This time en route to board the Crystal Symphony for a short cruise from New York to Halifax, I planned a two night stop-over in New York for dining and theatre. Despite the limited time I managed to enjoy several excellent restaurant meals and three shows.
The Book of Mormon
Book, music and lyrics by Trey Parker, Robert Lopez and Matt Stone
Directed by Casey Nicholaw and Trey Parker
Choreographed by Casey Nicholaw
Eugene O'Neill Theatre, 230 West 49th St. (8th and BWay)
New York, NY: After reading my little rant about the mind-numbing effect of excessive and unexpected profanity on stage, you may wonder why I would have chosen to see The Book of Mormon. After all it was written by the creators of South Park, the award winning animated comedy sitcom known for its shock value and crude language. The difference is that going into the theatre, I knew that this show described as a "bawdy, irreverent, hilarious" look at missionaries sent to Africa to convert the masses, would create its comedy by using foul language and sexually explicit humour to shock. So in the context of the show, swear words were the least "offensive " aspect. Overall The Book of Mormon is entertaining and quite hilarious.
Satchmo at The Waldorf
starring John Douglas Thompson
by Terry Teachout
directed by Gordon Edelstein
at the Westside Theatre (407 West 43rd)
New York, NY. In general I avoid reading reviews of plays or musicals that I am about to see so as not to bias my enjoyment and opinion on the show. In the case of Satchmo at the Waldorf, I wish I had broken my rule as the play turned out to be very different to what I had been expecting.
In a powerful performance John Douglas Thompson plays the seventy-year old Louis Armstrong in his dressing room at the Waldorf Astoria as he unwinds after one of his last performances.
Book by Harvey Fierstein
Music and lyrics by Cyndi Lauper
Based on the Miramax motion picture Kinky Boots written by Geoff Deane and Tim Firth
Directed and Choreographed by Jerry Mitchell
Music supervision, arrangements and orchestration by Stephen Oremus
At the Al Hirschfeld Theatre, 302 West 45th
New York, NY. This is the second production of Kinky Boots I have seen. I first saw the show with the original Broadway cast in June last year, and enjoyed it so much (specially the boots!) that on this return visit I thought my fashionista friends had to see it too. Good decision because I confess I loved it even more the second time around.
by Tommy Smith
directed by Ben Ratner
The Shop Theatre, 125 E. 2 nd St.
A White Hot Equity Co-Op production
May 8 -17, 2014
Vancouver, B.C. One of the things I love about my job as a theatre reviewer is the opportunity to see off-mainstream shows by small independent theatre companies. It is also often an opportunity to learn about small funky theatre spaces which these independent companies find to use for their productions. And that's how on a rainy Vancouver night I found myself driving round the vicinity of Main and Québec Streets, trying to find a a street parking space reasonably close to The Shop Theatre, which I discovered is in the old production space of the now sadly defunct Vancouver Playhouse Theatre Company.
I do not use the F-word, at least in my writing, so I will simply say instead that Tommy Smith's play is about some seriously M-essed up characters. Lil (Loretta Walsh) and Sis (Stefania Indelicato) are sisters, the yin and yang of a manic-depressive persona. Sis is a manically crazy nymphomaniac who kicks off the play with a superbly articulated, warp-speed monologue about her sex-driven, violent but empty life. “I love when people lie to me. I love the moment when I figure it out. I’m like, there, I got white hot justice on my side.”
by Nicolas Billon
Directed by Kathleen Duborg
A Dirt Road/The Iceland Equity Co-oP Production
Studio 16, West 7th.
Till May 3, 2014
Vancouver, BC: It was a packed house last night for the closing performance of Nicolas Billon’s Iceland at Studio 16, and deservedly so. Iceland is a gem of a theatrical piece and it was sensitively directed and beautifully performed by Kathy Duborg and her cast of three.
Iceland is one of three plays that make up the trilogy published as “Fault Lines” that won Billon the 2013 Governor General’s Literary Award for Drama. The other two plays are Greenland and Faroe Islands.
Watching Glory Die
Written and performed by Judith Thompson
Directed by Ken Gass
Canadian Rep Theatre
Historic Theatre at The Cultch
April 23 to May 3rd, 2014.
Vancouver, BC: A fourteen year old girl sent to juvenile detention for throwing an apple at a postman was incarcerated for five years until she ultimately asphyxiated herself in her cell while being watched by on duty correctional officers. The correctional officers were "following orders not to intervene until she stopped breathing." It is hard to believe that this tragic and horrific real-life story could happen in a country like Canada. Four months ago, almost 7 years after the death of Ashley Smith, an inquest jury found that her death was a homicide - in other words that the actions of others contributed to her death. No criminal or civil liability was assessed through the inquest but recommendations were made to prevent such future tragedies.
Playwright Judith Thompson chose to tell this sad and perplexing story through the perspectives of three representative characters. Glory is the troubled 19 year old girl who has spent 5 years, much of it in "therapeutic quiet" or isolation, in institutions of Corrections Canada. Rose is Glory's adoptive mother, who raised her from a 5 day old infant, and who, towards the end was kept away from Glory by the Corrections system. Gail represents the correctional officers or prison guards. A rough working-class woman, she is fearful of losing her job, follows orders not her conscience and is clearly not trained nor qualified to be responsible for the type of self-destructive prisoner that Glory has become. In this premiere production of Watching Glory Die, Thompson herself bravely returns to the stage after 35 years, to play all three roles.
Book by Thomas Meehan, Music by Charles Strouse, Lyrics by Martin Charnin
Directed and Choreographed by Valerie Easton
Musical Direction by James Bryson
Royal City Musical Theatre
April 10 to 26, 2014
Vancouver, BC: I am an unabashed fan of Annie, the spunky, independent little optimist, and ANNIE has one of my favorite feel-good musical songs, Tomorrow. Valerie Easton and her large cast and crew have put on a polished and entertaining production and I enjoyed every minute of it.
Twelve-year old Julia MacLean played Annie with poise and confidence, belting out her numbers with the clarity of a seasoned performer. The entire orphan girl ensemble was impressive and well rehearsed. Their dancing was precise and their diction great, so you could clearly hear the words of their songs. Little Jaime MacLean who played Molly is an 8 year old with an amazing stage presence. Tiny as she is I found my eyes drawn to her among the group of orphans.
Chelsea Hotel: The Songs of Leonard Cohen
Conceived and directed by Tracey Power
Musical Direction and Arrangements by Steven Charles
Firehall Arts Centre
Till March 29 th, 2014
Vancouver, BC: Wow! I really enjoyed this show. The multi-talented cast of Rachel Aberle, Lauren Bowler, Ben Elliott, Steve Charles, Marlene Ginader and Kayvon Kelly have strong voices and great moves. I missed the premiere of Chelsea Hotel in 2012 so this was a completely fresh production for me and I was thoroughly captivated.
Music and lyrics by Adam Guettel
Book and additional lyrics by Tina Landau
Directed and choreographed by Peter Jorgenson
Vancouver, BC: Long time readers of ReviewFromTheHouse may remember my stories of having to overcome my sometimes incapacitating claustrophobia to undergo magnetic resonance imaging (Claustrophia and your MRI) and to stay calm on being trapped in a New York elevator. What I have never disclosed is that my first experience of severe claustrophobia occurred as a child, crawling through a confined tunnel like Floyd Collins, but in the Cango Cave system near Oudtshoorn in the Western Cape of South Africa. Like the caves of Central Kentucky, the Cango Caves are an extensive system of cave and tunnels formed in the ancient limestone strata in the foothills of the Swartberg (Black Mountain).
Merely reading about the horrific end of the real Floyd Collins, trapped in a space eight inches high, evoked the same terrifying sense of suffocation and panic that has stayed with me since that long-ago nightmare. Even though, while watching the story unfold, my rational self acknowledged that these were actors on stage, and the "dark cave system and confined space" where Floyd Collins (Daren Herbert) was "trapped" was a construct of Amir Ofek's clever representational set and Jeff Harrison's somber lighting, this sense of unease coloured my entire experience of this dark work.