Musical 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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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…)

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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Past Reviews