Archive for the 'Theatre' Category

Cananda: Toronto, Ontario: Come from Away Will Blow You Away

Friday, June 14th, 2019

How would your town (population of only about 10,000) handle it if 38 planes with 6,579 passengers landed on your doorstep unexpectedly? In Newfoundland, they have a local expression about visitors – they call them “the come from aways” – so that’s how the hit Broadway Show Come From Away got its name.

David Hein and Irene Sakoff, Canadian husband and wife librettists and composer-lyricists, took the thousands of stories of passengers and residents on that infamous day, September 11, 2001, when those jets landed in Gander Newfoundland, and turned them into a heartwarming award-winning Broadway musical.

The 90-minute show is drawn from real people’s experiences in Gander on Sept. 11 and on the subsequent days, and  turned them into 12  composite characters: American Airlines Captain Beverley Bass – the first woman captain in the airline’s history, gays, an anxious passenger worried about a missing relative, a man ignored because he looked Mid-Eastern, Southerners, Northerners and foreigners,  These terrified passengers are set down by frightening unexpected circumstances in an unfamiliar land, and are forced to depend on the kindness of strangers.

One can’t even imagine the needs of so many people, besides language, religious and cultural barriers on top of it. Cultures clash and nerves run high, but uneasiness turned into trust when the Newfoundlanders came through with untold hospitality, opening their hearts, their homes, their schools and their stores. When a volunteer went to round up supplies at the town pharmacy, the manager simply said “Take whatever you need off the shelves”.

The dozen in the cast are marvelous, and they somehow 3-D print themselves into a community of people. It’s truly an ensemble, all equally acting and singing their hearts out. To me the superlatives have to go to the set designer, as I’ve never seen chairs star in a show before. Bob Verini of Variety wrote, “passengers and officials…, shuffling set designer Beowulf Boritt’s furniture pieces into a range of evocative public and private spaces”.

Come From Away is now the longest-running Canadian musical in Broadway history. Producer Corey Brunish said, “It’s about how people respond to tragedy.” It shows, he said, that “there’s hope in the world, there’s hope for us as a human race.” “I can’t imagine a musical we need more right now”, Entertainment reported.

Now that eighteen years have passed, you can google the story and learn that the gratitude grew into enduring friendships, and how the passengers paid it forward.

Come From Away is “celebration best of humankind, and an uplifting piece of art for all our times” said The Daily Beast. Go see it and uplift your life.

Location: Elgin Winter Garden Theatre
Address: 189 Yonge St, Toronto, ON
Dates: til September 29, 2019
www.mirvish.com

 

 

Austria, Salzburg: “Sound of Music” Fountain

Tuesday, February 19th, 2019

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The Residence Square, where you can find this baroque fountain, is the heart of the old city center of Salzburg, Austria. In the film, “The Sound of Music”, Maria (played by Julie Andrews) walked across the square singing “I Have Confidence” while on her way to the Trapp family home for the first time.

Residence Fountain at 15 metres high is the largest baroque fountain outside of Italy. It was built between 1658 and 1661, and enjoyed its 15 minutes of fame when Maria stopped there to splash water at the horses while singing “I Have Confidence”. The song was not from the original Broadway show but added for the film version. I would remember this as I saw the Broadway show 13 times as my Dad worked there.

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France, Paris: Approaching the Opera de Paris

Wednesday, January 16th, 2019

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Heading down the Boulevard des Capuchines toward the Opera de Paris is still one of those OMG moments. It is way grander than you imagined.

 

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France, Paris: Paris Opera Charles Garnier Sculpture

Monday, January 14th, 2019

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This monument on the side of the Opera de Paris is dedicated to its architect, Charles Garnier. We loved the idea of putting the seating plan front and center.

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France, Paris: Opera de Paris

Wednesday, January 9th, 2019

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World over it’s known as the Opera de Paris however it does have a real name, the Palais Garnier named for its architect, Charles Garnier, and was built from 1861 to 1875. It became even more famous because of Gaston Leroux’s 1910 novel The Phantom of the Opera and, especially because of the later adaptations in films and the popular 1986 Broadway musical. It is as much a symbol of Paris as Notre Dame Cathedral, the Louvre, or the Sacré-Cœur Basilica.

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Canada, Montreal: Pulitzer Prize Winning Play Glengarry Glen Ross

Saturday, November 10th, 2018

It’s special when we can get to view a play which was honored with a Tony nomination and garnered a Pulitzer Prize.  Glengarry Glen Ross, now playing at the Mainline Theatre (produced by Acts to Grind Theatre), shows off David Mamet’s ability to write profound dialogue.

This story highlights the cynical, difficult, pushy life of real estate salesmen in Chicago. I was not surprised to learn that the play is also often referred to as “Death of a Fuckin’ Salesman”, because it is notorious for its use of profanity. That hardly resonates in today’s foul language world – on the other hand, today’s politically correct society would flinch at the prejudice shown against East Indians and Polish people.

Mamet’s characters are drawn down and dirty as lying, backstabbing, double-dealing tricksters willing to toss out ethical principles to justify their work. Yet they really are passionate about selling, and especially enjoy the nitty gritty details of closing a deal.  One of Mamet’s goal in writing this play was to highlight the plight of so many people who go about their lives performing regular jobs yet often having to endure indignities while doing so.

Actor Zag Dorison (Shelly Levene) does an amazing job of making you feel his nervousness and despair; we twitch and pull on our lapels right along with him. Dorison, commenting on his character, “This play will always be relevant. There will always be those who exploit others and are out
for a buck at the expense of someone’s savings and dignity. Although the character of Shelly Levene is down on his luck, he believes that
it’s just a streak that will break; he had been a shark and wants to be one again. It is interesting that in spite of this, the audience still
sympathizes with him when his whole world comes crashing down upon him.”

Michael Aronovitch (George Aaronow),  Izak Benrobi (Ricky Roma) and Jake Caceres (Dave Moss) have all been cast well for their parts, and they make their distinctive personalities apparent. Bryan Libero (John Williamson) really makes you dislike him while the company man, Olivier Ross-Parent (Blake/Baylen) is properly detestable.  Davyn Ryall (James Lingk) does well as the meek patsy trying to get his money back.

Be prepared for Mamet’s long soliliquys for each of them – with the other salesmen there mostly as an audience for their rants.  Since this is a small theatre, you too feel as though you are right next to them in the room. Be careful though because as Levene says, these guys are so manipulative, they know how to sell you something you didn’t even want.

Location: MainLine Theatre, 3997 St-Laurent, 2nd floor
Dates: Presented in English: Wed-Sat Nov 7-10, 14, 15, 16, 17, at 8pm. Sun matinees Nov 11, 18, at 2 pm
Tickets: (Prices include taxes and service charge) $22 general admission; $20 Seniors; $18 Students
Tel: 514 849-3378
e-mail: boxoffice@montrealfringe.ca
www.mainlinetheatre.ca/en/spectacles/glengarry-glen-ross
youtu.be/kQOG32GINho
NOTE: mature language. Recommended ages 14+

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Canada, Montreal: “Birthmark” Play Reveals Cultural Baggage of Montreal Jewish vs Palestinian Kids

Monday, November 5th, 2018

Let’s start with the aim of the Teersi Duniya Theatre group itself, which is to highlight theater focusing on social justice. Different cultures get to take the stage, whether they be Indigenous, Palestinian, Israeli, Armenian, Rwandan, Iranian, Turkish or whatever. The theatre’s goal, as mentioned by their artistic director Rahul Varma, is that we are all one people and it takes stories of everyone else to see ourselves.  Varma says, “the only way to tell stories in a new way is to get new storytellers into the room”.

So Stephen Orlov’s story Birthmark is about families. In writing this, he was asking himself why Jews who founded Israel to end their centuries of oppression were now dispossessing another people that had lived there for centuries. Michelle Soifer, the director, says we have in this play, “two young adults filled with passion and drive…  and the chutzpah to do something about it”.

Canada as a nation is made up of many communities of people who may have been displaced by war and conflicts. Living here in Montreal we have Jewish and Palestinian cross currents. Though families  may have immigrated here and now raise their families in this safe haven, the memories of their living history or those of their parents will always shape them. The children get stuck between the two solitudes: perhaps the need to avenge their families’ past or to just ride along safely here for their future.

Though this is a story of the Israeli vs. Palestinian conflict, it raises the universal problem of parents or caregivers who live with a family member who thinks differently, or even perhaps might be mentally challenged or elderly, and the parent must learn to live with the pain of not being able to fix things (which they might have caused), or even change them.

Natalie Tannous gives a strong performance as a mother conflicted by secrets in the past and fears for her child ‘s future.  Howard Rosenstein is her gentler counterpart, with his own untold secrets and the consequences of not listening to a child. Stephen Spreekmester creates two very different characters, and does them well – one of an observant Rabbi and one of a tough RCMP officer.  Patrick Keeler  as Nelson, the Jewish child finding solace in religion, and Dalia Charafeddine as Karima secretly planning revenge for her parent’s death, give us two very realistic diametric opposites on both sides of this divide.

The simplicity of Sabrina Miller’s set design, using floor squares and wall hangings to identify rooms, walls and doorways was very effective.

We learn that words matter: why do we refer to the Israelis as extremists but the Palestinians as terrorists?

Location: Mai Centre, 3680 Jeanne-Mance
corner: Milton
Dates: Nov 3-18, 2018
Price: $17 – $25
Tel: 514-982-3386
www.m-a-i.qc.ca

 

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US: Wilmington, DE – Let’s Do the Time Warp at The Rocky Horror Picture Show

Monday, October 15th, 2018

What better homage to Halloween for adults then The Rocky Horror Picture Show. For over four decades, The Rocky Horror Picture Show has been giving absolute pleasure to adoring audiences.

You aren’t going to want to miss this interactive movie experience at the Theatre N Stage that combines film and live performers. A cult classic for more than forty years, The Rocky Horror Show is a humorous and sinfully twisted tribute to the science fiction and horror B movies of the late 1940s through to the early 1970s.

The musical tells the story of a newly engaged couple getting caught in a storm and take refuge in the eerie mansion of Dr Frank-N-Furter (Tim Curry),  a transvestite scientist. Brad and Janet meet a houseful of wild characters, including a rocking biker (Meat Loaf) and a creepy biker ((Richard O’Brien). Through elaborate dances and rock songs, Frank-N-Furter unveils his latest creation: a muscular man named “Rocky.”

Costumes and audience participation are highly encouraged so get in touch with your inner Frankie and come to the party wearing your best Transylvanian costume. Sing along, shout along, and dance along having a great time with the featured live shadowcast.

Location:  Theatre N at Nemours , The Nemours Building, Wilmington, DE 19801
Dates and Times: Sat Oct 20 @11pm, Thurs, Fri, Sat Oct 25-27 @8pm
Tel: 302-571-4075
theatren.com
For Regional Accommodations, Restaurants & Attractions: visitwilmingtonde.com

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Canada: Choir Boy “Sings” in Montreal Before It Hits Broadway

Sunday, October 14th, 2018

A half century ago, a creative actor/director and immigrant (from South Africa via England), Maurice Podbrey, together with his equal half, Elsa Bolam (and Herb Auerbach and Peter Duffield) managed to knit together a theater company, Centaur, which was and is no easy feat. If that wasn’t nerve wracking enough for a person, Bolam then went on to start another successful one, Geordie Productions.

In an unintentional but perfect nod to the past, Eda Holmes, Centaur’s new artistic director, brings us Choir Boy set in a boys’ prep school while Podbrey’s first production, The Prime of Miss Jean Brody, took place in a girl’s school. The play is written by Tarell Alvin McCraney, who comes with a pretty flashy CV: he’s the Chair of Yale’s School of Drama, where he is also the Playwright in Residence at the Repertory Theatre. and he was also Playwright in Residence for Stratford-Upon-Avon’s Royal Shakespeare Company – and happens to be a member of the renowned Steppenwolf Theatre Ensemble. And let’s just throw in here that he wrote the story of Moonlight which won Oscars for best picture and for the writing.

The story is mostly about Pharus (played by Steven Charles), a gay student making his way through a very traditional private school. Charles commands the stage throughout, and we can’t wait to see where his star takes him (to the Broadway production?). His fellow students talk, yell, fight and sing a cappella as they share intimacies and rivalries when the old school values conflict with our modern world in rules, nepotism, faith, sexuality and school board traditions.  Tight direction by Mike Payette keeps you riveted throughout, while Lighting Designer Andrea Lundy’s magic creatively moves you around the set (loved the purple).

Floydd Ricketts, the musical director and arranger, was the right man in the right place to be able to create new arrangements of spirituals, gospel and jazz songs for a cappella harmonies.  Ricketts notes, “Even though this music comes from pain, there is also joy in it”. Dayane Ntibarikure, assistant director and choir movement facilitator, did a brilliant job of  having the actors move “slave slowly” around the scenes, adding foot stomping  to song and subtly evoking a chain gang in the shower scene.

Holmes has tweaked the play runs slightly this year by adding (less expensive) preview shows to get the performance just that more perfect for opening night. You know how much I like a deal, and Centaur offers much for FREE with behind-the-scenes info to enrich your  theater experience: Talk Back after the shows , Sunday Chat Up, Thursday Pre-Show Convo and the Saturday Salon.

How perfect that this golden Centaur season started by lifting our spirits with the power of music blended with this timely story. See Choir Boy in Montreal before you can’t get tickets on Broadway (Dec 2018)!

Location 453 St-Francois-Xavier
corner: Notre-Dame
Tel: 514-288-3161
Dates: til Oct 28
www.centaurtheatre.com
Metro: Place d’Armes

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Canada: Cavalia Dazzles – Combining Equines with Cirque du Soleil-like Acrobats

Thursday, October 11th, 2018

Odysseo, the horse centric show, is awesome family entertainment which will WOW every member. If you can imagine taking Cirque du Soleil up a notch by marrying it with a team of gifted equestrians, this would be their offspring.

The show has acrobats, blade-running acrobats and horse acrobats – each team outdoing the other in their antics. There are raucous horses racing through jumps and quiet ballet-like riderless horses dancing to the whims of their female horse whisperer, Sylvia Zerbini.

Then why not throw in some African drumming, singing and dancing – for peace. When you combine 70 horses with 50 performers and all the high technology, multimedia and special effects, you create magic on stage.

The carousel pole acrobatics is  a charming setting for the melange of horse and rider/acrobats, but the white fabric/rope acrobatic act is the perfect “10” for each of the costume designer, set designer, lighting, artistic director and the acrobats themselves.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s hard to imagine it fitting into a tent setting, but horses appear on mountaintops, in an ice-scape, the woods, walking down hills, in rain storms, galloping as fast as the wind and even and splashing in a waterfront finale.

This time we attended with a youngster who had enjoyed horse camp this summer. She loved figuring out the equine trivia questions before the show started. In her child-like mind she imagined “horses dancing like people at a party”. We glanced occasionally at her face as she sat in awe, riveted to the stage watching instead a seamless ballet of people and horses.  And she was really hoping to get splashed by the playful horses.

Don’t wait – book tickets now as the run has been extended to Oct 21 and the price reduced to $60.  If you can afford it, the Rendez-vous VIP package, including dinner (roast beef and shrimp options) with an open bar, popcorn and drinks to take in to the show, a dessert buffet at intermissionoddysseo

(so Quebec-like with cheese there too), a stable visit, and a souvenir, really makes the evening special. This is a great idea for a do-ahead holiday gift for anyone – take the family, join co-workers or have fun with friends.

Location: Odysseo White Big Top at the corner of the boul. Rene-Levesque and De Lorimier
Tel: 866-999-8111
Dates: til Oct 21
www.cavalia.com

www.facebook.com/cavalia

 

 

 

 

 

 

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