Next To Normal
Music by Tom Kitt
Book & lyrics by Brian Yorkey
Directed by Bill Millerd
Musical Directors Bruce Kellett and Ken Cormier
An Arts Club Theatre Production,
Stanley Theatre Industrial Alliance Stage
Jan 27 to Feb 27, 2011
Vancouver, BC: Go and see Next to Normal. It's powerful stuff yet poignant, at times comedic and the characters will grab at your empathetic emotions and not let go. This rock musical garnered Tony awards for best score and orchestrations, as well as a somewhat controversial 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Millerd and his stellar cast did justice to every aspect of the show.
Tuesday I was back on Granville Island for more Fringe Festival performances. I picked two shows at Studio 1398 on Cartwright Street at 5:15 and 7:45 and what a treat they both turned out to be.
Dianne & Me
Playwright: Ron Fromstein
Director : Luke Brown
Studio 1398 at Festival House
RT: 55 min
Remaining shows Sept 16, 17.
Dianne & Me is a delightful look at the bond between mother and daughter seen through the eyes of an imaginative teenager who is suddenly to confront a problem far out of the realm of homework, best friends and teenage infatuation.
Emma is played by Elena Juatco, who shone as Christine, the naive / sophisticated con-artist in the Playhouse's 2009 production of "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels." As Emma, she captures perfectly the speech and mannerisms of a gawky teenager and I thought she did an excellent job of this one-woman show. The script garnered first place for Fromstein in the Hamilton 2010 New Playwright's Best Of Fringe contest. Though the arc of the story and the outcome were quite predictable, I was engaged throughout and I confess I surreptitiously wiped away a tear or two at the end.
Looking through the 2011 Vancouver Fringe Festival Guide can be quite an overwhelming experience. With more than 80 different shows in various venues on and off Granville Island, some by known performers, others by newbies, how do you pick a manageable selection of performances to attend?
Having just returned from a marathon theatre-going trip to Stratford, and SummerWorks and Soulpepper in Toronto plus a Labour Day Weekend visit to Chicago, I decided to be sensible this time and pace myself at the Fringe.
So ultimately my choices were based, for no good reason, on a combination of timetable and venue. For my first available day at the Fringe I picked three plays running sequentially at the Waterfront Theatre, at 1:35, 3:30 and 5:30
All three were approximately hour long monologues by experienced performers and I thought that would be an interesting and fair comparison as well as hopefully good entertainment.
The index to Travelblogue: Toronto 2011 for Theatre and Dining.
This lists the posted stories for my two week stay in Toronto, Ontario. I check out the restaurant and summer theatre scene including the Summerworks Festival, and also visit Stratford for more theatre and dining.
The Little Years by John Mighton
Directed by Chris Abraham
Stratford Festival 2011
July 13 to September 24, 2011
Stratford, ON: Looking down at a pristine white floor with four large white spot-lit circles, I sensed that this was going to be a unique theatrical experience. And indeed The Little Years is my favorite so far of the plays I have seen during this Toronto/Stratford trip.
White Biting Dog by Judith Thompson
Directed by Nancy Palk
Soulpepper Theatre Company
Michael Young Theatre,
Young Centre for Performing Arts
August 18 to Oct 1st , 2011
Toronto, ON: Two years ago I became a Judith Thompson fan when I saw Palace of The End performed in Vancouver by Alexa Devine, Russell Roberts and Laara Sadiq. I called it "a stunning theatrical experience" and the three monologues still rank in my mind as among the most compelling dramatic writing I have experienced.
White Biting Dog was written much earlier; it won the 1984 Governor-General's Award for Drama. Having also appreciated other earlier Thompson plays, The Crackwalker, and Lion in the Streets, I was eagerly anticipating this show.
The 10 PM show on the last day of Summerworks 2011 completed my theatre marathon of nine shows in three days. Would I do it again? In a heartbeat!
I was tired but exhilarated by the variety of works available to see, and the wealth of talent from established to emerging artists that was part of the Festival. When I come for Summerworks again however, I will make sure that I have more than just the final three days in which to see the Festival so I would have time to catch some of the music acts as well as see many more of the plays. As it was I saw 8 of the 42 that were staged.
So we come to Sunday, the last day of the Festival and I am planning to see four plays. The dilemma is how to chose what to see, juggling priorities, time slots and distances. And selection of what to see is a subject to which I will return later.
My first choice was Hannah Moscovitch's "Little One." I first heard of her when I saw "East of Berlin" and really loved her writing. A year later I saw Mexico City and The Russian Play, two short plays by Moscovitch and although I was not as "blown away" by them as by East of Berlin, I thought her work was well worth seeing.
My second choice was "The Trolley Car" by Amiel Gladstone because I received a Facebook invitation, it was developed in Vancouver, and I had not had a chance to see it before.
That took care of the 4 PM and 10 PM slots, conveniently leaving me able to see White Rabbit, Red Rabbit at 7:30 PM. I was told by several sources not to miss this as it was a Volcano/Necessary Angel co-production and had to be good.
I am not a rabble rouser. I don't sign petitions or march in parades to support or protest against ideologies or political actions. I don't subscribe to any particular socio-political ideals but make up my mind based on how I see the reality of a specific situation. So why did I, along with a whole lot of people, head off to hear a reading of Homegrown by Catherine Frid, on the same night in eleven different locations across Canada?
It's simply because I think that the arts are vital in creating an intelligent, thoughtful, curious society, and new works will not be created and performed if financial support for the arts is not there. SummerWorks is a Festival of new works or experimental productions by young companies, that has been held in Toronto since 1991. Originally a Fringe-style format, it evolved into a juried festival, where a panel of theatre professionals evaluate the proposals and select the plays to be performed.
Richard III by William Shakespeare
Directed by Kathryn Shaw
Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival,
Douglas Campbell Studio Stage, Vanier Park.
July 13 to September 23, 2011
Vancouver, BC. At the end of Henry VI: The War of the Roses, I left the Studio Stage theatre looking forward to seeing Bob Frazer as the unrepentantly villainous Richard in the concluding play of Bard's Kings History Play Cycle, Richard III.
The day of the show's opening was also the first 7 hour marathon day of the intermediate level wine course I am taking. While we learned about regions and varietals, we also tasted 18 wines, 9 during the morning and 9 in the afternoon session. I rushed home to change and made it to Vanier Park in time to pick up The Merchant's Antipasto picnicbasket from Emelle's Catering, and wolf it down before the show began. I was worried that sheer exhaustion plus whatever alcohol could be left in my system might cause me to nod off but to the contrary, I was riveted throughout the show and could not take my eyes off the stage.
Mention Richard III to most people and whether or not they have seen Shakespeare's play, they associate his name with the murder of the young Princes in the Tower of London. It's like Medea. Mention her name and the first association is infanticide not the complex and multi-faceted nature of this woman. So leaving aside the little princes, what is this Richard all about?