Thursday, June 30, 2011

"9 to 5" brought to you, inescapably, by Dolly Parton

9 to 5 is a rousing new musical, an adaptation of the 1980 film and the recipient of multiple Tony nominations last year. The Dancap production, which premiered last night and runs until July 10th at the Toronto Centre for the Arts, features a truly remarkable cast in full energetic array against sets and costumes every bit as bright as their plastered smiles and the relentlessly uptempo score.

Dreaming Downtown

My love for Urban Bard Productions has been well documented on this site. So, naturally, I was incredibly excited to see what director Scott Moyle has come up with for the uber popular and oft-insane comedy A Midsummer Night's Dream.

The first thing to note when going to see Urban Bard's Dream is that you have to walk through Dundee Place at 1 Adelaide St. E to get there. This is not something my friends or I knew, so we almost missed the show looking for signs pointing us to the courtyard. But once we found it, what was waiting for us was a fairly typical if slightly unpolished (and sometimes silly) Urban Bard production.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

My Theatre's Guide to Shows

It's hard to stay on top of the hundreds of theatre companies in and around Toronto. Add in the Shaw and Stratford festivals and there's so much going on on any given day that it's impossible not to miss something. So, to help you out, we at My Theatre have made you a comprehensive (and remarkably time-consuming) guide to Toronto's best companies (and a couple round Ontario too). From June 2011 to February 2012, we've got you covered with this colour-coded guide to all things theatrical. Be sure to check the legend at the bottom for clarification on what's what. Click on the images for a clearer view. 

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Can’t Wait Productions presents its first piece, "Oleanna"

by Brian Balduzzi

I love new theatre companies, their first productions always pulse with a brilliant first-time energy. Can’t Wait Productions’ Oleanna by David Mamet opened with this same raw verve. Upon arriving at the First Church Somerville venue, the audience was ushered not into a proper theatre but into a small office with the name John displayed charmingly on the door, as though we were intruding right onto the character's territory. Though the audience was seated uncomfortably on cramped folding chairs in the tiny room, the set was innovative and the use of the office really clever. Dull lighting and expertly placed set dressings set the mood perfectly, including details like the display of The Privilege of Education, an integral book to the plot. The delayed performance time and questionable soundtrack put me off immediately, but director Tasia Jones' passionate opening remarks more than made up for any wasted time. As the play began, the two-person cast carried that passion through their performances, but they never quite rose to their director's level.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Boston Conservatory Workshops "Factory Girls"

The Boston Conservatory Theater Ensemble has never failed to impress me, and its recent workshop production of Factory Girls proved no exception. The level of effortless performance delivered time and again by their students always seems to come as a surprise. Guided by an excellent faculty who recognizes the importance of the theatrical process, the Masters candidates at the Boston Conservatory always come through with a successful product. Factory Girls seemed like a logical choice for a strong class of women working towards their M.M (Masters of Music); with roles that ranged from demure to brazen, the female ensemble was tasked with the daunting challenge of representing the dreams, background and real lives of the girls who worked the Lowell Mills.

Based on "The Lowell Offering" and "The Voices of Industry" (periodicals written by women working in these local mills in the early 1840s), The Factory Girls tells the fictionalized story of one representative textile mill- an homage to the real women who lived the compelling tale. Composer/playwrights Creighton Irons and Sean Mahoney use the powerful pop/rock score as a vehicle to showcase the hope and angst of their characters. With a limited book, the lyrics propel the story forward.

Friday, June 17, 2011 ronde...

The Red Light District's most recent production appeared daring. Staged at Toronto's notorious Club Wicked, it featured a brave ensemble caught in various compromising positions as they navigated what was supposed to be a boundary pushing mashup of turn of the century Vienna and modern Toronto nightlife. Going in, I knew I'd be very out of place at Club Wicked, and squeamish about the many many many different ways I knew director Ted Witzel had invented to simulate onstage sex. But I was also familiar with Witzel's work and knew that he'd never once staged anything that even remotely interested me on paper or failed to enthrall me in person. The company also featured a couple of last year's My Theatre Award nominees (Eve Wylden and Michael David Blostein). So I steeled myself for the awkwardness I'd have to bear in order to enjoy the depth that the RLD always brings to their work.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Propeller's oldschool/newschool Shakespeare

Propeller Shakespeare Company, performing through June 19th at the Huntington Theatre in Boston, is a damn cool company. This UK group's respect for the text, their return to basic themes and their bold all-male casting make them somewhat traditional in their approach to Shakespeare. But then there's masks and shiny suits and sombreros and heads floating in jars and a supremely physical, modern sensibility to their productions. Their current stagings of Comedy of Errors and Richard III are bursting with bold choices- they're daring and strange, sometimes haunting, sometimes silly, sometimes exactly what the doctor ordered to make a tough scene finally work. But amidst innovation and insanity, there's a real anchoring in the history of the text that makes Propeller a fascinating mix of the old and the new.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Hedda Gabler (sort of)

Boston University had a lot of faith in Ellie Heyman's surrealist interpretation of Hedda Gabler, mounting it on the BU main stage instead of in a standard CFA space like any other masters thesis project. As such, Ibsen's remarkable text about a caged, trapped woman appeared on an enormous proscenium, played out to hundreds of seats. Everything became big- the performances, the sound design, the direction, even the costumes. Big. When the only thing that should be big about Hedda Gabler is Hedda's presence in her limited space. A hugely ambitious production, CFA's Hedda Gabler was an interesting interpretation of something, but it wasn't Hedda Gabler.

The Learned Ladies

This spring I had the privileged of seeing many of Boston University's School of Theatre productions. If you read this blog regularly you'll have read my accounts of the all-female Julius Caesar, the award-winning original play Fallujah, the student/professional collaboration Walking the Volcano and the fascinating thesis projects from the senior Theatre Arts majors. Still to come is a review of one of the CFA season's biggest ventures: Hedda Gabler at the Huntington Theatre.

In general, the work coming out of CFA is remarkable- notably and appropriately stronger than the work of BU's extra-curricular theatre ensembles. These are the kids who are doing it, throwing themselves head first into the painful, thankless and draining life of a theatre professional. And none of them seems to mind that reality one little bit, because they clearly love the work. Nothing made this clearer than my favourite CFA production of the year, the clever, vibrant and satirically wonderful romp that was Moliere's Learned Ladies.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

STAMP- Judas Iscariot & HAMLT/AGMMMNN 2.wtvr

In the early weeks of May, as school came to an end for Boston University's senior Theatre Arts majors, the performance spaces at the College of Fine Arts were filled with thesis projects. This year's STAMP (senior theatre arts thesis productions) entries included Steven Adly Guirgis' raucous Judas Iscariot, Phillip Berman's The Last Confession of the Virgin Maria and a double bill set of adaptations called HMLT/AGMMNN 2.wtvr. The line for the final show of Virgin Maria was out the door so I unfortunately missed out on that one, but read on for my thoughts on the other two projects: