Shaw Festival 2015

The Twelve-Pound Look. A forgotten J.M. Barrie play delights at the Shaw Festival

Reviewed by Jamie Portman

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Photo: David Cooper.

When it comes to live theatre, some of the nicest surprises come in the smallest of packages.

This year’s Shaw Festival lunchtime presentation is an absolute gem — a 105-year-old playlet from Peter Pan creator J.M. Barrie who reveals himself here as a sympathetic advocate of women’s rights.

This funny and provocative one-actor, The Twelve-Pound Look by name, is not overtly political, but it was written at a time when Britain’s suffragettes were actively campaigning for a woman’s right to vote. And the suffrage movement has clear parallels to the play’s preoccupations — the right of a woman to think and behave independently and to be an equal partner in a relationship.

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Reviews from the Shaw Festival 2015: Peter and The Starcatcher is a Good Production But Is It Worth Doing?

Reviewed by Jamie Portman

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Photo: David Cooper

NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE, Ont. — Perhaps the oddest aspect of Peter And The Starcatcher — playwright Rick Elice’s subversively gleeful take on the Peter Pan legend — is that the title character often seems so inconsequential that he almost vanishes into the woodwork.

Such, at any rate, is the impression given by the Shaw Festival’s production of this 2012 Broadway success about a shipboard trunk containing stardust and an orphan youngster who is destined to become Peter Pan. Charlie Gallant delivers an amiable enough performance in this role (he’s known simply as “Boy” for a good part of the evening) and there’s no denying his dexterity with a ship’s rigging. But it can scarcely be said that he demands our unwavering attention.

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Reviews from the Shaw Festival 2015 : Actress Moya O’Connell Scores as Ibsen’s Lady from the Sea.

Reviewed by Jamie Portman

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Moya O’Connell   Photo: Emily Cooper

NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE, Ont. — the opening image is powerful — a huge boulder rising implacably from the stage of the Shaw Festival’s Court House Theatre. And on top of it, naked and yielding to the dark mysticism of the moment, is the mermaid figure of a woman in anguish over both the lure of the sea and the danger it holds for her.

It is a moment of potent symbolism — augmented by a loud and angry soundscape. The Shaw Festival’s production of Henrik Ibsen’s Lady From The Sea has seized our attention immediately — thanks to the combined efforts of director Meg Roe, designer Camillia Koo, lighting wizard Kevin Lamotte, sound expert Alessandro Juliani, and actress Moya O’Connell who will go on to deliver a haunting performance in the title role.

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Reviews the Shaw Festival : “Sweet Charity” Soars

Reviewed by Jamie Portman

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Photo: David Cooper

NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE, Ont. — Sweet Charity poses a challenge to any performer hazarding the title role.
Here’s the problem. This 1966 musical was conceived as a showcase vehicle for the legendary Gwen Verdon, a one-of-a-kind Broadway talent. Her director husband, another legend named Bob Fosse, saw her as ideal casting for the role of a forlorn New York dance hall girl who keeps being disappointed in love.

I saw Verdon as Charity, and her high-kicking performance was definitely one for the memory books. She had a dynamite presence — even though, in portraying a character who is more used than loved, she seemed to be fulfilling the inner needs of a director whose depiction of women on stage or screen often seemed problematic.
The show ultimately belonged to Verdon — not to playwright Neil Simon, whose amusing, observant book seemed tailor-made for its star, not to composer Cy Coleman who provided some of the best music of his Broadway career for Sweet Charity, not to veteran lyricist Dorothy Fields who, at the age of 61, had provided a succession of witty, verbally brilliant complements to Coleman’s score.

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Reviews from Shaw 2015: Shaw Festival Lays An Egg With “You Never Can Tell”

Reviewed by Jamie Portman

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Photo: Emily  Cooper.

NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE, Ont. — Bernard Shaw’s early romantic comedy, You Never Can Tell, may well be his most beguiling play. It is, of course, a characteristically Shavian take on one of his recurring preoccupations — the battle of the sexes — but this time, in a calculated commercial attempt to seduce late Victorian audiences into attending, GBS threw in the type of dramatic conventions prevalent in the West End theatre of the day.
Hence, this Socialist playwright gave us a fashionable seaside resort setting, displays of high fashion, expensive food and drink — and a philosophical waiter. Not the kind of culture Shaw tended to embrace — but if it earned him money, that was all to the good.

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