Review: 'Falsettos' is Full of Love and Loss

Review: 'Falsettos' is Full of Love and Loss

There are a lot of things I liked about the Tony Award-winning musical “Falsettos,” now at The Ahmanson Theatre. I fully understand why it was nominated for five 2017 Tony Awards, including Best Revival of a Musical, however at almost three hours long, with 37 songs by composer/lyricist William Finn and playwright and director James Lapine it needs to be cut down to 120 minutes for this LA audience.

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Review: “Gruesome Playground Injuries” presented by Millennial Poison Theatre Co.

Review:  “Gruesome Playground Injuries” presented by Millennial Poison Theatre Co.

The two-member cast of Millennial Poison Theatre Company’s inaugural production of the visceral love story, “Gruesome Playground Injuries,” at Richardson’s intimate Core Theatre delivered an energized, compelling and authentic performance. Fueled by equal portions of pain, passion and playground injuries, stars Michael Breath Jr. and Shelby Priddy wove together an introspective story of a maturing friendship and love which can withstand the physical and emotional pain life often throws our way.

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Review: 'The Value of Moscow' at Dark Horse Theatre Company

Review: 'The Value of Moscow' at Dark Horse Theatre Company

It’s risky business for a theatre company to stage unknown/new works. There is no telling how the audience will react. In the case of The Value of Moscow (written by Amy Dellagiarino), the risk payed off. Dark Horse was able to put forward a very entertaining, fresh piece of theatre. The plot is described as “Three grown "adult" sisters are thrust back into living together as a last resort after their various lives have fallen apart”. It makes many allusions to Chekhov’s play Three Sisters and takes inspiration from many of his other works as well. Just like a true Chekhovian work, the play deals with numerous serious events/themes but is, at its core, a comedy of life. Part farce and part family drama, the show has something for everybody!

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“Jilted to Perfection” at The Triad Theatre

“Jilted to Perfection” at The Triad Theatre

With a book, music, and lyrics written by Debra Cook, “Jilted to Perfection” tells the story of a divorced Mormon mom and her growing relationship with a scientologist actor/director. Through this relationship she takes many risks, makes many sacrifices, and watches her life change before her eyes.  Told mostly in a monologue with songs throughout, Cook takes us through her life in this new musical.

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Review: Hedgepig Ensemble presents “Mary Stuart”

Review: Hedgepig Ensemble presents “Mary Stuart”

In a world enraptured equally by Game of Thrones and Fox News politics, female leaders vying for a place in the history books being pitted against each other is nothing new. In this fresh take on perhaps the world’s most iconic sister rivalry of Mary, Queen of Scots vs. Elizabeth I of England, Mary Stuart examines female leadership under the eyes of family, politics, and religion in a production fit for a Queen.

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Review: ‘Copenhagen’ at Soulpepper Theatre

Review: ‘Copenhagen’ at Soulpepper Theatre

There has always been something about Michael Frayn’s three hander ‘Copenhagen’ which has always intrigued me. West End actors were keen on performing the piece. I don’t want to spoil the plot, but one of the characters mentions an important context involving all three which made me gasp along with other audience members sitting around me. After seeing Soulpepper’s production of Mr. Frayn’s complex play, tautly directed by Katrina Darychuk, I’ve now understood its fascination for actors and their desire to add this production to their resumes.

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Review: 'Girlfriend' at TheaterWorks

Review: 'Girlfriend' at TheaterWorks

It’s understandable how Matthew Sweet’s power-pop album, “Girlfriend,” could be a score to a musical. The songs were all recorded by him following his divorce in 1990 and they expose his feelings about the entire relationship. He commented to Rolling Stone, “It's funny how the album ended up showing everything I needed to feel. Everything I needed as an antidote is there." There is emotion throughout the songwriting with a natural timeline feel and flow, making it a great fit for the musical theatre genre.

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Review: Renée Taylor sharing her 'MY LIFE ON A DIET'

Review: Renée Taylor sharing her 'MY LIFE ON A DIET'

Last night I laughed throughout the autobiographical comedy by Academy Award nominated and Emmy Award winning writer and actress Renée Taylor. Written by Taylor and her late husband Joseph Bologna, this one-woman show MY LIFE ON A DIET was originally directed by Bologna, and made its New York premiere in 2018. With such critical acclaim, Taylor’s show was extended to run Off-Broadway at the Theatre at St. Clements and now has embarked on a national tour. In November of last year, the show won the annual United Solo Special Award for their significant contributions to solo theater during the year. 

Currently in the intimate Lovelace Studio Theater at the Wallis Annenberg Center, the set by Harry Feiner is decorated with muted animal skin rugs, a large projection screen, a fancy desk and chair where Ms. Taylor sits at during most of the show.

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Review: 'Beautiful: The Carole King Story' - Canadian Tour

Review: 'Beautiful: The Carole King Story' - Canadian Tour

I am so glad that I got up that morning because the beautiful Chilina Kennedy as Carole King and an extraordinary company put a smile on my face at the terrific opening night of ‘Beautiful: The Carole King Musical’.  I’m still grinning as ‘Beautiful’ is that feel good show we all need right now.

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Broadway Review: 'Oklahoma!' Fails to Measure Up

Broadway Review: 'Oklahoma!' Fails to Measure Up

Buried somewhere beneath the myriad sheets of plywood neatly lining the walls and covering the floors of Circle in the Square is the original sheer splendor, strength, and – yes – the overwhelming darkness of the original production of Rogers and Hammerstein’s “Oklahoma!” Alas, that poor “Oklahoma!” is dead and is unceremoniously buried in Daniel Fish’s pretentious and overwrought “Oklahoma!” – never to be resurrected from the detritus of hanging guns galore, rows of bright red crock pots, and more yodeling than might be found anywhere in the Matterhorn.

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Review: “The Ship Be Sinkin’” at the Producer’s Club

Review: “The Ship Be Sinkin’” at the Producer’s Club

For as long as can remember, Titanic has always been one of the cheesiest romance films – if not THE cheesiest – to have been released in my 26 years of life. So naturally, it has also consistently ranked up there as one of the easiest targets for parody by comedy writers, ever since its 1997 premiere. The fact that that’s still the case is proven yet again by the Improvisational Repertory Theatre Ensemble’s latest outing at the Producer’s Club.

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Review: “The Art of Protest” at Articulate Theatre Company

Review: “The Art of Protest” at Articulate Theatre Company

If there’s any one word that describes the political climate that has defined this past decade, it has to be “protest”. From economic injustice and climate change to gun violence and racial discrimination, to name just a few, there have been countless social and political issues that have created a great of unrest among the people, in large part thanks to the inability – or in many cases, unwillingness – of our so-called leaders to do anything about it. That’s exactly the type of narrative that is captured in the fundraising performance presented this past week by Articulate Theatre Company.

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Review: ‘Angelique’ at the Factory Theatre

Review: ‘Angelique’ at the Factory Theatre

From my high school days in the late 70s, I can recall in my French as a Second Language class the story of Marie-Joseph Angelique, an enslaved Black woman, who was publicly executed for supposedly setting fire to various residences in the merchant area of Montreal (including that of her owner’s along with a hospital) in 1734. ‘Angelique’, now on stage at Factory Theatre, uses the backdrop of 1734 New France to mirror our modern culture.

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Review: 'Godspell' at Rooftop Productions

Review: 'Godspell' at Rooftop Productions

Ryan Walker excelled in the role of Jesus, commanding attention and focus every time he was on stage. He ranged from kind to stern to loving, and ultimately to heartbroken. I believed he cared for each and every one of his “disciples” and only ever wanted the best for them. His vocals never faltered, and he never seemed out of the moment. The script doesn’t provide very many given moments for Judas to shine in the piece, but that didn’t stop Jay Tilley from creating his own moments to shine. He gradually broke off from the group and made it clear he wasn’t buying everything Jesus was selling. The two worked quite well together, making the ending of the musical that much more tragic.

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Review: 'Twelfth Night' at Alchemical Studios

Review: 'Twelfth Night' at Alchemical Studios

When it comes to adaptations of Shakespeare, of which there have been plenty over the years, there’s both the good and the bad. In some cases, however, as it is with most art, the way in which you judge the production might simply depend on your taste in theatre. Namely, it might depend on how much you love the playwright’s works already, prior to seeing the show. That is arguably the case with the latest indie theatre production of Twelfth Night, now running at Alchemical Studios.

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Review: ‘Guarded Girls’ at Tarragon Theatre

Review: ‘Guarded Girls’ at Tarragon Theatre

In her Director’s Note, Ms. Corbeil-Coleman quotes Nelson Mandela: “The way that a society treats its prisoners is one of the sharpest reflections of its character.” Richard Rose has cast four stalwart performers who bring to life bravely the hardships existing in the prison system. ‘Guarded Girls’ is a definite must see as we try our best to continue to break the cycle of the injustices found therein.

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Review: ‘Mozart's Idomeneo’ at the Ed Mirvish Theatre

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  • Joe Szekeres, Chief Toronto Critic

As this opening night production was my first visit ever to an opera, I will be honest in stating that I had no idea what to expect. Yes, a bit of trepidation and some hesitation as well - Would I get it? Would I enjoy it? Would I return to see another opera?

Much reflection last night on the GO home and today has led me to understand that Sir Lloyd Webber’s ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ pales horribly in comparison to this remarkable genre. I hold no background whatsoever in opera so I will not make any comments on the singing except to say that it was exceptionally superior to anything that I have heard before.  I will make comments on the theatricality and the staging of the production.

A quick review of the synopsis of ‘Idomeneo’. This Greek hero (an exquisitely vocal Colin Ainsworth) is forced to choose between the life of his son, Idamante (electrifying work by mezzo soprano Wallis Giunta) and a promise made to Neptune, the god of the sea (an impeccably buffed Douglas Williams combined with his flawlessly vocal bass baritone). Throughout this tale, the audience is also introduced to other characters involved in love triangles, broken hearts and chance meetings all sung in glorious arias with every inch of the stage used for a striking and emotional impact for the eyes, the ears and the heart thanks to Marshall Pynkoski’s careful direction. In an opera, I discovered that even a slight movement of a singer or dancer can convey nuanced character development within seconds.

Visually, this production of ‘Idomeneo’ excels. Jeannette Lajeunesse Zing’s choreography of the dancers is marvellously impressive and fluid. Michael Gianfrancesco’s stunningly gorgeous costume designs made me pay careful attention to each principal singer and dancer.  Jennifer Lennon’s lighting design was tautly sharp to superb effect. For me, tremendous emotional impact was felt from the clearly defined spot light for an aria in one moment while in the next I was swept away in a lush palette of colours for special effects in entire company movements.

Gerard Cauci’s set design immediately captured my attention when I sat down before the performance began. I was immediately transported to another world from long ago and I wanted to enjoy every moment I was there. An opulent and lavish scrim painting of stormy waters made me note every single colour I wanted to take in before the performance began. Further paintings of a three-dimensional setting of a palace room with burgundy red walls created a world of ornate taste. In Act Three, Mr. Cauci’s scrim colour design of the outside of the palace with fountains suggested the hopes that all will be well with all as the story and plot progressed.

I have always wanted to hear soprano Measha Brueggergosman sing and one item on my bucket list was ticked opening night. Her performance of Elettra is divine. Meghan Lindsay’s Ilia is sweetly demure in her growing affection and eventual burning love for Idamante. In the third act, Ms. Lindsay’s vocal work was wonderfully demonstrated in a moment where she will do anything for Idamante and his love.

One of the highlights of the evening for me was hearing the breathtaking work of the Chorus under Daniel Taylor’s Chorus Master. At one point, I was so engrossed with the action on stage at the top of the production, I couldn’t figure out where the chorus was singing. My guest gave me a slight nudge and told me to look up in the boxes Stage Left.  Wow! How did they enter so quietly before their moment to sing?  Nice work indeed to not draw attention to themselves.

Final Comments: Would I attend another opera in the future? Yes, I probably would, but I would most certainly try to read as much as I can about the plot before I attend. When I return, I know that I won’t feel hesitation in wondering what I am about to see.

If I did have one very minor quibble as a first-time attendee at an opera, it would be the fact that I was trying to pay close attention to too much all at once.  At times, I felt as if my brain, thoughts and ideas were in overload as I was trying to cram in so much to remember from this experience. I’m certain I won’t feel this same way the next time I attend.

If you’ve never attended an opera, I invite you to at least try a different experience.  It was an enjoyable evening. I might not have got everything from the story, but at least I appreciated very much what I saw presented before me.

‘Idomeneo’ runs to April 13 at The Ed Mirvish Theatre, 244 Victoria Street, Toronto.  For tickets, please call 1-416-872-1212 or visit www.mirvish.com.

Running time is 2 hours and 55 minutes with one intermission. ‘Idomeneo’ is performed in Italian with English surtitles.

The Cast: Colin Ainsworth, Measha Brueggergosman, Bradley Christensen, Wallis Giunta, Olivier Laquerre, Meghan Lindsay, Douglas Willliams.

Conductor: David Fallis, Director: Marshall Pynkoski, Choreographer: Jeannette Lajeunesse Zingg, Set Designer: Gerard Gauci, Costume Designer: Michael Gianfrancesco, Lighting Designer: Jennifer Lennon.

Review: “He’s Your Daddy” at Manhattan Repertory Theatre

Review: “He’s Your Daddy” at Manhattan Repertory Theatre

When it comes to writing material that is bound to appeal to large audiences, it’s hard to go wrong with writing a family comedy. Throw in enough awkward situations and raunchy humor, and the result is usually bound to be an experience that will leave you laughing out loud from beginning to end. Such is the case with He’s Your Daddy, the latest outing to be presented at Manhattan Repertory Theatre.

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