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Thursday, January 03, 2019

Theatre to start off 2019...

It doesn't really ever quiet down in the #yegtheatre scene. It's a great thing for those of us who love to see a lot of varied shows!  Here's what is onstage in Edmonton in January of 2019 aka "Time to fill in the brand new Calendar"!

Malachite Theatre presents Macbeth - January 4-19 at the Holy Trinity Anglican Church.

Last year they served up Twelfth Night and created a cozy atmosphere in the church. This year it's a little darker, so I am really wondering what the decor will be as it stays up throughout most of January!
Click here for more details or to purchase tickets.

Sweat at the Citadel Theatre - January 12 - February 3 in the Shoctor Theatre.

It was part of my former job at the Citadel to read all the scripts in advance of the new season. When I read this one, I cried. It's raw and very honest and will break your heart when you least suspect it. In the current economic climate of Alberta, with many laid off and struggling to find work, it speaks to the desperation and tensions that we see around us. Anyhow, It's my most anticipated show of the 2018-2019 season.
Click here for tickets or more more details.

Theatre Network & Ghost Writer Theatre presents The World Premiere of Minerva - Queen of the Handcuffs, January 15-27 at The Roxy on Gateway.

If you're a fan of magic and escape artists, this show might just be for you. Minerva – Queen of the Handcuffs is the true story of the world’s most famous female escape artist and her rivalry with Harry Houdini. This world premiere production features Edmonton’s own master escape artist, Miranda Allen.
Click here for more information or to purchase tickets.

Firefly Theatre and Circus presents Inferno, January 17-26 at the Westbury Theatre

It's more circus and death-defying acts in January as Firefly plunges into a modern, spectacular retelling of Dante’s epic adventure poem, Inferno. Using Aerialists, Acrobats, Actors, Contortionists, and a small dog, it's the ultimate journey through the Nine Circles of Hell.
Click here to purchase tickets or for more information.

Miss Teen presented by Shadow Theatre from January 23 - February 10 at the Varscona Theatre

When her awkward daughter in-explicitly wins the local Miss Teen Pageant, a struggling single mother seizes the opportunity to improve her family’s difficult circumstances. Determined to help her daughter succeed, she resorts to increasingly desperate measures, even as the glare from the spotlight threatens to expose her eccentric methods and tear the family apart.
Click here for tickets or more information.

Canada 151 at the Mayfield Dinner theatre runs to January 27.

The Mayfield celebrates 151 years of Canada. They conjure up artists, performances and historical moments of the last 151 years – Bryan Adams, Shania Twain, Celine Dion, Anne Murray, The Guess Who, Alanis Morrisette, The Tragically Hip and dozens more for the biggest all-Canuck party of the year.
For more information or for tickets, click here.

Cardiac Theatre presents KaldrSaga A Queer Tavern Drama for A Midwinter's Night from January 11 - 26 (Tuesdays, Fridays & Saturdays) at The Almanac on Whyte.

Kaldr and Saga are best friends whose lives are separated by mountains. Once a year, in the dead of winter, they journey to meet each other in the middle for a pint at their favourite pub. Storytellers by trade, they conjure up tales and epics from their 365 days apart. Inspired by Norse tales and traditions, KaldrSaga finds pride in queer stories that have been silenced by history.
Click here for more information or for tickets.

Northern Light Theatre presents The Cardiac Shadow from January 18 - February 2 at the Studio Theatre (ATB Arts Barns).
Featuring the women of the Good Women Dance Collective

Based on a true story – Four women are procured from the Ravensbruck concentration camp, hand-selected by SS Second Lieutenant Dr. Sigmund Rascher for a series of experiments specifically designed to measure the human body's endurance to extreme temperatures - tests that would benignly come to be known as the Cold Conference. The voices of these four women have since disappeared. Where does the human spirit go when the body must remain behind, frozen inside an atrocity?
Click here for more information or for tickets.

Fringe Theatre Adventures presents Lake of the Strangers from January 22 - February 2 at the Backstage Theatre.

Lake of the Strangers in a powerful new play by Hunter Cardinal. Inspired by ancient Nehiyaw mythology, this story follows two brothers in their last summer adventure. Through forests, rivers, and not knowing, Lake of Strangers is a journey of two brothers finding each other and themselves.
Click here for more information or to buy tickets.

There's a lot to get you started!

Starting the New Year with a Little Magic! The Illusionists with Broadway Across Canada!

How to kick off 2019 in a big way? Attend the Broadway Across Canada production of The Illusionists on New Year's Day like I did! Well, it's here until January 6th, so you can still start the year off in a really magical way!

I took Gibson as he has always been intrigued by magic (we often watch Penn & Teller's Fool Us) and there were so many times during the show where we would turn to each other and say "HOW?!?!?". There are five illuisonists and the show moves briskly from one outstanding trick to the next. two of the performers, Colin Cloud (The Mentalist) and Andrew Trent (The Futurist), have a bit of the stand up comedian in them so there is also quite a bit of laughter. Trent was particularly fun with the close-up magic (it's all filmed and projected so you can see it very clearly) and Cloud's Sherlock Holmes mind-reading tricks blew my mind! Jonathan Goodwin (The Daredevil) was more of a physical extremes guy, escaping from a straight jacket at great peril and lying on a bed of nails (pardon, nail), leading up to a very cool crossbow trick. The young audience member next to me, kept saying, "He's not going to do it
AGAIN?!" and seemed quite worried about the safety of everyone involved. An Ha Lim (The Manipulator) does things with cards that will blow your mind - his card 'dance' was Gibson's favourite act in the show. Darcy Oake (The Grand Illusionist) comes with Canadian cred and I think his understated style really underscored the amazing tricks that he was pulling off.

It was a great night and Gibson and I have talked so much about it, that Mark is looking into getting a ticket for himself for Friday night. I am pretty sure Gibson would go with him again, even having seen the show once!

The Illusionists runs to January 6th at the Jubilee Auditorium.
Click here for tickets.

Sunday, December 02, 2018

Terrific Laughs at Grant MacEwan's 9 to 5 and Bright Young Things' Fallen Angels!

Last week I got to take in the Preview performance of Grant MacEwan's production of 9 to 5. It's the musical adaptation of the 1980 film of the same name. I loved the movie and I loved the musical. Outside the title song, I was unfamiliar with the music, but it was fun and smart and well-sung by the cast. It was filled with great singing, and the three lead women (Kristen Schaeffer, Darian Yurkoski, and Lindsay Downs) were awesome. Opposite the feisty trio was the hilarious Stefan Theriault as Mr. Hart. His commitment to playing up the worst in the misogynistic CEO was hysterical. There's great choreography and the show is fast paced and will keep you laughing!

9 to 5 runs at the Triffo Theatre until December 8.
Click here for tickets.

Another show that had me laughing out loud was Fallen Angels presented by Bright Young Things at the Varscona Theatre. A stellar cast led by Belinda Cornish and Vanessa Sabourin, there were so many laugh out loud moments. The physical comedy was simply brilliant! I never thought watching two women get drunk could be so incredibly funny! Sadly, the show closed last night so you can't see it any more, but I encourage you to keep Bright Young Things on your list of theatres to support, as they definitely know how to create a fun night of theatre!

Who Speaks For Those Who Can't? MATARA at Workshop West Playwrights Theatre

This weekend, I had the pleasure of seeing Matara, a new work by Conni Massing, at Workshop West Playwrights Theatre. A zoo elephant Matara, or Nellie, is at the centre of the story. Cared for by Karen (Elinor Holt), Matara is not in the best of health and a group of protesters camp outside the gates, demanding she be sent to an elephant reserve far away. The protesters are held at bay by night security guard Marcel (Minister Faust), and newly hired communications expert Romney (Patricia Zentilli) recognizes the value of an elephant in selling the zoo.

The three characters are complicated and connect differently to the zoo and to Matara. The play really highlights the complexity of the issue, that what is the best decision is not necessarily black and white, and the limitations on the three characters to communicate and be heard further obstruct finding the right course of action. No one seems to hear what the others are saying because the narrative they need to hear is not being said. Romney needs Nellie to 'perform' in order to raise money for the zoo and care for all the animals; Karen needs to protect Matara in order that she can get well again; Marcel needs someone to listen to his concerns about the rising river. All three are unable to hear what the others are saying.

I loved the relationship between Karen and Matara. I believe that those who care for animals (zoo-keepers, vetrinarians, etc...) want what is best for them and this show certainly portrayed that. Holt's performance is honest and passionate. Karen is the only one who truly passes the test of King Solomon - she is willing to give up the elephant if that is the best thing for it. In contrast, Romney has little connection to the actual animals that reside in the zoo. She is, however, trying to do her job in order to help provide for them. She just doesn't seem to have much compassion to go along with her drive. I wish there was a way to make this character more likable. Having worked in a marketing department for a theatre company I know there are often times when the need to sell the show conflicts with the artistic agenda and there can be unanticipated friction. Marcel is caught in the middle between the two women. Faust is very congenial as Marcel, a careful sounding board who chose the job for it's offer of seclusion, but who instead finds himself rarely alone.

Along with the three human performers is a beautifully created Matara. The simplicity of creating the elephant through simple pieces and movements of ears and trunk work beautifully and you can really believe there is an elephant in the room.

Wherever you stand on zoos, I think this show offers a lot to think about, particularly about issues that are complex and multi-layered. Too often in today's world, we look at a situation and declare a side without truly listening to all the details. We choose to ignore the other side if it conflicts with what we want and in doing so, we likely miss key details that make each situation unique. A conversation needs to be part listening, and listening has to include actually hearing.

Matara runs to December 9th at the Backstage Theatre.
Click here for tickets.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

A Return to Jane Austen for a Holiday Celebration! Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley at the Citadel

Although Christmas is still a month away, this week I felt it creeping closer and closer. Part of that was the switch-over to Christmas music on the radio station my son prefers, and part of it was taking in Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley at the Citadel Theatre. For me, it was particularly fun to return to the land of Jane Austen, having immersed myself in the world of the Regency Era as part of my role as Assistant Director of Sense and Sensibility two seasons ago. The show, although lighter and funnier than Pride and Prejudice, has much to recommend itself to Austen aficionados. You will re-meet four of the five Bennet sisters, Mr. Darcy, and Mr. Bingley. For the most part, they are recognizable from the novel, but changes to their lives in the years since allow for new discoveries. 

The show centers on the middle sister, Miss Mary Bennet, played with a prickly charm and much wit by Toronto-based Mikaela Davies. Mary is the forgotten middle sister, left to her books and piano as her other sisters have gone on to marriage and other adventures. She clearly longs for something more, but understands her position in the world leaves her few options. She has come to Pemberley to spend Christmas with her sisters and their husbands and to have a little escape from her life spent with her aging parents. Enter Lord Arthur de Bourgh (Umed Amin), Mr. Darcy's cousin, who shares Mary's love for books and knowledge as well as her social awkwardness. The two seemed perfectly matched, until... Well, until a rival for Arthur's affections shows up in the form of Anne de Bourgh (the hilarious Gianna Vacirca). As the rules of Austen's society interfere with the budding romance, the laughter ensues as the romantic entanglements are sorted out. 

Davies and Amin are delightful as the central couple. Their awkwardness is countered by their intelligence and they share a lovely chemistry. As Mr. Darcy, local favourite Mathew Hulshof is perfectly cast. He looks and sounds the part and he's layered in a sensitivity that no doubt has developed as Mr. Darcy has gotten used to being a part of the Bennet family. Cameron Kneteman is wonderfully charming as Charles Bingley, and he made me remember how much I enjoyed the character in the novel. The youngest Bennet sister in attendance, Lydia (Emma Houghton), was suitably and humorously flighty. It was interesting to see the two older sisters, Lizzie (Allison Edwards-Crewe) and Jane (Emma Laishram), take a back seat to Mary in this story. I'm not sure if it was the writing in the script or the performance of Edwards-Crewe that made Lizzie seem more unkind to Mary than I remembered her being. I actually kind of wished the two older sisters were played by the opposite actresses - but that might have more to do with my personal impressions of the source novel and the characters and I am sure that there are many who disagree. I think layered in there is a presumption of what other people want in their lives, as the two older sisters, in their contented marriages, assume that Mary is perfectly happy with her life of books and music and give little thought to her wanting anything more. Fortunately, despite the interventions of Anne de Bourgh, the sisters and their husbands manage to redirect romance in the right direction. 

Director Nancy McAlear and her cast and design team have done a wonderful job telling this story. It's the perfect way for any Austen fan to welcome in the Christmas season!

Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley runs to December 9th. Click here for more information and for tickets. 

Photo Credit: EPIC Photography

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

BEAUTIFUL: The Carole King Musical (Broadway Across Canada) at the Jubilee Auditorium: It will move you with it's heart and iconic music!

I'm always a little nervous about Jukebox shows, but Beautiful, currently playing until November 11th with Broadway Across Canada, manages to weave the iconic music of Carole King wonderfully with the first part of her life and career. Sarah Bockel, as King, is terrific. She embodies the sound and look of King without caricature, and manages to convincingly shift through the stages of her life from a 16 year-old aspiring songwriter, to young mother, to the vocal powerhouse who creates and performs Tapestry. Although the entire cast is great, it's Bockel that the audience rose to their feet for. The role is bigger than life, much like King herself.

The music is all recognizable, although you may not have been aware that King wrote them (mostly with her ex-husband Gerry Goffin), and the show cleverly creates tension by showing the competition between rival songwriters (and friends) Barry Mann & Cynthia Weil (played with great humour and intelligence by Jacob Heimer and Alison Whitehurst). The result is a score with dimension and a very cool peek inside the hit-maker factory world of the 1950s-60s. You can see how the competitive environment produced all those iconic songs.

The music and songwriting world is fun, but it's King's personal life that gives the show its heart. Bockel and Dylan S. Wallach (who plays Goffin) have real chemistry as songwriting partners and as a romantic couple, which makes their eventual break-up even more sad. It's how King grows out of that break-up to write and perform some of her most well-known songs and embrace her place on the stage that makes the show a real journey. She was an unconventional superstar, but her talent is undeniable.  Bockel's rendition of (You Make Me Feel) Like a Natural Woman clearly demonstrates she's up to the challenge.

See the show - it's funny, and the music will make you laugh and cry and smile. I wanted to sing along and to be honest I've been singing the songs since I left the theatre!

Beautiful runs until November 11th.
Click here for more information or for tickets.

p.s. Gilmore Girls fans will appreciate the musical Easter Egg in the score...

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Spooky and Scary #yegtheatre Options for Halloween 2018!

If you like to embrace all things scary and spooky this time of year, there are a few options in the #yegtheatre scene that you can check out...

The Bone House by Marty Chan is being presented at the Varscona Hotel. Here's the description: For the past 19 years, a shadowy figure has been drifting about, leaving a trail of bodies in his wake. Nobody has seen his face, and some believe he is only an urban myth. Self proclaimed mind-hunter, Eugene Crowley disagrees. He is going to find him but he needs your help to expose the Midnight Cowboy before he strikes again. He could be anywhere...or anyone.

It's an immersive piece of theatre that explores the nature of fear and imagination. Starring Lew Wetherell, Jason Hardwick, Nicole Grainger, and Murray Farnell, and directed by Jennifer Krezlewicz. I saw The Bone House a few years ago and I remember being terrified. Although the details in my memory are a bit hazy, I often reference the experience as the most scared I have ever been as an audience member. The immersive elements were what really did it for me. So, with great apprehension, I will be taking in this new incarnation, but bringing my husband along... It's definitely a show for those of you who are fans of horror and psychological thrillers.

The Bone House has a pay-what-you-can matinee today (Saturday, October 27th at 2 p.m.) and you can click here for tickets for other nights. It runs until Wednesday, October 31st.

Dead Centre of Town, in it's 11th incarnation, returns to Fort Edmonton Park, this time in the Blatchford Field Air Hanger. It's also an immersive theatre experience that brings to life creepy stories from Edmonton's past. It's tagline for this year is: Who are we to think we can conquer flight? Produced by Catch the Keys Productions it's Edmonton’s only live-action horror show inspired by true history. Dead Centre of Town runs until October 31, 2018 with shows at 7:30 pm & 9:30 pm (no shows on Mondays) at the Blatchford Field Air Hangar at Fort Edmonton Park.

Click here for more information or to purchase tickets. I believe that several performances have Sold Out, so act fast!

Tonight is also your last chance to catch Blood: A Scientific Romance produced by the Maggie Tree at Fringe Theatre Adventures. Here's the description: Twin sisters Poubelle and Angelique are bonded in both biology and shared tragedy after a car accident leaves them orphaned along a prairie highway in a pool of blood. But the young twins are brought home with Dr. Glass after their remarkable recovery, and quickly find themselves the subject of endless experiments.

Today's the last day to catch it, with a matinee and an evening performance. Click here for tickets.

Hope you all find something spooky and scary to see this weekend to get you ready for Halloween!