Musical Theatre

The Little Mermaid: family entertainment fine for the younger tots.

Reviewed by Iris Winston

Ariel & Ursula

Photo by Suzart productions.

Based on the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, the Walt Disney animated musical movie version of The Little Mermaid was moderately successful when it was screened in 1989. Some 18 years later, the stage musical of the Disney movie appeared to mixed reviews and a relatively short run on Broadway.

The show, while entirely appropriate for the Suzart Productions’ mandate of family entertainment, is weak in this incarnation. As presented by Suzart, under the direction of Dani Bone Corbishley, The Little Mermaid has a pantomime sensibility — primarily because Kraig-Paul Proulx, delivers the wicked witch Ursula in the style of a panto dame. This leaves room for an appropriate contrast with the mermaid princess, Ariel, (Sharena Campo) and her human prince, Eric (Richard Hardy) — both fine singers.

Simply put, Hans Christian Andersen told the story of the mermaid, who dreams of being human and marrying the prince she saved from drowning, more effectively than the stage version of an animated movie does.

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Sparkling “Into the Woods” at Gananoque’s 1000 Islands Playhouse

Reviewed by Connie Meng

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Photo:

A very good production of the Stephen Sondheim/James Lapine musical “Into the Woods” is running at the 1000 Islands Playhouse. The cast, with a couple of exceptions, is strong and the actors can all handle the complex score. Drew Facey’s set, featuring an upper level walkway, 3 birdcage-like playing areas and, of course, woods, is excellent and his wonderful costumes cleverly fanciful. I loved the Prince’s high-top sneakers. The choreography by Shelly Stewart Hunt is good, especially for the Princes, although I felt it began a bit too early in the opening number and we lost some lyrics. Michelle Ramsay’s lighting is evocative and William Fallon’s sound first-rate and well balanced.

Speaking of sound, Musical Director Stephen Woodjetts has done an expert job with the complex vocals, especially the diction. When the show first opened in New York in 1987, the pit musicians called it “Into the Words.” He’s also done a great arrangement that allows only 5 musicians to convey the flavor and color of the original orchestration, with himself on piano, Greg Runions on percussion, David Smith on reeds, Bob Arlidge on bass, and the excellent Erin Puttee on keyboard.

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Naked Boys Singing :male burlesque with many moving moments.

Reviewed by Iris Winston

The title, underlined by the first number, Gratuitous Nudity, tells almost all about Robert Shrock’s concept for the multi-author musical revue.

Not only will the seven performers give new meaning to the term “bare stage” as one of them promises early on, but they will also make fun of themselves for spending most of the show unclothed.

But Naked Boys Singing is more than a male burlesque show. While there are many funny segments, there are an equal number of moving moments, all presented with power and clarity by the well-chosen cast, as directed by Shaun Toohey and musical director Gordon Johnston.

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Naked Boys Singing Struts Its Stuff at Live On Elgin

Reviewed by Jamie Portman

Naked Boys Singing Conceived by Robert Shrock , directed by Sean Toohey, musical Director: Gordon Johnston

Would you believe there’s even a moment of fugal joy in Naked Boys Singing?

It surfaces in an ensemble number with the title of Members Only — and yes, there’s no doubt about the subject matter. But as you listen to the performers moving nimbly through the contrapuntal intricacies of an amusing song, you’re again conscious of the wit and imagination that have gone into the preparation of this musical revue.

You’re also conscious of the affection. There’s no doubt of the primary audience for Naked Boys Singing, but this a show that seems ready to extend its embrace to anyone who goes to see it. And its long runs in major cities suggest that, in its own disarming, sweet-natured way, it is knocking down more than a few barriers.

There are ample displays of naked flesh on view at Live On Elgin. But there is no narcissism. These seven guys are definitely not aspiring to a Chippendales gig. There is a bit of philosophizing about nakedness being a window to the soul, but it’s leavened by moments of self-deprecation. Similar philosophies about nudity were expressed in Hair more than 40 years ago, but Naked Boys Singing seems blessedly immune from the self-referential nonsense of that grossly overpraised musical.

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Naked Boys Singing: engaging fun, sophisticated parody, exciting music and a good healthy romp in the altogether!!

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

Naked Boys Singing : The international hit musical review. Originally conceived by Robert Schrock. Written by Stephen Bates, Marie Cain, Perry Hart, Shelly Markham, Jim Morgan, Daivd Pevsner Rayme Sciarni, Mark Savage, Ben Schaechter, Robert Schrock Trance Thompson, Bruce Vilanch, Mark Winkler. Directed by Schaun Toohey

Seven naked gay male characters on stage might sound like an evening of peek abo and sexual titillation but this show has very little to do with that. In fact director Shaun Toohey calls this “ a light hearted romp where the actors did not at all have to be naked and you would still have a good show.” It certainly is not about the nudity because the men involved are not supposed to be Greek gods with perfect bodies  But that is the point. The show is a series of sketches about aspects of life…the frustrations, the sadness, the happy moments, the positive and negative experiences which open one’s eyes, which show the difficulties of relationships with some very funny parodies involving male genitalia that is the centre of a lot of attention here. The nakedness becomes a symbol of men’s desire to open their souls and not hide things anymore. They are vulnerable but they are trying to reach the essence of their beings and the unclothed body is the best symbol of that achievement.

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The Sound of Music: Maria Connects but tempered voices are tedious

Reviewed by Patrick Langston

If you’re a nun suffering from insomnia, just book a berth in the cavernous abbey depicted in this production of The Sound of Music. The place is so immensely boring, so circumscribed by tempered voices and looming, dark spaces, that you’ll be snoozing in seconds.

In fact, one suspects that the real reason Maria abandons a career in a wimple for life with the von Trapps is to avoid death by tedium.

You already know the storyline of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s famous musical — Maria Rainer, a postulant at an Austrian abbey in the dark days of the advancing Third Reich, takes a temporary job as a governess with the von Trapp family, falls in love with the adorable but emotionally undernourished children and their rule-loving widower father Captain Georg von Trapp, teaches them all to sing again, marries the captain, and flees the Nazis with her new family.

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Chorus Line at Centrepoint: a production full of heart.

Reviewed by Iris Winston

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Courtesy of Orpheus Musical Theatre

At the heart of Chorus Line is the huge contrast between the opening and closing scenes. The intentionally ragged beginning features some two dozen dancers, a few practising exercises, others meandering around, all anxiously waiting to strut their stuff so that the director will choose them from among their rivals for a place on the line. The closing number shows the dancers as a unit, the perfect backup for the star of the next Broadway show.

And the paradox of the creation of the well-oiled dancing machine, peopled by anonymous dancers moving in unison, is that, along the way, Chorus Line morphs into often tragic tales about the individuals and the life-and-death importance of this audition, the next and the many beyond that.

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The 25th Annual Putnam Spelling Bee: The characters all have fun with their roles.

Reviewed by Iris Winston

Freakish, Friendless, Pushy Parents! The contestants in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee are never asked to spell any of this group of words, but they come to mind as the background of the kids and the adults involved in the cutthroat competition are revealed in passing.

Surprisingly, the 2005 musical, with book by Rachel Sheinkin and music and lyrics by William Finn, won a number of Tony awards when it debuted on Broadway. (It must have been a lean year.) The music is entirely forgettable, although some of the lyrics are effective and the book holds more interest than simply testing spelling ability.

Heavily dependent on the quality of the characterizations by the six finalists and the three officials running the Bee, the inclusion of audience participation (four extra contestants) is more awkward than effective and the general presentation—partly because of the script and partly because of the limited stage space —is somewhat static. However, the members of the cast in the Suzart After Dark production define their characters well and have fun with their roles (despite the occasional stumble over lines).

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The Wizard of Oz: Emphasis is on the spectacle and technological wizardry

Reviewed by Iris Winston

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Photo:  Keith Pattison 

Like the Tin Man, this version of The Wizard of Oz has a hollow ring because its heart is missing.

The emphasis is on the spectacle and technological wizardry. Such moments as the video of the tornado that transports the heroine, Dorothy, from Kansas to the other side of the rainbow into the fairytale Land of Oz may be breathtaking for some. The broom belonging to the Wicked Witch of the West that breathes fire, dragon-style, or the image of the menacing Wizard that is more over-the-top than Dr. Who may raise a gasp of admiration once. Just once.

But the key aspect of the production should be in caring about the characters, rather than simply viewing their passage through Oz from Munchkinland, through the scary forest and the Wicked Witch’s territory to the Wizard’s castle and back again to awaken in Kansas.

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A Joyously Nostalgic Oz at the NAC.

Reviewed by Patrick Langston

Published in the Ottawa Citizen on December 30, 2015

national-touring-production-of-the-wizard-of-oz Photo: Daniel Swalec

There are some pretty cool videos depicting the tornado that sweeps Dorothy and her dog Toto from a Kansas farm and deposits them in Munchkinland. The broom belonging to the Wicked Witch of the West actually explodes into flame. Oz thunders like a petulant god. But modern technical effects aside, at its heart, the joyously executed musical The Wizard of Oz now playing to families at the NAC remains a story rooted in early 20th century rural America when, at least to our contemporary eyes, a kind of pre-ironic innocence and belief that love and kindness could trump evil prevailed.

  • The production, drawn from L. Frank Baum’s 1900 children’s book and based on the classic 1939 movie with Judy Garland as Dorothy, wisely avoids updating the original story settings or trajectory.

    The farm where Dorothy (the wholly convincing and powerfully voiced Sarah Lasko) feels unwanted by her distracted Auntie Em (Ottawa’s Emmanuelle Zeesman) and Uncle Henry (Randy Charleville) is vintage turn-of-the-century complete with a jerry-built generator that needs the whack of an axe to run.

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