Review: "The Brothers Size" at Soulpepper Theatre

Review:  "The Brothers Size" at Soulpepper Theatre

A compelling drama, The Brothers Size, opened last Friday as a Canadian premiere at Soulpepper Theatre in Toronto.  Written by academy award winning American playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney, it follows the lives of young black brothers in a small bayou town of Louisiana.  Although the plot is relatively uncomplicated, the great depth of this play comes from the often searing relationships among the men, the embracing of the difficult themes of race, poverty, and misguided male identity, and a unique and astounding style born from the African religion and culture of Yoruba.

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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: 'Hand to God' at The Coal Mine

Review: 'Hand to God' at The Coal Mine

Robert Askin’s ‘Hand to God’ might come dangerously close to brash irreverence for fundamentalist or deeply devoted/devout Christians.  For this practicing Catholic who still holds the tenements of the faith close to his heart, I wasn’t offended whatsoever at the very dark elements of black comedy hidden within the tightly wound script.

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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: '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: ‘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: 'A Doll's House Part 2' at the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre

Review: 'A Doll's House Part 2' at the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre

Confession: I have neither seen nor read Henrik Ibsen’s ‘A Doll’s House’ (I know, shame, a retired English teacher and lover of drama) so I’m unable to make any connections to the original story. After seeing this wonderful production, I felt there was no need for me to have seen the first story as Mr. Hnath’s script is spot on with excellent performances delivered by four sensational actors who certainly know their way around a stage. Will I attend a production of Ibsen’s play if it is staged?  Absolutely.

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Review: 'Chicho' at Theatre Passe Muraille

Review: 'Chicho' at Theatre Passe Muraille

I was pleased upon my arrival at Passe Muraille and being told the production is not pronounced ‘Chico’ as in Chico & The Man but ‘Cheech’o (as in comedians “Cheech & Chong”). I am hoping you are old enough to remember these two references. Mr. Bitter also refers to this fact at the top of the show.

Theatre Passe Muraille has billed ‘Chicho’ as “an ashamed-queer-Catholic-man-boy from Venezuela who hilariously attempts to feel beautiful despite his warring identity politics”.  So much inferred within this statement that I had no idea what I was about to see; however, what I’ve been discovering lately is the theatre of which I know nothing about leaves an indelible mark. This was my first visit to Passe Muraille so I was looking forward to attending.

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Review: "New Magic Valley Fun Town" at the Tarragon Theatre

Review: "New Magic Valley Fun Town" at the Tarragon Theatre

A rather odd and quirky title, but man, oh, man the Toronto premiere of Daniel MacIvor’s ‘New Magic Valley Fun Town’ masterfully said so much for me in those moments where not a great deal was said. This will make sense when you see the production as I’m trying not to spoil where the story leads.

And when an exceptionally remarkable cast played and toyed with my emotions and thoughts right up to the play’s enlightening conclusion, I was completely taken and moved by the journey I had just experienced. Another bonus was the talkback after the performance so, future audiences, stick around for the dialogue and post show conversation.

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Review: "Better Than This" at Fabulist Theatre

Review: "Better Than This" at Fabulist Theatre

Better Than This: The Evolution of Women in Musicals is an informative journey of the history of women's roles in musical theatre. Anyone who is a musical theatre buff will enjoy their favourite songs and commentary performed by four distinct personalities bringing emotion, humour, and pure womanly talent to the stage.

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Review: ‘Good Morning, Viet Mom’ by Cahoots Productions

Review: ‘Good Morning, Viet Mom’ by Cahoots Productions

Cahoots has billed this world premiere of ‘Good Morning, Viet Mom’ as authentic and irreverent. Franco Nguyen travels to Vietnam to look for inspiration for his first feature film and he finds an unexpected subject, his mother.  Mr Nguyen then delves into the personal and shares stories about visiting Vietnam for the first time and being re-introduced to the mother he thought he knew.

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Review: "The Father" at The Coal Mine Theatre

Review: "The Father" at The Coal Mine Theatre

I would bet that Coal Mine’s production will probably be nominated for some Dora awards this year. The social justice issues of examining dignity confronting a debilitating and ultimately life destroying disease has been handled with great respect in ‘The Father’. Beg, borrow or plead to get a ticket and to see true ensemble perfection.

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