© 2004-2013 Rebecca Bollwitt – Miss604. The Rio Theatre is serving up a mix Band-Aids, cyborg cops, King Arthur, and Klingons which is sure to satisfy any cinephile’s appetite, especially late at night on a Friday. These 19+ screenings can be complimented with a beverage from the theatre’s full service bar as you enjoy a […]
© 2004-2013 Rebecca Bollwitt – Miss604. The Broadway hit WICKED is coming back to Vancouver this summer and judging by the reaction on Twitter whenever I mention the show, it will be one hot ticket. Back by popular demand! Variety calls WICKED “a cultural phenomenon” and it continues to break box office records across North […]
© 2004-2013 Rebecca Bollwitt – Miss604. Royal City Musical Theatre presents the Tony Award-Winning and family favourite Annie at the Massey Theatre from April 10th to April 26th. Celebrating their 25th season, this Royal City Musical Theatre production of Annie is directed and choreographed by Valerie Easton with musical direction by James Bryson. This broadway […]
Mario Biagini is a genial, 49-year-old Italian theatre worker who’s one of two designated successors to theatre pioneer Jerzy Grotowski. He’s in Toronto with a troupe of colleagues to perform and teach at U of T. I know theatre worker sounds mundane but the term “The Work” appears often as he talks; it’s spoken with reverence, the way hockey players say “The Game.”
© 2004-2013 Rebecca Bollwitt – Miss604. City Opera Vancouver presents the world premiere of PAULINE, a chamber opera about Canadian writer-actress Pauline Johnson, with libretto by acclaimed Canadian author Margaret Atwood and music by Tobin Stokes. Tickets are on sale today for this highly-anticipated production that is sure to sell out. I can hardly contain […]
A play about Rob Ford is set to debut this summer at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the largest arts festival in the world. This is totally unrelated to the fresh ink on that movie deal announced in Toronto on Monday, but it’s not altogether that surpr…
The Rhubarb Festival turns 35 this year, a milestone anniversary for the progressive and interdisciplinary theatre event. It happens in the shadow of government funding cuts, in the amount of $20,000-$25000, which arrived without any sort of explanation as to why the festival no longer qualifies for the Building Communities through Arts and Heritage programme. Buddies has soldiered on, curating a sprawling collection of performances under the direction of Laura Nanni that activate a variety of different spaces throughout the city. Here are some of this year’s highlights.
Becoming an Image / February 12 / 9:30pm / $10
The headliner of Rhubarb’s 2014 festival is Canadian-born performance artist and bodybuilder Heather Cassils. While most well-known for her make out with Lady Gaga during the extended introduction to “Telephone,” Cassils is a dynamic performance artist who uses the body as a medium to address gender representation and cultural norms. In Becoming an Image, she creates a unique sculpture on-stage by attacking a 2,000-pound block of clay in the dark while a photographer illuminates the performance with camera flash. Cassils will also sit down for an artist’s talk on Thursday, February 13.
35 Performances for 35 Years / February 13 / 8:00pm / $10
A veritable who’s who of Rhubarb past performance comes together to present the best of their previous work in the context of today’s realities. Festival Director Laura Nanni has enticed all of these performers back to the festival for a cross-section of Rhubarb throughout the ages. Those on hand to present short work include Sky Gilbert, Cynthia Grant, Daniel David Moses, Ed Roy, Cathy Gordon, Sonja Mills, Keith Cole, Ryan G. Hinds, Jordan Tannahill, Nicolas Billon, and Hannah Moscovitch.
Young Creators’ Unit Presentations / February 14-16 / 8:00pm/6:00pm / PWYC
Buddies has nurtured talented, young performers through their well-developed youth programmes, encouraging them to contribute new and exciting queer stories. This year’s performers could eventually find their way onto the theatre’s mainstage after further development. Chimera, by Rory Jade Grey, presents a disturbing image of twin fetuses who question their very existence; Alt Title: I Wish I Knew, by Jackie Rowland, profiles a bisexual woman and her desire for transformation under pressure from public scrutiny; and Twenty-Something or Nothing, by Ramon Vitug, is a black comedy that considers a young gay man’s struggle to overcome societal expectations and standards of happiness.
The Fun Palace Radio Variety Show / February 12 8:00pm; February 23 6:30pm / Free
Small Wooden Shoe takes us back to the days of the variety show, the internet variety show that is, with a live taping of The Fun Palace Radio Variety Show featuring performers Christopher Stanton, Nicola Correia-Damude, Richard Allen Campbell, and Susanna Fournier. The entertainment grab bag, from creators Brendan Gall, Jacob Zimmer and Evan Webber, will feature serial drama, music, science fiction, and, of course, a slew of surprise special guests. With a name like ‘Fun Palace’ be sure to expect the unexpected.
Open Space Projects / Various Times and Locations / Free
This year, the festival has made a concerted effort to link Toronto’s LGBT communities together through performance. The Open Space Projects is a free initiative, developed around the concepts of history, archive and ‘making public,’ set to inspire artistic connections between five historic queer institutions around the city. To this end, there will be a number of intriguing satellite performances meant to activate and explore the city’s queer heritage at the 519 Church Street Community Centre, Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, the Canadian Lesbian & Gay Archives, the Glad Day Bookshop, and the Pink Triangle Press.
Week Two Mainstage / 8:00pm onwards / February 19-23 / $20
During the second week of the festival, Buddies offers audiences the opportunity to sample a number of mainstage performances with a “choose your own adventure” viewing style. Presentations on offer during the second half of the festival include An Anthology of Belonging (Kerri Flannigan), No One Receiving (Maggie MacDonald), Since Santino XXX (Jill Connell and Katie Swift), Henri Fabergé on the Lamb (Henri Fabergé), Trapped! (Hope Thompson and Morgan Norwich), Jagged Canyon (Bridget Moser), Viking Blood (Humboldt Magnussen), and Buffalo Buffalo Buffalo Buffalo Buffalo Buffalo Buffalo Buffalo (Viktor Lukawski and Nicolas Di Gaetano).
The Rhubarb Festival runs from February 12-23 at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre. Week One Mainstage Projects are $10, Week Two evening passes are $20, Young Creators’ Unit performances are PWYC, and the Open Space Projects are free.
Robert E. Sherwood’s 1936 play Idiot’s Delight is a unique one to be sure. Part romantic comedy and part harbinger of war, the play’s focuses often battle for top billing. Sherwood himself was aware of the duality, once confessing to his contemporary L…
© 2004-2013 Rebecca Bollwitt – Miss604. February is a fine time for musical theatre in Vancouver with Family Day, Valentine’s Day, and many other reasons to seek refuge indoors and be wildly entertained by the arts. This means it will also be the perfect time to check out Rodgers and Hammerstein: Out of a Dream […]
Each month we round up the most noteworthy live theatre playing in Toronto.
World Stage / Harbourfront Centre / Various Times / $10-$39
Harbourfront’s annual series showcases celebrated artists and their latest obsessions in contemporary performance modes. This year’s festival launches with the #artlive Vogue Ball presented by the House of Nuance, an inclusive jam that hearkens back to the golden days of queer balls. Performances that kick off the series in February include The Radio Show (Kyle Abraham), UNTITLED FEMINIST SHOW (Young Jean Lee), and Major Tom (Victoria Melody). Check out our full World Stage preview.
Idiot’s Delight / Soulpepper – Young Centre / January 30 – March 1 / $23-$74
Robert E. Sherwood’s 1936 Pulitzer Prize winning play is set in the Italian Alps where the luxury Hotel Monte Gabriele plays host to a collection of international guests. With tourism on the decline in the latter part of the decade, the arrival of a Switzerland-bound train provides some much needed excitement in the hotel halls, even as the impending war marches ever so close to the retreat. Albert Schultz directs a large ensemble of twenty.
Metamorphosis / Royal Alex Theatre / February 2 – March 9 / 8:00pm/2:00pm / $25-$99
There’s nothing that quite compares to the comically dark open line of Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis: “As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect.” Not figurative, without hyperbole or irony, Gregor is full insect. Kafka’s wildly imaginative and influential literature has been adapted for the stage by British playwright and director David Farr and actor/director Gisli Örn Gardarsson.
Firebrand / Mackenzie House / February 6-22 / 8:00pm / $20
Single Thread Theatre continues to unearth the seminal stories of Toronto’s heritage through engaging, site-specific productions. Their past performances, The Campbell House Story and The Loyalists, have encouraged audiences to look differently at the city by revisiting moments that have shaped Canadian history. The Mackenzie House museum is the setting for Firebrand, a play profiling William Lyon Mackenzie, the city’s first mayor.
Tribes / Berkeley Street Theatre / February 6 – March 2 / 8:00pm/2:00pm / $22-$49
Arriving for its Canadian premiere is Nina Raine’s Tribes, winner of the 2012 Drama Desk and New York Theatre Critics Circle awards. Raised by his family without knowledge of sign language, Billy navigates his deafness the only way he knows how. That is until he meets a woman slowly going deaf who opens up his world to a language and culture all their own. Under the direction of Daryl Cloran, the play should be another strong Canadian Stage offering alongside London Road.
The Daisy Theatre / Factory Theatre / February 12-23 / 9:30pm / $30
Renowned puppetmaster Ronnie Burkett returns to Factory with The Daisy Theatre, which first premiered at last summer’s Luminato Festival. Inspired by Czechoslovakia’s underground “daisy” puppet displays during Nazi occupation, the play features monologues and variety acts from a collection of fantastic characters. Burkett and his marionettes bare all in a bold and daring cabaret.
The Rhubarb Festival opens at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre on February 12. We’ll take a closer look at the festival next week.
As the collected works of Agatha Christie demonstrate, crime and scandal never fail to pique interest when stoked by gossip, conjecture, and the press. So many of Christie’s novels, set in quiet English towns, examine how the surrounding community resp…
WHERE: Factory Theatre, 125 Bathurst Street WHEN: Tuesday, January 21 WHAT: Expanded and renovated space for the Factory Theatre, involving an elevator to the main space, and one main building entrance that can be supervised by fewer staffers/volunteers. While this renovation will address issues related to accessibility and staffing requirements, it will not result in [...]
At the centre of Evelyne de la Chenelière’s Flesh and Other Fragments of Love lies the pale, lifeless corpse of a young woman which has washed up on the beach of an Irish vacation village. The body presents less an invitation into the events that led to her demise and more an entry point into the relationship of a married couple transfixed by her discovery and by that which she represents.
The playwright’s deeply poetic and arresting dialogue explores the unspoken tensions of jealousy and infidelity that boil beneath a long marriage. While sometimes obtuse and mired in its own personal journey, the language of the central characters portrays a compelling and human portrait of the contradictions of love. It soars when at the extremes of the spectrum, devotion and denial, but feels bogged down in the in between.
A couple’s already strained vacation comes to a halt when Pierre (Blair Williams) discovers the untouched corpse of a young woman named Mary (Nicole Underhay) on a solo walk along the coast. For his anxious wife Simone (Maria del Mar), the young woman represents the outside-of-marriage fascinations which have continually stolen Pierre’s attention. Together they piece together the events which led to Mary’s resting place, a performance that reveals more about their own preoccupations than that of their subject.
de la Chenelière employs an inventive narrative structure to reach the root of Pierre and Simone’s partnership. The characters deliver uninterrupted monologues to one another, revisit scenes from their relationship together, and attempt to uncover the mystery of Mary’s death by performing invented scenarios. It results in a rich, but sometimes hard to follow, exploration of their shared history.
Their confessions — about freedom, jealousy and all-consuming dependence — are poetically penned. de la Chenelière has a wonderful grasp on language, matching potent visuals with their corresponding emotion (credit also due to translator Linda Gaboriau). These reflections are sometimes so deep that we become lost in a torrent of words, losing sense of the true meaning.
Director Richard Rose helps uncover the unique dialogue placing Pierre and Simone in orbit of Mary’s body. While there is initially enough room to accommodate their musings, the staging becomes less dynamic as the play progresses — the characters break into Mary’s dramatic space but with little impact.
Williams and del Mar are well matched in the discussions of freedom and devotion. As a curious and intellectually driven hedonist, Williams is equal parts charm and revulsion. del Mar delivers the most emotional impact as a woman searching for dependency.
de la Chenelière’s tale, adapted from Marie Cardinal’s novel Une vie pour deux, is an intellectually challenging and poetic study of long term love, set under the microscope when death intervenes. It resonates with human yearnings that are as relatable as they are opaque.
Flesh and Other Fragments of Love, written by Evelyne de la Chenelière and directed by Richard Rose, runs at the Tarragon Theatre until February 16.
Photos by Cylla von Tiedemann
The Toronto Fringe Festival took a small hit this past summer when clouds moved in and delivered more rain in one day than ever on record in the city. The weather wasn’t able to dampen the spirit of the 25th annual indie festival though — there were record ticket sales during the first four days and spontaneous pop-up performances in the wake of cancellations. The Next Stage Theatre Festival, the Fringe’s winter programme, provides an annual jump start to another year of theatre. Here are some of the most exciting on offer in 2014.
A Misfortune / Common Descent / Factory Studio Theatre
Adapted from an Anton Chekhov short story of the same name, A Misfortune is a romantic tale about a married woman and her lover, a young lawyer, who take a stroll through the woods. While Sofya knows that she must end the relationship, doing so proves to be more difficult than she ever anticipated. It’s a tall order adapting the thoughtful Chekhov, especially into musical form, so it’ll be interested to see how Director Evan Tsitsias brings this one to the stage.
Fatherly / Sam S. Mullins / Factory Theatre Antechamber
Writer and performer Sam S. Mullins found success at last summer’s Fringe Festival with Weaksauce, a coming-of-age tale about falling in love and losing that love to another guy. Mullins has established himself as a clever, humorous storyteller and an affable performer. Fatherly finds Mullins taking us on a journey from a heart-to-heart conversation with his dad to the eventual death of a Texan firefighter.
Polar Opposites / TiltHAUS / Factory Theatre Antechamber
Intriguingly billed as “2 parts comedy, 1 part tragedy, ½ table tennis, and ¼ mask theatre,” Polar Opposites examines a moment in the life of two polar bears floating on an iceberg that’s slowly melting. Don’t expect a Coca-Cola commercial. Playwright and performer Nicole Ratjen, who appears alongside Stephanie Jung, has created the polar masks for the production, that will help give animation to the arctic characters.
Rifles / Praxis Theatre / Factory Mainspace
Playwright Nicolas Billon had a memorable 2013, taking home the Governor General’s award for his collection of plays, Fault Lines: Greenland — Iceland — Faroe Islands. The new year sees him premiering an adaptation of Brecht’s 1937 play Senora Carrar’s Rifles for Praxis Theatre. Directed by Michael Wheeler, the play explores a widow’s desire to save her sons from combat during the Spanish Civil War.
Scheherazade / Nobody’s Business Theatre / Factory Studio Theatre
Creative duo Morgan Norwich and Johnnie Walker (The Other Three Sisters, A Maude-Lynne Evening) routinely tour Canada’s fringe circuit with thoughtful, clever work. Their newest, Scheherazade, riffs off of the classic One Thousand and One Nights to consider opulence, unions, and well-kept secrets. Re-told through a contemporary sensibility, the play follows the title character’s plan to stop a lustful King who kills his bride each and every morning.
Stencilboy and Other Portraits / Paradigm Productions / Factory Studio Theatre
Susanna Fournier’s Stencilboy and Other Portraits considers the desires that drive us toward action. Lily moves to the big city in an attempt to fulfill her dream of being immortalized on an artist’s canvas. She meets two men who can make her wish come true, one a once successful artist and the other who creates graffiti. The play, an exploration of art, love, and desire, stars Richard Clarkin, Brandon Coffey, and Sochi Fried.
Photo by Lauren Vandenbrook from Polar Opposites
Nominated for: defunding the Rhubarb Festival.
Torontoist is ending the year by naming our Heroes and Villains: the very best and very worst people, places, things, and ideas that have had an influence on the city over the past 12 months. Cast your ballot until 2 p.m. on January 1. At 4 p.m. we will reveal your choices for Toronto’s Superhero [...]
Carly Rae Jepsen is heading for New York to take over the role of Cinderella in Rogers and Hammerstein’s Broadway production.It was announced today that Jepsen would take over for the Tony nominated actress who has been playing the role for a year. Jep…
Toronto theatre productions from 2013 told a wide range of intriguing and diverse stories, presented on stages large and small and from a collection of dedicated artists who call our fair city home. Here are some of the memorable theatre highlights from 2013:
Early bird gets the worm
While the old guard of Toronto independent theatres (Tarragon, Factory, Passe Muraille) continue to chug along, there’s a new generation of permanent venues underway for established companies. Chief among them is Crow’s Theatre, which gave us the first real story of 2013 with the announcement of its new theatre in the east end. It’s been a banner year for Artistic Director Chris Abraham, who took home the country’s largest theatre prize, the Siminovitch, and directed three incredible shows: Othello at Stratford, Someone Else with Canadian Stage, and, one of the best of 2013, Winners and Losers.
Lord of the Sings: The Three Towers
The David Mirvish-Frank Gehry development, an ambitious, large-scale plan to transform the entertainment district, faced a number of challenges in 2013 that have stalled the current design. The demolition of the Princess of Wales isn’t exactly the source of the controversy, but rather the four heritage buildings — Eclipse Whitewear, Anderson, Gillett, and Reid — all erected during the first 15 years of the 20th century. With city council having recently voted down the current proposal, the project has come to represent two visions of the city’s future: embracing contemporary city-transforming design or preserving Toronto’s architectural heritage.
The religious satire The Book of Mormon tore up Broadway in 2011, winning 9 Tony Awards along the way. It arrived in Toronto this spring as part of the Mirvish season. The show proved to be everything that it was touted to be — funny, irreverent, and innovative. In addition to a storyline chock full of clever jabs, the numbers “Spooky Mormon Hell Dream” and “Hasa Diga Eebowai” are not easily forgotten. While the length of the engagement was a disappointment, a mere six weeks for a theatre hungry city, Mirvish will bring back the crowd-pleaser later next year.
Campbell House doors open
In the past few years, the Campbell House Museum has opened its doors widely, establishing itself as one of the most intimate and popular site-specific theatre spaces in the city. Originally built in 1822, the building was home to Chief Justice William Campbell before being saved from demolition in 1972 and moved to its current location. The performances featured at the museum this year include, Elizabeth – Darcy, Nightmare DREAM, Lady Julie, You Can Sleep When You’re Dead, A Room of One’s Own, and an installation as part of Nuit Blanche.
The year of queer
Of the memorable productions on Toronto stages this year, a number of the most successful featured queer themes. Leading the crowd was Soulpepper’s ambitious mounting of Tony Kushner’s gay fantasia, Angels in America. It showcased strong performances from Damien Atkins and Diego Matamoros, as well as spot-on staging from director Albert Schultz. It’ll return next year just in time for World Pride. The highlight of Buddies’ year was Arigato, Tokyo from Daniel MacIvor, an artistic, nuanced approach to the foreigner in a strange land archetype which muddied an easy reading of gender and sexuality. Add in solid productions of Entertaining Mr. Sloane and The Gay Heritage Project and it was a good year for queer theatre.
A community of theatre companies—Outside the March, Convergence Theatre, Sheep No Wool, Crow’s Theatre—came together to present the sprawling epic Passion Play from Sarah Ruhl. The result was the summer’s most talked about performance; no easy feat among the many seasonal indie and Shakespeare festivals. It’s a testament to the collaborators involved, directors Mitchell Cushman, Alan Dilworth and Aaron Willis, as well as performers Maev Beaty, Andrew Kushnir, Jordan Pettle, and Julie Tepperman. The three part series, following an amateur troupe as they re-enact a passion play in Elizabethan England, Nazi Germany and Reagan-Era America, was one of the year’s highlights.
Toronto is musical crazy when it comes to Les Misérables, a city favourite since it first appeared here in the late 80s. The success of the latest re-envisioning from Cameron Mackintosh, featuring visual projections inspired by Victor Hugo’s paintings, can be attributed to a rousing performance from Iranian-Canadian actor Ramin Karimloo in the role of Jean Valjean. As a result, he’s been anointed the role when the production heads to Broadway, alongside clown Cliff Saunders as Monsieur Thenardier. Early in the new year, Colm Wilkinson, who originated the role, will pass the ceremonial candlesticks when he appears alongside Karimloo in a charity performance.
Canadian Stage shines
I’ve been a fan of the international, contemporary vision put forth by Artistic and General Director Matthew Jocelyn since he took over at Canadian Stage four years ago. 2013 is the year that promise blossomed into progress. Through a number of co-productions and relationships with national and international artists, the company built a strong portfolio of diverse, contemporary productions this year, including Someone Else, This, Needles and Opium, Macbeth, Winners and Losers, and the crowd-pleaser of the year, the currently remounted Venus in Fur. 2014 looks just as promising with direction from Jackie Maxwell (London Road) and co-productions with Theatrefront (Tribes) and the Company Theatre (Belleville).
Performance Luminaries – Joni Mitchell and Marina Abramović
Jorn Weisbrodt has brought international stature to the Luminato Festival as its Artistic Director. This year, he enticed two of the most respected artists of their generation, Joni Mitchell and Marina Abramović, to take part. The real coup was the participation of the Canadian music legend who has faced health problems in recent years. While Abramović has been on the circuit since the success of her MoMA retrospective and subsequent documentary, Toronto was lucky enough to host two of her projects: The Life and Death of Marina Abramović and the MAI Prototype, the international premiere of a two-hour performance experience.
Honourable Mentions: After Miss Julie, Clybourne Park, Of a Monstrous Child, Nijinsky, Tristan und Isolde
Pantomime is a popular Christmas theatre tradition in the U.K. where audiences shout back at the characters and enjoy humour that ranges from bawdy to political to slapstick. A pantomime written by Charles Demers with Veda Hille and Theatre Replacement…
Each month we round up the most noteworthy live theatre playing in Toronto. This December features a host of holiday productions to help get audiences into the spirit of the season.
The Nutcracker / National Ballet – Four Seasons / Dec. 14 – Jan. 4 / 7:00pm/2:00pm / $55-$100+
After over fifteen years, the National Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker hasn’t missed a step. The ballet is a wildly imaginative journey through the decadent and playful sights and sounds of the Christmas season. Like a richly detailed picture book come to life, the production is full of magic and humour, which all the while encourages audiences to contemplate the true themes of the holiday. Check out our full review from last year.
Parfumerie / Soulpepper – Young Centre / Dec. 3-28 / 7:30pm/1:30pm / $51-$8
It’s with good reason that Soulpepper continues to trot out Parfumerie each holiday season. Miklós László’s production is, by all accounts, a play built for this time of year. It profiles the hustle and bustle of the season in a community perfume shop where the product isn’t the only thing that lingers in the air—love, too, wafts through the store. The ideals of forgiveness, reconciliation, and good will anchor the storyline on a beautiful set from Ken MacDonald.
Little Mermaid / Ross Petty – Elgin Theatre / Nov. 22 – Jan. 4 / 7:00pm/2:00pm / $34-$93
That Ross Petty is up to his old tricks again, recruiting a young, talented cast of singers and dancers to delight audiences as part of the annual Christmas pantomime. This year’s theme, the Little Mermaid, sports perhaps the most cringe worthy pun in recent memory, “Ontario’s O-fish-al Musical.” If the title alone makes you gag, you might want to avoid the show. It’s a reflection of the type of jokes you’re in for, amidst all the pop culture mash-up and goofing around.
A Christmas Carol / Montgomery’s Inn / Dec. 5-29 7:00pm/2:00pm / $10-$20
Humber River Shakespeare presents a minimalist’s approach to the classic story, A Christmas Carol. Five actors present the various characters from the Victorian tale, which features fated visits from the ghosts of present, past, and future. The correction of Ebenezer Scrooge is, by now, a well-known story, teaching us that to give is always better than to receive.
Weather the Weather / Evergreen Brick Works / Dec. 6-30 / 8:00pm/5:00pm / $12.50-$32
Theatre Columbus is the group behind The Story, the smash-hit, wandering Christmas show that originally premiered in 2011. The group is returning to the Evergreen Brick Words for more site-specific holiday fare. Playwright and actress Haley McGee is the brains behind the newest creation, Weather the Weather or how we make it home together, an original fairy tale inspired by northern folklore and our compulsion to ensure we’ve made it home for the holidays.
Elizabeth – Darcy / Campbell House Museum / Dec. 14-29 / 8:00pm/2:00pm / $20
This happens to be the only play on the list that isn’t holiday focused. Nevertheless, Elizabeth – Darcy features the cozy and familiar characters of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Hallie Burt and Kate Werneburg play the title characters, giving the adaptation an innovative gender bend through which to view the classic tale. The Campbell House, which is fast becoming a theatre outpost for sight-specific period pieces, serves as the backdrop.
For more listings, head on over to the events calendar for local info updated regularly during the month.
Have a spoken word event coming up that you’d like us to plug? Submit your own listing to the blogTO events calendar.
Photo from Parfumerie by Cylla von Tiedemann
This week in theatre rounds up the most noteworthy live theatre playing right now in Toronto. It includes just-opened shows as well as productions that are about to close.
Alligator Pie / Soulpepper Theatre / Various Times / $23
An adaptation of the p…
This autumn, The Theatre for Living (Headlines Theatre) presents Corporations in our Heads, an audience-led play that is completely absent of scripts or designated actors. Its main mission: to provide insight into the various relationships we have with corporate culture and control in our daily lives.
Though impossible to clearly articulate, as the content is improvisational and ranges night to night, Artistic and Managing Director David Diamond explains “theatre is a language that belongs to everyone.”
This week in theatre rounds up the most noteworthy live theatre playing right now in Toronto. It includes just-opened shows as well as productions that are about to close.
Needles and Opium / Bluma Appel Theatre / 8:00pm/2:00pm / $24-$79
A Robert Lepa…
James Kudelka’s Swan Lake is a ballet that plays between different binaries – light and dark, hard and soft, masculine and feminine, oppression and liberty – whose opposition contributes a potent narrative structure to the drama. The gracefulness of th…
This week in theatre rounds up the most noteworthy live theatre playing right now in Toronto. It includes just-opened shows as well as productions that are about to close.
Winners and Losers / Berkeley Street Theatre / 8:00pm/2:00pm / $22 – 49
It’s no coincidence that Rob Ford can be seen on the flap of a newspaper peeking out of a trash can on the set of George F. Walker’s Moss Park. While the characters in the play never struggle with substance abuse (or maybe more accurately, never strugg…
The Gravitational Pull of Bernice Trimble / Factory Theatre / 8:00pm/2:00pm / $…
Abduction From The Seraglio / Elgin Theatre / 7:30pm / $38-$100+
Opera lovers h…
© 2004-2013 Rebecca Bollwitt – Miss604. After taking the Edinburgh Festival Fringe by storm, and a wildly successful run off-Broadway, Vancouver actor and rapper Baba Brinkman returns to perform his unabridged production of The Rap Guide to Evolution at The Cultch at the end of this month. Brinkman combines the wit, poetry and charisma of […]
Peter Grimes / Four Seasons – COC / 7:30pm/2:00pm / $54-$100+
While the new production of La Bohème may be the better known of the two operas at the COC this fall, Benjamin Britten’s Peter Grimes is a contemporary masterpiece that should resonate with audiences. The production features Ben Heppner in the title role under director from Denni Sayers. It’s a fitting opera for a Canadian company, with its psychologically-driven portrait of an alienated fisherman living in a village by the sea.
Dinner at Seven-Thirty / Buddies in Bad Times / 8:00pm/2:30pm / $18-$31
Inspired by The Waves from renowned queer author Virginia Woolf, Dinner at Seven-Thirty dramatizes a party between six childhood friends who revisit memories and significant events from times past. Theatre Rusticle presents movement based theatre — their interdisciplinary work traces the journey of the six individuals from childhood to death. The ensemble features Hume Baugh, Andrya Duff, Thomas Morgan Jones, Ron Kennell, Viv Moore, Lucy Rupert, and William Yong.
The Killing Game / Annex Theatre / 8:00pm / $18-$22
Eugene Ionesco’s The Killing Game is one of the playwright’s final works. When a small town is beset with the plague and bodies start piling up, the citizenry slowly starts to devolve into a gossipy, angry mob. Ionesco’s satiric style, a mix of tragedy and absurdism, is a fitting vehicle to examine a small town under extreme crisis. The production from arts&lies features a large cast of 18 and lots of death.
De Colores Festival Of New Works / Wychwood Theatre / 8:00pm / $13-$15
The Alameda Theatre Company presents a festival of new work that provides support for Canadian Latin American artists. The festival pairs playwrights with experienced dramaturgs for one-on-one development. This year’s plays include Paradise Red by Bruce Gibbons, Solaz by Jefferson Guzman, Have You Lost Something? by Flavia Hevia, and Marine Life by Rosa Laborde (previously presented at this year’s SummerWorks Festival).
Night of the Living Dead Live / Theatre Passe Muraille / Various Times / $28-$80
The film that gave rise to our contemporary zombie craze, George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, revolutionized the American horror film in 1968. Christopher Bond, the brains behind the Toronto hit Evil Dead, The Musical, is the writer and director of a new stage version of the landmark film and it’s telling that Romero himself is on board as Executive Producer. True to the original, the play is presented entirely in black and white.
Photo from Night of Living Dead Live
Les Miserables has returned to Toronto. And given that this city loves its musicals — from long running productions like The Phantom of the Opera, to revivals of The Sound of Music and The Wizard of Oz from Andrew Lloyd Webber — audiences are set to come out in droves for the large scale spectacle and booming, melodic voices.
It’s no surprise then that Cameron Mackintosh’s Les Miserables, which has already achieved widespread global success over its 28 years, brought down the house at its opening night performance at Mirvish’s Princess of Wales Theatre. In what felt like adulation reserved only for visiting rock stars, the production, and its leading man, were embraced with full force.
It’s with great cause that audiences are quick to herald the production as musical magic. Mackintosh has added sleek visual projections inspired by Victor Hugo’s paintings that ground the rousing, revolutionary scenes in a moody tone. The largely Canadian cast, anchored by West End star and Iranian-Canadian actor Ramin Karimloo as Jean Valjean, are as spirited as any you’ll see in a Toronto musical.
After spending 19 years in prison for stealing bread for his nephew, Valjean (Karimloo) dodges parole to reinvent himself as a moral man, one who pledges to help a dying Fantine (Genevieve Leclerc) ensure her daughter Cosette (played in later age by Samantha Hill) will grow up safe. Pursed along the way by Inspector Javert (Earl Carpenter) and Cosette’s negligent caregivers the Thénardiers (Lisa Horner and Cliff Saunders), Valjean navigates his freedom and helps fight for justice during the 1832 Paris uprising alongside a young Marius (Perry Sherman), who falls in love with Cosette.
The most notable feature absent from Mackintosh’s updated production is the revolve which carried the large chorus and swung the barricade in earlier productions. The current staging proves it’s not needed as the bombastic music accomplishes the intended effect. The Hugo projections from designer Matt Kinley are superb, helping to set the tone and swiftly move the story along. The scenes with Javert on the bridge are strikingly sketched.
While the intention is to marry the spirit of the original production with a more contemporary treatment, the tactile production elements still feel very much like a product of the 80s and 90s. While they are period relevant, wigs, makeup, and costumes seem wrenched from past closets. The film has a more updated aesthetic treatment on that front.
The Toronto production won’t solely be remembered for the revisioning. The nuanced portrayal of Jean Valjean by Karimloo is what sets this production apart. His Valjean is equal parts brute and compassion. It’s a performance that seldom wades into melodrama and for that the rest of the production is bolstered.
He’s supported by a stellar ensemble. Melissa O’Neil as Eponine is the stand-out female, able to translate her pain into haunting song. Carpenter’s Javert is also solid, a formidable foil to Valjean who wrestles with the criminal’s moral character. Hill and Sherman don’t ever rise beyond standard lovers, overshadowed by spirited performances from crowd favourites Horner and Saunders as the Thénardiers.
The spirit of dreaming big and joining your fellow man is alive and well in the current revisioning of Les Miserables. Mackintosh is lucky to have a home town boy, Ramin Karimloo, leading the charge.
Les Miserables, by Boublil & Schönberg and presented by Cameron Mackintosh, runs at the Princess of Wales Theatre until December 22.
Photo courtesy of Mirvish
Les Misérables / Mirvish – Princess of Wales Theatre / 7:30pm/1:30pm / $35-$100+
The big musical this fall is Cameron Mackintosh’s re-envisioning of the smash-hit Les Misérables, which served as the inspiration for Tom Hooper’s 2012 film adaptation. The production was reworked in 2010 on the occasion of its 25th anniversary to include scenery influenced by Hugo’s paintings. A predominantly Canadian cast portrays the peasants of France who rise up during the revolution and display the strength of the human spirit.
Venus in Fur / Canadian Stage – Bluma Appel / 8:00pm/2:00pm / $24-$79
Jennifer Tarver directs the Tony-Award nominated Venus in Fur, which stars Rick Miller and Carly Street. When casting begins for a new play based on the erotic novel Venus in Furs, from Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, a young actress gets so invested in the part that she begins a dangerous game of cat and mouse with the show’s director. The play contains allusions to classical art and mythology making this a complex, layered look at sexual dynamics.
La Bohème / COC – Four Seasons / 7:30pm/2:00pm / $54-$100+
Giacomo Puccini’s La Bohème opens on Christmas Eve in Paris, the Latin Quarter to be exact, in the 1830s. What upfolds is an opera about love in the face of struggle and the youthful spirit of our tenacious bohemians. A brand new COC co-production with the Houston Grand Opera and San Francisco Opera, the production is set to be the crowd-pleaser on the COC Fall calendar.
Tempo / Storefront Theatre / 8:00pm / $20
Tavistock Arts’ Tempo chronicles a very real and very frightening fear, what would happen to us should the foundational elements of our life start to slip away? That’s what’s happening to Jim &mdash: the medication he sells is starting to cause blindness, his wife is distancing herself from him, his friends are becoming less and less, and now the company car has been taken away, an old Tempo is all he has to get by on. Michael Batistick’s play considers who will suffer the consequences of Jim’s struggles.
…And Stockings For The Ladies / Toronto Centre of the Arts / 8:00pm/2:00pm / $30-$64
A tribute to the Canadian war hero and RCAF squadron leader Ted Aplin, …And Stockings for the Ladies documents the role of the Royal Air Force at Bergen Belsen Concentration Camp post-liberation. Alpin was bestowed the title “The Angel of Belsen” for his compassionate display of humanitarian aid at the infamous Nazi concentration camp. The play is written by Attila Clemann, directed Zach Fraser and performed by Brendan McMurtry-Howlett.
Photo of La Bohème by Chris Hutcheson
Playwright Tommy Taylor was one of 900 people arrested and held in detention during the G20 summit in Toronto in July 2010. He’s turned the Facebook post he wrote about it into a play. You Should Have Stayed Home is showing at the Firehall Theatre until October 5. Jane Williams went to see the play. She speaks with Redeye host Lorraine Chisholm.
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The Norman Conquests / Soulpepper – Young Centre / 8:00pm/1:00pm / $32-$68
Tim Luscombe’s Pig is positioned as a play that interrogates the normalization of gay sexuality — monogamy, marriage, adoption — by exploring the antithesis of these traditional structures in dark, seedy places where sexual expression has n…
On the Rocks / Theatre Passe Muraille / 7:30pm/2:00pm / $20-$32
Canadian musical theatre dame Louis Pitre launches Theatre Passe Muraille’s 2013-2014 season with her one woman show On the Rocks, a deeply personal account of a French-Canadian girl’s soujourn through life. Featuring original songs and a narrative that doesn’t shy away from raw emotion, Pitre looks to reveal herself in this significant project. The performance is only on stage for a week so best to act fast if you’re a Pitre fan.
The Best Brothers / Tarragon Theatre / 8:00pm/2:30pm / $27-$53
Daniel MacIvor’s The Best Brothers, about two siblings who pick up the pieces after their mother dies in a freak accident, had a solid premiere at the Stratford Festival last year. It was about time the celebrated Canadian playwright was asked to bow a play at the Festival. It turned out his newest fit well with Stratford audiences &mdash: it is a lot more mellow and heart-warming than some of his earlier, in-your-face work. Crowd-pleaser though it may be, the writing is superb and it’s always a treat to see MacIvor onstage.
Tick, Tick…Boom / Toronto Centre for the Arts / 8:00pm/2:00pm / $25-$55
Jonathan Larson moved mountains in the musical theatre world composing the music and writing the lyrics for Rent. After the composer’s untimely death in 1996, another of his earlier work, Boho Days, was revisited by playwright David Auburn and turned into a three-actor musical called Tick, Tick…Boom. It’s an autobiographical look at the hardships of the musical theatre industry in New York.
The Flood Thereafter / Berkeley Street Theatre / 8:00pm/2:00pm / $22-$49
Quebecois playwright Sarah Berthiaume plays with the conventions of fables in The Flood Thereafter, a portrait of small-town Canada. The arrival of a stranger signals a change for June who strips everyday at the Emotions bar for the men of the town. Canadian Stage’s continued partnership with the Faculty of Fine Arts at York University finds Ker Wells directing, fresh off a celebrated production of Macbeth in High Park.
Shoreditch Madonna / Storefront Theatre / 8:00pm/2:00pm / $20
Playwright Rebecca Lenkiewicz is best known for her 2008 play Her Naked Skin, about a romance between two suffragettes during the struggle to obtain the vote. Shoreditch Madonna profiles a collection of visual artists making work in the East End of London. It’s the first play in the Storefront Theatre’s season of six plays from independent theatre companies, including Theatre Brouhaha and Red One Theatre Collective.
“Lol” Solman, once “Canada’s Uncrowned Amusement King,” is all but forgotten today.
Although he’s largely unknown today, in the first three decades of the 20th century, “Lol” Solman played a pioneering role in building Toronto Island into a summer destination, enshrining the city as a destination for first-rate theatre, and popularizing baseball and hockey as professional sports in the city. Envisioning entrepreneurial possibilities where others predicted only [...]
It’s amazing to have exposure to great theatre and arts on a daily basis. In cities like New York, London, and Toronto, you can take your pick from elaborate stage productions to fringe theatre and never be disappointed. This week, […]