Total Pageviews

Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Nobody Does it Better... Evelyn Strange at Teatro La Quindicina

 


I had the absolute pleasure of taking in the Opening Night of  Evelyn Strange at the Varscona Theatre as part of the 40th Anniversary Season for Teatro la Quindicina. Before the show I was lamenting to my friend the challenge of another company doing a Lemoine play in Edmonton, because even though the scripts were so good, any other company was unlikely to do it as well as Teatro would, and then this production (directed by Shannon Blanchet) proved my point brilliantly. 


Everything about the production was on point, from the costumes to the style of the acting, to the music and the lighting. It's perfectly cast with Gianna Vacirca as the mysterious title amnesiac Evelyn Strange; Oscar Derkx as her rescuer Perry Spangler who works to help her figure out who she is; Belinda Cornish as the glamourous wife of Perry's boss; and Jesse Gervais as Perry's co-worker and rumored lothario. The four of them are funny, invested, and tangled in a truly unusual way (no spoilers!) that delighted the audience as it unraveled. 


It was the kind of show that had us speculating on possibilities during the intermission (the group behind us recorded theirs on paper and we heard them checking them off after the show). Like Perry, we wanted to know the answers! We were right about some of it and wrong about other things and we simply didn't mind! 

If you want to see an engaging mystery that's a lot of fun with terrific performances and an exceedingly well-constructed script, I would definitely check this out. You will laugh and be surprised! I know I was!

Evelyn Strange runs to June 12th at the Varscona Theatre. 
Tickets range from $25-$42 depending on the performance with a Pay-What-You-Can on Wednesday, June 1st. You can purchase tickets in advance here

Photo Credit: Marc J. Photography
 

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Fun at the Citadel with 9 to 5!

 Last night, instead of watching the hockey game, we went to the Citadel Theatre to see 9 to 5! (It's okay, the Oilers won and are currently up 3-1 in the series so my going to the theatre did not affect that in any way.) I'd deliberately booked my tickets late in the run because of my show which had just closed on the weekend, but I wasn't going to miss this one! 

It was a fun show - very silly and reminiscent of the movie, as it should be - replete with the questionable clothing choices of the late seventies, wigs aplenty, and of course the iconic title song! It's a fun night out and you have until May 29th to catch it. Stand-outs for me include Juan Chioran as the despicable Mr. Hart. I hope we see him back out West for more shows at the Citadel because he is just so good! It would be nice to see him play a more likeable character, but his portrayal of the sexist and egotistical CEO was so much fun to watch! I also loved Kristin Johnston as the uptight and infatuated office spy, Roz. Her number Heart to Hart was a stand-out in the show - it was literally laugh-out-loud! The three leads, Sharon Crandell (Violet), Julia McClellan (Doralee) and Patricia Zentilli (Judy) are also well cast and anchor the show with terrific team-work and fine voices. 

Now, I will admit it's not my favourite musical on the page, but this production is well done and should entertain most audience goers. It's quick and bright and played well for laughs. I can't actually remember a single tune outside the title song, but when I heard them last night they were funny and lovely and I liked them. 

9 to 5 runs until May 29 in the Maclab Theatre
Tickets range from $68-$123
Purchase them Here

Photo Credit: Nanc Price
Featuring: Sharon Crandell, Patricia Zentilli and Julia McClellan 

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Now that it's all over... The 39 Steps at Walterdale and my grateful return to the rehearsal room...

This past Saturday we closed the show, The 39 Steps, at Walterdale Theatre. I was director. It's a role I have taken on many times before and one I truly enjoy. This one was extra special for me. 

You may be aware that something happened over the last two years. I refer to it as The Great Pause and for those in theatre it definitely was a pause. For me, as both and artist and audience member it meant a radical shift in what I was doing. Now, I have mostly been doing community theatre for the last few years. I had already shifted away from ambitions of professional theatre for personal reasons, but it didn't really slow my pace. It was rare for me not to be in rehearsal or mentoring other artists at any given moment and my theatre-watching pace was easily 2-4 shows per week. When the Pause happened, I had just finished playing Great Aunt March in Little Women and was mentoring a director whose show was 2 weeks from opening (fortunately we were able to see this onstage only a year and a half later). I'd just been approved to direct a show in the upcoming Walterdale season. And then it all stopped. I felt numb - in limbo - unable to move forward on anything because there was not indication of when or what it could be. 

At the time and in retrospect, I knew that first year could have been a great opportunity. I could have worked on the half dozen unfinished scripts on my lap-top, except I couldn't. In the vacuum too many voices were telling me that my stories were not the ones we needed to hear and inertia set in and I was literally unable to write anything. So I didn't. I did think a lot. And I thought, gee, this lack of 'stuff to do' isn't so bad... maybe I don't ever have to do theatre again... I thought that it was over and that was okay. I was very likely depressed. I don't do stagnation very well. 

But in the second year, something changed. I think I can owe part of it to moving - physically moving in an intentional way  - 5 days a week - as opposed to sitting at the computer all day and then shifting to the couch. And then I found this funny "little" show. I just felt that we needed to be silly. We needed it in the rehearsal hall and we needed it in the audience. I needed a small cast comedy to propose to the Artistic Director and The 39 Steps was perfect! And she liked it and thought it was a good fit. And the Board liked it and thought it was a good fit. So, with very little build up, we were off! 

And here I am at the end of it, so very glad. I did a lot of firsts with this one. Zoom auditions! Would those 6 actors have chemistry? They did! The first month of this very physical show was also on Zoom - would it work? It did! We met in person with the majority of the script off-book - a delight to block with no scripts in hand! And one thing I did more than I ever had before was I let them play! I think I always let my casts play, but I felt I was doing it even more for this one. There were a couple of other firsts on the production side - first time Sound Designer who rose spectacularly to the challenge with this not-so-little show when it came to sound; a first time Costume Designer who game me so much more than the 'hats' I was expecting; a Stage Manager new to Walterdale and me who was an absolute gem; and many more. I also had some trusted returnees on my team who also came to have fun, and we did! I went into the theatre every rehearsal and felt so grateful to be there. Grateful to be creating, but mostly grateful to be creating with those generous and ridiculous people. I love them all!

This post is really for me. To remind me that I love theatre and that this production reawakened for me feelings about creating theatre with a generous group of people and how much I love that and how much I need that. I have made friends for life and strengthened friendships already there. I got to guide the ship and make many people laugh, and unlike I thought a year ago, I will still be making theatre moving forward. I call that a win!



Photo Credit: Scott Henderson, Henderson Images
Featuring: Lucas Anders, Lauren Tamke, Bradley Bishop, Samantha Beck, Rico Pisco and Liam McKinnon

Reviews: 

BWW Review: THE 39 STEPS is A Rollicking Comedy-Thriller

Review: The 39 Steps is good medicine



Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Two-Headed/Half-Hearted at Northern Light Theatre - Perfect Story-telling!

Last Friday I took Mark along with me to check out Two-Headed/Half-Hearted (Northern Light Theatre) at the Studio Theatre at Fringe Theatre Adventures. I was so glad I did. I have to be choosy about what I take the big guy to because he does not have my appreciation for brave failed attempts. He always wants the show to be 'very, very, good' and this one was certainly that. I would venture to say it felt perfect. 

Rebecca Sadowski and Kaeley Jade Wiebe in Two-Headed/ Half-Hearted, Northern Light Theatre. Photo by Ian Jackson, Epic Photography

The story of conjoined twins Venus and Juno Hollis (Kaeley Jade Wiebe & Rebecca Sadowski) who relay the facts of their lives and other famous conjoined twins through song, conversation and anecdote. I was hooked from the moment they began singing. The songs are atmospheric and tight with an incredible tone and harmony. Both actors have beautiful, layered voices that sound great on their own and even more so when they sing together. The songs, composed by Wiebe, create a soundtrack that could live on it's own outside the play. Like the musicals Hadestown or Six, I would think that a recording of this show would be a highly desired commodity - so I am hoping that will come along in the future. 

As you can imagine, the story is one of those beautifully odd ones - conjoined twins hidden from the world in fear, where the girls view themselves as one being and their struggles as they evolve their understanding of themselves as being two. We hear of their parent's love story and tragic fates and how they must contend with the dangers of the world. It shifts from song to story and back in a way that feels right (Book by Trevor Schmidt). Every element was carefully thought-out and constructed. The actors cannot move from their perch, due to their characters sharing three legs and arms, but their clever costume (Deanna Finnman) and set contains them beautifully, supported by the captivating lighting design by Roy Jackson. 


Rebecca Sadowski and Kaeley Jade Wiebe in Two-Headed/ Half-Hearted, Northern Light Theatre. Photo by Ian Jackson, Epic Photography

I loved it. It is what theatre should be - excellent in all ways. It was an experience that gathered me up and held me in it's grasp until the very last moment, and one that I have thought often of in the last few days. I think I might go back again before it closes... 

Two-Headed/Half-Hearted runs to May 7, 2022 at the Studio Theatre Inside Fringe Theatre Adventures, 10330 – 84 Ave. Tickets are available here. 


Monday, April 04, 2022

A Pick-Me-Up Kind of a Show! Caribbean Muskrat at Teatro La Quindicina

I must admit, going to the theatre is starting to feel closer to normal... sure, there's the masks and if you're lucky a little bit of spacing, but in the past month and a half in addition to rehearsing the show I am directing, I have been able to catch 3 plays and my first ever evening of Die Nasty! Not quite my pre-pandemic pace, but a huge upswing and it really feels good. 

Photo Credit: Epic Photography; featuring Rochelle Laplante, Rachel Bowron & Jackson Card

It certainly helps that two of the shows (along with Die Nasty) have been comedies! Most recently I caught the Opening Night of Teatro La Quindicina's first offering in their 40th Anniversary season, Caribbean Muskrat, penned by Josh Dean and Stewart Lemoine. Lemoine also directed. I took in the show with Ephemeral Pleasures and we both delighted in the lightness of the humour created by coincidence, taboo attractions, sleep disorders and a very unusual prize (the titular Caribbean Muskrat) being held by a too-diligent Customs Agent. 

The cast of three, Cynthia Lodgepole (A driven Café hostess charmingly played by Rachel Bowron), her well-managed boyfriend Hadrien Burch (newcomer Jackson Card who is believable as the sleep disorder doctor who goes with the flow of whatever is asked of him), and the aforementioned Customs Agent, Bess Wesley (Rochelle Laplante, seen previously in Freewill's Macbeth and the Citadel's Peter Pan Gone Wrong). The three of them become entangled in attraction and friendship as the fate of the Carribean Muskrat is determined. Hopefully you can tell from this description that the show has a wonderful sense of silliness. It's situationally funny and the excellent banter of the trio carries the piece. 

The show has many of the trademarks of a Teatro show - quick dialogue, a terrific food and wine aesthetic, a sense of place (Kelowna, now or in the near future), complicating coincidences and an inevitable, yet still a little surprising, unravelling of complications. There's also a very clever and terrifically funny section where Bowron has a Bluetooth conversation with the Café staff while having brunch with the other two characters. The whole show is like the bubbles in a cold glass of prosecco - sparkling and fresh!

It's a wonderful show in it's lightness of topic after the heaviness of the last two years. There are no grand social issues being argued or weighed and that's okay. I know I left the theatre feeling a little weight lifted off my shoulders in the way that guiltfree laughter can do. 

Tickets are $37-$42 and are available here: https://tickets.teatroq.com/purchase/tickets 

There are also Pay-What-You-Can performances and you can find the information here

Oh and for your reference, here is a Caribbean muskrat:






Thursday, December 02, 2021

Festive Theatre Offerings! What's Onstage in #yeg in December!

Seeing as it's opening night for the return of the Citadel's in-person A Christmas Carol, I thought I would highlight some of the shows that are available to Edmonton audiences this month. There are a few different things to entertain you and get you in the holiday mood! 

First is the aforementioned A Christmas Carol onstage in the Citadel's Maclab Theatre. It's a relatively new adaptation from Alberta playwright David van Belle set mid-century with Ted Dykstra playing the curmudgeon Scrooge. It features many local theatre favourites, with Julian Arnold as Marley and Patricia Zentilli as Emily (not Bob) Cratchit. It's filled with live performances of music from the era and shakes up the traditional story. Carol is a family favourite and is recommended for children 6+ to adults of all ages.  Remember to bring your donation for the Food Bank as this is an opportunity to give while you get a great night at the theatre! A Christmas Carol is onstage now until December 23rd and tickets range from $68.00 to $128.00 and can be purchased here. 

Also in December, Shumka is back onstage for three shows at the Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium, December 17 & 18, for Shumka's Nutcracker.  A luxurious Christmas performance loved by everyone, but Shumka's Nutcracker is also a true Edmonton production, created and performed by local artists. Featuring ballet, folk dance, and character dance, the show is a celebration of Tchaikovsky's beloved Christmas classic which blends the grace and lyrical nature of classical movement with the strength and power of Ukrainian character dance. Tickets are on sale now starting at $25 and can be purchased here.

Opening next week at Walterdale Theatre is 5@50 by Brad Fraser. This one is not for the kids. Billed as a raw and darkly comedic portrayal of turning fifty in contemporary society, and of the friendships we can’t live without. Acclaimed playwright and Edmonton native Brad Fraser (Kill Me Now, Love and Human Remains) wrote 5@50 for all the “excellent middle-aged actresses who were having trouble finding parts.” This production was slated to go onstage shortly after the shut down in March 2020 and was put on hold until now. It also marks the Edmonton and Albertan Premiere of the play! 5@50 runs from December 8-18, with tickets at $25.00 which can be purchased here. Please note: There is reduced capacity due to Covid and tickets must be purchased in advance. 

Another Edmonton favourite is also returning, Whizgiggling Productions' The Best Little Newfoundland Christmas Pageant... Ever! I've seen this show in previous incarnations and it is both hilarious and touching. Silliness abounds and it is terrific for kids! Trouble is on the horizon when the Herdmans show up for auditions for the annual Christmas Pageant, after all they are the "worst kids in the world". You can catch the show live onstage at the Backstage Theatre December 17-19 with tickets ranging from $24-$30 each. Tickets are also available for an online performance on December 22-23. You can purchase your tickets here. 

I hope that you will be able to catch one or more of these shows over the next month and that it helps you celebrate the season! 


Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Nothing Like a Whorehouse on Fire to Warm You Up!

Twilla MacLeod and Sue Huff in The Great Whorehouse Fire of 1921, Northern Light Theatre. 
Photo by Ian Jackson, Epic Photography.

This past weekend I ventured back out for another theatre experience - this time I visited the Varscona Theatre to see Northern Light Theatre's production of The Great Whorehouse Fire of 1921. Inspired by true events in Big Valley, Alberta the play (by Linda Wood Edwards) speculates on a friendship of sorts between Mrs. Hastings, the Madam of the Whorehouse (played with sparkling acidity by Sue Huff) and Mrs. Smith, a local woman who runs a home for unwed mothers (portrayed with delicate curiosity by Twilla MacLeod). I haven't seen either of the two actresses onstage before but they are terrific foils for each other (well, I think I saw Huff in a directing project at U of A over 30 years ago when we both were students there - I can't remember what - but I do remember being a little in awe of this tiny person with the larger than life personality onstage). The story tells of the development of their unlikely friendship and the ultimate betrayal and disappointment that the friendship wasn't enough. It also spoke to the inequity of their social situations and the advantages that each have. There's no doubt in my mind which of the two women is a true survivor, but I know that both of them employ very different strategies to do so, and although their world views appeared to get closer together, we see that self-preservation gets in the way. Director Trevor Schmidt has shaped a give and take between the two contrasting actors that is believable and hopeful, but then ultimately foiled, and has done so in a way that I shared in the inevitable disappointment.

I'd admired the set (Production Designer - Alison Yanota) before I was even in the theatre as I had seen a photo online. It's even more lovely in person - atmospheric and distressed - much like the relationship between the characters onstage. The costumes further accentuate the contrast between the two women and as a whole - one fiery and one cool - and so the play is a visual treat. Oh, and I loved the huge moon that hangs above the house! 

It's a solid, crackling show, just over an hour, that showcases the best of Edmonton's theatre community - from playwright to actors to designers and director!

The Great Whorehouse Fire of 1921 runs to November 28th. Tickets must be purchased in advance and you can buy them here. 

COVID Rating A+: NLT is selling a reduced capacity house which allowed audiences members to socially distance. Masks are required inside the theatre and sanitizer is provided at entrances.