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

Bent: Heartfelt , Passionate Theatre.

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region   ,

Martin Sherman’s Bent is a story that examines the persecution gay people in Nazi Germany.  It is also a story of the importance of love and how it can continue to endure in the most horrific and challenging of circumstances. It is an acclaimed piece since it’s premiere in London in 1979 and has continued to be recognized for its powerful sensitive understanding of the evil of fascism and the strength of the human spirit in subsequent incarnations. It is a brave choice for any theatre to tackle and explains why ToTo Too is recognized as one of the finest community theatre companies in Ottawa. Bent is not an easy play to watch much of the time, but it is an important play that will always be relevant to people, unfortunately made more timely because of the resurgence of hate groups attacking Muslims, Jews, the LGBTQ community and anybody  that is perceived as different. (Continue reading » )

Bent : excellent performances in this ground-breaking play

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region   ,


Bent photo Maria Vartanova

 

Bent by  Martin Sherman, directed by  Josh Kemp. a TotoToo Theatre Production

Arbeit macht frei (Work sets you free.)

The horrible irony of the slogan above the gates of  Dachau  and other concentration camps in Nazi Germany where millions died deepens with the demonstration of the futility of the type of forced labour imposed on the two prisoners at the centre of Martin Sherman’s 1979 award-winning drama Bent.

For 12 hours each day, they must move rocks from one pile to another and then move them back again, all the time under threat of death from an armed guard.  It is clear that the most likely escape from the mind-numbing and pointless repetition is death. But, along the way, Sherman aims to show that the human spirit and love survive in the face of cruelty and subjugation. (Continue reading » )

TotoToo’s Priscilla a transport of delight

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region   , ,

Photo: Maria Vartanova

Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (The Musical)
Book by Stephan Elliott and Allan Scott
Musical arrangements and orchestrations by Stephen ‘Spud’ Murphy
Developed for the stage by Simon Phillips
Based on the movie The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert
TotoToo Theatre
Directed by Michael Gareau

In a way, Priscilla: Queen Of The Desert revels in its own ramshackle, cheeky improbability. That’s what made it so endearing back in 1994 when it lumbered onto cinema screens as a delightful road movie. (Continue reading » )

Priscilla, Queen of the Desert Offers Thoughtful, Flamboyant Fun

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

Photo: Maria Vartanova

Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (The Musical)
Book by Stephan Elliott and Allan Scott
Musical arrangements and orchestrations by Stephen ‘Spud’ Murphy
Developed for the stage by Simon Phillips
Based on the movie The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert
TotoToo Theatre
Directed by Michael Gareau

It’s camp, caring, charming and costumed — Oh boy! Is it costumed!

Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (The Musical) is a highly entertaining jukebox musical that shoehorns 27 pop and disco favourites — especially drag performance favourites — from the 1970s and 80s into a rickety bus (Priscilla) traveling across the Australian desert from Sidney to Alice Springs. (Continue reading » )

Priscilla, Queen of the Desert: Brilliant production of an important play

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region   , ,

Photo: Maria Vartanova

Toto Too never  stops outdoing itself  and this ultra-energized performance under the direction of Michael Gareau proves it once again. It all  glows and glitters with the marvelous costumes of the  drag Queen world,  (created by designer Lu-Anne Connell ), the stunning  singing voices , the  excellent acting  and Paddy Allen McCarthy’s all-encompassing choreography,  take over  the original  music and lyrics that transgress  the established codes of  the musical world.  Priscilla, Queen of the Desert is a brilliant monument to a shifting world where every human individual is given a space of one’s own.   (Continue reading » )

Torch Song Trilogy:A major piece of theatre and a production not to be missed!

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region   , ,

Harvey Fierstein’s landmark drama Torch Song Trilogy shocked many when it premiered in 1982. Now, almost 35 years later, this autobiographical tale is primarily seen as a portrait of the lead character’s rocky journey towards a stable family life and some type of resolution of his relationship with his mother.

Simply put, the TotoToo Theatre production, directed by Sarah Hearn, is powerful and moving. The play — actually three one-act plays depicting three different stages in drag queen Arnold’s life — belies its immense length both because of the quality of the performances and the well-maintained rhythm throughout.

There are appropriately ugly moments, such as the simulated sex in the dimly lit back room. There are many gentle connections, between lovers and between parents and children. There are flashes of humour, anger, sorrow and yearning. This is a rounded picture of a life by the man who also wrote the books for the stage musicals La Cage Aux Folles and Kinky Boots.

(Continue reading » )

Avenue Q is a winner in Every Way.

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region   , ,

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Photo: Courtesy of Allan Mackey.

The cheerful, uninhibited ribaldry of Avenue Q may well jolt some theatregoers. But they’re more likely to be disarmed by this essentially sweet-natured musical satire about life in a run-down apartment building on the wrong side of the tracks.

Ottawa’s Toto Too Theatre’s new production is a triumph — and a notable one. After all, this enterprising local company could have stumbled badly when it decided to tackle this long-running but challenging Broadway hit.

The show’s creators — Robert Lopez, Jeff Marx and Jeff Whitty — have created an infectious combination of witty word-play and toe-tapping music. They have stocked their comic playground with a collection of engaging and generally endearing neighbourhood types. But we’re also getting a mischievous, albeit affectionate, send-up of Sesame Street here, along with some R-rated moments that are clearly not intended for the moppet brigade. That means that puppets — and, more specifically their effective use on stage — are integral to the success of any production of Avenue Q. Without effective puppetry, the material falls flat.

(Continue reading » )

Avenue Q: A joyous session of collective psychotherapy that works!

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region   , ,

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Photo: Courtesy of Allan Mackey.

Inspired by the TV show Sesame street, the award winning team of Robert Lopez, Jeff Marx and Jeff Whitty has created a witty, satirical and joyous celebration of difference, with music, puppets, singing and dancing, that all fit together under the extremely skilful direction of Michael Gareau. Toto Too’s first rate production of Avenue Q created a wave of excitement and laughter in the theatre that I have not seen in years.

The set by Sally McIntyre, was a closed New York neighbourhood, Avenue Q, made up of individuals who are black and white, yellow and blue, Japanese and Jewish, recent immigrants and less recent immigrants, puppets and humans, young and old, poor and less poor, gay and straight, monsters and non-monsters, the scale of diversity is non ending but the parody lay in the authors’ attempts to unite this community of differences in a great bond of human sympathy by subverting all the stereotypes, ridiculing taboos, saying what people think but don’t dare say, and creating a human landscape of total liberation that is absolutely wondrous. After the show you feel you have just experienced a breakthrough session of collective psychotherapy that has actually worked.

Of course it’s an adult show and in this context it transgresses the biggest taboo of adult life: sex, turning the subject into great explosions of fun, gales of laughter and by dealing with such things in such an open and unembarrassed way. Everything becomes “normalized”.  How exotic! 

(Continue reading » )

Avenue Q: Raunchy, subversive and funny as all get-out.

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region   , ,

Raunchy, subversive, funny as all get-out, Avenue Q by Robert Lopez, Jeff Marx and Jeff Whitty is a gem of contemporary musical theatre, one that takes the iconic children’s television show Sesame Street and turns it on its head with sex, obscenities and the very realistic notions that life frequently sucks, that none of us is really all that special, and that while the dispossessed might band together they will, for the most part, remain dispossessed.

TotoToo takes all this and wraps it into one excellent production. An ensemble piece, the show nails pretty much everything from voices and puppetry to Aileen Szkwarek’s well-oiled choreography and the live musical accompaniment directed by John McGovern . Artistic director Michael Gareau keeps the show moving at the requisite smartly staged clip while inspiring all the performers to have so much fun that the audience is swept along by the same joyous spirit.

Of particular note among performers: the wonderfully expressive Pascal Viens (Rod) who is making his debut in musical theatre, Alianne Rozon whose Kate Monster is a lonely lady to whom we can all relate, and Andrew Galligan as Princeton, a character in search of self-authorship. 

The Kailish Mital Theatre’s sound system is lacking, and distortion at the show we attended occasionally made lyrics impossible to understand. It was a small price to pay for a crackerjack show.

    Avenue Q : Naughty but nice, this is Sesame Street for adults stripped of political correctness.

    Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region   , ,

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    Photo: Allan Mackey/Valley Wind Productions

    Gently racy and naughty but nice, Avenue Q is Sesame Street for adults stripped of politically correct sugar coating (thankfully).

    The 2003 award-winning musical satire by Robert Lopez, Jeff Mark and Jeff Whitty wafts a skewer over a broad spectrum with such numbers as Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist or What Do You Do with a B.A. in English?

    The show is set in a rundown neighbourhood, populated by people and puppets of the Bert and Ernie and Cookie Monster muppet variety. The style and camaraderie of the long-running children’s television show are evident, despite a disclaimer in the program noting that the Jim Henson Company or Sesame Street Workshop are not responsible for the content of Avenue Q.

    (Continue reading » )