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Sunday, December 02, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 25, 2018

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

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

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


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

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

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

Photo Credit: EPIC Photography


Wednesday, November 07, 2018

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


Saturday, October 27, 2018

Spooky and Scary #yegtheatre Options for Halloween 2018!

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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




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

Sunday, October 14, 2018

More October #yegtheatre adventures - Lenin's Embalmers (Studio Theatre) and Origin of the Species (Northern Light Theatre)

When I was in university, one of my part-time jobs was working front of house and bar-tending at the University of Alberta Studio Theatre shows. As a result, I think I saw pretty much every show there from my second year on. I have always loved the atmosphere and aesthetic of the Studio Theatre shows. The plays chosen are always smart and sharp (and unpredictable) and the design concepts are always complete and specific and imaginative. This is certainly the case for Lenin's Embalmers, currently onstage at the Timms. First of all, I was pleased to see not only a Canadian playwright, but an Edmonton playwright being produced. Vern Thiessen is not only the playwright, but he's also onstage as Lenin in this production, and that gives a little more meta to the whole thing (Lenin observes the world after his death; playwright observes his play from within after he's written it). Directed by MFA Candidate Alexander Donovan, the show is darkly funny and intelligent. The cast is excellent, embracing the stylistic choices effortlessly and managing to convey the danger of Soviet Russia while still creating a very fun show. I particularly enjoyed Chris Pereira as the science driven embalmer Vlad, and Doug Mertz in a menacing but buffoonish performance as Stalin. There're a lot of great things to this show. It's also one of those that kept me in the world while I watched it, but sent me to wikipedia when I got home to look up more about Lenin, Stalin, and Trotsky and all of that. I was also weirdly reminded of Eva Peron because of the whole embalming thing, but that's another story...

Lenin's Embalmers runs until October 20th at the Timms Centre for the Arts with shows at 7:30 p.m. Show is dark on Sunday, bit there's a Monday night performance and a Thursday matinee.  Click here for tickets.

This afternoon I took in Origin of the Species presented by Northern Light Theatre. I got there early (because I am always early) and lucked out catching the Director's Circle pre-show chat. Director Trevor Schmidt talked about several of his choices in costumes and casting and in play selection. There were also questions from the group and it made for a nice introduction to the work before seeing the play. I really enjoyed the piece. It tells the story of archaeologist Molly (Holly Turner), who finds a pre-historic woman (Kristin Johnston) on a dig, and decides to bring her home to educate her. It's very funny, with a lot of the humour coming from the elastic faced Johnston, who plays wonderfully with the idea of her character discovering the modern world from the perspective of her past. Johnston's ability to play makes her fiercer and sadder moments believable. Turner's take on Molly is an interesting journey, as she begins with the gentle arrogance of the 'one who thinks she knows best' but grows to understand that eventually as the student learns they must be released to the world, and there's a lot of wistfulness and a touch of sadness in that goodbye. The show made me think of the idea that all the cultural rules of the world are made-up, and that it's not always easy to definitively say which are best or right. As we live in a world with many conflicting cultures, it is often only courtesy and a willingness to be open that allows for civility and exchange of ideas.

Origin of the Species runs to October 27th at the Studio Theatre at the ATB Financial Arts Barns with shows at 7:30 p.m. and 2 p.m. Sunday matinees. Click here for tickets.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

October is a Very Busy Month for #yegtheatre - We begin the marathon with Billy at L'Uni Theatre and The Triangle Factory Fire Project at Walterdale Theatre

I guess I truly began the marathon with Once at the Citadel. You still have a chance to catch it tonight or tomorrow. If you are looking for a little romance and music, this kitchen-party show will fit the bill!

On Wednesday, I took in The Triangle Factory Fire Project at Walterdale Theatre. A nearly sold-out house witnessed the events of March 25, 1911 as the Triangle Waist Factory Fire took the lives of 146 workers and the subsequent trial of the owners of the factory. The first act was incredibly engaging and compelling as the story of the day was pieced together from testimony of survivors and speculation of events based on the evidence. The second act focuses on the trial, and it made me reflect on the voicelessness of those without power. In light of recent history, it felt incredibly relevant.

The Triangle Factory Fire Project runs to October 20th with shows at 8 p.m. and a 2 p.m. Sunday matinee. Tuesday, October 16 is their Pay-What-You-Can Night. Click here for tickets.

Last night, I took in Billy (Le Jours de Hurlement) at L’UniThéâtre. It's a very strong, well-acted and well-directed piece of theatre. In today's world of social media shaming, it felt incrediblty relevant as a comment on judging others. I certainly had flashbacks to my early years of parenting when I felt everyone was quick to tell me what to do and I myself had so many strong feelings about the 'right way' to do things. The play showed the ugly side of people's judgement, when evidence is incomplete and minding our own business might be a better choice. I took Mark, who commented afterwards, "It's a play a lot of people should see, but sadly I think they would miss the point." It takes a lot to recognize yourself in the three characters, but I think we are all a little quick to judge in today's day and age.

Billy (Le Jours de Hurlement) runs to October 20th with shows at 7:30 p.m. at 1:30 p.m. Saturday matinees. For those who are not French speakers, there are English surtitles (sit on the right side of the house for the best view). Click here for tickets.

Tonight I am off to Lenin's Embalmers at the University of Alberta Timm's Centre for the Arts.

Thursday, October 04, 2018

Kicking off Walterdale's 60th Anniversary Season!

In less than a week, Walterdale Theatre's 60th Anniversary Season officially begins with the opening of The Triangle Factory Fire Project. It's a hot start to a sizzling season! The production features a cast of 20 (both new and returning to Walterdale's stage) and underscores the need for safe working conditions for all.

In the Triangle Waist Factory off downtown Manhattan's Washington Square—where 500 immigrant workers from Poland, Russia, and Italy toil fourteen-hour days making lady's dresses—a cigarette is tossed into a bin of fabric scraps. Despite desperate efforts, flames sweep through the eighth, ninth, and tenth floors. Panic-stricken workers run in all directions. Dozens leap from the windows to their deaths, shocking the crowd of onlookers gathered below. And some through bravery or sheer luck make it out alive. In the space of twenty-eight minutes, the fire is under control, but 146 people, mainly young immigrant girls, have died. The Triangle Factory Fire Project uses eyewitness accounts, court transcripts and other archival material to paint a heartbreaking picture of a disastrous day in American history and explores the human toll such a tragedy takes on us all.

The Triangle Factory Fire Project runs from October 10-20. Click here for tickets.

There are a few other great things happening soon at Walterdale Theatre:

Dance for Non-Dancers Workshop!

Walterdale Theatre is thrilled to present a dance and choreography workshop focusing on the Charleston! It's the perfect way to get ready for music and dance infused The Great Gatsby!  Free for members, $25 for non-members.

DATE: Saturday November 3rd
TIME: 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (with a 1 1/2 hour lunch)
LOCATION: Walterdale Theatre, 10322 83 Ave. in the Glenfield Rehearsal Hall
Arrive 15 to 30 minutes early for registration and bring dancing shoes if you have them!

Presented with sponsorship from Theatre Alberta.

Contact actord@telus.net and register early, limited spaces available.

Auditions for Leave of Absence by Lucia Frangione
Show dates: February 6- 16, 2019
Director: Alix Reynolds

Audition Location: Walterdale Theatre
Audition Dates: October 14 & 15, 2018, 6 – 10 pm
Callbacks:  October 20, 2018, 1 – 4 pm

A teenage girl suspected of being gay is bullied by her classmates. This play explores and challenges the fall out of the response to the same sex marriage rulings in Canada and how it affects youth and the programs and supports available to them. It also asks the greater community about the ethics of being absent and our role in the LGBTQ+ community. Are we turning a blind eye? What does love and acceptance look like?

Casting Requirements:

All genders and ethnicities welcome.

Ryan: Late fifties, a Roman Catholic priest, cerebral.
Greta: Late thirties, single mom, counselor at a women’s shelter, sloppy beautiful.
Leap (Filipp):  Forty, a former Russian boxer, does construction, physically immaculate.  (Russian accent is an asset)
Martha (Miss Woods): Early fifties, school principal and church worship leader, a velvet hammer. (preference given to Person of Colour; this character sings live on stage)
Blake: Fourteen, Greta’s daughter, awkward. (preference given to young performers)

Click here for more information and deatils on booking your audition today!

From Cradle to Stage 2018-19 Submissions Request

Edmonton’s foremost community theatre company is now accepting submissions for its annual new work event, From Cradle to Stage. For over a decade, Walterdale Theatre has been producing original plays by local playwrights as a part of its main stage season. In celebration of our 60th Anniversary Season we are doing something a little different.

This Day, which was submitted for last year’s competition was selected in advance for development this year. It’s a musical by Matt Graham and Sue Goberdhan and will receive dramaturgy from Anne Marie Szucs over the fall and winter to be ready for audition by the end of January 2019.

Collaboration Project: For the second piece to be developed, in honour of the 60th Season, we are looking for monologues and scenes about your Walterdale (and other community theatre) experiences. Selected playwrights will work with Facilitator Kristen M. Finlay (yes, that's right - me!) to construct a collective piece celebrating Walterdale.

Click here for more details about submissions for the Collaboration Project. Deadline to submit is October 30th, 2018.

Once at the Citadel Theatre - Music to fix a broken heart...

It was lovely to return to the Citadel Theatre last night to take in Once, their season opener. I brought Gibson along to celebrate his 14th birthday as I knew the show would appeal to his musician's heart, and I was not wrong. To confirm this, after the bows, he turned to me and said, "Well... that was quite good." For me, it was the third time seeing the show, so I was curious about how the Citadel would approach it.

There were some significant differences, primarily in design choices. The other two productions I saw (Mirvish - Toronto, and Broadway Across Canada - Edmonton) made the base location an Irish Pub. Here, designer Cory Sincennes has given us a kitchen party amidst the rolling green hills of Dublin. I think the production owns the space, and director Ann Hodges along with choreographer Julie Tomaino, have made lovely choices to move from scene to scene and location to location. There are a few moments when the background action distracted me from the main action, but only a few. For the most part they've done a wonderful job of creating the world in both action and sound. 

Once, as a show, is a mix of concert and traditional musical. The songs are primarily those of Guy (Lawrence Libor) an Irish musician, who's broken heart has him contemplating giving up his music. A chance meeting with Girl (Emily Dallas), a Czech woman who is remarkably persuasive, leads him to revisit his music. It is this music that creates the score for the show. Libor and Dallas provide an authentic emotional heart for the show. Both are compelling and charismatic, with excellent musical skills both vocally and with their instruments. This is a show that only works if you believe and care about Guy and Girl, and we definitely believe and care about Libor and Dallas.

The whole cast is quite good. They are not only actors, singers and dancers, but they are all also musicians who create an atmospheric palette of sound. Having so many musicians onstage, as part of the action, layering in the instruments and voices leads to some terrific sound. That being said, one of my favourite musical moments of the show was an A Capella version of Gold.  I was particularly impressed with Larissa Pohoreski as Reza, Stephen Guy-McGrath as Billy and Oscar Derkx as Andrej. This production also makes an interesting choice of casting Karen Lizotte as the Bank Manager. Written originally for a man, having the role played by a woman shifts some of the dynamics which, aside from one joke that doesn't quite make sense, allows for some lovely subtext between Lizotte and Guy-McGrath that wasn't evident in the other productions I saw. 

Overall, it's a great evening of music with a simple story of music and love. You'll feel like you are at a kitchen party with amazingly gifted musicians. 

Once runs to October 14 at the Citadel Theatre. Click here for tickets. 

Photo Credit: Ian Jackson, EPIC Photography

Monday, September 24, 2018

PLAY THE FOOL FESTIVAL - A Little Clowning around in Edmonton!

Play the Fool Festival, Edmonton’s Theatre Festival for Clown & Physical Comedy, returns this week on Sept 27th – 30th at The Backstage Theatre and ATB Financial Arts Barns. It's the third year for the theatre festival and there are so many different shows you can check out.

I had a stroll through their website (click here) and here are a few shows that jumped out at me (please check out the age recommendations as most of the shows are aimed at adult audiences):

Shipwrecked - Calgary
Created and Performed By: Chad Bryant and Chris Gamble

Shipwrecked on a desert island, Swill and Lavy find a mysterious treasure map. Will the map lead to their salvation or doom? Calgary-based comedy theatre artists Chad Bryant (Swill) and Chris Gamble (Lavy) team up with Jacqueline Russell from Sizzle & Spark (The Sama Kutra & Hushabye) to bring a new Pochinko-style clown duo to the stage.

The Daily Deal with Lady - Edmonton
Created and Performed By: Lindsay Ruth Hunt

Lady launches her career as a home-shopping network celebrity! Join her live in-studio audience and prepare to be wowed. And to buy her much-sought-after product. Lindsay Ruth Hunt has a background in improvisational theatre and sketch comedy, including being a founding member of both The General Fools and Uberkill.

The Performance - Edmonton
Created and Performed By: Candace Berlinguette and Michael Kennard

A down and out pianist and singer attempt to regain their former glory. Candace Berlinguette is a theatre creator, actor, producer and teacher. Michael Kennard is an award winning theatre creator and one half of the clown duo Mump and Smoot.

Lady Be Good - Edmonton
Created and Performed By: Erin Pettifor and Gabby Bernard

Equality is here! Sit back and relax with your diverse friend group and enjoy Lady Be Good, darkly satirical pageant that celebrates us all. Erin Pettifor and Gabby Bernard are recent graduates from the BFA acting program at the University of Alberta.

These are just a few of the shows on the docket - I recommend a trip to the website (click here) to check out what else is on the docket. There is also a Cabaret Series that you should check out for a great variety of acts.

The Play the Fool Festival is curated by Christine Lesiak, creator and performer of the 2018 Fringe holdover hit For Science!, and it features over 30 physical comedy artists from across Canada and from Edmonton, including: Michael Kennard of Mump & Smoot with Candace Berlinguette in The Performance; Vancouver-based award-winning character artist Candice Roberts’ gender-bending Larry show; Cabaret Calgary Productions’ cheeky, produce-inspired burlesque act, Fruitbowl; and an All-Ages Spectacular with local favorites.

I encourage you all to check out a sneak peek of festival acts at the FREE Opening Night Gala Teaser Cabaret on Thursday, September 27th at 7 p.m., with live music from the Mary Lee Bird Band. Admission for the Opening night gala is first-come-first-served at the door, with front-of-the-line guaranteed seating for Festival Pass Holders arriving by 6:45 pm.

Tickets & Passes
Passes: $100.00 adults, $85.00 seniors & students
Passes include access to all shows + Priority Seating | LIMITED SUPPLY
Tickets: $10-$20.00 general admission | $10-$116.00 senior/student
Passes and tickets available at https://playthefool.ca
Please note, most festival shows are rated 13+ or 18+



Friday, September 21, 2018

Broadway Across Canada presents The Book of Mormon... So much laughing!

This week, Broadway Across Canada brought back The Book of Mormon to the Northern Jubilee Auditorium. I was lucky enough to see it when it was here playing to Sold Out houses a few years ago, and the packed theatre on Wednesday night indicates that it is still a very popular choice! The laughs from the audience and the rapid standing ovation were also great indicators of a terrific night out!

I think I enjoyed seeing the show even more this time. On first glance, The Book of Mormon requires a couple of cautions. There is explicit language and many of the things discussed are quite shocking, but it did come from the South Park guys, so I think that in itself tells you that it's going to go to places you have to be prepared for.

The production itself was outstanding. Led by Kevin Clay (Elder Price) and Conner Peirson (Elder Cunningham), the entire cast was buoyant and dynamic and 100% committed to the demands of the show. The vocals are on point and the dancing was terrific. I was so entertained by the choreography (Casey Nicholaw). It's not often I want a long dance break, but I did with this show! Clay and Peirson are perfectly cast as Price and Cunningham. Clay embodies the 'perfect Mormon' and his version of I Believe just soars. Peirson's elastic physicality and vocal gymnastics kept me in stitches. Kayla Pecchioni as Nabulungi, has a beautiful voice and she brought true honesty and innocence to the role. I don't think the show works without having that truthfulness (the audience has to care about her disappointment), so it was lovely to see.

After the show, my son and I had a very engaging discussion about what it's really all about. Yes, it's very funny and inappropriate, but it's important to remember that many of the things that it talks about are really happening in the world. And although it seems to be making fun of Mormons, it's really a comment on all North Americans and first world citizens. We are very spoiled compared to most of the rest of the world and I think everyone should be leaving the show thinking about that, after all, as the show says, it's a metaphor...

The Book of Mormon runs to September 23.
Click here for tickets.


Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Added Performance of XANADU!


Due to popular demand, SatCo and Uniform Theatre will have an additional performance of XANADU on FRIDAY, AUGUST 24 at 11:00 PM!

Please note that you CANNOT purchase tickets for this performance through Fringe, they will only be for sale at the door!!

To reserve your ticket, please email uniformtc@gmail.com.

Fringe Reviews: JOSEPHINE and TRAGEDY: A TRAGEDY

Josephine
Venue 1: ATB Westbury Theatre

Something drew me to this show right from the start and I am so glad because it turned out to be a real highlight of my Fringe experience this year! I knew a little about Josephine Baker before seeing the show, but I soon realized that I didn't know very much. Her life was incredible and this one-woman show performed by the engaging and charismatic Tymesha Harris leaves you wanting more! It's hard to pack so much into 75 minutes! I left wanting to find out more - searching my wikipedia for details and looking up images online... now I'm looking for a good biography. Now that's the sign of a good show! If this makes it to hold-overs, do try and catch it, because it's Sold Out for the rest of it's performances.

Click here for tickets.

Tragedy: A Tragedy
Venue 3: Walterdale Theatre

Blarney Productions does it again with this quirky, odd piece by Will Eno. A brve news team tries to capture the unfolding event in the wake of a tragedy, but nothing much is happening... still they report... making much of nothing, until that becomes too much for them. The cast captured the style perfectly and it was hard not to laugh, so I did! Thoroughly enjoyable.

Click here for tickets.

WORD OF MOUTH: Fringe 2018 - Wednesday, August 22

Some of these are repeats, but some are new... check out which shows random people in line-ups have recommended this Fringe:

Interstellar Elder: Badass Grandma in Space
Kitt & Jane: An Interactive Survival Guide to the Near-Post-Apocalyptic Future
Hubris
Hotel Vortruba*
James & Jamesy in the Dark
Scorch*
Josephine*
Thunderfoot
Fetch
The Real Inspector Hound*
Red Bastard

Click here for tickets.

Enjoy the rest of the Fringe - plenty to see! All shows are worth a gamble!

Fringe Reviews: THE GREAT GROMBOOLIAN PLAIN, PUNCH UP!, MISCAST and CULT CYLE

Monday was a great 4 show day! It's amazing to me that I can see 4 shows and it's still light out when I drive home! it was also a nice mix of shows, so I felt like I got a great grab-bag of theatre!

The Great Gromboolian Plain
Venue 4 - The Academy at King Edward

This was a very nice piece of theatre about the nature of time travel and sisters and what is real and whether someone is crazy or not. It's well acted and staged, however I wished there was something more in the resolution as it left me with many questions. I did like how we discover that sometimes people do things that may seem hurtful and controlling but they are actually doing those things to protect others.

Click here for tickets.

Punch Up!
Venue 9 - Telus Phone Museum

A terrifically funny show. I think I laughed from start to finish. The script (by Kat Sandlers - who is the playwright on-board to write an upcoming duo of plays, The Candidate and The Party, at the Citadel next season) is quick and fast and clever, and the trio of actors onstage (Perry Gratton, Evan Hall and Merran Carr-Wiggin) are perfectly cast to pull it off. The premise: The Most Pathetic Guy Ever kidnaps the Funniest Man Alive to make the Saddest Girl in the World laugh. I won't tell you if he makes her laugh, but I will say the lengths he goes to certainly made the audience laugh!

Click here for tickets. 

Miscast 
Venue 4 - The Academy at King Edward

As one who has been in and auditioned for many musicals, I know full well that it's sometimes hard to learn that you will likely not be cast in your dream role because you're too tall, too old, too heavy, or too "something". That's what this show explores as eight gifted performers tell their stories and sing a song that they might not normally get to. Well, some of the choices actually seemed perfect for the performer onstage, so perhaps they just need the right opportunity! All are excellent singers and if there is one drawback it's the balance within the space between the band and the singers. Sometimes it was difficult to hear the vocalist over the instrumentation. Always a challenge in a 'created' space. But super fun with wonderful group numbers to offset the solo work!

Click here for tickets. 

Cult Cycle
Venue 35: Théâtre - La Cité Francophone

A new musical about spin class and murder! This show was so much fun. I felt like it embraced the old-school fringe feel of going for the biggest choices no matter how ridiculous or campy or melodramatic and the results were hilarious. Plus, the whole cast is composed of amazing singers who not only belt out anthems but they do so while pedaling at a very high rate. 

Click here for tickets. 

WORD OF MOUTH: Fringe 2018 - Tuesday, August 21st

Although I only saw 2 shows myself, I had some great conversations with people in line-ups today because both shows were Sold Out. I think I managed to talk to a wider variety of people with even more varied interests!

How I Learned to Hug
Fire at the Meth Lab
Stranded on a Island in Nova Scotia
The Importance of Being Earnest
God is a Scottish Drag Queen*
Dueling Divas
The Real Inspector Hound*
Sirens
Heroine
Hotel Vortruba*
Jake's Gift*
The Irrelevant Show
The Soldier's Tale
Josephine

Click here for tickets to all Fringe Shows!

I hope you have room in your schedule to fit in one or two of these!

Monday, August 20, 2018

WORD OF MOUTH: Fringe 2018 - Monday, August 20, 2018

Some new shows today - I confess, I was tired and got into a few conversations about current trends in art and didn't have as many show conversations, but I did get some new and repeat Word of Mouth Recommendations!  Warning: Many of these shows are selling out, so it is wise to act fast for tickets! (Star indicates multiple recommendations)

The Wind and the Rain
Merk du Soleil
Everything's Coming Up Chickens*
Eddie Poe*
For Science!*
Scorch
She Was a Great Dad
Josephine*
The Real Inspector Hound*
Buyer & Cellar
Irrelevant Show
A Briefs History of Time
Business as Usual
Jake's Gift*
Caws and Effect

Happy Fringing!

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Fringe Reviews: MACBETH MUET, WELLSPRING, ESCAPED ALONE and XANADU

Macbeth Muet
lafilledulaitier.com
Venue 9: Telus Phone Museum

This show was so good. So. Good. It's better, I think, if you know Macbeth, but really even if you just know the high point of the story this show will blow you away. It's funny and inventive and so incredibly clever. I think it's the perfect way to do Shakespeare, particularly the bloodier plays. I cannot get over the cleverness of their choices. The music made it so accessible and from eggs, to paper towels, to paper plates and lots and lots of fake blood, you will be mesmerized and laughing. I recommend this to everyone!

Wellspring
Venue 13 - Old Strathcona Library

A trio of intertwining monologues from three women who live in a community affected by fracking. While it doesn't add anything new to the issue, this show serves to humanize people caught up in dynamics of health and quality of life vs. energy and economics. I did long for more action and conflict within the story, and it takes a little while for the script to get to the details of each of their journeys, but the three actors are honest and committed to telling their stories.

Escaped Alone
Venue 9 - Telus Phone Museum

I'm still thinking about Escaped Alone. It's a complicated piece that takes a bit of time to wrap your brain around. There's some wonderful acting from the four women onstage (Judy McFerran, Vivien Bosley, Alison Wells and Holly Turner) who sit in a garden discussing the items of their lives. Secrets are revealed, some bigger than others, and the most striking moments are in monologues where inner-most thoughts and feelings are revealed. Interspersed with their conversation are Cassandra-like predictions of a terrible future. This is one to ponder for a while.

Xanadu
Venue 25 - Strathcona High School

It's wonderfully fun, musical and campy, and it pulls out all the stops. I had so much fun at Xanadu. I have to admit, I saw the movie,... when it came out,... in the theatre,... probably more than once... I also clearly listened to the soundtrack and the songs from the show over and over, because I surprised myself by knowing all the words. This production is a really fun ride, and you will be swerving from laugh to laugh by their over-the-top antics. Plus, everyone in the cast can sing and dance AND Roller-skate. I'm once again blown away by the quality of production delivered by SatCo at Fringe.

WORD OF MOUTH: Fringe 2018

I returned to the Fringe grounds today and chatted with quite a few different people about what they would recommend (artists are not allowed to recommend their own shows - although they try...). I was pleased to hear so many different suggestions, as it tells me that there are a lot of good things to see at this year's Fringe.

Here's the Word Of Mouth recommendations from Sunday, August 19, 2018, in no particular order. (stars indicate that the show was mentioned by more than one person):

Interstellar Elder: Badass Grandma in Space
Unscriptured
Stories About Love, Death & a Rabbit*
WASP
TEDxRFT: Improvised Ted Talks
MacBeth Muet*
Jesus Christ: The Lost Years
A Briefs History of Time
Daddy's Boy
Tomatoes Tried to Kill Me, But Banjos Saved My Life
The Progressive Polygamists
The Wilds*
The Real Inspector Hound
2 Queens and a Joker
One Man Pride and Prejudice*
An All New God is a Scottish Drag Queen
The Alien Baby Play
One Man Walking Dead
Hotel Vortruba
Eddie Poe
Jake's Gift*
Xanadu

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Fringe Reviews: LET'S TALK ABOUT YOUR DEATH, DON'T FROWN AT THE GOWN, SIRENS, and CONTRACTIONS

Let's Talk About Your Death
Allspice Theatre
Venue 11 - Nordic Studio Theatre

A show that's both silly and serious, Let's Talk About Your Death, is set in a world where a machine exists that can tell you how you will die. Capitalizing on that is a Dr. Phil-like TV personality who interviews those from the audience who have just found out 'how they will die'. Complete with thematic advertisements and spontaneous moments that neither the actor nor the audience know where they will go, this show turned out to be both hilarious and touching. Knowing about your death turns out to be much more about how you choose to live.

Don't Frown at the Gown (by Darrin Hagen and Trevor Schmidt)
Guys in Disguise
Venue 12 - Varscona Theatre

Another terrific play from the Guys in Disguise, this time tackling the shifting values of the 1960s with regards to the feminist movement as young bride-to-be Susan (Trevor Schmidt) goes to the bridal shop with her domineering mother (Darrin Hagen) and her best friend maid-of-honour Frankie (Jason Hardwick). There they meet the bridal shop owner, Lady Laura Lee (Jake Tkaczyk) who seems to have a few secrets of her own. Filled with laugh-out-loud moments fueled by excellent writing and fine acting, this play serves to be much more as it touches on the restrictions of both following what's prescribed and breaking free from the expectations of society. What works especially well is that it could easily be played by actors of either gender and it would still be funny and moving. In fact, there's a monologue or two in this that I personally want to get my hands on.

Sirens
Atlas Theatre Company
Venue 12 - Varscona Theatre

Billed as a story about a myth-life crisis, this show had a lot of potential - fun premise and strong cast - however, the script itself was not quite up to the challenge. There are funny bits, primarily coming from Louise Lambert in a variety of roles (from solitaire-obsessed Siren, to perky travel agent, to acerbic waitress) and Mat Busby in a small but memorable role. As a couple celebrating their 25th anniversary, Adele and Sam, Stephanie Wolfe and Julien Arnold work hard to push the piece, but the writing just doesn't feel worth it. It's an interesting premise, but relies a bit too much on cliches and generalizations to make you care.

Contractions
Dogheart Theatre
Venue 13 - Strathcona Library

Just how much does your employer get to say about your life? That's the question this show seems to ask. In more and more ridiculous ways, the Manager (April Banigan) demands information and action from her employee Emma (Kristi Hansen). It's sharp and funny and many people will relate to Emma's need to stay compliant and positive despite unreasonable demands from the Manager. Hopefully no-one relates too much, as some of the demands are truly horrific. A solid piece where office politics have severe consequences.

Friday, August 17, 2018

WORD OF MOUTH: Fringe 2018

Every Fringe I chat with the people I see in line or the beer tent and find out what shows they would recommend based on what they have seen so far. It's early, but I got a few recommendations today:

Stories About Love, Death and a Rabbit
Don't Frown at the Gown
Everything's Coming Up Chickens
Tease
For Science!

I'm taking tomorrow off to celebrate my anniversary, so I will be back getting word of mouth recommendations on Sunday!

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Fringe Reviews: FETCH and BUYER AND CELLAR

Fetch (by Cat Walsh)
Interloper Theatre
Venue 28 - The Playhouse

My first show of the 37th Fringe was a good choice. A fascinating tale of two Hannah Morgans that plays with possibility and probability. The Hannahs (Lora Brovold and Cat Walsh) narrate their eerily similar yet significantly different lives to relate a story that leaves you wondering what really happened. Guided by an interpretation of the Schrodinger's Cat Theory and a mysterious stuffed dog called Mr. Anderson, you will be drawn into the parallel and diverging stories. It's great story-telling that is unpredictable and engaging. The writing is excellent and the performances compelling. 

Next Stage Productions
Venue 10 - Have Mercy Acacia Hall

I was fortunate to be invited to a Preview of this one-man show about the mall in Barbra Streisand's basement. Gregory Caswell plays the fictional lone employee of the mall which is used to display the many things that Barbra has collected over her life. It's full of funny, laugh-out-loud moments with humour specially designed for the musical theatre lover and for anyone who is a fan of Streisand.  Caswell is charming and believable as the 'real person' in the presence of the larger than life diva and he is the perfect guide to the world of the superstar's mall. He also deftly channels several other characters from boyfriend Barry, to James Brolin, to the great Babs herself. 

FRINGE PREVIEW: Interesting Pairings... Choose a couple of shows that may or may not go together...

I've been spending a lot of time on the Fringe website, researching and reading about the different shows. It will be terrific to buy my program today, but the website has given me a lot to think about, in particular, that there are some shows that seem like they might 'go together' either in contrasting or in comparative ways... Here are some suggestions for some elegant pairings:

Why not pair 50 First Dates with F*ck Tinder: A Love Story? Both are journeys through the world of dating to find love but told from different perspectives. As one who escaped the advent of online dating apps, I think both would likely give me insight into a world that somewhat terrifies me. For those who are  little younger than me, I am pretty sure that both these shows would  resonate for you and no doubt you would have similar stories to share.


If you like Sketch Comedy, why not pair Marv n' Berry Presents: Everyone Panic, Please with Blackout Presents: Show me the Goods! Both are locally based sketch comedy groups with proven track records. I'm sure that bother are guarenteed to make you laugh! I like both Improv and Sketch, but sketch can tend to be a little more consistent as the artists can really craft their show and it's not so dependent on the suggestions from the audience.

There are two shows about polygamy at this year's Fringe. It might be worth seeing both to compare approaches, especially if you are fascinated by this kind of world. I think Bountiful is more of a play, and The Progressive Polygamists is more of a satirical presentation, so they are bound to discuss the issue differently.

If you are a fan of detective stories, you might want to check out The Real Inspector Hound and 2 Sherlock Holmes Mysteries. The former is the highly acclaimed, wild and wonderfully absurd murder mystery farce brought to the Fringe from Edmonton's Bright Young Things and featuring some of Edmonton's brightest and funniest (Belinda Cornish, Mat Busby, Andrew MacDonald-Smith, Louise Lambert, Garret Ross, Troy O'Donnell, Jenny McKillip and Ashley Wright). The second comes from "Masters of the Fringe" John D. Huston and Kenneth Brown who play everyone in this 60 minutes Sherlock Holmes extravaganza.

Family stories? Check out these two one-man shows about Grandmothers: Nonna's Story and My Grandmother's Maid. Stories that look at the lighter side of death? How about Let's Talk about Your Death and Five Stages of Death?

There's at least a hundred more ways to pair shows - but hopefully this has given you a few ideas about where to start! Enjoy your fringing!