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Sunday, September 29, 2019

October Theatre Offerings - It's going to get busy!!!

Here's what's starting onstage in Edmonton in October. 

Silent Sky - Walterdale Theatre - October 2-12

The true story of 19th-century astronomer Henrietta Leavitt, Silent Sky explores a woman’s place in society during a time of immense scientific discoveries, when women’s ideas were dismissed until men claimed credit for them. Social progress, like scientific progress, can be hard to see when one is trapped among earthly complications. Henrietta Leavitt and her female peers believe in both, and their dedication changed the way we understand both the heavens and the Earth.

Open Invitation - Saint Maggie Productions - October 2-12

Becky is an exhausted mom and her husband Sebastian is a man trapped in a soul killing day job. It’s date night and they are going to attend a “snobby” dinner party at the home of one of Becky’s old show-choir friends. Some of the guests she’s known for 20 years, some she hasn’t seen since high school. Sebastian doesn’t want to go and is convinced that the dinner’s hosts are Swingers and just looking for a “hook-up”…and he’s going to prove it. Becky thinks he’s nuts and so they place a bet and hilarity ensues with each trying to win what it is they think they want most from the other.

High Tea - Firefly Theatre & Circus - October 6

Ever wondered what a true “High” Tea would look like? Join the company of Firefly Theatre and Circus as they dangle overhead serving steeps, champagne and sweets! An afternoon of multi-sensory delights, HIGH TEA guests will sip quality teas, nibble on scones and sweets, and enjoy traditional cucumber sandwiches — all while being entertained by Firefly’s talented servers as they dangle from the rafters.

Dead Centre of Town XII - Catch the Keys - October 10 - November 1

Some people lived here. Many people died here. Not everyone moved on…and those left behind are desperate to tell you their story. Edmonton’s only live-action thriller inspired by true history possesses Mellon Farm for an intimate and immersive theatrical retelling of some of Edmonton’s long-buried secrets. Secrets that can’t stay buried forever. Catch the Keys Productions presents Dead Centre of Town XII October 10 – November 1, 2019. Dead Centre of Town is NOT a haunted house, but it will haunt you long after you leave the Park.
Simone et le whole shebang - L'Uni Theatre - October 16-26
Simone has just been placed in a long-term care facility in Fort McMurray by her daughter Simone-Alice, who has been living in the city for the past 6 years. A québécoise actress in her sixties suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, Simone’s deteriorating condition has made her unable to care for herself. Jessy, an old acadian cowboy who dreamt of being a country singer, is in the same care facility. Though he still has his quick wit and his colourful vocabulary, he’s lost his mobility, his heart and his will to live. Both are haunted by what they’ve become. Somewhere between their egos and their fears, Simone, Jessy, and Simone-Alice must face their disappointing realities.
Fight Night - The Citadel Theatre - October 17-27

FIVE CONTENDERS.  FIVE ROUNDS. YOUR VOTE. Fight Night is an interactive production that examines how and why we make judgments about others, while asking whether the current political system really represents our choices.  

Baroness Bianka's Bloodsongs - Northern Light Theatre - October 18 - November 2

BARONESS BIANKA’S BLOODSONGS tackles the issue of addiction head-on through the revelations of a quirky Bulgarian Baroness who has unquenchable, unspeakable yearnings. A black comedy with a blood-red heart, the show explores life with an unusual addiction and the battle to overcome it. A wicked one woman cabaret about a spooky character with a fetish for blood.

Rigoletto - Edmonton Opera - October 19-25

As the infamous court jester, Rigoletto earns a living by making fun of people’s misery. So when his enemies seek revenge, they take the one thing Rigoletto values most: his daughter Gilda. What follows is a harrowing tale of greed, corruption, and violence that ultimately turns Rigoletto’s own fate into a cruel joke.

The Roomate - Shadow Theatre - October 23 - November 10

Sharon is a recent divorcee in her mid-fifties, and needs a roommate to share her unassuming Iowa home. Robyn, also in her fifties, needs a place to hide and a chance to start over. As she uncovers Robyn's secrets Sharon discovers in herself a depp seated desire to transform her own life. A dark comedy about what it takes to re-route your life - and what happens when the wheels come off. 

The Ballad of Peachtree Rose - WWPT - October 30- November 10

Max works for one of Canada's most notorious criminal organizations; Peach is a street kid trying to make a buck. A chance encounter entangles their lives indefinitely. From one of Canada’s best emerging writers comes a thriller that forces audiences to ask: “What is Justice?”

Vidalia at Teatro la Quinicina! Onions that can make you laugh instead of cry!

I had a hoot of a time at Vidalia, the most recent production offered from Teatro la Quindicina at the Varscona Theatre. As promised in its promotional materials, it's a "ricochet romp, which ratchets things up further with three identical briefcases and a scintillating cast." The events begin in a coffee shop, where Girl in the Red Jacket (a playful and quirky Helen Belay) overhears Woman in Glasses (Belinda Cornish looking very severe - but that changes) on the phone. Spotting Man in Suit (the befuddled and confused Chris Pereira), the Girl makes contact and sets off a chain of events when Man in Trench Coat (an amused and focused Andrew MacDonald-Smith) enters the scene.

The plot involves 3 identical briefcases that go through a myriad of switches in an effort to get them to the right person. There's a threat of danger - never specifically outlined, but it's there. There's a budding romance, or two. There's much changing of clothes and hiding of identities and of course, there are onions! It's very silly and the cast runs full-tilt with the ridiculousness of it all. Belay is particularly charming as the unflappable Girl who seems to like to both create and solve problems. Pereira is similarly fun to watch, as he is like a pinball being bounced around with her every suggestion, many of which he is unsure of and much of which he is terrified by! Cornish is super fun, starting severe, shifting to sexy, and always underscored with insecurity, as she tries to solve her problem and maybe meet a nice guy in the process. MacDonald-Smith is the straight man in this cast - debonair and charming, with an underlying threat of violence (but only if necessary).

I don't want to give away too much of the plot because it's best that you just go in a see where it goes. It's silly and fun and full of laughs, and perfect to warm you up as we move into a chilly October!

Vidalia runs until October 12th at the Varscona Theatre
Click here for tickets!

Photo Credit:
Andrew MacDonald-Smith, Chris Pereira, Helen Belay, Belinda Cornish in Vidalia, Teatro La Quindicina. Photo by Mat Busby

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Bringing The Color Purple to the Stage with Joyous Song and Truthful Storytelling!

Sometimes when you are very excited for something, it fails to live up to your expectations. This is NOT the case with The Color Purple currently running at the Citadel Theatre. As I wrote earlier, I loved Alice Walker's novel and I am happy to report that the production is everything and more than I could have hoped for. From the first few seconds of the show, when Celie (Tara Jackson) and Nettie (Allison Edwards-Crewe) sing a child's rhyme together, you know that musically you are going to be treated to something magnificent. This grows as the full cast joins them onstage and the world of Celie is created. The power and beauty of this cast in their vocals is majestic. It's the kind of music sung so well that it makes you want to lift from your seat. The Citadel has done an incredible job of bringing together this cast which has no weak links, each voice expressive, joyful and strong. Kudos to the cast and to Music Director Floydd Ricketts for creating such amazing sound.

In terms of the story, this production ably rises to the challenge of telling that too. The iconic characters from the novel are portrayed with respect and honesty. At the centre of it, as Celie, Tara Jackson is a marvel. Not only does she possess an incredible vocal instrument, able to handle the softness and strength of the character, but her emotionally journey is crafted and layered. On more than one moment did she bring me to tears, and her version of I'm Here made me want to leap from my seat with cheers. As Shug Avery, Karen Burthwright is a sassy foil to the shy and quiet Celie. She is everything Shug should be - sexy, worldly, and a brilliant performer. You know why everyone wants to be with Shug. Her Push Da Button is a hot, joyous number which celebrates sex where everyone has a good time.

There are so many things I loved about this show. I loved the hilarious Church Ladies (Masini McDermott, Maiko Munroe, and Sarah Nairne) whose harmonies were as tight as their coming timing. It was delightful to watch Sophia and Harpo's (Janelle Cooper and Andrew Broderick) irresistible attraction. It was heart-breaking to watch Sophia's journey, and Cooper is simply terrific - equally able to play the strong moments as she is the weaker moments. As Mister, Ryan Allen has the difficult job of playing the villain in the first act and redeeming himself in the second act. I think he does so, yet does so without letting himself off easy. His Mister Song reminds us that people are made the way they are through the circumstances of their lives, and his desire to change what he has become is palpable. I loved that the characters were allowed to have shades of grey.

Overall, the show flows beautifully. Director Kimberly Rampersad has done a masterful job of keeping this epic story moving from moment to moment, making sure that the emotion is real and earned. Her choreography is fun, sexy and organic, helping to move the action along and never feeling contrived. (Interesting side-note: On the night I saw it, the show had to be stopped about 10 minutes before intermission because of a medical emergency in the audience. Once the emergency was dealt with, the show picked up from a few moments before it had to be stopped, and this interruption did not affect the flow or the audience's connection to the story. It was as though we were reading the novel and set the book down and picked it back up. We were back in as though nothing had happened. Now that's the sign of a well done show!).

If you can't tell... I loved the show. Whether you've read the book or seen the movie or not, I think that it's a wonderful story that will grab you. The music alone is enough to recommend it, you are unlikely to hear an ensemble that sings so well together this season, but it's also so much more than that.

The Color Purple runs until October 13, 2019 at the Citadel Theatre. Click here for tickets.

Photo Credit: Ian Jackson; EPIC Photography

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

All Rested Up From Fringe... So It's Time For the 2019-2020 Theatre Season to Start!

I'll be kicking off my 2019-2020 Theatre Season next week starting on Tuesday night, when I take in The Color Purple at the Citadel Theatre. It's the musical adaptation of Alice Walker's 1982 novel of the same name which was adapted into a film by Steven Spielberg in 1985 starring Whoopi Goldberg, Danny Glover, Margaret Avery and Oprah Winfrey. I'm excited to see this, as I am a great fan of the book, having read it shortly after it was published and similarly loved the movie. As I am a musical theatre fan, I think I will have hit the trifecta! There are a lot of new-to-Edmonton artists involved in the production, but it also stars Tara Jackson as Celie. Jackson was previously seen in Edmonton at the Citadel in Hadestown, Bittergirl: The Musical and Mamma Mia! and at the Mayfield in Jesus Christ Superstar. She's one of my husband and my favourite local musical theatre performers and I can't wait to see her onstage in this show. I'm seeing the show early in the run, because I seriously and thinking it will be one that I want to see again! Right now, my only issue is that I have a really hard time with the American spelling of color... but that's just habit!

The Color Purple runs from September 21 to October 13 in the Shoctor Theatre. You can purchase tickets here. 

I'll also be taking in the final offering of the season from Teatro la Quindicina next week. Vidalia by Stewart Lemoine opens on Friday, September 27th at the Varscona Theatre. I'm excited to see the fabulous Belinda Cornish onstage with the always funny Andrew MacDonald-Smith as they lead the cast in this show billed as a contemporary spin on the classic screwball form. There's also a promise of 3 identical briefcases, haberdashery, and industrial espionage, which suggests intrigue, oh and there's onions!

Vidalia runs from September 27 to October 12 at the Varscona Theatre. You can purchase tickets here.

Also this month - The Play the Fool Festival - running from Sept 26-29. Play the Fool is Edmonton’s festival of clown-theatre and physical comedy. Held in historic Old Strathcona at the ATB Financial Arts Barns, the home of The Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival. Now entering their fourth year, this festival brings together seasoned and emerging local, national, and international clown and physical theatre artists for four days of performances that embrace risk, exploration, and play. Click here for the line-up and to find out how to get tickets to this laugh-filled festival. 

If you like Rock and Roll, especially the classics, you can also check out Million Dollar Quartet now playing at the Mayfield Dinner Theatre. It runs until October 27. It's a great show with so many songs you love from Elvis, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins.  You'd also get to have the always delicious buffet while you watch the show! Click here for tickets. 

It's a great looking September. I'm also excited about October, but I will get to that later! One month at a time!