Theatre Seen

Samantha Hill & Adrian Marchuk; Photo by David CooperLight in the Piazza
Music and lyrics by Adam Guettel
Book by Craig Lucas
Direction and musical staging by Peter Jorgenson
Musical Director Sean Bayntun
Patrick Street Productions
Annette and Norman Rothstein Theatre
Sept 15 to  Oct 9th, 2011

Vancouver, BC: In musing about my response to the show, I finally concluded that I really admired the production but was a little disappointed in the work itself. So what on earth do I mean by that? In brief, the production values from cast, musicians and the creative/technical teams were excellent but I just could not connect with the music.

Samantha Hill & Adrian marchuk. Photo by Ross den OtterI guess for me contemporary show music is a bit like drinking an ultra-dry Alsace style Gewürtztraminer or Riesling versus one from the Mosel or Rheingau. Both may be exceptional quality but I enjoy the latter far more. Having read previous critical raves about Guettel's music I was hoping, and I think, expecting, the melodic music of the old style musicals, from which tunes continue to play in my head long after I have left the theatre. Instead, as several of us agreed, we enjoyed the orchestral music and admired the ability of the cast to sing those intricate songs but the songs were not memorable, at least to our musically unsophisticated ears.

It was down to the last three Fringe performances that I could fit into my insanely crowded schedule, and the day was grey and rainy. Did I really want to take the ferry across to Granville Island and stand in lineups in the rain?  Luckily the skies cleared and by the time I needed to leave it was dry and quite pleasant.  I packed my umbrella into my knapsack and set off to the ferry dock for a quick ride over to the island, and was really glad I did. I had been looking forward to hearing Melanie Gall sing Piaf since I heard her sing while I waited in line-ups for the earlier shows, and she did not disappoint me. The Sparrow and The Mouse is my favorite show of the selection of 8 plays I managed to see in this year's Fringe.

For my other Fringe Festival Reviews check out

Vancouver Fringe Festival 2011 Part I

Vancouver Fringe Festival 2011 Part II

But first at the False Creek Gym I saw "Suicide(s) in Vegas, staged by members of the Seoul City Improv group who have been touring across Canada since June.

Warren Kimmel, Caitriona  Murphy and Eric Morin. Photo by David CooperNext 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.

Friday 12th August
 
Toronto Summerworks 2011. Theatre Reviews Part I.
          Out at Sea  
           Freda and Jem's Best of the week
           Waterfront: The Blessing

Wabora Fusion Japanese Restaurant (Restaurant Review)

Bier Market (Restaurant Review)

Saturday 13th August

Hoops Sports Bar and Grill (Restaurant Review)

Toronto Summerworks 2011. Theatre Reviews Part I.
            Eurydice
            Hannah's Turn

Sunday 14th August

Fran's Restaurant (Restaurant Review)

Irene Poole as Kate and Bethany Jillard as Tanya. Photo by Cylla von TiedemannThe Little Years by John Mighton
Directed by Chris Abraham
Stratford Festival 2011
Studio Theatre
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.

Mike Ross & Fiona Reid. Photo by Cylla von TiedemannWhite 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 Theatre Centre. Folks waiting for the show.The Factory  courtyard before the final showThe 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.

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