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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Review: (Toronto / Theatre) The Sound of Music

(photo by Seanna Kennedy)
How do You Solve a Problem Like This?
The LOT’s new Sound of Music feels like climbing uphill
by Stuart Munro

Staircases on mountains. Grapevining nuns. The Lower Ossington’s new production of  Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The Sound of Music certainly is an interesting take on a well-loved classic.

Let me start off by saying something controversial – The Sound of Music is not a very good show. When it opened on Broadway in 1959, its simple, perhaps overly-sweet story was met with mixed reviews. Even my mother found it too sentimental when she saw it in London in the 1960s. It’s because of the successful 1965 film version that The Sound of Music has entered our public consciousness as one of the Great Musicals of Our Time. Had the movie not been toned down the way it had, I’m not sure this would have been the case. As a result, any new production must contend with the less-than-perfect book by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse and attempt to find the real heart of the story buried beneath all those layers of sentimentality.

Sadly, The Lower Ossington Theatre hasn’t accomplished this. It hasn’t even tried. Their newest production, currently running at the Randolph Theatre, is so confused and overworked that no sense of story comes through at all.

News: (Ottawa) NAC French Theatre announces season (press release)

News: (Toronto) Buddies in Bad Times announces season (press release)

News: (Toronto) Nightwood Theatre announces season (press release)

In a Word... Kate Applin on Metro Youth Opera's Hänsel and Gretel

Into The Woods
by Gaëtan L. Charlebois

Kate Applin is lauded for her passionate work in Toronto’s operatic community. In 2010, at age 23, Ms Applin founded Metro Youth Opera, offering emerging artists in Toronto their first opportunities to perform complete roles and be compensated. In addition to her role as Artistic Director of MYOpera she has performed with the company as Despina in Così fan tutte (2011), Adina in L’elisir d’amore (2012), and Serpina in La serva padrona (2013). In 2014, she will perform Gretel in Hänsel & Gretel. Ms Applin holds an Honours BMus in Voice Performance and an Opera Diploma from Wilfrid Laurier University, and has trained at programs such as Opera on the Avalon, Opera NUOVA, the Centre for Opera Studies in Italy, and the Halifax Summer Opera Workshop. Some favourite roles include Zerlina (Don Giovanni), Soeur Constance (Dialogues des Carmélites), Héro (Béatrice et Bénédict), and Anne Egerman (A Little Night Music).

CHARPO:  I’m afraid going into this you are dealing with an H&G veteran! I sang Hänsel in a children’s adaptation of the Humperdinck score when I was a child in Germany. There, as you can imagine, the piece is as traditional as bratwurst. But in North America, apart from the annual romp at the Met and a recent production in Montreal, this little masterpiece seems largely overlooked. Why do you think that is?

APPLIN: Well, because of its roots as a fairytale story, I think Hansel & Gretel often gets sidelined as a children-only opera here in North America. However, the themes in the story are as applicable to adults as they are to children. I think that many of our opera houses here in North America aren't willing to push the boundaries of the opera to make it something that is more than just child's play. The opera can be quite safe when presented exclusively for children, so it gets a lot of exposure in school tours and such. It takes bravery to visit the opera's darker side and cater it to a wider audience at the risk of alienating the children too much.

Video of the Week, April 16, 2014

As it finishes its run at The Cultch in Vancouver, and heads on to Place des Arts in Montreal and World Stage in Toronto, catch this brilliant vid for Mies Julie.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

After Dark, April 15, 2014

Enough bitching, let me say thanks.
by Gaëtan L. Charlebois

As I observe this effing election in Quebec, and, as I write this, watch an enraging leaders' debate, I need to go to my happy place. Come with me, won't you, and think about (and share in the comments section) what and who makes you grateful.

- Public relations which are brill. I have gone on and on about PR that is awful, let me thank those men and women in the trenches who know how to do it and do it well: Sue Edworthy in Toronto, Rachel Lowry and Maryanne Renzetti in Vancouver, and the great teams at companies across the country who make my job easier. PR is no longer an amateur's game, no longer a company's after-thought. These people, in their work, make that a lesson to us all.

- That Stratford Festival did Mary Stuart last year (and it was a monster hit!) and is doing Mother Courage this year. 

Monday, April 14, 2014

The Question... Director Jon Lachlin Stewart on Beckett

The Outsider
by Estelle Rosen

Jon Lachlan Stewart is a director, playwright, and performer born in Edmonton, Alberta. He trained as an actor at Studio 58 in Vancouver. Mr Stewart's work explores contemporary and current themes through the creation of new plays that incorporate the use of dance and physical theatre. Currently, his primary focus is on the creation of works that can unite French and English artistic communities across Canada. Directing credits include Keeping Peace (Surreal SoReal Theatre / Azimuth), Guernica (Hidden Harlequin, best director Sterling nomination), as well as being artistic director of his company Surreal SoReal Theatre (2004-present) and various projects while studying at the National Theatre School. Playwriting credits include Little Room (nominated for two Edmonton Sterling Awards) Big Shot (nominated for two Sterling Awards and two Calgary Betty Mitchell Awards), The Gooble Portrait (Théâtre la Seizième; five Vancouver Jessie Awards), Dog (nominated for six Sterling Awards, including Best New Play, and winner of the Best Independent Production Award), and Edith Rex (current commission with Shadow Theatre). Acting credits include The Goat, or Who is Sylvia (Citadel Theatre), The Palace Grand (understudy, Electric Company), The Play About the Baby (Theatre Network), Whale Riding Weather (Zee Zee), Ecran Fumee, Flocons Pour Alicia (Théâtre la Seizième), Des fraises en janvier (LuniTheatre), and the Blue Light (Keyano), as well as many Surreal SoReal productions. 

CHARPO: I understand directing Before Her Time, three plays by Samuel Beckett, marks the end of your training in the National Theatre School  Directors program.  Why did you choose to direct three Beckett plays?

LACHLAN-STEWART: I’m an outsider coming in.

An Albertan in Montreal.

A Francophile trying to make a life in the mixed theatre community of this beautiful city. (cont'd)

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Sunday Feature: Director Sarah Garton Stanley on Beatrice & Virgil

Rascal the Cat, Identity and the Booker Winner: A Love Story
by Sarah Garton Stanley

For Factory: Down Dangerous Passes Road, Beaver, Slipknot, Restitution, and Associate Director 2000-04. Other Recent Credits: Helen Lawrence (ArtsClub/CanStage/Banff Centre/) mothermothermother (PushOFF) Upcoming: The Summit (IPAA/NAC/Banff/Luminato) mothermothermother (AGO) The Book of Judith (Whitby Abilities Centre) We Keep Coming Back (SelfConscious Theatre/Theatre Kana) Other: Associate Artistic Director for English Theatre at Canada’s National Arts Centre, The Collaborations (Several amazing companies and creations across Canada) Co-creator and Artistic Director of (Praxis/Neworld/NAC) Sarah and Michael Rubenfeld make work together with SelfConscious Theatre. Sarah Garton Stanley lives in Kingston, Ontario.

I have been thinking a lot about love. And how important it is as an ingredient for making work. It brings to mind my first cat, Rascal. My mother finally caved after a disastrous adventure with two pet mice went awry… when my next-door neighbour’s boa constrictor made short work of them. My mum had tried to curb my enthusiasm for a cat and, as a result, animals had died. Next stop the SPCA! As a 10 year-old kid this was the most exciting place in the whole wild world. A series of rooms, filled with a series of cages, filled with a series of barking and purring fluff-balls all waiting to be loved.  As we walked the endless aisles (or so it felt to me) of possibility, my eyes came to rest on the cutest cat I - or anyone else in the world - had ever, or would ever, see. She would become Rascal. But before that, as I turned to my mother in the SPCA with absolute love in my heart for this white spotted creature, I saw, my mum’s concern that I had chosen a misshapen creature; that my choice to place love at the feet of this slightly limping animal would cause all of us real harm. And you know what? My mother was right.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

creating a/broad, April 12, 2014

My Own Personal Vera
by Cameryn Moore

I ranted about this a few months ago, but I didn’t know there was a name for it. 


Specifically Vera Nabokov, Vladimir Nabokov’s wife, who not only did all the wifely things that a good stay-at-home wife did in the mid-20th century—all the housekeeping and feeding and general domestic upkeep—but she was her husband’s  assistant in a very prolific career that apparently everyone knew he wouldn’t have been able to accomplish without her.

I read with interest the recent article in The Atlantic about this arrangement. The author interviewed writers of all genders about whether they had a “Vera”. Nobody wanted to own that term, but everyone seemed to know what it meant, and if you put aside the word and just looked at the function(s), the verdict was pretty solid: a few rare writers had them, but most either hired Vera proxies, or wished they could.

The most interesting part to me was how the piece started, not with Vera or Vladimir at all, but with Lorrie Moore, a justifiably famous writer, some of whose critics got a little snarky about her most recent, highly anticipated collection of short stories. An underlying sentiment among these assholes  critics was that they were expecting a lot more for having to wait 16 years for this book. Why haven’t you gotten more done in that time?


And, fuck that.

And, boy howdy do I know how that feels.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Review: (Toronto / Theatre) Belleville

Allan Hawco, Christine Home (photo - rotated - by Guntar Kravis)

Obscurity of meaning
Pscyhological thriller strives for cohesion
by Dave Ross

“City of lovers… city of lights? Is it both?” This quote from Belleville, a Company Theatre production in association with Canadian Stage, summarizes a feeling of confusion and uncertainty that runs throughout this play. Directed by Jason Byrne, with leads Allan Hawco and Christine Horne, this play contains a level of psychological darkness that was quite surprising but at times seems to struggle in its attempt to deliver a message.

Review: (Toronto / Dance) Sawah

(photo by Peter Lear)

Feats of Endurance and Inspiration
by Winna Tse

SAWAH, a music and dance production brought to us by Arabesque Dance Company is simply put, inspirational. It’s a production that went full force with powerful ensemble music and dancers alike. Right from the beginning I was drawn in by the upbeat oud ensemble led by the masterful musical director Bassam Bishara. Clearly, not only are the musicians talented but so are all the dancers. Seeing them beautifully sway their arms, shake their hips and glide across that stage really inspired me to take up some belly dancing! 

CharPo's Real Theatre! April 11, 2014

A Fly on the Wall, April 11, 2014

My Life In The Theatre
by Jim Murchison

This week Mickey Rooney died. Apparently his personal life was difficult. He had more wives than Henry VIII and allegedly only $18,000 in his estate when he died. That is incredible when you think that he was a major star since he was a tween and stars with half his talent make mega millions for a single movie.

A lot of Mickey Rooney's early films were about putting on a show. Usually there was some sort of dire trouble on the horizon and the only way to save the day was for a group of energetic kids with a dream to write a show so good that it would impress some Broadway impresario to produce it. Once it became an overnight success it would make enough money that uncle could keep the farm.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Review: (Toronto / Theatre) Burn This

(Photo by Angela Besharah) 
Intimate take on Wilson’s play is busy, noisy, and kind of numbing.
by Christian Baines

Anna (Ashleigh Rains) has been living for three years with her Gay (uncoupled) roommates Robbie and Larry (Jason Stroud). When Robbie is killed in a boating accident, his brother Pale (Kyle Labine) arrives on Anna’s doorstep. Pale is angry and unpredictable, but with her friend and longtime collaborator gone, could he be just what Anna needs?

This intriguing setup leads to what’s ultimately a very safe, straightforward play masquerading as a dangerous one. Burn This is full of shouting (Pale), angsty-hand-wringing (Anna), and familiar Gay tropes (Larry). Some of those tropes would have been ground-breaking when Lanford Wilson’s play debuted in 1987, but they now come across as something of a ‘Queer Eye’ era museum piece – undoubtedly beyond their original era, but never quite contemporary either.

Review: (Toronto / Theatre) Soliciting Temptations

Derek Boyes, Miriam Fernandes (photo by Cylla von Tiedemann)

Guided Into The Dark
by Beat Rice

Directed by Andrea Donaldson, Soliciting Temptations explores the themes surrounding sex tourism and is very much a debate between the characters, Man and Girl. Man justifies the men who employ the services of young sex workers and the women who provide them should not be shamed. Girl argues that women are forced to do the bidding of men and the men who call on them are pigs. More in depth questions related to power struggles within gender, sex, prostitution, class, are discussed. We discover that Girl is not just some local who arrives at his hotel room for paid sex. She has her own motivations. There is so much that this play could ‘be about’. To me, it comes down to two people who are struggling with their own feelings of loneliness, desire, and self-induced guilt.

The Abominable Showman, April 10, 2014

Remembering Greg Kramer
Friends and colleagues pay tribute to late Canadian theatre legend Greg Kramer
by Richard Burnett (photos from tribute by Richard Burnett)
Canadian actor and writer Greg Kramer was found dead in his Montreal apartment a year ago, on April 8, 2013,  after he failed to show up for the first day of rehearsals for his new play, Sherlock Holmes, starring Hollywood actor Jay Baruchel at Montreal’s Segal Centre for the Performing Arts.

The widely-revered Kramer had performed on stages across Canada, from the historic Vancouver Playhouse to the venerable Centaur Theatre in Old Montreal. But Kramer told me that working with Christopher Plummer on The Tempest at Stratford in 2010 ranked up there as one of his favourite jobs. “Plummer is incredible – an unbelievable professional,” Kramer said. “Given his age and how well he has kept himself, he is an inspiration.”

Picture of the Week, April 10, 2014

We like photographer Candice Albach's instincts for this photo for Bomb-itty of Errors starting its run in Vancouver today. To capture the faux 'tude of the company's pack of clowns, Albach kept colours darker (it is a rap musical after all) but the gentlemen (L to R, Niko Koupantsis, Jameson Parker, David Kaye, and Brian Cochrane) could not be whiter. A perfect portrait of silliness.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Op-Ed: Promote yourself!

I really need to have a mini-rant
by Barbara Ford, CharPo Senior Contributor

I'm doing research for a press release I'm writing and I clicked on an IMDb link in my Google search for a little more background on an actor and once again, I'm faced with no bio! I can't tell you how many times this has happened to me and not just for emerging artists. I've found well-known actors with formidable credits the length of my arm with virtually nothing on their IMDb page.

I think of the complaints I've heard over the years about how Canada does not have a star system to support its artists when, with the current state of highly advanced digital bells and whistles, the path is clear to tooting your own horn ad nauseam. Maybe agents (since Canadian artists don't have business managers to oversee this, at least not until they hit the ‘big time’) should provide this service. I don't know at whose feet this issue falls but it seems to me that it’s a problem that can be more easily addressed, perhaps remedied.

Review: (Toronto / Theatre) Swell Broad and The Homemaker

(photo by Neil Muscott)
by Lucy Wells

The Storefront Theatre, despite recent flooding, is open for business with a double-bill of Swell Broad and The Homemaker (though note that certain—ahem—facilities are out-of-order and you’ll have to go across the street to the gelateria for those, and also buy tiramisu gelato while you’re there. I checked.  It isn’t poison).  It’s a good pairing: both are new plays set in the mid-20th century, dealing with women questioning their role in society.

Swell Broad, written by Brooke Banning and directed by Laura Anne Harris, shows various stages in the unconventional courtship of Delilah and Stuart.  Performed by Janelle Hanna and Philip Furgiuele, the play is a dance between the two characters (and they really do dance at times), as each tries to figure out what he or she wants from the relationship, and neither seems able to keep from knee-jerk contrariness. We root for the bluff, booming Stuart, and the intriguing, conflicted Delilah (especially with Hanna’s Transatlantic delivery!), but, well—romances aren’t so much fun if things run smoothly, are they?