Theatre in Canada

Onegin : This tribute to 21st century sensibility moves musical theatre far beyond the box!

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

Onegin
Photo Rachael McQuaig

First of all do not read Pushkin’s work before seeing this.  Although the show is apparently set in Russia, it includes the main characters in the novel, it moves from Saint Petersburg to Moscow and back and there are references to Byron which one  finds in Pushkin’s text.  However,  a knowledge of this  early 19th century romantic novel which has become one of the great works of Russian literature will only confuse you. Just arrive at the NAC with no great expectations, think of what we are told that this is not an opera, relax, forget the ballet,  and you will probably enjoy this very much because it is clearly geared for a 21st century sensibility where existing operatic, theatrical , pop music and musical theatre conventions  have all been thrown to the wind. (more…)

Tartuffe is not the star in this Stratford revival

Reviewed by Jamie Portman

Tartuffe :Tom Rooney, Orgon: Graham Abbey
Photo: Lynda Churilla

STRATFORD, Ont. —   Let’s get down to the basics. The Stratford Festival’s new production of Moliere’s Tartuffe has company mainstay Graham Abbey delivering one of the best comic performances in  this  venerable theatre’s history. And no, he’s not playing the title character — he’s not the oily religious hypocrite and con-artist who ingratiates himself into a wealthy Parisian household and causes mayhem.

On the contrary, Abbey has the role of Orgon, the gullible head of the household and a man bewitched by Tartuffe’s bogus odour of sanctity. (more…)

Stratford’s Breathing Hole is one for the memory books.

Reviewed by Jamie Portman

The Breathing Hole - On The Run 2017

Photo: Cylla Von Tiedemann

STRATFORD, Ontario — Our first encounter with the mythic polar bear dominating the Stratford Festival’s stunning production of The Breathing Hole comes at the very beginning when a widowed Inuit woman takes an orphaned one-eared cub into her care.

Our last sighting of of Angu’juaq — for that is the name bestowed on this creature — comes 500 years later, and the moment is heartbreaking.

By the end of the evening, we’re aware that Colleen Murphy’s remarkable play is making an ecological statement. But unlike The Madwoman Of Chaillot, another late-season Stratford offering with the environment on its mind, it radiates genuine heart when it comes to environmental matters. The self-congratulatory aren’t-we-being-clever flavour of Jean Giradoux’s satirical fantasy has no place in the sensibility of The Breathing Hole. It is an intensely human play tinged at the end with a melancholy that is palpable.

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Stratford tries to make a revival of Madwoman Of Chaillot take flight

Reviewed by Jamie Portman

The Madwoman of Chaillot - On The Run 2017

Seana McKenna as the Madwoman. Photo by Cylla Von Tiedemann

STRATFORD, Ont. — The stage of the Tom Patterson Theatre has become a fantasy place — of colourful jugglers, exultant wordplay and somersaulting paradoxes, of imaginary dogs, lifeguards who can’t swim, cops with a weakness for cribbage — and a madwoman who isn’t mad.

Seana McKenna, who has the title role in the Stratford Festival’s new production of The Madwoman of Chaillot, gives us a character who confidently exists in her own reality — or is it her own unreality?

The flamboyant costumes designed for her by Teresa Przbylski certainly reflect a certain dotty elegance, but it is ultimately McKenna herself who really brings this quality into topsy-turvy focus with her performance as Aurelie, the Madwoman of Chaillot.

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The Shaw Festival serves up a defanged Dracula

Reviewed by Jamie Portman

NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE — You know there’s something wrong with the trendy 1985 version of Dracula currently available at the Shaw Festival when you quickly start yearning for the old Hamilton Deane-John Balderston stage adaptation of Bram Stoker’s celebrated vampire shocker.

To be sure the latter is somewhat creaky and happy to indulge in old-fashioned melodramatics. But it can still have a potent impact on stage and was still scaring the daylights out of playgoers in a 1977 Broadway revival starring Frank Langella. (more…)

The Shaw Festival triumphs with Middletown

Reviewed by Jamie Portman

Middletown, Photo: James Cooper

Middletown. Photo:David Cooper.

NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE, Ont. —  We seem to be entering a somewhat skewed universe when we attend the Shaw Festival’s production of American dramatist Will Eno’s Middletown.

For example, what’s with the conflicted town cop, played by Benedict Campbell, brutally throttling a mouthy good-for-nothing, played by Jeff Meadows, and commanding him to acknowledge the wonder and awe of life’s mystery? (more…)

The Shaw Festival’s Dancing At Lughnasa offers outstanding acting

Reviewed by Jamie Portman

dancing1297967349749_ORIGINAL

Photo. David Cooper

NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE, Ont. — There’s Fiona Byrne, poignantly convincing as Kate, the oldest of the sisters and a bundle of laced-in repression. She’s a school teacher, painfully aware of being the only real wage-earner of the household at a time of gathering economic travail, devout in her Roman Catholic faith, and fiercely devoted in her own humourless way to her family.

There is Serena Parmar, a mixture of resilience and vulnerability as Chris, the youngest of the sisters. She’s the mother of seven-year-old Michael and unemployed — her life on hold because of Michael’s vagabond father, Gerry, who is more absent than present in their lives.

And then we have two particularly close sisters  who earn a bit of money by knitting gloves at home and selling them: the quiet and reflective Agnes, whose silences, in Claire Jullien’s intricately embroidered performance, tell their own tale. Agnes in her own way is the chief carer for Rose, the sister who has never really grown up: she’s portrayed by Diana Donnelly with a joyous, child-like innocence that also leaves you aware of her emotional fragility.

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The Shaw Festival delivers a riotous Androcles and the Lion.

Reviewed by Jamie Portman

Androcles1297967606191_ORIGINAL

Photo: David Cooper.

NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE, Ont. — The other night Tom Pidgeon, the Ottawa Little Theatre’s longtime technical director, made a memorable contribution to the Shaw Festival’s riotous production of Androcles And The Lion.

He ended up on the stage of the venerable Court House Theatre — playing the lion.

Pidgeon happened to be in the audience that evening, and had been plucked from its midst, equipped with a scrofulous wig and bedraggled tail, and assigned the task of delivering assorted roars, growls and moans until actor Patrick Galligan, in the role of the kindly Christian tailor, Androcles, removed a painful thorn from the creature’s paw.

The motley magnificence of Pidgeon’s effort earned an appreciative burst of applause before he was allowed to return to his seat and become a member of the audience again. But not an invisible member of that audience — no one in the house really was.

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Motown, the Musical allows these hits to shine once more!

Reviewed by Iris Winston

Motown, the Musical. Performing the Jackson 5. Photo: Joan Marcus

Motown, the Musical. Book by Berry Gordy; music and lyrics from the legendary Motown catalog . Broadway Across Canada in association with Work Light Productions. Directed by Charles Randolph-Wright/ Plays Southam Hall, National Arts Centre

The musical legacy of the remarkable growth of Motown speaks for itself through this jukebox musical — which is just as well because the book by Motown founder Berry Gordy is nothing to write home about. (more…)

Kiviuq returns: poetry, story telling, music, performance, the makings of an epic in inuktitut.

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

kiviuq Returns: photo national Arts Centre English language theatre

Kiviuq  Returns  is a collective work  produced by Quaggiavuut,  a Nunavut-based arts organization that has also worked in Banff with dancers, choreographers and technical staff.  Singers, musicians, story tellers, dancers, actors, painters, set and costume designers, and all manner of artists interested in exploring the re-imagined journey of the legendary Kiviuq , the great northern figure who represents all life as he returns  through the whole Arctic territory, have come together to share each other’s artistic talents and create an extraordinary event that is danced, spoken and sung, mostly in Inuktitut. (more…)

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