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Saturday, October 29, 2011

Review: (Toronto) Super-Villains

(Photo Credit: Ivona Nowak and Iwan Mota)

Against the Grain Theatre’s Super-Villains: Wicked Fun
You may have missed this show, but you mustn't miss the next
by Émilie Charlebois

As a graduate student who lives a 20 minute walk from school, any extended amount of time spent on transit feels like precious minutes that could be spent avoiding course readings. So as I made my way to AtG’s Super-Villains, all I could think was “wow, if I’m going this far West, it better be worth it” (I live in Chinatown and I was going to Junction). And it was so, SO worth it. Not only was the performance set in an antique furniture shop, there was free candy and comic books! But it wasn’t only the cool venue and awesome freebies that blew me away: the show itself was spectacular. 


Super-Villains proved that there really is no need for props, costumes, or elaborate set design to put on a good show.

Stripped down to a few performers, their accompanying pianist (music director Christopher Mokrzewski) and sheer talent, Super-Villains proved that there really is no need for props, costumes, or elaborate set design to put on a good show. It literally felt like an evening at home with friends who (potentially after a few drinks) have decided to regale everyone with an impromptu talent show. Stitching together a few arias, musical numbers and the one act Medea Redux, different incarnations of evil and vengeful characters took center stage. 

It was low-key and fun, which made Ambur Braid’s sneak-attack entrance from the back of the room, as the witch Esclarmonde all the more surprising. Suddenly, this young statuesque woman made her way to the front, belting out notes I didn’t even think were humanly possible (disclaimer: I lack the vocabulary to adequately comment on operatic performances, to me it’s all “wow”). As Carmen, Vilma Vitols entertained everyone with not only her own vocal abilities, but her wonderful playful flirtations with guests seated in the front row. Gene Wu and Stephen Hegedus were just as entertaining and spellbinding in their respective incarnations of Don Giovanni and Javert (Les Miserables), and Noa May Dorn captivated everyone with her sweet and honest Medea. 

...the only truly unfortunate thing about this performance is that it was only on for one night.

Although I found myself questioning the actual villainy of the characters chosen for Super-Villains (ones I was most familiar with were Sweeney Todd, Don Giovanni and the Queen of the Night), this was easily overlooked once the show began. I had goosebumps from the very start until Braid’s closing number of “Der hölle rache,” as the Queen of the Night summoned all her fellow villains for their final bow. Although there may not have been the level of evilness I was initially expecting, the only truly unfortunate thing about this performance is that it was only on for one night. Against the Grain Theatre is a force to be reckoned with and must be watched very closely. The next performance lined up for their second season is La Bohème, scheduled for December 1st, 2nd  and 3rd. Be there.

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