Capital Critics' Circle
Le cercle des critiques de la capitale

Reviewing Theatre in Canada's Capital Region
La critique théâtrale de la région Ottawa-Gatineau

Orpheus strikes gold with Shrek: The Musical

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region   ,

Shrek: Poster from Orpheus Musical theatre

Book and lyrics by David Lindsay-Abaire.Music by Jeanine Tesori.  Based on the Dreamworks animation motion picture and the book by William Steig. Orpheus Musical Theatre Society,  directed by Jenn Donnelly.

Shrek: The Musical will never win a place in the annals of great Broadway shows, but the production it receives from Orpheus is nevertheless an ongoing delight.

Forget the fact that the prime reason for its arrival on the Great White Way was somewhat cynical and opportunistic —  to capitalize further on the enormous success of the Dreamworks animated movie about a misanthropic swamp-dwelling ogre named Shrek and his rescue of a princess from a tower. Ignore, if you can, the readiness of the stage adaptation to remain faithful to a marketing dictum pursued by the filmmakers — that young audiences find flatulence funny. Accept the reality that Jeanine Tesori’s score can be pretty underwhelming. (Continue reading » )

Tick…tick…BOOM

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Tick..tick…Boom
Photo Maria Vartanova

 

 

 

Tick…tick BOOM, book, music and lyrics by Jonathan Larson, Script adaptation by David Auburn,  Orpheus Musical Theatre Society

The countdown on the chance of success as a composer is near. Jon (aka Jonathan Larson) sees his thirtieth birthday as the deadline for delivering a hit musical or leaving theatre for a lucrative alternative.

Therefore, anxiety and anger have equal time in his autobiographical chamber musical tick…tick…BOOM! Originally written as a solo rock monologue mourning the fact that the workshop of his musical, Superbia, did not progress to full production, David Auburn (author of the play Proof) turned the show into a piece for three performers after Larson’s death: the anxious composer, his girlfriend, Susan, and his best friend, Michael. (Continue reading » )

Ragtime: An effective production!

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region   ,

I went to see Ragtime at the Centrepointe theatre. The darkness of
evening had not yet fallen and it was gloriously free from the
incessant rain that we have all become so accustomed to. It was a
glorious greaat evening to go to the theatre.
The story of Ragtime is as familiar as time. There are the wealthy
people of New Rochelle who never need worry about anything and
are blissfully unaware of the strife that besets most of the nation.
There are the new Eastern European immigrants struggling to start
a life in America fully believing the myth that everyone has an
equal path to prosperity and happiness. Then there is spirit of the
freewheeling ease of the black clubs of Harlem. (Continue reading » )

Ragtime: Lasting images and musically very attractive

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region   ,

Ragtime. Photographer Alan Dean

The insistent syncopation of the ragtime motif, stylized patterns and defining colours form lasting images as the stories emerge in Ragtime: The Musical.

The award-winning show opens with a presentation of three different perspectives in the years leading up to World War I. We meet the privileged whites of La Rochelle, New York, safe in their separation from the difficulties faced by the others. Next, we are introduced to representatives of those groups — the black Harlem community with the music that makes their difficult lives easier and the immigrants facing even greater hardship as they try to establish themselves in their new land. (Continue reading » )

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

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region   ,

tommy

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.

(Continue reading » )

The Who’s Tommy. Absence of vocal clarity creates a cacophony of sound.

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region   ,

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Photo: Alan Dean.

Book by Pete Townshend and Des McAnuff. Music and lyrics by Pete Townshend.Additional music and lyrics by John Entwhistle and Keith Moon. Orpheus Musical Theatre Society

Tommy, can you hear me? Too often, we cannot hear your story with any clarity. Instead, we are bombarded with a cacophony of sound. Although we see interesting projections, bright lights and colours, we cannot distinguish the words, whether spoken or sung.

Despite — or perhaps because of — the high decibel level of the Orpheus Musical Theatre Society production of The Who’s Tommy, there are only a few occasions when there is any vocal clarity in musical numbers or speeches throughout the rock opera.

While director Michael Gareau’s production is well conceived and, there are some excellent moments, particularly in the early sequences, presentation is frequently dogged by ongoing sound issues. Additional confusion is created when the young and then the adult Tommy sit cross-legged rocking repeatedly in a movement most often associated with some forms of autism. (The catatonic state that is supposed to be Tommy’s situation is more usually described as involving no motion at all.)

(Continue reading » )

Anne of Green Gables: Orpheus offers a spirited production of this musical adaptation of the novel

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region   ,

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Photo courtesy of Orpheus Musical Theatre.

Seems we just can’t get enough of Anne Shirley, that spunky young redhead who packs her overheated imagination and drama queen ways along with her clothes when she moves from a Nova Scotia orphanage to a PEI farm. This time around Anne is portrayed by Caroline Baldwin, and Orpheus couldn’t have asked for a better one in its production of the musical adaptation of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s beloved novel. Baldwin’s a skilled vocalist, her delivery easy, full and nuanced. Her acting is on par with her singing: the actress is a woman, but the character we see is a young girl and one who’s endlessly interesting and entertaining as she learns about herself, family and community.

While Baldwin shines in this spirited production, her fellow cast members for the most part aren’t far behind. Gilbert Blythe is played with conviction by Storm Davis who transforms himself into a youngster smitten with Anne and who, while easily cowed, inevitably pops back up for another go at whatever he’s after. Davis needs to let loose more when singing: his vocal constraint works against his ability.

(Continue reading » )

Spamalot: A lot to enjoy in this Orpheus Musical Theatre Society production

Reviewed by on    Musical Theatre, Theatre in Ottawa and the region   ,

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Photos found on Tumblr.com Dancing Knights

You will laugh a lot at Spamalot and smile a lot for long after you move out of the Monty Python lens on Camelot.

Orpheus Musical Theatre Society hams it up (a lot) perfectly attuned to playwright/lyricist Eric Idle’s quirky humour and political incorrectness. (The principle is: insult everybody and nobody can be offended.)

Under the skillful direction of Bob Lackey, the baton of musical director Terry Duncan and the bright, witty choreography of Christa Cullain, the musical “lovingly ripped off from the motion picture Monty Python and the Holy Grail” is a delight from silly opening scene to the final reprise of looking on the bright side of life.

(Continue reading » )

Spamalot : Orpheus Musical Theatre takes on Monty Python.

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region   , ,

2014 03 06 M Orpheus Spamalot DRESS Rehearsal (408)QFS

Photo credits: Valleywind Productions/David Pasho.

Hard to tell who was having more fun on opening night of Orpheus’ hilarious production of Monty Python’s Spamalot: the audience or the cast.For sure, each fed off the other as the unabashedly silly musical about King Arthur and the search for the Holy Grail unrolled, in the process skewering everything from the Arthurian legend itself to political correctness and the tradition of the Broadway musical.

(Continue reading » )

Be a Friend, the Musical: Orpheus Musical Theatre Society has produced a playful packaging of serious content that works for young children.

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region   , ,

be a friend 002  Photo: Barbara Boston. Sammy Skunk (Fabian Santos) and Mommy skunk (Donna St.Jean).

Iris Winston’s award winning play for children, based on the trials and tribulations of Sammy Skunk whose physical difference turns him into a pariah of the Squirrel community, takes on some very serious issues about bullying, racism, prejudice and all the things that young people confront in schools and on the streets of our urban society. The audience of 3 to 10 years olds seemed to be listening intently to this musical adaptation as poor Sammy, (an excellent Fabian Santos who had all our sympathy with his fluffy white tail and oily black nose) sung about wanting so much to fit in after he and his mom (an upbeat and wise momma skunk, played with much warmth by Donna St. Jean) had to move to a new neighbourhood.

(Continue reading » )