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Sunday, January 31, 2016

February #YEG Theatre Plans For Me!

After a fairly busy January, I've started mapping out my February theatre plans.  There are a lot of things on so it's making me choose carefully.

Of course, it's time for the Chinook Series (on now).  There are quite a few shows that are on throughout the festival so you should check out the schedule and find something! I'm going to be seeing Ursa Major, for sure. It looks like a beautiful love story and it's written by Meg Dart and directed by Beth Dart, both of Catch the Keys. I've heard that ugly crying might happen so I will be bringing tissues to deal with that!

After all that crying, I will be moving on to a few comedies! First up will be Boeing Boeing at Walterdale.  I saw the show at the Mayfield a few years ago and had a blast.  I'm looking forward to seeing how Walterdale handles this crazy 60's farce about a Paris bachelor who is engaged to 3 different stewardesses on different flight schedules. Trouble happens when a freak storm causes all 3 to be waylaid in Paris at the same time.  Oh, the door slamming!

I'll also be checking out the new Guys in Disguise production, Klondykes at Theatre Network. This time it's Girls in Disguise in a gender-blurring musical about women in the Klondike who skirted the law about actually being there by dressing as men. The cast is a powerhouse trio of Rebecca Ann Merkley, Amanda Neufeld and Mackenzie Reurink so you are pretty much guarenteed the music is going to be off the charts.

I'm very excited to be taking in the Buddies in Bad Times presentation The Gay Heritage Project, at the Citadel. It's just finishing up it's second run in Toronto before it heads out here and the response out East has been extremely positive.  I read the script a year ago and found it to be extremely compelling.  I'm looking forward to an evening that will be both funny and thought-provoking. It's in The Club, so I would encourage people to get their tickets now as seating is a lot more limited than in the larger theatres.

Friends have been talking a lot about Huff at the Rubaboo Festival put on by Alberta Aboriginal Arts. It's right across the street at the Stanley Milner library so I am hoping to squeeze it into my schedule this week.  The festival has other offerings, if Huff doesn't seem to be your cup of tea, but it only runs to February 6th, so act fast!

I'll also be catching the Edmonton Opera's Carmen at the Jubilee Auditorium this month. I'm excited to see an opera where I will recognize the music! They opened this past weekend and I have already had a bit of fun peeking at the photos. I'm also excited because I think I know about 5-6 people in the chorus and it is always wonderful to see talented friends onstage!

Well, this is going to get me to about the middle of the month.  I'll have to do another post when I get the second half of the month figured out! Lots to see and do in Edmonton - don't stay home - See a Show!

George and Martha Throw one Heck of a Party! Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? at the Citadel

This past week I took in the Edward Albee classic, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? at the Citadel. It seems odd to use the word classic because the play, particularly this well-acted and well-directed production, seems so crisply current.  It was simply an amazing night at the theatre. The 3 hours whip past you at a break-neck pace and keep you engaged the whole time. The two intermissions are nice for a breath and to stretch your legs, but WOW what a show!

I've seen the play twice before - both good productions with solid casts - this production was totally worth seeing it again.  It was like seeing the play for the first time. Tom Rooney, as the bedraggled George, plays it subtle and sneaky.  Brenda Robins, as the seemingly dominant Martha, brays and plays with an electric energy.  The younger couple, Nick and Honey, played by Jay Clift and Ava Jane Markus, are wonderfully lost in the chaotic world of George and Martha's living room. All in all, it is a delightful cocktail on the stage!

I can't find anything to fault - the acting is terrific, it's funny, it's charged, the pacing and direction is sharp and smart. If you like theatre - go see it!  If you are an actor or director - go see it!  If you want to feel better about your own relationship - go see it!

If you're not sure about my opinion, here are a few others you can check out:
Liz Nicholls, Edmonton Journal
Jenna Marynowski - After the House Lights
Graham Hicks, Hicks Biz Blog

They all think you should go too!

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? runs to February 13th at the Citadel.  Tickets start at just $30+GST.

Photo: Tom Rooney and Brenda Robins
Photo Credit: EPIC Photography

Monday, January 25, 2016

Up on Stage Reading for Walterdale's Donor Voted Show Event!

On Friday night, I found myself in a very comfortable place.  I was back up on the Walterdale stage reading for the Donor Voted Show Event. It was a great evening that saw a nice turn-out from the membership and raised $800 for the theatre as well as helping to select one of the shows for the 2016/17 Season.  The three shows up for consideration were Queen Milli of Galt; The Attic, The Pearls and Three Fine Girls; and The Glace Bay Miner's Museum. I had a great time reading from the second selection with Kristin Johnston and Kat Evans.  John Evans was also involved reading for the other shows. It was fun to read with some really good actors who I've been lucky enough to direct before, but not perform with.

After the votes were counted, Queen Milli of Galt was declared the winner! Now Artistic Director Anne Marie Szucs has one of her shows decided for next season and she has only to select the four others to round out the roster!

A fitting end to a week I spent getting prepped for Chess, which I am directing at Walterdale later this season!

I Want to Be a Naturelle Girl! Flora and Fawna's Field Trip

This past week I took in NLT's Flora and Fawna's Field Trip (with Fleurette) at the PCL Theatre. I'd seen the show a couple of years ago at the Fringe and was so excited to return to the Magic Fairy Ring again! I brought someone who hadn't seen it previously and she got to be the Fox and go up onstage and participate (how exciting!).  The show is so heart-warming and hilarious and although all three of the actors onstage are brilliant, I have to admit Brian Dooley as Fleurette just kills me! It's a wonderful story about being different and still finding a way to belong and be kind. The show wrapped up this weekend here in Edmonton, but it's heading to Lunchbox Theatre in Calgary and for those of you down there, you should definitely check it out!

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Dirty Dancing... For those who loved the movie...

I'm never sure what to expect for those stage shows that are constructed from popular movies so I generally just go in to them hoping for a good time.  I did have a good time at Dirty Dancing, recently presented by Broadway Across Canada at the Jubilee Auditorium, but I think that is primarily because I am a child of the 80's.  I don't mean that I was born in the 80's, I mean that I was a teenager/young adult then and as a result I probably have seen the movie Dirty Dancing upwards of 10 times.  The stage show really tried to capture the movie - particularly the iconic moments.  It does that well.  The dance montages, the classic lines ("I carried a watermelon." and "Nobody puts Baby in the corner.") and of course The Lift and Final Dance - those were all there.  But there were a lot of unremembered moments from the movie, probably more than the stage show needed.  When moving mediums I think they needed to consider that a play/musical is just different and you can cut scenes and focus the journey. What plays out in a film doesn't always work onstage. And the music issue.... Well, all the songs are there (most of them) but they are more like a soundtrack or score, not really connected to the narrative.  None of the characters actually sing as characters wanting or needing things so one wonders if its purpose was just to recreate the movie onstage, why not just re-watch the movie?

I don't want to say it wasn't fun - it was, and I laughed and clapped at the moments that I remembered because they got a lot of them right. Christopher Tierney and Gillian Abbott are perfect for Johnny and Baby and I thought they had good chemistry. There are some flatter performances in the ensemble, but the dancing is wonderful and they were all selling it and were very generous.  It's just... It's just that it wasn't necessary and a great script for a film doesn't always work onstage.

Friday, January 08, 2016

Looking Ahead - What I'm Hoping to See Onstage in January 2016!

I've started my Theatre Planning for the new year.  I've already booked tickets for a few shows.

I will see my first show of 2016 tomorrow when I take in Dirty Dancing at the Jubilee Auditorium as part of the Broadway Across Canada series.  I'm not sure exactly what to expect, but I have a feeling I will know the music and that nobody will be putting Baby in the corner! No doubt I will have the time of my life! ha ha!

Then it picks up next week when Chelsea Hotel: The Songs of Leonard Cohen opens at the Citadel. I'm looking forward to getting it all rolling. This show already has terrific buzz about it as it has played to filled houses along it's tour. I'm also looking forward to the music.

Next on the list is Flora and Fawna's Field Trip (With Fleurette) at the PCL Theatre presented by Northern Light Theatre. I saw this show when it was at the Fringe a couple of summers ago and it made me laugh and cry. It's such a wonderful piece about acceptance and friendship and being unique and different and that's okay. I've heard that Opening Night is already Sold Out so I'd advise getting tickets in advance.

Following that I will be taking in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? at the Citadel.  A fitting selection for the 50th Anniversary Season as it was the premiere performance when the Citadel opened it's doors. It's one of my favorite plays and I am looking forward to seeing the sparring between George and Martha!

Then, it's on to a new work with Bravo at the Backstage Theatre presented by Shadow Theatre. Bravo is written by Lethbridge playwright Blaine Newton who I served with on the APN Board of Directors.  I am looking forward to seeing this new Alberta play on stage!

Finally, I will be taking in Krystle Dos Santos 'Blak as part of the Made In Edmonton Cabaret Premiere Series at the Citadel.  I've been reading so much about the need for diversity in theatre, this one has me intrigued. It's billed as an artistic exploration of black culture in Alberta and created by those diverse voices themselves. I am looking forward to this, as well as hearing the music.  I missed Dos Santos last season when her Beyond the Stage show Sold Out but I heard nothing but amazing things about her show.

There's also Workshop West Playwright's Theatre Chinook Series at the end of the month.  I'll be seeing Ursa Major for sure and also checking out the offerings for a few other options.  There is definitely no shortage of good things to see this month!

A Couple of Christmas Theatrical Experiences!

Over the holidays, I managed to take in a few shows.  Early in the season I saw A Christmas Carol and She Loves Me, which I talked about in earlier posts. To keep the momentum going, I also took in The Best Little Newfoundland Christmas Pageant Ever  presented by Whizgiggling Productions at the Backstage Theatre and then Jack and the Beanstock (a pantomime) at Capitol Theatre in Fort Edmonton Park. Both were a lot of fun.  We took the boys to The Best Little Newfoundland Pageant Ever and I was so glad we did.  They giggled and laughed and had a great time watching this show. It's a wonderful story about a Christmas Pageant taken over by a family of troublemakers.  As the pageant comes together those problem children both learn and teach in a way that is simply hilarious. It's also full of terrific live music. This was the 6th year for this show and I hope that it will be back again next year.  Definitely worth a return visit. I wished we had taken the boys to the panto Jack and the Beanstalk as well, but I had thought it was aimed at younger kids. I should have known better. In the tradition of the British Panto there was plenty for all levels of comprehension. The innuendo-laced parts of the script went well over the heads of the younger audience members and the older members had a great time laughing. The kids were kept well entertained by the general silliness and Star Wars references. Another great choice and since this was the Park's third Panto, I hope to catch next season's, as well. But next year I will take the boys, too!