Musical Theatre

The Addams Family: Orpheus Musical Theatre makes the most of a mediocre story.

Reviewed by Iris Winston

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Photo, courtesy of Orpheus Musical Theatre

Charles Addams has a lot to answer for. He was the cartoonist who created the one-panel cartoons about the ghoulish Addams Family that appeared in the New Yorker magazine in 1938.

He could not know that his creation would become an American institution. Stories of the family morphed into a television sitcom in the 1960s, followed by a cartoon version in the next decade, two movies in 1991 (starring Anjelica Houston) and 1993 (The Addams Family Values) and even a video game and a very popular pinball machine later in the decade. Finally, in 2010, Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice (the pair who wrote the script of The Jersey Boys) developed a Broadway musical version with music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa.

Does the musical work? As much as any one-gag repeater with a wafer-thin storyline and constant reminders of one-panel cartoons can. Does Orpheus Musical Theatre Society make the most of a mediocre product? Unquestionably.

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Spring Awakening The Musical: Orpheus Musical Theatre is now in the big leagues!!

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

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Photo: The Orpheus cast and production team.

The original German version of the play was published in 1891 and then performed by Wedekind’s own company in 1906. Because of the subject matter where adolescents were concerned, it created much controversy and was not staged in German until after WWII while the American musical was first staged in 2006 based on a new English language translation that followed the one that appeared in 1917. Such a long and controversial history which also includes a movie, makes it difficult to keep track of this show which appears nowadays to fuse two time periods, two visions of the theatre, nevertheless producing a most stunning story and perfectly constructed scenario, built around a tragic vision of young people .

The play shows how a society that represses young people, brings with it all forms of destruction, even after the moment when the central sexual taboo has been transgressed, the downfall of all those who have grown with a sense of guilt in relation to their bodies, cannot be avoided. Tragedy is inevitable because the evil worm has been planted too deeply in their minds. . This devastating critique of the stern bourgeois society at the end of the 19th Century, is represented by the way young people listen to the needs of their bodies, and their most natural desires , but this awakening of sexuality is repressed by parents who imposed a military-like regime on their young ones at that time. And this in depth analysis of sexual repression relies on Freud’s news notions of the psyche that started appearing at the same period. The performance becomes a fascinating mixture of sexual fantasy, and real confrontation with unyielding social institutions that wield their power over natural human instincts.

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Significant Other: Rising Playwright’s New Comedy

Reviewed by Jane Baldwin

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Photo: Justin Saglio

Playwright Joshua Harmon first came to notice with his highly successful biting comedy Bad Jews, in which family members fight tooth and nail. His new piece, the simpler Significant Other, presented by Boston’s SpeakEasy Company, focuses on the egocentric, yet generous; impulsive, but wary and obsessive Jordan Berman played by the talented Greg Maraio. Jordan, a gay New Yorker, socializes with his best friends, Kiki (Sarah Elizabeth Bedard), Vanessa (Kris Sidberry), and Laura (Jordan Clark) all professional women of different ethnicities, approximately his age. They go out for dinner, drink, confide in each other, joke, and talk and talk. The women offer him advice. Although they are all in their late twenties, their lives have an adolescent quality.

At the opening as Jordan dances on with the women in a routine reminiscent of an old musical comedy film that sets the playful mood of the friendship. The dance, repeated several times during the show, reflects Jordan’s fantasy life in which he is the main figure, indispensable to each woman. However, his life begins to feel empty as one by one they acquire boyfriends and begin to think of marriage and children. In one of his despairing moments, he laments that he is twenty-nine years old and has never been told he was loved.

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

Reviewed by Connie Meng

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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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Gilbert without Sullivan takes the stage at the Shaw Festival

Reviewed by Jamie Portman

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Photo: David Cooper . Engaged

The Shaw Festival has decided to sprinkle a bit of nonsense into a Niagara summer — but it’s nonsense with a satirical agenda.

William S. Gilbert’s Engaged is an 1877 farce about marriage and money — not an unfamiliar theme but one that has proved of abiding interest throughout centuries of drama.

In this instance, it inspired Gilbert to filter it through his own somewhat sour prism, and the result is perhaps his most enduring stage comedy.

The playwriting half of the Gilbert and Sullivan partnership had a view of the universe that ranged from barbed whimsy to outright scorn, and that viewpoint finds particular utterance in this scathing send-up of human greed. Morris Panych’s new production at the Royal George Theatre takes due note of Gilbert’s jaundiced disposition, but he also ensures that Engaged is an airborne delight in performance.

Panych can do frivolity very well, and Engaged is no exception. But he also sustains an undercurrent of irony. At one point in the proceedings, a key character bemoans the mercenary culture of the day: “What a terrible thing is this insensitive craving after money,” he tells us.

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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 Who’s Tommy at Centrepoint: Great Album but overrated theatre!

News from Capital Critics Circle

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Poster from Orpheus musical theatre. Guest reviewer Jim Murchisson

Tommy is one of the preeminent musical scores of my generation. It was composed as a theme album and as such it is a fine example of epic rock and roll story telling. The Who though are not playwrights: What they are is Rock and Roll.

I don’t believe Tommy is a great play. To work as musical theatre Tommy needs all the extras working for it… lighting effects, complex choreography usually aided by a big budget to fill in for the sparse dialogue and thin story line… and it needs to rock. Sometimes great community theatre can get around the budget limitations with personality and innovation. If they have a great play they can. From what I have seen of the Broadway production they didn’t completely overcome the challenges of a weak play although they won technical awards for lighting, choreography and direction.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying the Who aren’t great nor that Orpheus can’t rock. What I am saying is that the combination of rock and Theatre did not work on this night. You don’t get to know the characters on an intimate human level in songs of the Who the same way you do in a play like Titanic or Rent. The characters in Tommy are larger than life and like rock and roll exaggerated as if in a dream or a nightmare. They are meant to be shocking, ridiculous or grotesque and they weren’t. At times it felt like a series of songs rather than a narrative and it seemed people were moving from spot to spot rather than needing to be there.

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Stratford’s Chorus Line: Stunning Dancing in a Problematic Space

Reviewed by Jamie Portman

A Chorus Line – On The Run 2016 
Photo: David Hou 
Stratford’s Chorus Line, Musical by Michael Bennett, directd and choregraphed 
by Donna Feore. 

The opening moments are riveting. Some two dozen
raggle-taggle dancers are gearing up for a key audition sequence,
some bubbling with lithe, high-stepping confidence, others nervous and
not quite ready. We’re being plunged into a moment of high drama: we
can sense the adrenalin and with it the self-assurance, some of it
excessive, but also the anxiety — the terrifying anxiety. The stakes,
we realize, are high. After all, these hopefuls are hoping to win a
place in a new Broadway musical. And some of them won’t make it
The run-through ends. A more decisive testing is imminent. The words —
“let’s take it from the top” — ring out through Stratford’s Festival
Theatre. High above the stage, composer Marvin Hamlisch’s brassy
fanfare sounds, courtesy of an unseen orchestra. And the explosion of
dance begins — an exuberant, brassy outburst of synchronized talent.
The first big test of any production of A Chorus Line is the way it
begins. And at the Stratford Festival it’s in the experienced and
capable hands of Donna Feore, a director and choreographer who holds
both the material and the people she’s working with in obvious
affection. So, as her production moves sleekly into action, the
excitement is palpable.

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Past Reviews