ARCHIVES – DANCE THAT OPENED IN FEBRUARY.2014


abrahamKYLE ABRAHAM/ABRAHAM.IN.MOTION. THE RADIO SHOW. You only have until Saturday to catch this World Stage offering. Abraham is one of New York’s brightest lights. The supple dancers execute fluid, total body choreography in this show about memory and communication. As a dancesmith, Abraham knows how to rivet the eye with movement that always catches you by surprise. No wonder he won a genius grant from the MacArthur Foundation. An ambitious show in content that maybe doesn’t get quite get to where it should in substance, but the choreography rocks. (Closes Feb. 8, Fleck Dance Theatre, www.harbourfrontcentre.com.)

DANCE IMMERSION. CELEBRATING OUR MEN IN DANCE. This show, also on a short run, is part of Black History Month. Curator Vivine Scarlett has opted to program 8 male choreographers to present black men in a positive light. They hail originally from Trinidad and Tobago, Nigeria, South Africa, Mozambique, and Jamaica, while two are Toronto born. The dance ranges from traditional to contemporary and presents a wide spectrum of themes. While the quality is uneven, the bill of fare is entertaining. This is an important show because it speaks to Canada’s multicultural mosaic. (Closes Feb 8, Enwave Theatre, www.harbourfrontcentre.com.)

Mirvish Productions. Heartbeat of Home. This new production, from the team that brought you Riverdance two decades ago, is an immensely enjoyable, professional-looking, polished dance show where everything hangs together as smooth as silk. The music score is sensational and the band it hot. Despite some weaknesses to the look of the show, it certainly deserves a long shelf life. (Closes Mar. 2, Ed Mirvish Theatre, www.mirvish.com.) See full website review, http://wp.me/p2s1nr-zz.

Mirvish Productions. ARRABAL. There’s mostly good news about the dance theatre show Arrabal. The choreography is sharply-edged sensuality and the music is scorching hot. On the down side, the book is weak, but, in the final analysis, who cares. The look of the show, from the gorgeous Argentinian dancers to the towering projections and sexy costumes, is scrumptious. In this coming of age story, the virginal heroine Arrabal (Micaela Spina) discovers that her father is one of the desaparecidos, a dissident who was arrested by the ruling military junta and made to disappear. (Choreographed by Sergio Trujillo and Julio Zurita, book by John Weidman, Closes May 11, Panasonic Theatre, www.mirvish.com.) See full Globe and Mail review (http://bit.ly/1g0KvNh).

ARCHIVES – THEATRE THAT OPENED IN FEBRUARY.2014

 (5 Star Rating System)

shrewRed One Theatre Collective. SHREW (2 ½ stars). This production is vibrant and silly at the same time. In short, it is a young person’s spin on Shakespeare (think Seth Rogan and Adam Sandler in terms of sensibility). Obviously, a bunch of friends have come together to have fun, and while the audience has fun too, somewhere Shakespeare has become lost in the colloquial rendering of the text. As to why Petruchio (Benjamin Blais) has a cowboy accent is anyone’s guess, although the Christopher Sly prologue as a puppet show is a neat idea. There are a lot of talented actors in the cast, particularly John Fleming as Tranio, but director Tyrone Savage (all grown up after playing a kid on the TV series Wind at My Back) just seems to be throwing a barrage of ideas out there to see what will stick. (Written by William Shakespeare (sort of), directed by Tyrone Savage, Storefront Theatre, Closes Mar. 2, 2014, www.redonetheatre.com.)

Theatrefront /Canadian Stage/Theatre Aquarius. TRIBES (3 ½ stars.) British playwright Nina Raine has concocted a totally dysfunctional family of intellectuals. At the core is a deaf son Billy (aurally impaired America actor Stephen Drabicki) who has been brought up without sign language, the rationale being that living as if there is no disability is better for him. Both parents and the other son and daughter each have their own hang-ups. The family’s universe really starts crumbling when Billy meets a girl (Holly Lewis) who initiates him into the world of the deaf, and opens a fissure between Billy and his family. The acting is very good and Daryl Cloran’s directing is fast-paced, even dizzying at times, but the play has a feel of being too clever by half. There are just too many subplots swirling around. (Written by Nina Raine, directed by Daryl Cloran, Berkeley Street Theatre Downstairs, Closes Mar. 2, 2014, www.theatrefront.com.)

Afterplay Collective/Campbell House Museum. AFTERPLAY (4 stars). This play by famed writer Brian Friel is very clever indeed. He has taken the put-upon brother Andrey from The Three Sisters (Steve Cumyn), and the over-looked Sonya from Uncle Vanya (Tracey Ferencz) and has them meet in a restaurant of a Moscow Hotel. He has thus created a new Chekhov play. The intimate setting at Campbell House is perfect because the antique look of the upstairs drawing room provides a realistic site specific venue. This play can be a lot of talk (about lives before and after the respective plays), so what is needed is superb characterizations. Both Cumyn and Ferencz are Stratford/Shaw veterans, seasoned pros who are consummate actors, and clearly, both they and director Kyra Harper have worked hard to breathe life into the wordage. My one cavil is that they stand up and move around too much without motivation. That being said, the samovar tea and Russian cakes served before hand is a nice touch that makes the performance even more satisfying. The experience (tea plus play) is delightful. (Written by Brian Friel, directed by Kyra Harper, Closes Mar. 2, 2014, www.campbellhousemuseum.ca.)

Mirvish Productions/Vesturport/Lyric Hammersmith. METAMORPHOSIS (5 stars). In a word, this Icelandic/British production is brilliant. The adapters have taken Kafka’s 1915 novel and transformed it into a wondrous play full of visual surprises. Kafka, being Kafka, the story is depressing. One day, Gregor Samsa (Björn Thors) wakes up and discovers he has become an insect. It can only go downhill from here as his family tries to cope with the tragedy. The direction for Thors is masterful as he climbs his ways up and down walls by handgrips. Börkur Jónsson’s innovative turn-on-the-side bedroom set is miraculous in concept. The characterizations are superb, and FYI, these Icelandic actors have better diction than most English-speaking born thespians. A definite run don’t walk. The best kind of European theatre. (Written by Franz Kafka, adapted and directed by David Farr and Gísli Orn Gardarsson, Closes Mar. 9, 2014, Royal Alexandra Theatre, www.mirvish.com.)

Mirvish Productions. THE TWO WORLDS OF CHARLIE F. (3 ½ stars). This is a hard show to rate because the subject matter cuts to the sentimental bone – namely, the performers are mostly British soldiers who have been physically and/or emotionally scarred by war. Nonetheless, one can’t get around the fact that the acting is uneven, with some accents being impenetrable. Charlie F. is a devised play that began with the soldiers’ own stories, crafted into a theatrical production by writer Owen Sheers. Although the soldiers are mostly playing themselves, they have been given fictionalized names to make the venture more theatrical. Despite the harrowing nature of their stories, there is a lot of humour, and even original songs. This recovery play is a journey through recruitment, training, and physio, leading up to the men and women coping with their injuries. The Two Worlds of Charlie F. wears its heart on its sleeve.  (Written by Owen Sheers, directed by Stephen Rayne, Closes Mar. 9, 2014, Princess of Wales Theatre, www.mirvish.com.) 

 

 

Paula’s Picks and Pans – Dec 11th 2013

THEATRE – NOW PLAYING (5 STAR RATING SYSTEM)

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Paula’s Picks and Pans – Dec 4th 2013

THEATRE – NOW PLAYING (5 STAR RATING SYSTEM)

Winners and Losers by Marcus Youssef and James Long. (4 Stars.) Saw this first at Montreal’s Festival TransAmériques. Basically the same show with a few Rob Ford updates. Two friends discussing who and what they regard as winners and losers. Starts out as fun, but grows in tension. Intelligent and witty.(Berkeley Downstairs, www.canadianstage.com, closes Dec. 08.)

God of Carnage by Yazmina Reza. (4 ½ Stars.) Two couples meet to discuss a schoolyard altercation between their children. Funny with a dark edge as civilization breaks down. Sort of a Lord of the Flies for adults. Spirited acting and directing make for a high energy production. (Panasonic Theatre, www.mirvish.com/shows, closes Dec. 15.)

Once, book by Enda Walsh, music and lyrics by Glen Hansard & Marketa Irglova. (3e  Stars.) This Tony Award-winning musical is more or less faithful to the 2007 Irish movie of the same name in which an immigrant Czech girl helps turn around the life of a disillusioned Dublin street musician. The multi-tasking cast also acts as the orchestra. What worked in the film seems contrived on stage. Folk/rock music is on the dull side. (Royal Alexandra Theatre, www.mirvish.com/shows, closes Jan. 05.)

 

Mirvish Productions – Sister Act: A divine musical comedy

The Broadway touring show of Sister Act is a win win situation. It’s better than the 1992 movie that starred Whoopi Goldberg and Maggie Smith. Like a lot of commercial shows, Sister Act went through major revisions between the West End run (2009) and Broadway (2011), but who cares. The final product is just plain lol clever in its book and lyrics.

The musical story is about singer Deloris Van Cartier (aka Doris Carter) whose boyfriend Curtis Jackson is a gangster. Deloris witnesses a murder and is placed in a convent for witness protection where she clashes with the Mother Superior while getting all the other nuns on side.

Set in the 1970s, the story has inspired a toe-tapping, disco infused score by Alan Menken. Any show that has a hilarious upbeat song about how many ways the gangster is going to kill Deloris (When I Find My Baby) has a lot going for it. And then there’s those zingers. When Deloris discovers that one of the nuns is a postulant, she says that she knows what it’s like being without money.

The cast is first rate, with Ta’rea Campbell as a Deloris who can really belt out a tune, and Hollis Resnik as the tart, sarcastic Mother Superior. Kingsley Leggs does a great job as the no good Curtis Jackson. And mention should be made of lyricist Glenn Slater and book writers Cheri and Bill Steinkellner, and Douglas Carter Beane (who did the Broadway rewrite), for their sophisticated input. The costumes of Lez Brotherston are inspired. As the choir of nuns finds their voices under Deloris’ tutorship, their habits get more bling.

I had a smile on my face from beginning to end, not to mention belly laughs in between.

Sister Act, music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Glenn Slater, book by Cheri and Bill Steinkellner and Douglas Carter Beane, (starring Ta’rea Campbell and Hollis Resnik, directed by Jerry Zaks), Ed Mirvish Theatre, Oct. 2 to Nov. 4, 2012.