Musical Theatre

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.
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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…)

American Idiot: High-energy production saves the show.

Reviewed by Iris Winston

American Idiot, music by Green Day, lyrics by Billie Joe Armstrong, book by Billie Joe Armstrong and Michael Mayer

University of Ottawa Musical Theatre Society, directed by Storm Davis

American Idiot bursts onto the stage into the raucous noise of punk rock that one of the cast members says in her bio takes her back to her fifth grade grunge days.

The 2010 musical is based on the 2004 concept album of the same name — incorporating protest against the war in Iraq, anger with American society and disaffected and angry youth trying to escape (from what?) to find a purpose in life.

The book (if that’s not too strong a word) for the very slight story line by lyricist Billie Joe Armstrong and Michael Mayer focuses on three young men — one who joins the army and is blinded, a second who fathers a child and drowns in alcohol and a third self-destructive would-be rebel whose father predicted he would never amount to anything.

The sing-through (shout-through) musical about dead-end lives and disappointment is surprisingly upbeat as presented by the University of Ottawa Musical Theatre Society. (more…)

The Blizzard of Oz: British Panto geared for winter in Ottawa, is back!!

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

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Photo, Andrew Simon. After the show with the audience!

This time the choreography is slicker (with such numbers as Gotta Get Home, Steppin’ Time and Popular) the singers feel more confident, the acting is top notch, the writing takes the young and less young into account and the audience is perfectly integrated to the point where it knows its lines ahead of the performers!!  Oh yes, Panto  has come of age at the Gladstone and it was the greatest of pleasures to see this vibrant and bouncy cast, under the direction of Ken MacDougall,  hit the spot, with the small tots, the parents and  the grannies alike. They all yelled,  booed and shrieked when the wicked green witch slid into view with her the broom and her shifty snake-like eyes, or the snow monster loped across the stage. Such vile creatures, but such fun.

The story of Blizzard of Oz is similar to the Wizard version except that the tornado becomes a giant snow storm , and it all takes place right in  the Ottawa area. The storm strikes the  town of Ozaboza  (Cazabazua ??), where  Aunty Hem (a revamped Cara Pantalone with a gorgeous head of tangled red curls and most beautiful voice)  and her strong willed  niece Dotty  (played by a  feisty  little Émilie O’Brien) live on their 150 year old farm…exactly the age of Canada…what a coincidence!! . Dotty is transported away by the storm  into the middle of  Ottawa where she meets other displaced persons : the Faircrow, Bob cat and Al Loy – the tin fellow who has the heart of pieces of money. From then on their only desire is to get home..wherever that might be.

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A Tale of Injustice: The Scottsboro Boys. Extraordinary talent turns the Minstrel Show on its head!!

Reviewed by Jane Baldwin

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Photo: Nile Hawver/Nile Scott Shots.

The Scottsboro Boys, an extraordinary musical, mounted by SpeakEasy Stage Company at Boston’s Calderwood Pavilion, recounts one of the most shameful racist events in US history. In 1931, during the depth of the Great Depression, nine black male teenagers who had hopped a freight train were falsely accused of rape by two white women. Arrest, threats of lynching, and a one-day trial followed with the young defendants found guilty and sentenced to death. The NAACP and the Communist Party of the USA appealed successfully to the Supreme Court and another trial was scheduled. Again the defendants were found guilty and another appeal was made. The trials only came to an end years later when the state of Alabama where the Scottsboro boys were held could no longer afford to prosecute the defendants. Traumatised by their treatment, the Scottsboro boys continued to struggle and suffer even when freed.

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Kinky Boots, entertaining musical theatre.

Reviewed by Iris Winston

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Photo. Courtesy of the NAC.

Kinky Boots, Book by Harvey Fierstein Music and lyrics by Cyndi Lauper, directed and choreographed by Jerry Mitchell

Think watered-down versions of Billy Elliott, mixed with slices of Les Cages aux Folles and Torch Song Trilogy and you have the theme of Kinky Boots, book by Harvey Fierstein, music and lyrics by Cyndi Lauper.

Never a drag, though somewhat simplistic in its call for tolerance, the award-winning musical is based on the 2005 movie of the same name. Claimed to be a true story, it tells of two sons who did not want to follow in their fathers’ footsteps.

Charlie, the son of a shoe factory owner in Northampton, and Simon, the son of a prize fighter from Clacton, tried to escape their small-town destinies, but when their paths cross, they walk down a new road together, creating kinky boots for cross dressers and drag queens.

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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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The Addams Family: Orpheus Stars Shine Under a Supermoon

News from Capital Critics Circle

Guest critic Jim Murchison

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Photo, courtesy of Orpheus Musical Theatre

The original creator of The Addams Family, Charles Addams could likely not have imagined the long lasting effect he would have on popular culture when he inked his first drawing for the New Yorker in 1938. Countless reincarnations in TV, animation and film have allowed these characters to endure into the 21st century.

The musical version written by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, with music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa is a well crafted tale of love discovered, love lost and love regained that has been a favourite theme since civilization first picked up a pen, a quill or a rock and started writing. This isn’t heavy stuff. It is quintessential entertainment, the perfect antidote for the post election blues and although the play is about an eccentric, wealthy American family living in New York there are no other frightening similarities to the first family elect. They’re a little macabre to be sure, but generally loving.

The front curtain for this production is a drop of portraits of the Addams’ framed by cobwebs. When it lifts, it reveals a gnarly old tree stage right stretching its craggy limbs over a dark gated cemetery as if ready to pluck someone up and toss them towards the gorgeous full moon.

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