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Sunday, July 15, 2018

Edmonton Artists - Tell me about your Fringe show!

This year, due to some family commitments at the end of August, I am not doing a Fringe show. That feels weird for me... so, I am inviting Edmonton and area theatre artists to share with me information about their fringe shows and I'll in turn tell other people about your shows here on Finster Finds! The added benefit of my not doing a fringe show is that I will also get to see more, so let me know what you are doing!

To send me the details about your show - email me at smeep22003@yahoo.ca with FRINGE 2018 - FINSTER FINDS in the subject line! I look forward to hearing all about it!

To find out about how I fringe, check out this profile from After the House Lights... There are other profiles, as well, from local artists which can give you some great ideas about how to have a wonderful fringe experience!  

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Teatro la Quindicina presents one of my FAVOURITES! The Importance of Being Earnest!

When I first started teaching high school drama years and years ago I knew that one of the first plays I would do with the kids would be Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest. It had long been one of my favourite plays and it was one that made me laugh aloud many times when I read it. I also had a great group of students who were up to the challenge and style of Oscar Wilde. I had so many that I double-cast the show. That was about 18-19 years ago but it still lives in my memory as one of my favourite theatre adventures.

So... when Teatro la Quindicino announced they were presenting The Importance of Being Earnest I was ever so excited! The show did not disappoint. It is wonderfully cast, with great chemistry between the four lovers. There are moments of magic between Jack (Mark Meer) and Algernon (Ron Pederson) and between Cecily (Shannon Blanchet) and Gwendolyn (Louise Lambert), and when they are in their various configurations. Miss Prism (Cathy Derkach) and Rev. Chausable (Julien Arnold) are delightful in their intellectual flirting, and Leona Brausen is an imperious Lady Bracknell. The production will please any aficionado of Wilde from the opening cucumber sandwiches, to the buttonhole to muffins and a handbag! It's quick-paced and light and although there were a few opening night fumbles, it's well worth a night out on a summer evening! Indeed, I think as this cast runs with the show I will only get better and better... perhaps I will have to go back for a second viewing!

The Importance of Being Earnest runs to July 28, 2018 at the Varscona Theatre.
Click here for tickets.

Thursday, July 05, 2018

Next to Normal at Walterdale Theatre - Opening Night!

Last night we opened the final show of Walterdale Theatre's 59th Season, Next to Normal, directed by Artistic Director Bethany Hughes. It's a great show to close out this season and I was incredibly moved by the performances. Walterdale's intimacy gave the show something more than I have experienced seeing it previously in a much larger theatre and abstracted set allowed me to see it again with new eyes.

With only a cast of 6, the show itself is a huge sing and everyone onstage held their own. It's emotional and funny and powerful. The cast is terrific - Monica Roberts, Mike Harding, Mark Sinongco, Fiona Cain, Damon Pitcher, and Trevor J. Worden. They work together well and there are no weak links. Vocally they are all very strong and handle the rock score beautifully. They also tell this story of mental illness with respect and intelligence.

If you are one to tear up, I recommend bringing tissues as several people were in need of those on Opening Night!

Next to Normal runs to July 14.
Click here for tickets.

Photo Credit: Scott Henderson, Henderson Images.

Wednesday, July 04, 2018

The Epic Appeal of Les Miserables (Broadway Across Canada)!


One thing that I am really enjoying lately is being able to share my love of musical theatre with my 13 year old son. I am thankful to Hamilton and the many years of piano lessons we’ve invested in, as I think the combination has really been the catalyst for his appreciation. This week I was able to share my all-time favourite musical, Les Miserables, with him and it was a wonderful night out!

This week, we saw Les Mis as part of the Broadway Across Canada tour at the Northern Jubilee Auditorium. It’s a wonderful production using projections and trucks to create a myriad of locations. The lighting, if occasionally dimmer than I would like, is striking. The stage pictures - from the prison ship, to the Thenardier’s Inn, to the barricade, to the sewers - are stunning and atmospheric.
                
But it’s Les Mis, isn’t it, so it’s really all about Jean Valjean’s journey and the music. From those first few iconic chords I was in the world. Nick Cartell as Valjean has a beautiful voice, and his performance holds up through the decades of Valjean’s life. His Bring Him Home was gorgeous and layered and uncluttered – a simple prayer that grows and changes with the intensity of his need.
                
There are strong performances from all of the leads, Mary Kate Moore is a lovely and fragile Fantine; Josh Davis as the relentless Javert earns his ending; The Thénardiers (Allison Guinn and J. Anthony Crane) are perfectly crass and mercenary; and Enjolras (Matt Shingledecker) is a passionate leader of the students. Marius (Joshua Grosso) was a personal favourite of mine. His performance is engaging and charming when we first meet him falling in love with Cosette (Jillian Butler) and joking around with Eponine (Emily Bautista), and his rendition of Empty Chairs and Empty Tables is heartbreaking. The three young lovers create a beautiful triangle, each with excellent vocal instruments well-suited to their roles, and the ability to tell the story in song.
                
Overall, the production manages to tell the story in a way that would please those of us who remember the original production from the 1980s and those that discovered it with the recent movie adaptation. For me, it hit all the required notes to appease my expectations, and for Gibson it created a new fan. He quickly uploaded the soundtrack at intermission, so impressed by the music. His favourites were the Thénardiers for the humour, but he also noted, “it was sad, really sad, but the music was also really, really good.”
                
If there is one criticism, it’s that some of the quicker vocal sections are a bit too fast, with words clipped, making those unfamiliar with the score challenged to understand exactly what was being sung. I had to do some quick explaining to Gib so that he knew what was going on, but even in that he said that he could follow the story enough and he was glad to have a conversation about it afterwards.

Les Miserables runs until July 8, 2018 at the Jubilee Auditoriam.
Click here for tickets.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Forever Plaid at the Mayfield - Fabulous Harmony!

Last night, the boys and I took Mark to the Mayfield Dinner Theatre to take in Forever Plaid, one of his favourite musicals. Lucky us that the timing was right to make for a terrific Father's Day present!

We had a great time! It's always interesting to revisit shows that you've seen before and hard not to reflect on the differences and just enjoy what the new production brings to it. This production had amazingly tight harmonies that showcased the superior vocal blend of it's four performers (Kaymar Pazandeh, Andrew MacDonald-Smith, Farren Timoteo, and Steven Greenfield). I've never seen Pazandeh onstage before and I have to say, his voice was a real treat, a beautiful bass-baritone that was incredibly smooth! I'm a big fan of  both Timoteo (Peter and the Starcatcher - Citadel) and MacDonald-Smith (Crazy For You - Citadel) so it was great to see them onstage together. The four of them worked together well to set up the jokes, and the show had a nice smooth flow. My favourite numbers were Chain Gang/Sixteen Tons and the Carribean (Kingston Town, Matilda, Jamaica Farewell) section. I also really liked Perfidia, because I love that song and these guys rocked it!

Here's what Mark and Gibson had to say... 

"The harmonies reminded me what I love about that style of singing and got me thinking about singing again." - Mark

"I liked the singing. I really liked the songs." - Gibson

The show is a wonderfully fun and nostalgic trip (I indicated to Gibson that you could tell who the older people in the audience were because they were laughing the most at the Ed Sullivan Show jokes), but also has the ability to create new fans as evidenced by Gibson downloading the soundtrack from Apple Music immediately following the show. 

Forever Plaid runs until July 29, 2018 at the Mayfield Dinner Theatre. It's a nice 90 minute show (no intermission) with a fabulous meal - perfect for a summer evening out!

You can purchase tickets here. 

Monday, May 14, 2018

Collin Doyle Makes Me Cry Again - Terry and the Dog at Edmonton Actors Theatre

Collin Doyle likes to make me cry. I am pretty sure that's what he think about when he sits down to write a play. Well, maybe not me in particular, but someone like me. Someone like you, probably too. When I saw Let the Light of Day Through I was sobbing at the end. While I was not sobbing at the end of Terry and the Dog, I was softly crying, and he did it in a way that literally snuck up on me...

It's a beautiful piece of theatre. A solid play. A real play. The kind of play I think we've gotten away from with projections and political messaging and ticking boxes. It's about real people. People who are not perfect, but ones that you can imagine living next door, or being in your family, or even possibly being you. The script is the starting point, and add in the truthful performances of Robert Benz, Maralyn Ryan, and Kyle Humeny under Dave Horak's direction and you have real magic.

I don't want to get into too much, because I don't want to give anything away, and I want you all to experience the Terry's story the way I did. It is about addiction, particularly alcoholism, so be prepared for that. It made me think a lot about how difficult it is for an alcoholic to live in our world and stay sober, and how we might judge someone in their most vulnerable time when really that is the time they need the most understanding. I'm going to be thinking about this for a long time.

It's here now and we can see it. It's a pretty perfect little play. I hope to see it get produced across Canada. It deserves to be.

Terry and the Dog runs at the Studio Theatre at Fringe Theatre Adventures until May 19. Click here for more information or to purchase tickets.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

All Shook Up at the Mayfield is a Super Fun Night Out!

Last week Mark and I caught All Shook Up at the Mayfield. It's a juke box show based on Elvis music so we expected it to be a little silly and it sure was, but the cast and direction (Kate Ryan) attacks it with such a great sense of fun that we had a wonderful time. The music is great and, for the most part, the cast has exceptional singing and dancing skills. Vocal stand-outs were Adam Charles (Dean), Jameela McNeil (Lorraine), and Jason Hardwick (Dennis). We also saw the understudy Jill Agopsowicz as Natalie (Ed) and she was wonderful! It was hard to believe she hadn't been playing the role for weeks! The dancing is super fun (choreography by Cindy Kerr) and the ensemble carries it off joyfully. I also enjoyed the comedic attack on the script.  Robbie Towns as the Elvis-esque Chad, Paul Morgan Donald as Jim, and Melissa MacPherson as Miss Sandra made me laugh the most with their commitment to embracing big choices!

A fun night out!

All Shook Up runs until June 10th. Click here for more information.