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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Great Theatre Abounds!

It's been a ridiculously busy few weeks (and still is) for theatre in the city! The good news is that there is much to see, the bad news is you can't get to all of it. I've managed to take in a few shows that still have a few dates left in their run and a few that are closed and there's a few others I wish could get to but there aren't enough days...

Ones You Can Still Catch That I've Seen:

Anxiety - Theatre Yes
If you are into immersive theatre and theatre that is less traditional you shoudl definitely check this out. I can't give much detail because I had to sign a waiver, but it definitely was a complete theatre experience. Unsettling at times and it likely challenges every audience member in a different way. Be prepared for about a 2 hour experience. Wear comfortable shoes and don't dress too warmly. Runs to Dec 4.

Fen - Trunk Theatre (at the Varscona)
A challenging, untraditional piece of theatre by Caryl Churchill (Cloud Nine, Top Girls). This is a well-acted piece by a strong ensemble of six actors who play several characters apiece. Life is bleak in the fen and that bleakness creates some compelling characters. Moments of humour contrast sharply with the darkers ones. Runs to Dec 4.

A Christmas Carol - The Citadel Theatre
Although Opening Night is officially tomorrow, I have caught a performance already. I've also seen it a few times before. It was my first time seeing Tom Wood as Scrooge and his performance truly reinvented the show for me. Usually it's just Tiny Tim who makes me tear up. This time it was also Scrooge! Runs to Dec 23.

Ones You Can Still Catch That I Will be Seeing This Week:

Only In Vegas - Mayfield Dinner Theatre
Promising music from the early days of Vegas up until present day, I'm looking forward to seeing this show tonight. The Mayfield always does a terrific job with their shows and the environment is really lovely. It's also a terrific opportunity to celebrate my husband's birthday! Runs to Jan 29.

Brent Carver In Concert - The Citadel Theatre
I am soooooo looking forward to seeing this concert. Having seen Brent Carver at the Ted Dykstra and Friends concert and Evangeline last season, I was very quick to pick up tickets to see him in concert this year. It's not everyday that you get to see a Tony-Award-Winning artist in such a small intimate venue. Two shows only - Dec 2&3.

Witch Hunt at the Strand - Workshop West Playwright's Theatre (at the Backstage Theatre)
Based on true events from Edmonton's history, Witch Hunt at the Strand, tells of the persecution of members of the theatre community in the 1940's on the basis of their sexuality. I've heard great things about this show and I am really looking forward to seeing it. Runs to Dec 4.

Ones You Can Still Catch That I Probably Won't Make It To:

I'd really like to catch both Twelfth Night (Studio Theatre) and The Drowsy Chaperone (Grant MacEwan Theatre Arts) but I simply don't have enough nights. I've heard great things about both shows so if you are a Shakespeare buff or love your musical theatre here are two terrific options! They both run to Dec 3.

Ones I Saw Recently That are Now Closed:

If We Were Birds - U of A
A simply lovely piece of theatre. Well done and heart breaking, it weaves true stories of modern victims of war with the Procne and Philomele Myth. A phenomenal ensemble with Kendra O'Connor anchoring the whole thing. I have only ever seen Kendra in musicals and I was blown away by the strength of her performance.

Tornado Magnet - Theatre Network
I laughed so hard at this slice of real life from the trailer courts of central Alberta. Dotty tells it like it is and you can't help but recognize her and the world she lives in. It was great fun to go and just laugh and laugh.

Anyhow, I hope to get to writing more... when I am not at the shows! I hope you get out to see some of the great options onstage in our city!

Monday, October 10, 2016

Gearing up for RED at Walterdale...

RedThis week I am very excited for the Opening of Red at Walterdale. I saw the play several years ago at the Citadel and loved it. This month, I will see it again at Walterdale 3 times. That's because my husband is playing Mark Rothko in it. It's an awesome task, even more so for him because by day he lives far away from the world of art making his living as a Pharmacist. That is not to say he doesn't have an appreciation for things artistic. He is a phenomenal singer and has been onstage in several musicals, usually playing the bad guy, or the angry guy, because he's huge (6'5") and has a even bigger voice. The bigness helps for Rothko, at least I imagine it will, as Rothko certainly did not have a small personality. He also frequently buys art from local artists - things he likes. He has little pretension in that area.

 All of us in the house have been helping him prepare, running lines, giving pep talks, discussing art, letting him sleep, so I am excited to see him onstage this week. I am not sure if I will blog about the show after seeing it. It would be hard to be objective. I might talk a little about why I love this play so much. Hopefully you can take it in.

Red runs from October 12-22 at Walterdale Theatre.

Witnessing a Conga and a Trio of Bittergirls...

The theatre season has begun! I can tell because my calendar is getting busier over the next few weeks. This makes me happy. 

In the heyday of kicking off the season officially at the Citadel, I still managed to squeeze in Witness to a Conga at the Varscona (Teatro La Quindicina). I had seen this show in it's original presentation several years ago at the Fringe. I liked it then, but was puzzled by it as I wasn't sure what it was trying to say. The current production, however, was simply wonderful. Sometimes a play needs to marinate a bit, I guess. The design helped considerably but also the show itself seemed more gelled. It was touching and funny and Andrew MacDonald-Smith's journey through his life to his wedding is full of depth. It runs until October 15th so you can still catch it! It makes for a delightful yet meaningful evening of theatre.  

We've opened two shows at the Citadel so far this season! The first (Curious Incident) closed yesterday, but Bittergirl - the musical opened last week to a standing ovation! It opened on my birthday so I got an extra special treat seeing the show that night. I laughed so hard. Sadly and hilariously there were moments that I could related to, though I am well past my dating years. The 3 bittergirls (Rebecca Auerbach, Amanda LeBlanc and Tara Jackson) don't hold back on the humour and emotional investment. They are also amazing singers. Individually or on their own, the music is simply terrific! Jay Davis, playing The Guy, is also a treat in the show. He's great to look at, fabulous to hear sing and he plays the Magic Man, the Coward and the Mountie with such humour and self-deprecation it's so much fun to watch. Bittergirl - the musical runs in The Club until November 6th. This is a great space for the show and highly conducive to a girl's night out (you can bring your wine in!). I'm happy to be seeing the show again later this month with a couple of girls and my husband (I am sure he will enjoy it too!). It's worth it just for the music, so the fact that it's hilarious on top of that is icing on the cake! 

This week I am gearing up for Red at Walterdale (my husband is in it so I am seeing it a couple of times) and 10 out of 12 at the Roxy on Gateway (Wildside) which I think will be fascinating since I have lived through many a Q2Q both on and off headset. 

Monday, September 26, 2016

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time - Really Seeing Someone...

It's here and it's open and it's onstage - The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time at the Citadel. When I first heard we were doing the show I was so excited. I was a terrific fan of the book and had heard tremendous things about the stage play so to have it produced here was something I was really looking forward to. It did not disappoint. Overall, the experience is complex technically combined with grounded story-telling. It evokes the book, while still being it's own animal. Kudos to the cast and creative team for finding a way to tell the story in their own way (the conceptual design is quite different from the Broadway and London productions).

What I took away from it, however, beyond the amazing projections and clever way the set represents Christopher's brain and the wonderful commitment to telling the story by the actors, was how it made me see Christopher. It made me actually see this wonderful unique human being who just happens to be neuro-atypical. Too often I think we simply recognize that those were are different are there but we don't really see them. What the play does is make you see Christopher and empathize with him. I was angry when the other characters in the play spoke about him as though he wasn't in the room, because he was there, because the production and the remarkable performance by Edmund Stapleton made you see him at all times. It made him more than just a collection of tics and behaviours. It made him completely and wonderfully human. Now, I hope that I can carry that with me and I hope that others do too.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time runs to October 9th on the Shoctor Stage. Call 780.425.1820 or go to for tickets.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

More Word of Mouth Recommendations! (Thursday, Aug 18, 2016)

A return to the the Fringe grounds last night and encounters with different people (who have seen A LOT - Yay!) and here are some new Word of Mouth recommendations!

The Dragon
Mustache Party
The Seminar with Madge & Taffy
Nashville Hurricane
Bella Culpa
Shakespeare's Sirens
Curious Contagious
Off Book: The Musical
Mama's Boy
Saltwater Moon
Prepare for the Worst
'Til Death
Falling Awake
Scaramouche Jones

Unfortunately, some of these shows have finished their run for this Fringe, so if you are inspired to see any of them check the schedule quickly to make sure you don't miss them!

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

A Wee Interruption in Fringe reporting, because TWENTY YEARS!

A Couple More Days... A Couple More Shows...

I've hit seven more shows since Saturday.  It was supposed to be 8, but lesson learned, never schedule a 90 minute drama at the end of a five show day... my old brain couldn't handle it so I headed home early on Sunday. Still, 4 shows is a good measure of a day during the fringe.

Here are some highlights of the last two days of Fringe:

Half the Battle - The premise is very clever and Owen Bishop commits wholeheartedly to the world of two men in one body in this piece. Lacing historical fact with fictionalized characters, this show is a funny and touching one/two man show.

CLIMB - Interesting juxtaposition of taped narrative and circus aerial. I was fascinated. I think there is more that could be done here in terms of connecting the movement and the story, but I was engaged. My appreciation for dance helped a lot in understanding *contemporary circus* as shown here.

The F Words - Although it starts a little slow, once it gets rolling this show is full of laughs. There are a lot of F words, not all of them salty, and several sing along songs that are fun to do! It was a redemption from a couple of other shows that I've seen that were rather harsh towards middle-aged women and that was refreshing.

Good With People - This one left thinking. It's a moody two-hander set in Scotland. Well acted and directed, although occasionally it was hard to hear in the space and that was complicated by the accents. It did feature some of the strongest acting I've seen so far, particularly from Graham Mothersill (Evan) who plays a character who brilliantly skirts the line between irritating and charming.

The Unsyncables - So much ridiculous, silly, fun! Imagine tweens forming and practicing a synchronized swimming routine in the 90's in West Edmonton Mall. Already you are laughing... aren't you? Throw in a rivalry with another team (think mean girls on a scooter), an unlikely romance, more 90's pop songs and references that you can imagine and hilarity ensues!

Tonight is mine and Mark's 20th Wedding Anniversary so we are taking a night off from the Fringe. I'll be back on Wednesday night to catch a few more.

Happy fringing! 

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Word of Mouth - Sunday, August 14th

A few more Word of Mouth recommendations coming your way!

Porn & Pinochet
Three Men in a Boat
The Flying Doctor
What Gives?
Hedwig and the Angry Inch
5 Step Guide to Becoming German
Night Hawk Rules
The Fall of the House of Atreus: A Cowboy Love Song
Talking Dirty
The Panto Girls
Scaramouche Jones
The Dragon

Lots of variety! Lots of great shows! Hope you can catch some!

Saturday, August 13, 2016

WORD OF MOUTH - Saturday, August 13th

As part of my Fringe experience and because I can only get to see so many shows, I like to talk to people in line-ups and at the beer tent and on the grounds and ask them what shows they'd recommend based on what they've seen. The only requirement is that they can't recommend the show they are actually in/involved with themselves (if they are an artist).  I try, however, to talk primarily to the people who are primarily audience members.

Anyhow, here's my first round up of WORD OF MOUTH recommendations:

Prepare for the Worst
Trail and Error
Never Swim Alone
Talking Dirty
The Red Shirt Diaries
Gordon's Big Bald Head
Call Me Kirk
The Darling Family
Watermelon Girls
Saltwater Moon
Scaramouche Jones
The Ballad of Frank Allen
Cowboy: A Cowboy Story

I'll be collecting more all week, so if you see me, please give me your recommendations!

A Terrific First Weekend of That Was Then, This is Fringe...

Just shutting down Saturday night and I have taken in 9 shows and am feeling pretty good about what I've seen. Highlights include the following:

Never Swim Alone - Such a strong script by Daniel MacIvor delivered flawlessly.  Even if you've seen it before, it's worth checking out. The casting is perfect, the acting connected, and the direction tight and sharp. It's as if everyone on the stage is breathing together - they are so in sync. It's down at the French Quarter at Rutherford School. If I gave stars, I would give this one 5!

Bat Boy: The Musical - A talented cast and a very quirky, edgy, out-there musical. I'm a little amazed at what you get with your fringe dollars with this one! Highlights are Nadine Veroba as Meredith (the mother) and Mark Sinongco as Edgar (the bat boy), but this whole cast commits 110% to the camp required and they have the vocal chops to deliver big sound. It's not a show I could direct, but I am glad Amanda Neufeld has the sensibility to do justice to it and make me laugh so hard. Definitely not for kids, it's also at the French Quarter but in the main theatre at La Cite.

Cowboy: A Cowboy Story - It was great seeing this show again and with added elements in the new space. I was laughing from the first few moments on and I continue to be amazed by how in sync they are with the theatre and the film. Fast paced, funny and full of energy - you know they are enjoying doing the show as much as the audience is enjoying watching it.

The Colleen Bawn - The cast of four plays many, many characters and the zig-zag from one to another is half the fun of this piece. It's a fast-paced show that keeps you guessing about how it's going to end. It feels a titch long and some of the cast are stronger at the switches than others, but you're laughing so much at the end, you don't mind so much.

Pacamambo - I didn't know what to expect, but I enjoyed this play that had the feel of magic about it. It's a gentle tale with committed actors who embrace a sense of the mystical to help a young girl deal with the death of her grandmother. Almost fairy-tale like, it feels appropriate for tweens and up.

Letting Go of Alone - Although this show feels like it needs a little more arc and story, everything in it is excellently done.  The songs are sometimes charming and sometimes simply beautiful and sometimes sad and there're also a lot humorous moments in the piece. It left me wanting more, but in the way that I felt it had something more to say, but it didn't quite know what.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Musicals at the Fringe - a few for you to consider...

It is no secret that I am a fan of musicals, I've been in over 30 of them and have directed about 15 or so, in fact, I've even written a couple of them, so I'm partial.  Fringe is always interesting for musicals because the format is generally shorter so you get the opportunity to see some shows that might not be done in the regular season. You also will get song cycles, and more edgier pieces, and those are certainly up on the docket for this Fringe.

Here are a few that have caught my eye:

If you are looking for something that you might not see on the main stages you could check out Hedwig and the Angry Inch (Strathcona High - BYOV 27) produced by Scona Alumni Theatre Co. It's directed by Linette Smith and features Chris Scott and MacKenzie Ruerink as well as a gang of talented young triple threats. The Scona Alumni Fringe shows tend to sell out fast, so you might want to get to the box office quick on this one. Another outside the box choice would be Straight Edge/Patient Mango Theatre's Bat Boy: The Musical directed by Amanda Neufeld with music direction by Daniel Belland. So we're looking at the team that brought Reefer Madness, Bare and Ordinary Days to the Fringe in year's past. The cast also features some of my favorite local performers! Also known for selling out so line up now!

If you like a musical that is more about the songs than the scenes, you might want to check out a song cycle. You can see either Plain Jane's' Working at the Varscona Theatre or Foote in the Door's Edges at the Hi-Edmonton Hostel. Edges is by Pasek and Paul (Dogfight) and focuses on 4 young millennials in New York. Working is by Stephen Schwartz (Wicked, Pippin) and has some incredible songs that you don't get to hear that often.

Looking for musicals with a local connection? Well, there's Teatro la Quindicina's What Gives? penned by Stewart Lemoine which features Jason Hardwick, Jocelyn Ahlf, Rachel Bowron and Andrew MacDonald-Smith. Or you can catch Song of the Martingale by Andrea House & friends. This is the same company that brought Valentine's Train and Forget Me Not to the Fringe in year's past. Or support a new Edmonton writing team and go to The Grave Digger by Erin Hutchinson & Kelly M. M. Henry.

If you are looking for something for a younger audience, you could check out EMT's Broadway Rocks or Opera NUOVA's You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown. Both shows are in the PCL and should provide an excellent introduction to musical theatre for even the youngest audience members.

Make sure you check out the program as there are even more musical options for you, from Opera to Sondheim to Zombies! I'm sure if you like musicals there will be one that feels just for you!

Sunday, August 07, 2016

More is Better... When it comes to Fringe Shows!

Back at it today with the Program and my calendar... It's going to be tough but even if I don't get to them all, I will come out a winner!

Here's a few more shows that are catching my eye:

Cowboy: A Cowboy Story - Accidental Humour, Edmonton, CA - Garneau Theatre
Guaranteed to be the show that brings me closest to laughing so hard I pee my pants, you cannot go wrong with Accidental Humour. I've said it before, these guys are the best at merging theatre with film and their wacky sense of humour and understanding of genre is phenomenal. Might even be the one we go to for our 20th Wedding Anniversary.

Trail and Error - Northern Sabbatical Productions, Edmonton, CA - Old Strathcona Public Library
A New Work from Linda Wood Edwards - I'm in! Plus it's got the oh-so-charming Ellen Chorley in it - Sign me up again!

We Were Dancing: Two Short Plays by Noel Coward - Bright Young Things, Edmonton CA - Varscona Theatre
It's the pedigree of the cast and creative team for this show AND you can see it in the beautiful new Varscona Theatre (which is ah-maz-ing!). Noel Coward is also a pretty good bet.

Ta Da! - Casavant Productions, Edmonton, CA - Old Strathcona Public Library
Hoping to take my youngest to this one. He's a magic buff and this show looks tailor-made for those fascinated by "how'd they do that?"

Pacamambo - Cardiac Theatre, Edmonton, CA - The Roxy on Gateway
After seeing Scorched a few years ago at the Citadel I am a big Wajdi Mouawad fan.  Also, I was impressed with Cardiac Theatre after seeing their show this past season. I am definitely up for more from them.

Next I am going to look at the musicals... Not as many as last year but some great options!

Saturday, August 06, 2016

Tracking Through the Fringe Progam... aka The List is Growing...

I guess it's a good year for me to not have any Fringe shows of my own as it gives me more time to see things! And as I waded through the Fringe Program my list of shows started to grow exponentially as I turned the page, at least that's how it felt.

So here's a few more on my "I think I want to see that show" list:

Letting Go of Alone - Soul Productions, Edmonton CA - Old Strathcona Performing Arts (Venue 8)
When you combine Jake Hastey of Toy Guns Dance Theatre and the talented Nadine Veroba and Justin Kautz then I really don't think you can go wrong. A new work merging dance and live music exploring relationships in the modern age. This one is definitely on the top of my list.

CLIMB - Deathbench Productions, Bellingham USA - Westbury Theatre (Venue 1)
The write-up says: Using striking visuals and unexpected humour, CLIMB fuses breathtaking aerial circus performance with four connected narratives set to an original score. I'm intrigued to see how they've merged circus aerial work with the narratives as I always like to see what happens when artists merge disciplines.

Drinking in America - Ronin Theatre, Edmonton CA - Backstage Theatre (Venue 2)
The ever charismatic Neil Kuefler attacks this series of monologues from Eric Bogosian. It might be one of the darker ones I go to, but I expect both the writing and acting to be strong, and I have to mix it up a bit with dark and light shows.  

Epic Tragedy - iiii theatricals, Edmonton CA - Walterdale Theatre (Venue 3)
I missed this Gerald Osborn comedy about Medea and Oedipus when it was at the ADFA a few years ago.  It's filled with talented local artists who know how to make an audience laugh. I'm hoping to check it out for some epic laughs.

Stones in His Pockets - Harbour Theatre, Prince Rupert, CA - King Edward School (Venue 5)
I've always wanted to see this play and here it is. Here's the description: When a film crew invades an Irish village, the movies spark big dreams in starstruck locals. Two lighthearted extras, Jake and Charlie, cultivate an uneasy friendship in a community wrestling with visions of fame and burdens of tradition.

The Dragon - Dead Rabbits Theatre, London UK - King Edward School (Venue 5)
Maybe it's the picture in the program but I keep coming back to this one. It promises kinghts and dragons and monsters and says it will be a high-powered, hilarious and touching tale. I'm going to check it out and see.

That's it for now... trust me, my list is much, much longer... stay tuned for more!

Thursday, August 04, 2016

Couple More Shows I Am Hoping to See...

The Unsyncables by Rebecca Merkley looks like it's going to be a very funny hour of entertainment. The cast of 4 features some very hilarious women and, always a fan of new work and new playwrights, I'm intrigued to see what Rebecca Merkley has written. She's always hysterical when she's onstage so it's going to be fun to see what has come from her brain!

Description: A love letter to the 90's, this heartwarming comedy celebrates the world of pre-teen friendships. Mary has decided to form her very own synchronized swimming squad. Her quirky team hope to make a big splash at a local competition, but trouble arises when Mary runs into her former teamates. H2-Uh-Oh!

Starring: Alyson DiceyMaddy KnightKristin Johnston Snelgrove and Brianne Jang
Written and Directed by: Rebecca Ann Merkley

BYOV Venue #41, Rutherford School. 

Half the Battle is another new work from a new playwright, Owen Bishop, who is also starring in the solo show. Telling the story of a Canadian pilot and co-pilot who were shot down during the Second World War and were buried together with tombstones attached to commemorate their partnership lasting through to the afterlife. Bishop plays both Adams and Davis on their one-way journey to the undiscovered country from whose bourn no traveler returns. It's billed as a comedy and I heard the the preview bit at the Fringe showcase was hilarious. 

Starring: Owen Bishop
Written by: Owen Bishop
Directed by: Joel Taras

Venue 9: Telus Phone Museum

Fringe is Almost Upon Us!

It's a strange feeling for me this summer. After a few summers in a row with multiple Fringe shows, I find myself with the luxury of just haivng to watch shows this year! Sont' worry, I have enough things outside my theatre life to keep me busy, but I am looking forward to seeing A LOT of Fringe Shows!

I thought I would do a few profiles on shows that I am hoping to take in!

First Up: Confessions of a Middle Aged Drama Queen - a new work written and performed by local Edmontonian Erika Conway, is a comedy about self discovery, overcoming obstacles and managing a desire to meet a hot strapping fireman! I've seen Erika onstage several times over the past few years and she has an electric personality and charisma as well as terrific comedic timing.  I'm excited to see what she has done in her first foray as playwright!

To be or not to be a Drama Queen…. that is the question!
Confessions of A Middle Aged Drama Queen - Madelyn Sharp wants nothing more than to be loved and adored.  Her quirky ways, imagination and perspective on life has saved her from going to the dark side too often but also finds her in very unique experiences. Reality and her dreams just don’t get along and this is the struggle she faces as she makes her way to discovering what is on the other side of the door. 

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Final Move in a Long Game... Chess at Walterdale opens Wednesday!

Where have I been? Well, for the last 11 weeks or so, I have been in rehearsal for Chess at Walterdale. It's a complicated show with a lot of moving pieces, gorgeous but challenging music, and a cast of 23+3 (we have 3 young ladies playing Young Florence). I have been blessed with a wonderful cast - I do not know how many times the creative team has said to ourselves, "We really cast some very nice people" - and that doesn't always happen (but I will not tell any tales now). Tonight is the 2nd and final Preview, with Opening Night on Wednesday, July 6th. Last night proved that they just needed an audience as it came even more alive with the reactions from the house. 

Chess is a show that I have wanted to do for a long time. I probably wasn't ready until a few years ago. The music is some of my all-time favourite and we have been blessed with a terrific cast who can really do it justice. I can thank Sally Hunt, our Music Director, for making sure that's looked after. She has also assembled a tight, talented band, to accompany our cast. We also have a cast who is not only super-nice as I mentioned earlier, but they are talented and dedicated to telling this story as excellently as possible. They have embraced everything asked of them, from Bethany Hughes' inventive choreography to the challenging score to caring about a fictional game or 3 of chess! I feel blessed as a director. 

Why Chess? The music is first and foremost why I wanted to do it. It is what brings most people to this story initially. But the story is also compelling.  Perhaps it's because I was a child of the 80's - a teenager during the worst of the Cold War - that I get what these global politics are about. Perhaps it is the comment made about excusing the bad behaviour of the supremely talented that made me think it's still a very relevant story. Perhaps it is because I think we still draw so many invisible lines between countries today - maybe not US vs. USSR, but we certainly see the xenophobia alive and well today directed at cultures that are different. I love that Chess shows us the humans behind the labels.  It asks us to look beyond our prejudices and national identities and see the people. At least that's what it does for me. 

Anyhow, it has been a joyful journey and I am so excited to share it. Hopefully you will be able to check it out. Chess runs July 6th - 16th at Walterdale Playhouse (shows at 8 pm and 2 pm on Sunday). You can get your tickets at or 780.420.1757 or gamble at the door 1 hour prior to show start. Several nights are already very close to selling out so don't wait!

Florence (Lauren Pearson) and Anatoly (Todd Hauck)
Freddie (Matt Boisvert) and Anatoly (Todd Hauck)
Photo Credit: Jessica Poole

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

A Weekend of Song and Dance! City of Angels, West Side Story (AGAIN), and Hair!

This past weekend, we took in not one, nor two, but THREE musicals all within the span of about 27 hours! We also squeezed in a meeting with a contractor and piano lessons so we really maximized our time!

We started on Friday with ELOPE's production of City of Angels.  This is one of my all-time favourite shows to sing and I was very pleased with the production I saw.  It's a show that suggests a huge proscenium with flys and trucks and revolves as it switches from real life to the story of film so I was curious how it would play on the Faculte St. Jean stage. They did marvelous job making it all work. Kudos to the cast for handling the challenging music, particularly the super tight Angel City Four and the stellar leads - Jason Hlus, Trevor J, Monica Roberts, Andrea Graham, Erin Vandermolen-Pater and James Toupin. It was great to see the show on stage again (I haven't seen it in over 20 years) and have it live up to my memory.

On Saturday afternoon, I finally made my way back for a second viewing of West Side Story at the Citadel.  I had seen it Opening Night and was blown away by it! The Singing! The Dancing! The Momentum! I cried twice and spent a good deal of the show in awe of the talent onstage.  Pamela Gordon as Anita is literally as-good-as-it-gets! Eva Tavares as Maria is both fierce and delicate with a voice that cannot be more perfect.  George Krissa as Tony has a charm that emits like a strobe light from the stage. The whole cast is incredible particularly when they dance.  The direction and choreography is flawless. Choreographer Laura Krewski has worked some true stage magic that makes you think this show should ALWAYS be done on a thrust stage, and director Bob Baker has amped the testosterone levels so that it's terrible end feels tragically inevitable. Going again on Saturday confirmed for me how fabulous the show is.  I cried, again, but in totally different places. And oh, to her Pamela Gordon and Eva Tavares sing together in their heart-breaking duet... just fabulous! Only one week left for this one as it closes on May 22nd.  You can get tickets by calling 780.425.1820 or going online to

Finally, we grabbed a bite to eat and settled in at The Mayfield for a groovy evening with Hair. The show was a lot of fun with great voices delivering the catchy, rambunctious songs of the hippie-love-in show. I am not as familiar with the show, but found the ensemble cast quite entertaining. I really liked the comic character bits, especially those portrayed by Sheldon Elter and Amber Bissonette. The show runs until June 12th at The Mayfield and you can get tickets here. 

Sunday, May 15, 2016

A Series of Anti-Heroes...

Sometimes theatre lifts you up and makes you leave inspired and joyful... sometimes the people on the stage are a cautionary tale about what 'not to do'... I had a little streak of theatre that was more the latter.  So odd that it all clumped together.

The first was The Supine Cobbler presented by Maggie Tree. Excellent direction and acting, a terrific soundscape, and a really cool concept allowed for some laughter as the Western trope was played to the max in the most unusual of circumstances - the waiting room of an abortion clinic. I would have liked to have seen the concept applied to a more compelling situation as there never really seemed any obstacles to the outcome and the whole play seemed to serve more as public therapy. I left no more or less shaken in my belief that legal, safe abortions must happen but that they are not something to be rejoiced about. And there were attitudes expressed by the characters that bothered me: a trio of women laughing gleefully about 'not becoming a mother' (one twice in one year); and a defiant response to the question about using birth control, "sometimes it just isn't convenient". I personally don't judge those who've had to make that choice as I presume they have their reasons and that's good enough for me, but this play kind of made me want to...

Then I saw Gordon at Theatre Network.  It's in the tradition of those films where everyone is bleeding at the end of the film and the survival of anyone past the credits is questionable.  Filled with a quartet of unlikable people it was hard to really connect.  Again, the production itself hit all the markers - well cast and well acted with great gory effects in a perfectly constructed half-derelict kitchen. The soundscape seemed off as it wanted us to prepare for something funnier than the play actually was. I will admit, I had trouble with the script.  Lots of short cut scenes - written more like a movie than a play - which chopped up the momentum. A play like this needs to feel like an impending train-wreck and although it ends in a terrible place, complete with blood and an uncertain future, it never quite earned it. Too much lag, and not enough charm written into the characters leaving the actors with little to work with outside the ugly. I think if you are into that kind of Quentin Tarantino aesthetic, this would totally appeal to you - but I needed a little more.

Finally, there was Wish at Northern Light Theatre. This one is more complicated.  Certain aspects of it were fascinating and again, like the other two shows, it was very well executed. Up to about 2/3 of the way I was completely drawn in - I liked the story of the child of deaf parents finding teaching sign to be his calling and that leading him to teaching a gorilla to sign and developing a real connection with the animal.  It's tied up in animal rights and the concept of informed consent and it started several interesting thought progressions.  There are many layers. It takes a truly disturbing turn, however, when the relationship between the man and the gorilla becomes physical. I couldn't handle it. I shut down in the audience. It felt like pedophilia. I could find no justification.  I might have been okay with it if there was something in the play's ending that supported my feelings, but I might have been too shut down at that point to recognize it. There were more troubling things said in the talk-back but as they lived outside the play, I won't comment on what they were. However, I do know that those things said made it even harder for me to appreciate the show. It's hard for me, because there were so many well done things in this show: brilliant physicalization of the gorilla by Ainsley Hilliard; a complicated look at communication; committed acting and a beautiful looking production.

Theatre is so individual and each show does something different. They can't all make you feel happy, I get that. I have thought about all those these shows and the issues they raised several times since seeing them, so perhaps they did accomplish their goals...

Thursday, April 07, 2016

Pardon My French... Glengarry Glen Ross and The Passion of Narcisse Mondoux...

Over the last little while I went to two Opening Nights at local theatres. 

The first was The Passion of Narcisse Mondoux a co-production of Northern Light Theatre and L'Unit Theatre.  A unique experience as the play is performed by the same actors (Brian Dooley and Manon Beaudoin) on alternate nights in French and English. It's a lovely little piece about a widower Plumber who has set his sights on a recently widowed women who he has always been in love with. They are very different, but Narcisse Mondoux (Dooley) is doggedly persistent and flexible to achieve his goal. It's a script that subtly deals with preconceived notions of roles men and women and the power of "love" to allow those notions to bend and shift. The humour is familiar and sprinkled liberally throughout and the two actors convey a soft and believable affection for each other. The show runs until April 9th at La Cite.  Check the link above for which performances are in English and which are in French. 

The second was Glengarry Glen Ross by David Mamet playing at Walterdale Theatre until April 16th. This production is tight and engaging and fast-paced, as Mamet needs to be.  The cast of seven (Dale Wilson, Alex D. Mackie, J. Nelson Niwa, Cory Christensen, John Evans, Justin Deveau and Cale Baylen) embrace the coarse language and coarse tactics in the high pressure world of dubious land-sales in the 1980s. These guys, and they are "Guys", are cut-throat and hungry and they attack the language and dynamic with a fierceness.  The script is liberally laced with expletives but it all feels right in this world. It's quick and sharp and it's hard to look away. I was completely drawn in from start to finish. 

Some great options for you this week in #yegtheatre

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Looking Ahead to April for #yegtheatre

April bring with it Auditions for Chess, the show I am directing for Walterdale Theatre. So I had to take a little time to look ahead and plan my theatre options.  There are quite a few good options but fortunately not as many as the past two months.  Rehearsals make it hard for me to see stuff!

Anyhow, here are a few things I am looking forward to:

Northern Light Theatre's The Passion of Narcisse Mondoux: Narcisse Mondoux (played by the always excellent Brian Dooley) retired Master Plumber, sets out to woo the recently widowed Laurencienne Robichaud — at her husband's funeral. This is a co-production with L'Uni Theatre and will alternate between performances in English and French - how cool is that?! I'll be taking in the English show for sure, and I hope to fit in the French version. 

The Citadel Theatre's Other Desert Cities: A sharp, smart comedy-drama about family secrets unearthed. When I read this script a few years ago I wished I could be in it - it's so well-written and unwraps in a way that stabs you in the gut (playwright: Jon Robin Baitz). It's also incredibly current as the family has liberal/conservative (democrat/republican) divides complicating the parent-child relationships. 

Mayfield Dinner Theatre's Hair: Let the sun shine! I imagine this is going to be a groovy show, filled with peace and love. I've been enjoying the shows at the Mayfield this season and am looking forward to their take on the Age of Aquarius! 

The Citadel Theatre's West Side Story: I've been walking around the office snapping my fingers and singing Tonight and America.  I think I am ready to see this show! I was also blown away by the Citadel/Banff Centre Professional Theatre Program Cabaret a couple of weeks ago and can't wait to see this group of extremely talented triple-threat actors onstage in the Maclab. I'm particularly looking forward to Melanie Piatocha singing Somewhere. 

Walterdale Theatre's Glengarry Glen Ross: Mamet. There it is.  More f-bombs per page than any play has a right to. A strong cast of some of my favorite actors.  It opens next week and I am really looking forward to seeing it.  It may not have the Alec Baldwin speech from the movie, but I've watched that a few times in preparation so I think I'm good! 

Theatre Network's Gordon: Brian Dooley as a grumpy old man with criminal intent.  I think that works for me. I'll be interested in seeing the contrast with Narcisse Mondoux and I willbe book-ending the month of April with Dooley! Should be fun! 

Well, this week you could/should go see... A Picasso or The Realistic Joneses...

Well, those are my recommendations..

Shadow Theatre's A Picasso is a wonderfully sharp, funny, intelligent piece about Picasso in Paris during World War II. It's themes centre around censorship and art as a political weapon and compromising values in the face of the horrific power of the Nazis. Julien Arnold as Picasso and Alana Hawley as a German cultural attache go toe-to-toe in this two-hander. I saw the play at the Fringe a few years ago with Shannon Blanchet and Arnold and loved it then. This remount is just as sharp and the new dynamic between the actors makes it worth seeing a second time. A Picasso runs to April 3rd at the Backstage Theatre.

In the Roxy Performance Series, Wild Side Productions presents The Realistic Joneses. I did't know what to expect and I think that is the best way to see this show, because it is truly unexpectedly and unpredictably funny. Two couples, both Joneses, live on the same street and deal with illness and each other. You will laugh out loud and you won't see it coming. It's absurd and realistic at the same time. The cast (Belinda Cornish, Robert Benz, Amber Borotsik and Jesse Gervais) is stellar. The Realistic Joneses runs to April 3rd at C103.

Sunday, March 06, 2016

Checklist... What I saw just before I was out of town...

Hey, so I was away for the last week of February.  Immediately before that, I saw a few shows but had no time to write about them before I left, so I thought I would do a quick re-cap.  All of them have closed, but that doesn't mean you can't check out the next show from these companies!

The Early Bloomer by Jana O'Connor presented by Concrete Theatre
I didn't bring my sons to this, because I thought it was for little, little kids but I wish I had.  This was truly a show that could have the moniker 'suitable for ALL ages'.  The story deals with a group of young buds in a garden who are all worried about how they are growing - too fast, too slow, not the right away.  It's applicable to the little ones because of the wonderful physical comedy and silliness, but it's also really timely for those pre-pubescent and those in the thick of it.  The line about their stems getting fuzz would have made my boys hysterical! And for adults, particularly those with children, it was bang-on! The cast of four, Jenny McKillop, Mark Sinongco, Patricia Cerra and Troy O'Donnell, were terrific - funny, physical and totally committed!

La Voix Humaines presented by L'Uni Theatre and Carmen presented by Edmonton Opera
I saw two operas this month and both were in french. Both centered around emotional irrational woman, however in very different ways. I was blown away by the solo performance of Whitney Leigh Sloan in La Voix Humaine - challenging music and singing and SOLO singing for 75 minutes - never mind that it was an extremely emotional journey to sustain supported only by an unheard voice on the end of a phone. With Carmen, I commented on FB that I figured it was the source for the phrase, "Bitches be crazy!" because she definitely was. Great singing all around, fabulous sets and costumes and it was so wonderful to hear so many songs I was familiar with actually in context of the story. My favourite onstage was Lida Szkwarek as Micaela - there's definitely a huge talent there and man-oh-man, what a voice! I'm definitely enjoying seeing shows in French.  I still have to use the surtitles to get everything, but it was fun discovering that I understand more than I think I will! I guess I learned something in my grade 6-12 french classes!

I'm busy this week and next with the crop of indie theatre that is on and going to both high school and junior high open houses... stay tuned for notes about those shows!

Wednesday, March 02, 2016

March Madness for #yegTheatre!

There's a lot on the go this month for theatre.  The start of the month is jam-packed with indie theatre options so there's really no excuse to stay home!

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I've already taken in Hot Mess and The Other, two of the indie options on the docket.

Next up for me is Alice Through the Looking-Glass at the Citadel.  I'm looking forward to seeing the Super-Star Edmonton-cast of this show which promises to embrace the topsy-turvy sensibility of the Lewis Carroll story. The costumes and set are fantastic (designed by Bretta Gerecke) and the scenes I have seen as part of the media call looked very cool.  Can't wait to see the Jabberwocky and the Walrus and the Carpenter come to life! I studied both of the Alice books in University and kind of want to re-read them to refresh my memory...

I'll be taking in 2 more shows this weekend. A little musical treat with Wish You Were Here by the Plain Janes and then a hard 90 degree turn with the parent-teacher interview premised Gidion's Knot presented at Skirts AFire. Then next week I will be seeing This is War by Hannah Moskovitch presented by Punctuate Theatre. As you can see, this first half of the month is a real roller-coaster!

I'll check back when I've seen a few and let you know what's up for the rest of the month later!

Cardiac Theatre's Hot Mess and Pyretic Productions' The Other - Sexual Disconnect in the Modern World

So, um guys, I'm older than I look... These shows were a little bit of a shock to my system...

I've kicked off March with 2 shows that underscored that for me, both of which look at sexual disconnect in the present day.

The first was Pyretic Productions (with Good Women Dance) The Other. The Other tells the story of Sharon (Amber Borotsik), a white girl raised in Bombay by a cheating father and loyal mother, who returns to Alberta to discover the secrets of making pickles and choosing to only have relationships with men who are already married. Her otherness in the world prevents her from really forming commitments and leaving her disconnected. The piece was accented with movement by a chorus of 5 women. The choreography is interesting, and the show feels more like a dance piece than a theatre piece. If you like theatre that's a little more abstract which also incorporates music and dance to augment the story telling, you will like this.

The next show I saw was Cardiac Theatre's Hot Mess.  It was in the basement of El Cortez and the noise from the upstairs restaurant provides an interesting layer to the soundscape of the show.  It feels entirely appropriate for this show that juxtaposes contrasting attitudes toward sex by all four of it's characters. The production is sharp, edgy and unapologetic. It's one of those shows that makes me glad that I am old and not 'out there' because I really don't know where I would fit in the spectrum.

An interesting start to the month of March, which promises to be jam-packed with theatre. I'll be off to Alice Through the Looking-Glass tomorrow night which I think will be a decided contrast to what I have seen already this week!

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The Gay Heritage Project, Klondykes, 'Blak - Theatre that lets us feel someone else's experience in the world...

A few months ago I posted something on FB about liking to learn my history from novels or plays as opposed to textbooks. A lot of people indicated that I was wrong, but as I was expressing a preference, not a fact, I didn't worry about it too much.  But recently I have seen 3 shows that illustrate what I meant (or felt).  These shows, without being dry historical pieces, allowed me to understand and feel a little more what someone else's history was.

The Gay Heritage Project, now playing at the Citadel under February 27th, is a wonderful exploration of what Gay Heritage is and what it is to be gay (at least in Canada). It's layered and through a tight tumble of a variety of scenes, the 3 gifted actors (Damien Atkins, Paul Dunn and Andrew Kushnir) managed to leave me with a better understanding of what it is to be gay.  It's sometimes hysterically funny, sometimes serious, sometimes sad, and very real and personal. I had an epiphany that I hope I will hold onto.  There's a scene on a bus with a variety of queer identified individuals.  The healthy, white, gay male acknowledges that he might have it easier than those on the bus, but he claims them as his tribe.  It's the place he feels most at home. I was saddened, because I wanted him to feel at home with me - the straight, white woman that I am. But I realized that for so many of us we don't have to search for a safe place. My safe place is with my family and my history is just there. For many gay individuals this is not the case (not family, not school, not workplaces) and they have to seek out their safe places. I think that so many of us just know who we are and where we are safe, that it doesn't occur to us to even think about it.  But this show really made me think about it. I encourage you all to check it out.  It's a celebratory night which does not blame the audience, but rather seeks to create understanding both for the actors themselves and those they are speaking to.

Krystle Dos Santos 'BLAK is no longer running (it ran for 3 nights in January at the Citadel), but it too offered insight into a life experience other than my own. It was a night of stories, dance, poetry and music about what being black in Western Canada meant.  The music was amazing and it anchored the piece, but it was the stories of Brett Miles and the others that drew me in. It too had a celebratory feel - an embracing of the culture that was jubilant.  But there were moments too, that broke my heart a little.  A poem from a teenager to his younger self, victimized by bullying for being different, was so full of strength and maturity.  I wanted more of the stories - the individual experiences.  I had never heard of Amber Valley, Alberta - the show drove me to google after I got home.  I feel we could afford to know more. I know it's Black History month right now and there are events in the city that might offer some more. It would be worth it to check out 5ArtistsOneLove this month.

Finally, Guys in Disguise are currently presenting Klondykes at Theatre Network until Feb 21st. It tells the story of a lesbian couple in the Klondike who skirt the 'no unaccompanied women' rule by pretending to be husband and wife. Unable to fit in the world as they were, Loosey (Rebecca Ann Merkley) and Hattie (Mackenzie Reurink) find a way to make their way. Along with Narrator Amanda Neufeld, they form a dynamic trio of voices.  The show is a song cycle which uses the mood and tone of songs to reach out to the audience. The three women all have tremendous voices which are great alone and even better in harmony. Good music can make me feel more than mere words and this music (by Trevor Schmidt and Darrin Hagen) is very, very good. The story is a fascinating look into a time and world where women had few choices without the protection of a man.

Saturday, February 06, 2016

Lots of Laughter in BOEING BOEING and WE'RE NOT AFRAID!

Last night I took in We're Not Afraid (part of the Made In Edmonton Series at the Citadel) presented by Rapid Fire Theatre.  The show is an improvised homage to Who's Afraid of Viriginia Woolf? (currently running on the Citadel mainstage).  It's not a sloppy copy, but rather leans on the relationships, style and themes of the show along with suggestions from the audience to produce a very funny evening of improv. The cast is the cream of the RFT Crop, featuring Amy Shostak, Matt Alden, Joleen Ballendine and Ben Gorodetsky and they were certainly up the task of delivering the deliciously biting and irreverent parody.  Armed with suggestions of a Funeral, The Moon Landing, and Ventriloquism they really went for it and man-oh-man was it funny! You don't have to have seen Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? to enjoy it either. Most of us are somewhat familiar with images of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton to get us to where we need to be to 'get' what is being parodied.  At my table, I was the only one who had seen the main stage Citadel show and the other 3 people were just as entertained. There's only one more show for We're Not Afraid left tonight at 8 p.m. It's a unique and hilarious option for you, I'd encourage you to check it out!

On Wednesday, I caught Opening Night of Boeing Boeing at Walterdale Theatre. I had seen the show a few years at the Mayfield and loved it.  The Walterdale show is similarly hilarious!  It's a great date night or night out for laughs. They embraced the door-slamming farce about a Paris bachelor with three fiancees who are all flight attendants on different schedules.  A storm lands them all in the city at the same time and the hi-jinks entailed to keep his secret are very, very funny.  They cast embraces the physical and over-the-top requirements and there are many gut-busting moments!  Highlights are Carrie Candy as the uber-passionate German and Heather Patton as the beleaguered maid who has to keep the menu straight, but Director Lauren Tamke has created a terrific ensemble with the entire cast. Boeing Boeing runs to February 13th - it would make a terrific date so if you don't have Valentine's plans, this would be perfect!