Review: "Henry VIII" at Stratford Festival

Review: "Henry VIII" at Stratford Festival

As we left the auditorium, I heard some audience members behind me say this production was quite a historical lesson.  A young girl and her father sat next to me.  She turned to him at the end and said, “I understood a bit of what was going on”.  I turned to both and thanked them appreciatively for their support of live theatre and for learning a bit of history.

You should come to Stratford and learn a bit about the history of the Tudors too.

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Review: "Bloom: A Rock ‘n’ Roll Fable" by 4th Line Theatre

Review: "Bloom: A Rock ‘n’ Roll Fable" by 4th Line Theatre

Beau Dixon asks some important questions in his Playwright Notes: ‘What does it take to reach success?’; ‘How do you determine success?’ and ‘What do you sacrifice to get you to the next level of success?’ Three extremely important questions which I wished we could have discussed with the playwright and the director post performance. In any event, ‘Bloom: A Rock ‘n’ Roll Fable’ is a worthy evening of theatrical entertainment.  Get to see it if you can.

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Review: "The Black Drum" by Deaf Culture Centre

Review: "The Black Drum" by Deaf Culture Centre

I attended The Young Centre for the Performing Arts in Toronto’s Distillery District for the world premiere of the first production in the history of Canadian theatre, specifically musical theatre, of Adam Pottle’s ‘The Black Drum’, produced by The Deaf Culture Centre. After viewing a vibrant opening night production, I predict the deaf culture voice is one which will continue to make its mark within Canadian culture and particularly in the arts community.

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Review: "Little Shop of Horrors" at Stratford Festival

Review: "Little Shop of Horrors" at Stratford Festival

We need The Stratford Festival’s production of Howard Ashman and Alan Menken’s musical sci-fi spoof right now.  A little wacky, escapist fun is good for the soul and, under the supreme direction and choreography of Donna Feore and sublime music direction of Laura Burton, this ‘Little Shop’ takes us away for two- and a-bit hours to be thoroughly entertained from the score’s first note.

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Review: "Billy Elliott: The Musical" at Stratford Festival

Review: "Billy Elliott: The Musical" at Stratford Festival

Rumour buzzed about Stratford that Sir Elton John was to have been in town for the opening of ‘Billy Elliott’.  He wasn’t present, but what an exhilarating feeling instead in seeing a young performer’s talent soar past the roof of the Festival Theatre. Look out, world, there is Nolen Dubuc who is on his way in becoming a Canadian performer to hit the stages of North America and the world.

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Review: "Tchaikovsky: Pro et Contra- A ballet by Boris Eifman"

Review: "Tchaikovsky: Pro et Contra- A ballet by Boris Eifman"

So, how would I describe my first visit to the ballet? Gorgeous and vibrant pictures are created all the time as the music lends to the unfolding of the story. The costumes and sets are a wondrous sight to behold and I wanted to marvel for a few minutes longer looking at them, but I had to focus on the story and the choreography.

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Review: ‘Welcome to My Underworld’ at the Tankhouse Theatre

Review: ‘Welcome to My Underworld’ at the Tankhouse Theatre

The Tankhouse Theatre in the Young Centre for the Performing Arts, the Distillery District, is home to Rare Theatre Company’s ‘Welcome to My Underworld’, a collection of voices of individuals of varying abilities wanting our attention to several modern-day social justice issues, each of them relevant and pertinent. These are performers and writers who travel to the underworld to discover and find their true voices.

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Review: "Old Stock" at the Tarragon Theatre

Review: "Old Stock" at the Tarragon Theatre

Playwright Hannah Moscovitch’s project was to learn more of the story behind her paternal family, especially her great grandfather, Chaim Moscovitch (Dani Oore) and her great grandmother Chaya (Mary Fay Coady). They came to Halifax, Canada, in 1908 on a boat. Chaim’s family were all killed in a pogrom in Romania.  In a chilling narration, he recounts to Chaya and to all of us how he found their bodies which is a moment he will never forget. Chaya was coming to Canada with her entire family. Her first husband died in Russia while trying to leave from there.

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Review: "Antigone" at Young People’s Theatre

Review: "Antigone" at Young People’s Theatre

Whenever I see a production of a classic Greek play, I’m always a tad leery of what to expect for the fact I have never found these stories particularly interesting. I know, an English major/French minor who should have studied and respected these works.  I know, I know, and I did. I’ve always enjoyed most of the Shakespearean works but there was something about the Greek plays that just never intrigued me to want to attend.

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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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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: ‘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: "The Royale" at The Young Centre

Review: "The Royale" at The Young Centre

I tremendously respect and admire playwrights who bring an immediacy of personal reactions to their stories of racial conflict and tension within the theatre. The Stratford Festival’s recent production of “To Kill a Mockingbird” is only one example that comes to my mind. I had read in earlier press releases that Marco Ramirez’s “The Royale” deals with racial tensions in the Jim Crow era.  As I sat quietly waiting for the play to begin, I wondered if audiences are becoming saturated to the point where we feel nothing about this theme?

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