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

Be a Friend: A Charming Family Musical

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region   , ,

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Photo. Andrew Simon . Squirrel with Thompson.

Be A Friend, the delightful children’s mini-musical that is Orpheus Theatre’s Yuletide gift to the community, knows how to communicate with its young audiences. It doesn’t talk down to them as it tells the story of a lonely skunk named Sammy and his search for a friend. Without being the least bit preachy, it delivers an effective message against prejudice and for accepting people who are “different.” The opportunity for audience participation is built into Iris Winston’s lively and imaginative book, which is based on her award-winning play, Let’s Be Friends. And a further trump card comes from the songs with their nifty lyrics by Gord Carruth and engaging melodies from Carruth and Bart Nameth.

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Same little fellow discovers the set..Photo: Andrew Simon

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Legally Blond, The Musical:Think pink, but see beyond the fluffy overlay

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region   ,

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Photo. Valleywind productions

Expecting fluff? Then your first surprise is that the script of Legally Blonde, The Musical is equipped with a few skewers and incisive comments alongside the heroine’s signature colour of pink and her dream of love and marriage to a dream guy/jerk.

Among the sideswipes at stereotypes, projecting the appropriate image, social climbing and social niceties in general are a couple of shots at lawyers and the style of musical theatre. Along the way, Legally Blonde, The Musical, book by Heather Hach, music and lyrics by Laurence O’Keefe and Nell Benjamin, laughs at itself, too. And that is why the show is so much fun.

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The Drowsy Chaperone : this cleverly contrived Canadian musical is a two-headed beast.

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region   ,

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Photo:  Alan Dean

The Drowsy Chaperone, with its story about the trials, tribulations and ultimate triumph of young love, its song lyrics that are at times ridiculous but acutely aware of their own silliness, and its big, bright dance numbers, the show is at once a smart example of musical theatre and a good-natured jab at the genre.
That can be a tricky balance for a production to maintain, but Orpheus does it with panache and good humour.
Andrea Black, a strong singer and frisky performer, plays Janet Van De Graaff, an applause-loving actor and one-half of the show’s main love story.

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White Christmas – an Orpheus Musical Theatre production of an inferior musical of 1957. “Why do a new production?” asks Jamie Portman.

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region   ,

Orpheus Musical Theatre’s decision to offer the stage version of the 1954 film, White Christmas, prompts one immediate question.

Why?

This was an inferior musical 57 years ago and it remains so today, whether you experience it on stage or the big screen. Yet, it inexplicably has assumed the status of a classic. It arrived in 1954, protected by built-in insurance — its title. Indeed, there’s a widespread misconception today that this was the movie which introduced Irving Berlin’s irresistible Yuletide ballad to the world. Not so: the song had been introduced 12 years earlier in a much better film, the 1942 Holiday Inn, starring Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire. Crosby was smart enough to make it one of his signature songs — a song which attained such potency that Paramount saw rich commercial potential in capitalizing on it with a new movie called White Christmas which would once again star Bing.

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The Orpheus production of the Producers steers its way expertly through the potential minefields of offending audience members of all stripes, while successfully maximizing humour

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region   ,

 

Distributing offence equally outrageously among assorted groups leaves no one offended and everyone amused.

At least, this appears to be Mel Brooks’ philosophy in The Producers, the multi-award winning 2001 stage musical adapted from his 1968 movie.

The Orpheus Musical Theatre Society production, with director Richard Elichuk at the helm, steers its way expertly through the potential minefields of offending audience members of all stripes. (This production is far more successful in maximizing humour and minimizing potential offence than the 2004 Toronto production, which closed early, leaving a bad taste in the mouths of many of those unfortunate enough to be in the audience.)

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The Producers: Alvina Ruprecht speaks to Ottawa Morning host Stu Mills.

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Host Stu Mills: Some people called it outrageous and other people called it insulting. Others said that it was the most brilliant musical that had ever hit Broadway. Our theatre critic, Alvina Ruprecht, has been to see the new Orpheus production of the show. She’s in the studio this morning. Hello, Alvina.

AR: Hello, Stu.

CBO: What were people doing ? Were they leaving the theatre in a huff   at the very beginning of it all? .

AR: No, no. They weren’t.

CBO: They weren’t?

AR: Oh, no. No, not at all. Somebody left, but I think they were going to the bathroom and then they came back.

CBO: So they weren’t leaving in a huff.

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