor Ben Caplan- under the direction of Christian Barry.

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Children of God: An emotionally explosive experience

Reviewed by James Murchison

Photo: Emily Cooper

 

Walking into the theatre, one is struck by Marshall McMahen’s two sweeping sheer fabric clouds, one slightly upstage of the other. Downstage left is a shelf of layered rock that can serve as a floor, a step or secluded hiding place. During the play Jeff Harrison’s lighting brings trees and sunsets to life in the clouds and creates windows of light that put you in a church or a secret room. It is a hint to what this play will be: simple but layered, honest, moving and profoundly beautiful. (more…)

Children of God : A Ritual Theatre event that changes the focus of Canadian theatre.

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

Photo: Emily Cooper
Children of God, Urban Ink

An Urban Ink (Vancouver) production in collaboration with NAC English Theatre, in association with Raven Theatre (Vancouver) and presented as part of the NAC’s Canada Scene Festival.
The first impression one has before the event begins, is an all-enveloping living breathing landscape that sweeps horizontally across the front of the newly named Babs Asper theatre space and carries us away into another realm of being. Huge roling clouds, suggestions of a liquid surface, flat rocks that continue far back into a horizon defined by the sky. Ominous mountain shapes rise on either side of Marshall McMahan’s breathtaking set design that is brought to life by Jeff Harrison’s shifting lighting effects , by Kris Boyd’s sound design and Corey Payette’s musical compositions executed by the four musicians tucked away on stage right just behind the landscape. The music dissolves into the surrounding site as the performance space engulfs us , exemplifying the tortured nature of this situation that unfolds on the stage.
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Ragtime: An effective production!

Reviewed by James Murchison

I went to see Ragtime at the Centrepointe theatre. The darkness of
evening had not yet fallen and it was gloriously free from the
incessant rain that we have all become so accustomed to. It was a
glorious greaat evening to go to the theatre.
The story of Ragtime is as familiar as time. There are the wealthy
people of New Rochelle who never need worry about anything and
are blissfully unaware of the strife that besets most of the nation.
There are the new Eastern European immigrants struggling to start
a life in America fully believing the myth that everyone has an
equal path to prosperity and happiness. Then there is spirit of the
freewheeling ease of the black clubs of Harlem. (more…)

Ragtime: Lasting images and musically very attractive

Reviewed by Iris Winston

Ragtime. Photographer Alan Dean

The insistent syncopation of the ragtime motif, stylized patterns and defining colours form lasting images as the stories emerge in Ragtime: The Musical.

The award-winning show opens with a presentation of three different perspectives in the years leading up to World War I. We meet the privileged whites of La Rochelle, New York, safe in their separation from the difficulties faced by the others. Next, we are introduced to representatives of those groups — the black Harlem community with the music that makes their difficult lives easier and the immigrants facing even greater hardship as they try to establish themselves in their new land. (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: 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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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…)

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…)

Past Reviews