Where the Devil are my Slippers?

In my opinion, you either love Bernard Shaw or you hate him. I’ll admit that I usually fall into the latter category. However, I think all would agree that Pygmalion is the easiest of his shows to understand and emotionally find a connection with. It draws us in to the differing worlds of class and sex. Although this play is set in 1912, these themes ring true even in 2017. Alexander Showcase Theatre is celebrating it’s 30th anniversary of exemplary community theatre and chose Shaw’s most accessible play to showcase their company’s talents.

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Vincenzo Sestito’s direction was precise. He led his actors to the truth of Shaw’s material, all the while keeping the pace up and the humour alive in terms of the contrast between the lower and upper class. I’ve always found that Vinnie shines as a director with intimate scenes; whether humorous, romantic or heated. If it involves 2-4 actors putting all their feelings out there, he’s the man for the job. He is able to tap into the actor’s deepest emotions and find ways to connect them to the character they are playing. This is truly evident in the final scene between Eliza and Higgins.

The role of Eliza Doolittle is infamous. First portrayed by Mrs. Patrick Campbell on the West End, Wendy Hiller in the film, Audrey Hepburn in the musical film (My Fair Lady) and then Julie Andrews on Broadway (My Fair Lady). So many actress have delved into the complex , hysterical and brooding character of Eliza and tonight Ms. Nina Mason can add herself to that list. Nina is a dear friend of mine and as a friend who has watched her in countless shows, both musicals and plays, I can say that she is always, for lack of a better word, undervalued. Here is a girl with tremendous acting abilities, a beautiful singing voice and a person who is just about the most lovely lady you will ever meet. Tonight I got to watch her take on the first leading role I have ever seen her in and I have NO doubt that many more will follow in her future. Nina can move delicately into the heart of a character and transform herself. She is nurturing by nature, and you see her use that quality in the roles she plays. Eliza is no exception. She requires that nurturing, love, and dedication to transform from the Cockney flower girl to the exquisite proper lady at Buckingham Palace. Shaw’s script moves fast and so to share that transformation with the audience is quite the task, and one that Nina does effortlessly. She’s a true professional and makes this production what it truly is; an enlightening slice of theatre.

I’ve written about Patrick Brown before. He’s one of those people who in every area of his life does his utmost to excel. Playing the commanding and domineering role of Professor Henry Higgins is no exception. He presence was strong and unappealing at times. He was harsh, cruel and complex. And just when you want to hate him, he was able to show a painfully beautiful side of the professor that brought the audience in and made him, finally, human.

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It was a pleasure to be in the audience for this beautiful show. I was so impressed with the way all of the actors delivered Shaw’s exquisite script and I found myself laughing and guffawing out loud numerous times in Act One. It was, however, the scene between Higgins (Patrick Brown) and Eliza (Nina Mason) in Act Two that resonated in my heart. The timing, chemistry and physicality of these two performers captured the sheer torture of their characters’ complicated and ultimately impossible relationship. Their natural delivery and nuance was thoughtful and sensitive and left me frustrated and breathless in the best way possible! Do yourself a favour and go see this show.

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Additional shout- outs:

1. To Peter Thorman for a beautifully built set and to Beth Roher for stunning set dressings and intricate painting.
2. To Kathleen Andres for her saucy and aristocratic portrayal of Mrs. Eynsford-Hill.
3. To Brenda Massey-Beauregard for her persistent and professional portrayal of Mrs. Pearce.

Be sure to head downtown to the Alumnae Theatre to see Alexander Showcase Theatre’s production of Pygmalion. It runs November 23-December 3 and tickets are available at www.alexandershowcasetheatre.com. Congratulations to all invovled in this beautiful production!

Photography by Paul Brown 

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While You’re Dancing

I am a proud Canadian who believes that we should not begin to celebrate Christmas until after American Thanksgiving (and subsequently my birthday), however I broke my stead-fast rule tonight to venture out to Clarkson Music Theatre to witness their delightful rendition of Irving Berlin’s White Christmas! 

For me, tonight’s show was all about the ladies. From the leads to the ensemble, the females of this show truly brought it and represented! To start, let me talk about Heidi Cyfko who played the head-strong, female crooner, Betty Haynes (originally portrayed by Rosemary Clooney). Heidi has a sultry, period-esque voice that suited the role perfectly. She reminded me so much of Rosemary at times that I found myself reciting the lines       (because of course I have this movie memorized!) and singing along with her.

Laura Carney plays Betty’s younger sister, Judy Haynes, and really shows off her tap skills and physical comedy with this role. She does a great job of bringing out the best in her male counterpart and also contrasts her straight-line sister. I really enjoyed the way that Laura seemed so natural in all of her movements, whether dance or otherwise. Every move seemed normal and with a purpose and always looked elegant.

Martha, the opinionated, eavesdropping housekeeper is portrayed by Katie Westrope, who brings it home with a wonderful show stopping number, Let Me Sing and I’m Happy. She was funny, sharp with all of her comedic lines and had a great voice for the part. She was then followed up by the youngest member of the cast, Emma Prestage, as Susan, who stole the show with her fantastic performance of the same song!

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My favourite number in the show was “I Love A Piano”. It showcased the triple-threat talents of Darryl Burton and Laura Carney as they sang and tap danced around AND on top of a white piano. It was a showstopper of a number reminiscent of the big song and dance scenes in the Movie Musicals of the 40’s and 50’s. It was also very impressive to see 12 other dancers tap dancing and killing it – and this choreography was not simple! This show had one of the most talented dance ensembles I have ever seen in Community Theatre. Truth be told, I performed in a production of “White Christmas” 7 years ago. Seeing this show tonight brought back some very fond memories and officially put me in the Christmas spirit! 

Additional Shout-outs:

  1. To Bob Riddell for his fabulous tap choreography.
  2. To Jenny Peace for assembling a very strong orchestra to bring alive the music of Irving Berlin.
  3. To the female dancers who must be home icing their feet as I type this. You were phenomenal and worked your butts off. Loved every minute of all your dancing!
  4. To Darryl Burton for a hilarious rendition of goofy, ol’ Phil.

Looking’ for some holiday cheer? Head out to Clarkson Music Theatre’s production of White Christmas and sing along (they really do have a moment when they encourage you to do so!) and ring in the holiday season with those you love. The show runs November 17-26 at Meadowvale Theatre and tickets are available at 905-615-4720 and encoretix.org. Happy Holidays everyone!

Angelically Good

Community Theatre is all about coming together and sharing in an experience with your friends, neighbours and sometimes family. Tonight’s performance of Anne of Green Gables at Oshawa Little Theatre is a great example of just that. The cast is full of families: brothers, sisters, fathers, daughters, mothers and sons. And I’m not talking about the characters on stage, but the actual people bringing the show to life. I love to see such enthusiasm for theatre in a family and especially love to see parents sharing in the experience with their children! It was extra special considering that Anne herself is merely looking for a family to love her, and ends up winning the hearts of everyone in Avonlea.

One “family” that stood out to me is that of the creative team on this production. Nicole Strawbridge-Moffatt (director), Carol Salamone (music director) and Jenny Pullon (Choreography) are a team of strong, talented women who came together and brought to life their vision of Anne’s journey to find acceptance and love. Nicole’s talent as a director really shines through with her staging of the large cast in full scenes and also her ability to feature each and every cast member at some point within the show. The blend between the leads and the ensemble was beautiful and showed the unity of the town. Carol’s music direction and specifically her choral work with the ensemble is once again at its best. There were beautiful and strong harmonies to be heard in every song and I knew we were in for a great sing when they whole ensemble crisply cut off the “T” in the first song. Jenny’s choreography was nothing short of spectacular. It was like she channeled the energy of all those teenagers on stage and found a way to expel it out into their dancing. It was fun, energetic and clean. I specially LOVED the picnic scene. This was hands down the most uniform and strong creative team I have seen in years.

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Anne Shirley (that’s Anne with an E, don’t you know?!) is a character that has been memorized  and engrained by the majority of Canadian children. I remember watching the movies when they came out when I was a child and I walked though the Green Gables house just this summer out in PEI for the first time and felt almost child-like experiencing it. To take on a role as iconic and in the hearts of so many, well I can only imagine that it feels like an honour and also maybe a little bit daunting. Sabrina Keyes is a vibrant, beautifully talented 22-year old who brings to life the daring, outspoken 12-year old Anne. The song Kindred Spirits comes to mind when I think of Sabrina. To play a role like this you must immerse yourself in the heart of the character and become one with her. I imagine that Sabrina became best friends with Anne and by doing so was able to bring her to life and remind us all how powerful a young mind really can be if you let it explore and shine.

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11000475_854261204620727_5839734843028418362_nOne of the very special things about this production is the beautiful and functional set, designed by Shane Kelly, and the excellently chosen period props. A detailed and picturesque view of Avonlea greets the audience for the first couple of scenes,  during which time we meet Anne, who is brought to Green Gables in a real 100-year old carriage, the clear authenticity of which sets the production values bar high, where it happily remains for the entirety of this show.  The  crowning glory of the set is, of course, the two storey Green Gables, complete with hand-stencilled wallpaper and ornate gingerbread porch detailing. An open kitchen is where much of the Green Gables action takes place, and this kitchen boasts a very authentic-looking old stove. The house rotates for its role as the Avonlea School,which, as part of the choreographed scene work, swings open to reveal an austere schoolroom. It then rotates for a third time and is used for Lucilla’s General Store, which is realistically stocked with all sorts of oldfashioned items. Throughout, it is clear that this set was designed and built with great care and attention to detail. Match that commitment to excellence with the exciting way that the characters interact with it and you have a winning combination! 

Additional Shout-outs:

  1. To Erin Collins for a lovely performance as Miss Stacey, the refreshing, new teacher that inspires Anne to reach for the stars and never stop dreaming.
  2. To Siobhan Kelly for an exuberant performance of the slightly annoying, yet lovable Josie Pye. Your obsessive nature was perfect!
  3. To Michelle Morrow for a heart-warming portrayal of Marilla Cuthbert.
  4. To Jennifer Braker who I would like to present with my very prestigious CLAUDIA’S CHORUS award for being the most engaged and dedicated ensemble member I saw tonight.

Walk, skip, run and leap frog on over to Oshawa Little Theatre to see their beautiful production of Anne of Green Gables. It runs November 16-26 and December 1-9, with evening performances at 7:30pm and matinees at 2pm. Tickets are available at http://www.oshawalittletheatre.com or by calling 905-723-0282. So Open the Window and share in this timeless Canadian classic with the whole family!

 

Photography by Raph Nogal Photography 

It’s Now or Never

As the title of this review suggests, the cast of Marquee Theatrical Productions’ All Shook Up put it all on the floor at tonight’s dress rehearsal and gave one heck of a performance!  I could have seen 7 shows this week (everyone opens their shows the middle week in November) and I narrowed the 7 down to 3. This Elvis Presley musical made the cut and I’m sure glad it did! It’s a toe-tapping, humming in your seat, LOL good time that the whole family will enjoy.

Ellen Cotton and Khalil Roelcke lead this Shakespearian Twelfth Night twist of a musical in the roles of Natalie and Chad.  Ellen has a sweetness about her at first that you quickly realize can be replaced with some hot passion and sexy dance moves. Khalil moves those hips like the King himself and no doubt will be stealing the heart of all ladies, and men, in the audience each night with that sweet voice!

Sadie Harrison plays young Lorraine, a 16-year old girl who feels trapped in a small town surrounded by people with “small town mentality” and desperately yearning for love and adventure. Sadie’s voice was flawless and she has some real chops as an actress. She is so confident in all she does and for someone so young (she’s only in grade 12 folks!) she is already showing signs of what her future performance career will be like… FULL!

I personally love a good character actor: someone who can make me believe they are 100% someone else. At intermission, I searched through the program to find out who played Dennis. I was looking at all of the headshots and couldn’t find him. I then went back through and looked at the names instead and found that dashing Jacob Murad portrayed nerdy, insecure Dennis. What a transformation and what a truly hysterical performance!

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Love is truly a many splendid thing. Sadie Harrison and Liam McGunnigle are adorable as they discover young, first love, while Laurie Thomas and JC Paquet discover love is sometimes right in front of your nose and it’s never too late for 2nd chance love. Jacob Murad’s unrequited love in the role of Dennis had me envisioning Rick Moranis in a synthesized character of Seymour from “Little Shop” and Louis Tully in “Ghostbusters”. While some loves can be a little obsessive, the glamourous museum owner played by Amanda Dwyer delivers some fabulous lines while trying to trap her love interest – think Shakespeare and bananas….. And tying it all together are leads Ellen Cotton and Khalil Roelcke playing Natalie and Chad.  It’s fun to watch the lengths to which grease monkey Natalie, will go to heat up a whole lot of love, and creates some confusing love for poor old Chad.  

Additional Shout-outs:

  1. To David Moore who always makes me laugh in whatever show he is. Although silent for the majority of this specific show, I still found myself laughing at his physical humour.
  2. To Liam McGunnigle for an adorable performance in the role of young, star-crossed lover, Dean.
  3. To Laurie Thomas for an absolutely beautiful rendition of There’s Always Me.
  4. To Renee Beiforte, the fearless director/choreographer, for some really fun choreography that made all dancers of all levels look really good in those blue suede shoes!
  5. To Roger Chong for some rockin’ guitar playing!

If you’re looking for a night of fun and laughter, look no further than Marquee Theatrical Productions’ hilarious rendition of All Shook Up! It runs November 15-26 at the Newmarket Theatre. Tickets are available at http://www.newtix.ca or by phone at 905-953-5122. Congratulations to all involved in this great show! I sure did feel the Burning Love 🙂 

Pack Up Your Troubles

Last spring I saw a production by Curtain Call Players and made a comment that I was so impressed with their selection of show for fall 2017. As this year marks Canada’s 150th birthday, CCP decided to honour their country and put on a musical written by a Canadian about the Canadian soldiers in WWII. You’ll Get Used to It! The War Show was written by Peter Colley and tells the story of 6 Canadian soldiers and their journey throughout “the war to end all wars”.

Instead of my usual format, I feel compelled to write out of my style about this show. I’m going to do a ton of shout outs so that I can hit on as may points as possible!

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Lisa Ferreira sang a beautiful rendition of “What’ll I Do” with her absolutely, dulcet soprano tones.

The entire ensemble was hilarious during “Der Fuehrer’s Face”. Such great choreography  (shout-out to choreographer, Meg Gibson!) and some hilarious mockery and comedic acting from all (another shout-out to director, Meg Gibson!).

Laurie Hurst has an absolutely stunning soprano voice and  brought one of my favourite war time songs to life with her rendition of “A Nightingale Sings in Berkeley Square”.

Jonathan Rosenstein performed a very moving monologue at the end of Act 1. He detailed his character’s fear as he was about to storm the shores of Dieppe, France on August 19, 1942. It was by far the longest monologue in the show and definitely the most difficult to perform. I was captured by him every second.

Jacob Brien has fantastic comedic timing as Dudley and helped bring the show to a close with a hauntingly beautiful song (made famous by the one and only Bing Crosby) entitled “I’ll Be Seeing You”.

Jonas Feldman played trumpet in a show that desperately requires a fantastic trumpet player and he was like another character in the show, bringing to life each classic tune with his smooth, jazz sound.

Husband & Wife lighting design duo, Paul Harris & Karen Brown, were at it again with yet another great lighting design of a musical. Along with Mack Flynn (sound design) they were able to bring the audience into the horror of the Blitz in London and the shells exploding in Italy and France.

David Rudat was probably the hardest working guy on stage tonight! He was technically a member of the ensemble, but as the only male member of the ensemble, he was quite busy! He played Winston Churchill, Hitler, and Prime Minister Mackenzie King (just to name a few).  He played with some great shtick and got the audience involved in the closing number of Act 1, “You’ll Get Used to It”.

 

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A big shout out to Meg Gibson for her projections. It may seem like a simple thing to do projection design for a show but I can tell you from first hand experience that something as seemingly simple as photographs can be hard to get right. I was very impressed with the content of every single image that was used. They were all perfectly chosen and interwoven into the scenes, often times playing the mirror to the movement of the characters. Doing that much image research for a full show of historical images on top of all of the other roles you played for this show (Director, Choreographer, and Set Design) is quite the feat. Brava!

 

Congratulations to all the cast, crew and creative team of Curtain Call Players’ You’ll Get Used to It! The War Show. It runs November 3-5 and 9-11 at the Fairview Library Theatre. Tickets are $28 and available by calling 416-703-6181 or online at www.curtaincalltoronto.com Be sure to check out this show and show your support not only to community theatre groups but also our veterans. We owe them so much.

Mrs. Peron is Rolling In

I was an Evita virgin. I had never seen the musical or the movie. I knew some iconic songs (Don’t Cry for Me Argentina and I’d Be Surprisingly Good for You), but I had never experienced a full production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s infamous musical. Until tonight, that is, as I saw the shining star and heard the story of Eva Duarte de Peron at Scarborough Music Theatre.

This remarkable production is led by 3 truly gifted actors. I’ll start off with Chris Ning, who took us on the journey of Evita’s story, in the role of Che. Chris has a killer set of pipes and, as the narrator of the show (who stands on the outside and the inside of scenes), led the audience on the whirlwind adventure of Evita’s powerful, yet short-lived, life. His clear voice carried over the 18 person ensemble and 16 person orchestra and he played (and taunted) well off of Evita and the people of Argentina.

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Dany Savard played politician and soon-to-become President of Argentina, Juan Peron. Dany had such a wonderful strength of character, beautiful voice and supported Evita so beautifully in all of their scenes together. I fell in love with him during I’d Be Surprisingly Good for You and he warmed my heart as he sang of his ailing wife in She is a Diamond. He was the perfect leading man and I plan to watch out for him in more shows to come!

For non-music theatre lovers, you might know this show because the queen of pop herself, Madonna, portrayed the role of Evita in the feature film. I was curious what playing the role was like for her, so I read through a couple of articles. My favourite quote was this: “I think she must have felt a real sense of victory, of accomplishment.” She went on to say that the first time she stood on that iconic balcony she felt a rush; “…especially the first time it happens. It’s incredibly overwhelming.” As I read those words, I thought about Samantha Ballard, who performed the role of Eva Duarte de Peron this evening. As the orchestra swelled and the back panels opened, Samantha walked out for her curtain call to a standing ovation. I could see the tears glistening in her eyes. I can only imagine that she felt overwhelmed, felt a rush and a sense of accomplishment. Every performer dreams of a role like this one. A role where they step into the shoes of someone who made such an impression on the world. A role that they will talk about performing the rest of their lives even when they are 98 years old, talking to their great-grandchildren. Samantha gave it her all tonight and brought the audience into the hearts of Evita, just like Evita did for the people of Argentina. She officially won me over when she sang, with her lovely soprano tones, the charming I’d Be Surprisingly Good for You. After that point, I was hooked.

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I have a confession to make. While I am a theatre enthusiast, I am also a super antsy audience member. This means, if the pace is off in a show, I will basically be checking my program nonstop to see how much time is left. I am happy to report that I didn’t check my program once this evening!  I mean, a sung-through show pretty much demands good pacing. This requires creativity and collaboration from the entire production team. They need to work together to figure out how changes in time and location can be communicated with virtually no time between musical numbers. I firmly believe, and saw this evening, that this can be achieved with clever staging/production elements rather than black outs and full set changes. I want to congratulate the whole team for their fluid transitions and commend the performers who executed them. Prop pieces, set pieces, and lighting came together beautifully with creative patters of movement and choreography to quickly and effectively guide the audience members through many different times and locations in the life of Evita. This allowed me to stay fully engaged in what was going on and connect with the characters. 

 

Additional Shout-outs:

  1. To Kristi Woods for sensational choreography. I loved all of it but especially And the Money Kept Rolling In!
  2. To Esther Cabral who has such a lovely voice! I can’t believe this was your first “big show”. You were amazing!
  3. To Heather Barnes and Jan Harvey for an enrapturing set, set dressing and props that brought us all into the world of Argentina in the 1940s and 1950s.
  4. To the full ensemble of the show who danced and sang their hearts out to such challenging music. You were the true magic in the show tonight!

 

Be sure to head straight over to Scarborough Music Theatre to see their stellar production of Evita! It runs November 2-18 and I hear that there are very few tickets left as everyone wants to see this show.  Visit www.theatrescarborough.com to get your tickets now before they sell out! Congratulations to the cast, crew and creative team!!

Photos by Raph Nogal Photography 

Precious Island

And here I am back to my roots! Golden age musicals are my bread ‘n’ butter and I was so thrilled to see South Pacific at Etobicoke Musical Productions this evening!

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I want to dedicate a whole paragraph of this review to the ENTIRE SHOW! Every aspect of this production was wonderful. From the singers, to the sets, to the orchestra, to the costumes, to the choreography, to the enthusiasm and dedication….It was all just THERE! I kept looking for that loose end and couldn’t find it. Each and every member of the cast, crew and creative team should be so proud of themselves for taking a classic musical and breathing life into it once more.

Ms. Laura Larson dazzled as Ensign Nellie Forbish, the head-strong nurse from Little Rock, Arkansas. She was the true definition of a leading lady: a strong performer with great comedic timing, a kind performer (I feel like everyone in the cast would understand that and agree with me) and a true professional (she was the first to gesture to the pit and the booth!). She was cute, funny, had a killer wig and took a character I have been known to detest and made me adore her for the first time in my life. I am a Nellie convert, and I have Laura to thank for it!

 

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21617642_10105503018967952_6738387762422419564_nThe male ensemble was a delight to behold throughout the show, with the number There is Nothing Like a Dame as a stand out. It was well sung, choreographed, and executed, with just the right amount of playful testosterone! The gentlemen provided a dose of comic relief, which proved a poignant foil as they marched sombrely off to battle in the second act. The energy displayed by the men in every sphere made them interesting to watch, whether as the focus of a scene or as background performers. 

 

It was hard not to fall a little bit in love with Rick Schiralli tonight. The accent, the saunter, the way he looked at Nellie…. oh man… needless to say, but Nina and I were swooning by the end of Scene 1! Rick has a beautiful voice, looked great in an ascot tie, was there every step of the way making sure you were in love with him. I adored his rendition of “This Nearly Was Mine”, which happens to be one of my favourite R&H male ballads.

Additional Shout-outs:

  1. To Pearl Ho and Kierans Jordan (Liat and Lt. Joseph Cable, respectively) for having no qualms about expressing their love so openly and physically on stage. I hate when lovers hold back in scenes, and you didn’t and it made it so much more real for me. Hot stuff!
  2. To Gina Patricio for her hilarious portrayal of Bloody Mary. I cannot believe this was your first time ever on stage, girl! Wow! Amazing job!
  3. To Andrew Ascenzo for a stellar job with the music direction of this production and compiling one heck of an orchestra!
  4. To the Orchestra, thank you for being so well balanced, in tune and complimentary to the performers on stage.

 

Be sure to head out to Meadowvale Theatre to see Etobicoke Musical Productions‘ South Pacific from October 20-29 (matinees on October 22, 28 and 29). Tickets are available at 416-248-0410 or HERE. Congratulations to all involved in this top notch show! It was indeed some enchanted evening!

The American Dream

I’m not a play person. I love musicals! I go to plays to support actors and I rarely go to them because I particularly want to or seek them out. Don’t get me wrong, plays can be exhilarating, moving, profound… all the feels 😉 But they are just not my thing. I think that everyone has a theatre experience in their mind that has shaped them in some way.  I know I definitely do. I never thought that a production of Arthur Millers’ Death of a Salesman would be one of those moments for me, but, as it turns out, it certainly was. Theatre Aurora has brought together an absolutely stellar cast, lead by theatre veteran extraordinaire, Martin Buote, to bring to life the story of travelling salesman Willy Loman and his family.

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When I review shows, I often try to seek out the marketing director/producer etc. who has brought me in that night. I do my pleasantries but tonight I really wanted to meet the director, Shawn Rocheleau. Immediately I could see that he was a down-to-earth, kind man who had a deep love for theatre. There was no pretension to him, like so many directors tend to have on opening night. (Oh come on, you all know you have a bit of ego in you!) He told me the story of how this play was never on his bucket list of shows to direct and sort of fell into his lap. He said it was a gift and that he felt so lucky to have been a part of it. And isn’t that what community theatre is all about folks? That joy, truth and “gift” are what we should be in it for, and Shawn reminded me of that tonight. Also, he directed one hell of a show!

It’s time to bring up the elephant in the room….How many of you are a little bit in love with Martin Buote? What a talent! I don’t think I have ever been so moved by an actor as I was by Martin tonight. His intricacies, tenacity and drive were truly remarkable. Every single actor on that stage owes him a debt for making each and every one of them better and stronger by being the most diligent and sympathetic of scene partners. His final monologue had me in tears and was so resonant. Need a reason to go to Aurora to see this show, well I just gave you one, so GO!

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Shining through such strong male leads was not an easy job to take on for Linda Stott when she set out to play Mrs. Loman tonight; and yet what an extraordinary job she did! Finding the balance of staying in the background and stepping forward, she complemented the rest of the cast to form this dramatically dysfunctional, yet relatable family. She displayed a wide range of emotions from being withdrawn and concerned, modest, yet fierce, hopeful, but devastated; she was entertaining and inspiring. Bravo Linda!

The brother duo of Biff & Happy Loman (portrayed by Aaron Verwey and Robert Magee, respectively) was a fantastic pairing. So different in their patterns and objectives yet both so complimentary to each other. Aaron grew his character from the ground up and really had me invested by the end. Robert, I was the one LOLing at you in every scene you were in. And then you would catch me off guard with a haunting deepness that I’m still feeling in my bones.

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Additional Shout-outs:

  1. To Larry Gibbs for your portrayal of Uncle Ben. Loved your lines, loved your outfit, loved your stature, loved it all!
  2. To Holly Williamson & Shawn Rocheleau for a beautiful set that complimented both the era and the needs of the actors in this show.
  3. To Daniel Ciccarelli for your portrayal of Bernard, the nerdy, pest of a cousin from next door who grew up to prove his Uncle quite wrong.

This was truly a quite extraordinary theatre experience and I urge you all to find time to head on out to Theatre Aurora to see this wonderful production of Death of a Salesman. It will not disappoint! It runs October 19-28 and you can get your tickets at www.theatreaurora.com

BRAVO!

 

Photos by Foreshots Photography 

Enlarge, Enliven and Enlighten

I have always said that I love heading on north to my home town to see some great theatre, and tonight was no exception. I had the privilege of being at the opening night performance of Lettice & Lovage, a play by Peter Shaffer, presented by Borelians Community Theatre. This play is largely a two-hander starring the incomparable Alexandra Hines & Amy Caughlin.

Ms. Hines plays the fiercely dynamic historian Ms. Lettice Douffet. Her childish charm, exuberant physicality and excellent memory (OMG the amount of dialogue she had was astounding!) really carried the show. All the hidden jokes that the playwright inserted were presented by Ms. Hines and she caught you every moment. I’m sure they could hear me busting out a laugh or two.

However, one cannot carry a scene without a scene partner, and Ms. Hines was blessed to share the stage with a wonderfully diverse actress, Ms. Amy Caughlin, who played opposite her in the role of Lotte Shoen. Amy is one of those actresses who becomes truly invested in her character and hands that investment over to her scene partner in every show she does. She encourages, supports and above all listens to what is being said to her and then, you guessed it, REACTS. Something that is lacking in a lot of community theatre is a genuine sense of reaction to what one is saying to you on stage. It is always so refreshing to see a person who reacts as though they are hearing the line for the first time.

 

ANOTHER’S NOTION WITH KYLE ROBERTS18359515_10155143758751217_313927254519248971_o

The chemistry between Alexandra Hines and Amy Caughlin was simply magnetic. The duo complimented each other in every aspect, commanding the attention of the audience with gravitas. The comedic stylings of Ms. Hines was perfectly juxtaposed with the solemnity of Ms. Caughlin and mirrored the theatre masks ‘Comedy and Tragedy’. Every time the pair was on stage, which was practically the entire show, could be noted as a treat for the audience. I found myself wondering what sort of hilarious mishap of historical misadventure we would be presented with at any given moment. It was evident that these two had really clicked during their rehearsal process, and it worked in their favor. The show (practically being a two hander) could pose many complications to a company, and these two ironed it out without so much as a crease.  I would best describe this dynamic duo as a female revivication of Adam West and Burt Ward. I tip my hat to the cast of Lettice & Lovage for such a wonderful spectacle of theatre.

 

Additional Shout-outs:

  1. To Joanne Norman for a truly remarkable job as director of this difficult piece of theatre. I could see your blood, sweat and tears in this one and all of that dedication clearly paid off!
  2. To Shelley Martin for such a well-thought out and detailed oriented set. All of the little details of Lettice’s life, as described in Act 1, are brought to life when your beautiful set is revealed for Act 2.
  3. To the Props & Decor team of Helen Coughlin, Shelley Martin & Jan Taylor for some really cool, rare finds on stage. That ax alone should win you a prize!
  4. To Howard Linscott for his hilariously confusing portrayal of Mr. Bardolph. You had two truly amazing women to work with in your scene and you dove in head first and did an great job!

 

Congrats to the cast, crew and creative team of Borelians Community Theatre’s production of Lettice & Lovage. Be sure to head on up to Port Perry to see this wonderful show at the Town Hall 1873 – Centre for the Performing Arts. Performances run       October 12-21, 2017 and tickets are available at 905-985-8181 or www.townhall1873.ca

 

Sardines, Boxes and Telephones… OH MY!

My ribs hurt. I’m drinking right now, not just because it’s tasty and I want to, but because I think I bruised my left ribs from laughter. Tonight’s performance of “Noises Off” at Oshawa Little Theatre was nothing short of hilarious, shocking, revealing, sexy and brilliant!

I will start off by saying that each and every member of this cast was absolutely incredible. They were so dedicated to the physical energy and comedic timing required to do this show. That being said, I can only write so much before people get bored with me and stop reading. So….

The set. Holy freakin’ moly the set was a masterpiece. And no, I’m not saying the set was amazing because the show was bad (come on, we’ve all pulled that BS before!), I’m saying this because the set was absolutely remarkable! It was huge, and I knew they had to show the backstage of the set (this is a play within the play after all) and we actually got to watch them turn the whole thing on stage. It was so cool and got its own applause! The set design was by the very talented visionary, Chris Francom, with Set Construction Leads Steve Clarke and Zachary Unger, by his side. With set painting and decorations by Melanie Baker and Aileen Fletcher, respectively, the set was a character in and of itself and really made the show what it was. Plus, it was very sturdy, which considering the ridiculous antics the cast members were up to on it, was definitely a huge selling point as well!

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I only knew one actor in the show, Mr. David Cardinal, and so it was strange when a few minutes before the show was to start, I saw him come out into the audience and sit down just across the aisle from me. I didn’t say anything because obviously it was a part of the show, yet still I was intrigued. David played Lloyd Dallas, the only character in the show who does not play a character in the “other” show (well almost!). He is the director of the show that is being put on by the other actors and spends almost all of Act 1 out in the audience, at various positions, yelling back up to the stage to the actors. David is such a versatile actor, who moves from Comedy to Drama to Music Theatre, show after show. He stole the show tonight with his timing, wit and his ability to balance the drama of two very beautiful young ladies!

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Do you ever see a show, meet a new character and decide “Ugh, I don’t like this character…”, but then mere minutes later realize that he’s your favourite? That sums up my relationship with the character of Frederick Fellowes, as portrayed by Joshua Ford. At first, I was pretty certain that I wasn’t going to be able to stand him (the character!), but then, outta the blue I was all LMFAO and losing it every time he was on stage. I couldn’t get enough of him! His ability to perform physical, slapstick comedy was amazing and his over-the-top vocal changes and dependance on others whenever his horrid nosebleeds plagued him, always had me in stitches!

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ANOTHER’S NOTION WITH DONNA LAJEUNESSE

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As a performer, my favorite part of the perfect storm that is Act Two, is the audience getting to be a part of the back stage shenanigans  The cast had me in stiches. Physical comedy and slapstick were at their best and all the story lines were clear and all done with almost no dialogue. Shout out to David Cardinal for some very impressive “cactus mime”. Well done all!

 

Additional Shout-Outs:

  1. To Nicole Vezeau for playing such a great “dumb” character. Playing a dumb girly-girl is actually really, really hard. I’ve done it and it was such a challenge. She had me doubling over in laughter and also looked super hot in that lingerie! (Come on, you all know you were thinking that as well!).
  2. To Harry Lavigne for a stellar job as director of this kick-ass show! Just the tracking of the movement of the characters alone looked exhausting to me and I’m sure that was all in your head and had to somehow get down on paper and into the scripts and minds of all of your actors. So challenging and such a pleasure to watch!
  3. To Jessica Watters for her portrayal of the sweet, slightly neurotic stage manager, Poppy Norton-Taylor. You were one of those characters who I didn’t pay much attention to (as that was your role at first) until you were right in my face, a part of all the action and causing drama and chaos all around you. I loved what you contributed to Act 2 especially!

 

Congratulations to all involved in Oshawa Little Theatre’s truly amazing production of “Noises Off”! Be sure to head on out and catch it September 28-30, October 5-8 and October 12-14. Tickets are available at www.oshawalittletheatre.com or by calling the box office at 905-723-0282. Treat yourself to a night out and be ready for some hurtin’ ribs as you are gonna laugh all night long!

 

Photography by Michael Schneider

Veiled Dissonance

I am not a fan of ghost stories. Quite frankly, I’m a complete chicken. So when I found out that Toronto Irish Players’ next production, “The Veil” was essentially a period piece about ghosts, I took a moment before offering to come review the show. I don’t like to be scared. However, I was presently surprised. Playwright Conor McPherson does an excellent job of keeping the audience on the edge of their seat, always wondering “what” exactly the characters are “experiencing”. I was never scared, although there was twice that I may have looked away. But it was mostly because the actors had done such a good job of keeping goosebumps on my skin for 2 hours that when anything did happen that was slightly scary, my whole body reacted and I had to look away.

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My good friend Kelly-Marie Murtha, who was there for my first foray into the world of dramas (again, I apologize girl!) did a magnificent job of bringing the fear and trepidation of Lady Madeleine Lambroke to life. From my experience acting opposite her, I can say that Kelly-Marie has the ability to look at you while you are delivering your line on stage to her, and make you feel supported, but also instill in you exactly what her character is thinking. This helps her fellow actors react and deliver their lines in the most truthful of ways. In my case, she made me feel unworthy and belittled…. but she was supposed to do that, so don’t worry!

I know I have seen Liam Doherty perform before, but I cannot remember when! Don’t you hate when that happens? Anyways, as soon as he came on stage I thought, “I know him. What did I see him in? Doesn’t matter, I liked him a lot!” And that sentiment held true tonight as he portrayed the role of The Reverend Berkeley, the good-hearted, albeit insistent, cousin to Lady Madeleine Lambroke. Liam is such a strong actor and you never see lines when he plays roles. By, “see lines” I mean see the line between Liam and the character he is playing. Everything is seamless and always so profound.

 

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As soon as I entered the Alumnae Theatre tonight, I knew I was in for a creepy show. The set is a 19th century sitting room, complete with fireplace, writing desk (with quill) and piano (playable, as we find out in Act II), but with enough peeling wallpaper and grime to tell you that this estate has come under some serious hard times. The show itself is not only a period piece, but also something of a ghost story — and therefore the look of the show is very important. This includes not only the set, but also the lighting. When a script calls for a scene to be gloomy, it can’t be so dark that the audience has trouble seeing the action. Instead, the perimeters must be kept dark, while still lighting the actors. This was certainly the case tonight, including some nice effects with just the lamps the cast carried. Good job James O’Meara & Sean Treacy and the set dressing team for the fine set, and to Mary Jane Boon for her atmospheric lighting design. I was impressed. 

 

When we arrived tonight Karen said to me, “I know someone in this show. His name is Ted Powers.” I laughed and replied, “Of course you know him. Everyone knows him. He’s in everything!”. And for a good reason! Ted is one of those actors who you see at every callback you go to and who will more than likely get the role he has gone out for. You can count on him as an actor to give the best performance possible, be dedicated to his craft and is so completely versatile. Tonight was no exception as Ted portrayed Mr. Charles Audelle, the tortured soul and friend of The Reverend’s who comes to the estate in search of answers to his many haunting questions.

Additional Shout-outs:

  1. To director Maureen Lukie for her stunning direction of this eerie show and for stepping into the role of Mrs. Goulding a mere two weeks before opening!
  2. To Lauren McGinty for her beautiful portrayal of Miss Hanna Lambroke. It’s all in the details, and your small yet significant reactions to all the sounds and sights of the house around you helped to build of the pain and near insanity that your character was feeling.
  3. To Dan Schaumann for his choice of music between the scenes. They were such hauntingly beautiful choices and one of the first comments that Karen and I made to each other at intermission.
  4. To Christopher Shannon for his unforgiving portrayal of Mr. Fingal. I was incredibly impressed with your drunken monologue in Act II and could see the pain in your eyes when you described the horrible thing you had done to “The Boy”.

 

Congratulations to all involved in Toronto Irish Players’ production of “The Veil”. Don’t miss your chance to see this strong piece of historic drama at the Alumnae Theatre, running September 21-October 7. For tickets, please call 416-440-2888 and get yours before they sell out!

Do you want to play Parcheesi?

Welcome to the 2017/2018 GTA community theatre season everyone!

We started things off right with a beautiful performance by Scarborough Players: On Golden Pond. I had never seen the movie or a production of the play before and all I really knew about it was that it had an old couple, a kid and that Katherine Hepburn had been it in. Besides that, I was going in blind… which is the way I like to see plays most times, then there are no preconceptions.

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First of all, the play itself is absolutely lovely. Ernest Thompson’s script is transformable and deep. It keeps the viewer very centred in on a small amount of characters, over a short amount of time, in one place. The simplicity of the surroundings allows you to be taken in by the family and made to feel like you are a part of the experiences you are watching.

The direction of this play was really quite spectacular and I would like to congratulate Joseph van Veen on bringing together 6 remarkably talented actors and a gifted creative team to bring Golden Pond to life. The patter between Norman & Ethel, the pain between Chelsea and her mother and the youthful exuberance between Billy Ray Jr. and Norman; these were all examples of a smart director guiding his actors to make the scene as poignant as possible.

I can imagine that stepping into the shoes of a role played by Katherine Hepburn is intimidating. Ms. Kathrine Tomlinson was nothing short of brilliant as the quick witted wife to dreary Norman, Ethel Thayer. The chemistry between Kathrine and Chris was sensational. And I’m not talking about hot ‘n heavy chemistry… I’m talking about “real life-married 48 years- I know everything about you and I’m still here” type chemistry. They were so beautiful together, even when they were yelling at each other, and it gave me a glimpse into what married life in your seventies would be like. You know everything about each other, have spent the majority of your lives together, but still, every day is a new adventure.

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Tonight I was transported to Golden Pond. 
The loons cried out their welcome as 
I met Norman and Ethan Thayer. Norman, 
a crotchety old man played by Chris Hardess, 
was so believable and real, I forgot there 
was an actor on stage. Chris played the 
character with such emotion and rawness that 
I wanted to meet Norman after the show to find out just how 
the Yankees did. He pulled me in with his constant 
talk about death, his wise cracks to his wife and 
the hard time he gave Bill. I could feel the tension 
and anger between himself and his daughter. Each time 
Chris built another layer to his character, the stage 
would fall away and I was looking through the broken screen door 
into the cottage and into his life. Brilliantly done!

 

Additional shout-outs:

  1. To Will van der Zyl for his portrayal of the postman Charlie Martin, the delightfully dim-witted fool, still in love with Chelsea, all these years later.
  2. To Anthony Jones for a simple, clean and beautiful set that was a character in and of itself as it brought us into the cottage on Golden Pond.
  3. To Fraser Schaffer for his portrayal of Billy Ray Jr., and his tenacity and talent on stage with a group of very fine adult actors. You held your own and should be proud of the work you are doing on stage, especially with Chris!

 

Congratulations to the cast, crew & creative team of Scarborough Players’ On Golden Pond. It runs September 8-9, 14-16, 21, 22 @ 8pm and September 10, 17 and 23 @ 2pm at Scarborough Village Theatre, 3600 Kingston Road. Tickets are available by calling 416-267-9292 or at http://www.theatrescarborough.com. This is a truly remarkable, classic play that you should make sure to see before your chance passes you by.

 

Photography by Thomas Kowal

The Angels of NYC

Tonight marks my final review for the 2016/2017 community theatre season and I end things off with a Canadian play written by Neville J. Bryant entitled All the Bright Young Angels as performed by Calliope Muses.

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By far my most favourite character in the show is the role of Marilyn. She has such spunk and grit and she was expertly played by Sarah Hesson. Her hair-flipping, physical, over-the-top performance was what kept most scenes driving along and she seemed so immersed in her character.

I arrived tonight not expecting to know anyone in the show, and then found myself watching the very woman that I just lost a role to. Ms. Maria De Palma played the role of Zelda, an over-bearing, tirelessly worrisome Jewish mother in Connecticut. I loved watching her up on stage, bringing such a dynamic personality to life. If you’re gonna lose out on a part, it might as well be to someone as talented as Maria.

 

ANOTHER'S NOTION WITH GLENN PRINGLE  

1929322_14390400299_5159_nEven from my seat in the audience, my attention
is always drawn to the show that will be 
going on backstage. The cues, the set, the 
lights, the sound, the direction - what is 
going to happen? What caught my attention 
was the set. With a large cast and a small space, 
and what turned out to be several settings, 
the set and projections worked great from the 
stroll through New York City to the parents' homes 
around the country and into the appropriately 
dingy apartment. It was a pleasure to see the cast 
using the entire space so effectively.

 

Additional Shout-outs:

  1. To Sammy Allouba for his portrayal of Zac, the guy with the cute butt, who gets plucked off the street to be a man-slave to the ladies.
  2. To Tom Hope for creating a beautifully sad moment in his confession scene as Mr. Johnson.
  3. To Neville J. Bryant for opening his heart, barring his soul to the world and bringing his daughter’s story to life.
  4. To Sara Douglas for her portrayal of the meek, young, Canadian girl, Katie. Your character grew so much throughout the show and I loved your adorable kiss with Zac 🙂

 

Be sure to head out to the beautiful campus at University of Toronto Mississauga and walk through to find the Erindale Studio Theatre to catch this lovely piece of Canadian theatre. All the Bright Young Angels runs August 17-20 and 24-26. Tickets are available at https://www.ticketor.com/theatreerindale.

This production is dedicated to Vanessa Mary Newell, the daughter of the playwright, who this play was written about. Although I never knew Vanessa, I can imagine that she had a full life with lots of adventure in NYC, just like the 4 strong-willed characters that her father wrote about.

Math is a wonderful thing

This season I was supposed to review 5 youth group productions, but the theatre gods were against me, as for each show I had to cancel last minute either due to work or illness. Then finally the skies opened up and Ms. Theatre-God herself (yes I believe that the theatre god is a woman, obviously!) shouted down and said, “Hey there Mal! Take a break from all your time at the cottage, come on back to the real world and go review Vocally Inspired Performers’ production of School of Rock – The Musical.”

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When I arrived at the Uxbridge Music Hall I felt an incredible energy throughout it. There were so many kids everywhere; with their parents, on their own, all dressed up and ready to support their friends or family in this rockin’ musical! I was curious how this Jack Black movie would translate to stage and even more curious to see if I enjoyed the new music that was written by the one and only Andrew Lloyd Webber. FYI, I was not disappointed!

Let’s start with Ryan Whitty, who had the immense task of stepping into Jack Black’s shoes to play the role of Dewey Finn. To play this role you have to be at 125% energy ALL, THE, TIME! You have 39 kids on stage with you, demanding your attention, positivity and encouragement and in this case, Ryan is a kid himself (although a very tall and mature one!). He handled the stage, the kids, the singing, the physicality of the role and swoosh of his Bieber style hair-cut with such ease. Are you going to be in another show soon? Please let me know because I wanna see more of you on stage!

When arriving to see a musical about rock music, one does not typically expect to hear the epic Queen of the Night aria from The Magic Flute. But hear it we did when the stunning Alannah Beauparlant graced the stage as school principal Rosalie Mullins. Alannah’s voice is stunning, which anyone with ears could tell you. What I can say, as a person who studied opera for 4 years, is that she has a natural talent and ability that transcends anyone of her age, that I have ever heard, that is. I am always jealous of singers with exceptional agility with their voices as that is not a quality that my voice possesses. Well, tonight I was 100% jealous of Alannah. She’s a teenager and when I listened to her sing, I felt like I could imagine what she would sound like when she was my age and I got so excited to hear her voice grow and change over the next decade. Keep nurturing your gift, girl, and there is no doubt in my mind that you will do extraordinary things with your voice!

ANOTHER'S NOTION WITH CAROL SALAMONE
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Being in a band: Sure, its cool. But don’t let
anyone fool you; it’s a tough gig. 
Then try acting in a musical as someone 
who hasn’t really come out of their shell, 
is trying to express who they are, thinking 
that there’s nothing “cool" about them. 
Then, add on playing an instrument, for real, 
as the accompaniment to said musical, 
and you’ve got Ben Wyatt-Buren, Andrew Worts, 
Joel Schmidt and Molly Priestman…a.k.a. Zack, 
Freddy, Lawrence and Katie. Joel had some great moves 
and smooth glissandos. Katie definitely knew how to 
walk that bass. Joel, your time was spot on! Ben, man oh man, 
do you have pipes to go along with some awesome guitar solos. 
Way to go rockin’  down the house!

My mother and I (did I mention that Carol is my mother?) are sticklers for choruses. If I chorus is good, the show is good. If a chorus is bad, typically we don’t like the show. Sometimes people stand out (good or bad), but in tonight’s case someone very rare and special stood out to both of us. As such, I have decided to create an award. This award will be given out from time to time when a member of the chorus in a musical stands out to me as the most focused, energetic and dedicated member of the ensemble. This award will be called “Claudia’s Chorus” and it is named for the talented and adorable Miss Claudia Malcolm. You were so remarkable to watch. You jumped high, fist pumped and engaged with all of your fellow performers on stage. You were inclusive, positive and always “on”. There was never a moment that you weren’t 110% invested in your performance. And so, from now on, if anyone is ever as amazing as you were in the chorus tonight, I will bestow this honour upon them.

Additional Shout-outs:

  1. To Cameron Scott as the tight-laced, preppy schoolgirl turned kick-butt band manger, Summer Hathaway.
  2. To Lauren Trueman who surprised us all with her absolutely beautiful voice in the stand-out role of Tomika Spencer.
  3. To Kaden Hill who had me laughing every time he was on stage and then confidently carried off the single-greatest costume change in the whole show. You rocked that makeup like a true star! Also, your Rock Band war was epic!
  4. To all 40 kids who brought more energy, pure enthusiasm and a deep love of theatre than quite frankly I saw in many of adult productions I saw this past season. It is really, truly a gift to see children expressing themselves, coming together and putting on a remarkable production the way you all did tonight. You should be so proud of yourselves, each and every one of you!

A huge CONGRATULATIONS to the cast, crew and creative team of Vocally Inspired Performers’ production of School of Rock – The Musical! It runs August 17-20 and 25-26 at the Uxbridge Music Hall. Tickets are available at http://www.starticketing.com. I can only imagine that this show will sell out fast (youth shows generally do!) so please check out the website and book your tickets NOW! This is not a show to miss!

Pure Gold

Tonight was an evening of humour, deep emotion and some very strong adult content (they used the F-word!!) from the 6 amazing performers in “Songs from the Shower”, a cabaret in Port Perry.

BIAS ALERT: My mother, Carol Salamone, is the founder of Cadenza Productions, who joined forces with Theatre 3×60 to present tonight’s cabaret.

SECOND BIAS ALERT: My husband, Andrew Smith, was one of the 6 incredibly talented performers in this show.

Despite these obviously bias’, I must say that tonight’s compilation of songs from various shows was a thoroughly enjoyable evening! Each performer brought their own spark and diversity to the stage, yet they all blended together and became a true ensemble when required. I thought I would do this a review a bit differently, and instead of focusing in on performers, focus in on specific songs that tickled my fancy.

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Let’s kick things off with Donna Lajeunesse and her tantalizing rendition of “Old Fashioned Love Story” from The Wild Party (obviously, I mean the Lippa version, as it is far superior!). Donna has one of the most versatile voices I have ever heard. She can be a legit soprano one second and then Aretha Franklin the next.  Tonight was no exception as she had the audience peeing their pants as she told the story of the true Lesbian Love Story of our era.

Lyle Corrigan & Trish Harris killed it in their portrayal of the happily unhappy couple in Tick, Tick, Boom!’s  “Therapy”. I was giggling, out-bursting laughing and mouthing the difficult fast-paced words with them both and absolutely loved how they played this song to the audience!

Andrew Smith (Hi, sweetie!) and Catherine Marzola presented us with two hilarious solos from two completely different musicals but that both played off of each other brilliantly: “In Short” from The Book of Love and “In Love with You” from First Date, respectively. This is when the adult content really came into play as they both brought us into the terrifying realm of dating in the 21st century and how that can impact even the most seemingly solid of relationships. They both belted out some high notes, made us all laugh and played off each other superbly!

Todd Appleton brought to life one of the best LOL songs I have ever seen on stage “I Believe” from the hilarious Book of Mormon. Complete with belting high notes, working the downstage stairs and standing on benches (to be closer to God, I assume), Todd gave us a thoroughly accurate rendition of this fantastic number and the company ended Act 1 with an inspiring finish.

ANOTHER'S NOTION WITH KARIN MAHONEY

By far the most original way to get your starting note before 
an acappela group number: circling the rim of two wine glasses!
The ensemble did an absolutely breathtaking rendition of the song 
"Gold" from the Broadway hit "Once". Each cast member has 
a uniquely distinct vocal quality, yet they managed to 
blend really well into one unit; no one stuck out or could 
be heard over the others. The harmonies were solidly 
locked in, even during dissonant sections.1964933_10101545119520471_504320214_n
I was most impressed by how they really 
listened to one another (as the way they 
were positioned didn’t allow them to look 
at each other) to allow for a clean start 
and end of every phrase. My favourite 
moment was the slide up on “moonbeams”! 
It sent chills down my spine. I’m pretty sure this 
song left every audience member holding their breath!

 

Additional Shout-outs:

  1. To Carol Salamone (Hi, Mom!) for her brilliant music direction of these 6 talented performers. You always bring out the best in the singers you work with.
  2. To Carey Nicholson for finding a way to weave 26 songs form 26 different shows together in an incredibly coherent fashion.
  3. To Duane Bronson and Leon Racine for adding in their bass & drums to what would have been a piano-only cabaret. I loved the added element you brought to each song as you added so much to each song!

 

“Songs from the Shower”, presented by Cadenza Productions and Theatre 3×60 is performing July 6-8 and 13-15 @ 8pm and July 16 @ 2pm at the Town Hall 1873 – Centre for the Performing Arts in Port Perry. This lovely cabaret is something you don’t want to miss this summer. So find a hot day to grab some theatre -style air conditioning and enjoy the beautiful singing!

Photo by Hark Nijjar Photography

An Afternoon in October

I’m out of scotch. This the 14th show I have reviewed and when sitting down to write each of the ones before this, I drink scotch. But I’m out of scotch, so I’m drinking amaretto. So let’s see how this plays out…

Tonight, after almost two months away from the world of community theatre, I was brought back into the fold at Scarborough Players’ “Deathtrap”! This is a play about writing the play you are watching. There are so many twists, turns and surprises that I’m going to need to be careful not to give anything away. Like when %%%% pulls out the &&&&&&&& and points it at ********** and then ########### screams and reacts by ^^^^^^^^^^^^^!!! Total surprise!

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Let’s dive right in and talk about Mr. Clive Lacey, a delightful gentlemen who did a stand up job of portraying playwright Sidney Bruhl. He was charming, cynical, and at times alarming. Clive was really invested in playing Sidney. I don’t know Clive, but I never once felt like I was watching him. It always felt like I was watching this very deep and twisted character.

Mr. Nicholas Wicht played young Clifford Anderson and started out just as sweet and innocent as can be, but then took us all for a ride as his character developed with layer upon layer. All of these layers I cannot discuss as they would give away the mystery of the show, but trust me when I say, I saw none of them coming. Kudos to Nicholas for ensuring I remained as ignorant as possible throughout the whole show until I was smacked in the face with the truth.

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Ms. Erin Jones portrayed the psychic next door, Ms. Helga Ten Dorp (because what murder mystery is complete without a person who predicts the murder before it happens). Erin is a very clever actress. Her comedic timing was spot on and her accent was hilarious (although I still can’t figure out where she was from, but I’m pretty sure that was part of the point!). She used the physicality of her character so well and was raking in the laughs hand over fist.

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Peta Bailey convincingly played the role of Myra 
Bruhl, attentive and devoted wife to struggling 
playwright, Sidney Bruhl. Peta was strong and 
steady while building layers of emotion in 
Myra's attempt to thwart a murderous event from 
occurring. Peta infused this character with believable moral 
dilemma, guilt, and internal crisis. A powerful and persuasive 
performance. Well done, Peta! 

 

Additional Shout-outs:

  1. To Frank de Francesco for the seemingly unimportant role of Porter Milgrim, that soon deems himself to be quite important indeed.
  2. To Jocelyn Henderson for a simply beautiful set.
  3. To Katherine Turner for her wonderful coordination of the costumes and props. They helped to bring Jocelyn’s set to life as the actors wove us through the many ups and downs of their fated lives.
  4. To Meg Gibson for a truly well directed show.

 

A huge congratulations to the cast, crew and creative team of Scarborough Players’ mysterious production of “Deathtrap”. Be sure to find time to see this show over the long weekend (June 30-July 2) and next 2 weekends as well (July 6-9 and 13-15). You can get your tickets by calling 416-267-9292 or at www.theatrescarborough.com

 

Photography by Thomas Kowal

A Little Gossip

As I was telling some friends and family that I was headed to see a production of “Man of La Mancha” this evening, I was getting a lot of sympathetic responses: “Oh man, that show is so long”, “Don’t you wish you were going to a comedy”, “When I saw that show, I thought it was so boring”. And I’ll admit, there was some concern on my part. I was in this show before and even I knew that it had a tendency to put people to sleep. But tonight was something quite different in fact. Tonight I was engaged, interested what was going to happen next, I laughed a lot, cried once and felt the whole gamut of emotions. Scarborough Music Theatre did the unthinkable: they made “Man of La Mancha” interesting again!

Tonight marked my 11th show since the commencement of 2017 and it also marked only the 2nd time in my community theatre viewing life that someone received thunderous applause while he was still singing. The humble recipient of the audience’s love tonight, was Mr. Jeff Dell. Jeff portrayed the role of Knight-Errant Don Quixote of the Mancha (or for you actual Spanish speakers in my readership, El ingenioso hidalgo don Quixote de la Mancha).  Quixote is a tough role to play. He sings low, he sings high, he’s sane one minute and then transforming windmills into evil villains with his mind in the next moment. You’ve got to be all over the map with this character yet, oddly, completely in control. Jeff just returned to the wonderful, magical world of community theatre after a 30 year hiatus and I must say this is quite the way to make a comeback! His voice soared through “The Impossible Dream” and when he hit that final note, every single audience member gasped and applauded. Welcome back Jeff! I have a feeling I’ll be seeing much more of you in the future.

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Don Quixote’s faithful squire is played by the lovable Ed Hou. This is such an amazing role and pretty much the only comedic relief in a very dramatic show. Ed was spectacular as Sancho Panza. He was larger than life, funny as all hell and sang those super high tenor songs with ease. He and Jeff worked so well together and really bounced off each other’s mad acting skills. Any job positions out there for a squire? If so, I know just the man for the job!

The role of the kitchen-whore, Aldonza, was played by the adorable Carina Cautillo. But tonight she left “adorable” backstage and brought grit, sex and pain as her companions on stage. Singing the role of Aldonza is a great challenge as it was written to be a classic soprano role, but yet she’s a whore…. typically the mezzos are rocking it out as the whores on stage. So how do you take lovely lyric soprano sound and still represent the anguish and trauma of a character like Aldonza? It takes skill and the ability to completely let go of that “oh-so-perfect- soprano persona. Carina gave a raw performance tonight and really stole the show with her title song “Aldonza”.

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For weeks now SMT has been plugging their set design for this show on their social media. I’ll admit, I was intrigued when I saw photos they were posting, but nothing could have prepared me for the sight I was to see as I entered the theatre. It was so intricate & detailed, with levels, a staircase, a secret basement and set dressing that transported you into a whole new world. What was truly wonderful about it is that it never changed! I HATE SET CHANGES! and quite frankly believe that they should only occur in professional theatre where there is automation moving the set pieces for you. There are two main locations in this show: the dungeon and then the Inn. Obviously incredibly different, but William Corcoran managed to design a set that worked for both locations. The only things that moved on the stage were the actors and the lights and I LOVED IT! #noawkwardsetchanges

 

Additional Shout-outs:

  1. To Paul Harris & Karen Brown – the husband & wife lighting design power team for lightin’ up Mr. Corcoran’s set with some beautiful combinations of colours.
  2. To the orchestra, hand’s down the BEST I have heard this season, for bringing the stunning orchestrations of Mitch Leigh to life.
  3. To Rob Lachance for being dirty and threatening as Pedro, and looking pretty damn good with this shirt off.
  4. To Dan McEachern for a dark & strong portrayal of Dr. Carrasco/Duke/Knight of Mirrors.

 

Congratulations to all involved in Scarborough Music Theatre’s production of “Man of La Mancha”! This is a classic musical that you do not want to miss. Tickets are available at http://www.thaetrescarborough.com for performances running May 4-20 @ 3600 Kingston Road.

 

Photography by Raph Nogal Photography 

Look how hot it’s gettin’

It’s story-time boys & girls. Once a upon a time, a young lass from Toronto headed down to the Big Apple to visit her uncle, aunt & cousin. While there, her kind uncle surprised her and bought her tickets to a Broadway show.  “Which show?!!”, she asked with such excitement in her voice. “Legally Blonde – the musical”, replied her uncle. “What?… seriously?” exclaimed the ungrateful girl. Despite her rude response, the girl reluctantly went to the show, not expecting much in the way of entertainment. You see, this girl was a huge fan of the movie and could not imagine that someone would have translated it well to the stage. Even though the girl arrived a sceptic, by the end of the opening number she was a Delta Nu at heart!!

Tonight I took the short drive over to see Curtain Call Players’ production of “Legally Blonde – the musical”, the show that I had once been so suspicious of but quite quickly grew to love. And tonight’s rendition was no exception!

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You have to keep in mind that I saw the original Broadway cast, so I’m incredibly spoiled. I marvelled at Laura Bell Bundy’s energy and comedic wit. Having been a huge fan of the movie, Reese Witherspoon’s portrayal of the sorority-girl-turned-Harvard Law-student is etched in my brain.  So how can anyone really compare to those two iconic performers? Megan Anderson stepped into the shoes of Elle Woods (literally and figuratively) and did what every leading lady should do: SHE LED. She led her leading men, she led her sorority sisters, and she led the ensemble. This is what you want to see from your star performer: confidence and class. When you have a leading lady who exudes those qualities, you see it rub off on the other performers and make them better for it. She hopped onto this show and rode it to the finish (that sounds inappropriate…. but I’m sure you get where that metaphor was going, right?). Megan has a bright voice with some lovely clarity on her high belt notes that is definitely needed to sing the role of Elle. She was spot on with every joke, glance, and all her “ethnic movement”. I was quite impressed and could feel bits of Laura & Reese shining through with her performance.

The role of the saucy hairdresser, Paulette, is full of comedy, physical humour and some freakin’ high belt notes. Tonight I got to see a blast-from-my-past play the role, the lovely Ms. Patricia Dambrosio-Mongeon. I was LMFAO all over the place whenever Patricia was on stage. The role of Elle is incredibly funny, so it’s hard to be Paulette and find your own shade of humour to still get your moment in the spotlight. Patricia brought down the house with her rendition of “Ireland” and I’m pretty sure I bruised my ribs laughing at her antics during “Bend and Snap”.

Something that really stood out for me in this show was the comedy. Just because you are given a great comedic strict, doesn’t mean that the comedy is gonna come flowing out of you as an actor. You need to work at it to get those laughs from the audience. I was relieved to find myself laughing quite consistently throughout the show at not one, not two, but pretty much ALL of the characters. Yes, that is a testament to their comedic skills and acting chops, but it is also because of their fearless leader, director Jeff Hookings. The art of comedic timing can be lost very easily and I can only imagine that Jeff drilled his performers until they got it right.

Additional Shout-outs:

  1. To David Rudat and Meg Gibson – for being poised, snooty and pathetically hilarious as Elle’s mother and father.
  2. To Michael Manning for rapping, hip hoppin’ and movin’ his body in ways that intrigued me as Grandmaster Chad.
  3. To Jon Alexander for a slimy performance as Professor Callahan. Also for his brilliant choreography!
  4. To Janet Flynn, President of CCP and the Board of Directors for their patriotic choice of show for next fall. This summer Canada celebrates her 150th birthday and CCP has decided to honour their country by performing an original Canadian production entitled “The War Show”. I love that this is a thing and that you are using one of your two shows next season to celebrate our great country!

Congratulations to the cast, crew & creative team of CCP’s “Legally Blonde – the musical”! The show runs April 28-30 and May 4-6. Be sure to get your tickets for this show, which I’m sure is gonna sell out FAST, by calling 416-703-6181 or online at http://www.curtaincalltoronto.com.

Like Seriously

Omigod You Guys, I’m Seriously, Positive that there is Blood in the Water in Ireland and that if you did the Bend and Snap and Take It Like A Man it would be So Much Better than drinking wine to help you get Whipped Into Shape, which is What You Want to get rid of that Chip on your Shoulder.

To all of you involved in Oshawa Little Theatre’s production of “Legally Blonde- the Musical”, that little paragraph right there took me 10 whole minutes to figure out. You’re welcome 🙂  What a totally, awesome, fun night, ya’ll! What energy, what volume, and lots and lots of bouncing.

I’ll start things off by ever so casually mentioning this woman who sings, dances, acts and wears pretty pink dresses and a blonde wig……….O.M.G!!!! Nicole Daniel killed it (brought it back to life and then killed it again!) as the ditzy Malibu Barbie turned eloquent law student, Ms. Elle Woods. This is a huge f*@#king sing. I would not want to do it ever. And she did it! Not only did she do it, but she did it with vivacity, style and in 3 inch heels. She’s a dear friend of mine and I could not have been more proud of the sensational performance she gave tonight.

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Donna Lajeunesse is a freakin’ rock star. I mean, like, come on! She’s one of those people that when you watch her perform, you kinda start to hate her because she is SO AMAZING!!!! She plays the quirky, down-on-her-luck Paulette Buonofuonte and demands your full attention and devotion to her every sung note in her powerful rendition of “Ireland”.

Derik Gould is a like a good scotch: Better with age. He’s hot, manly and looks good in a suit. Everything I would want in a leading man to share the stage with.  Oh and he just happens to have a beautiful voice and great bone structure. He plays Warner Huntington III with a great cocky attitude that works well off of both of his leading ladies.

Additional Shout-outs:

  1. To Mary Soln for being the most perfect bitch (yes, I can say the B word in this blog) as Vivienne Kensington and rockin’ a pencil skirt like no one else can.
  2. To Chris Cullum for charming the lovely ladies in the audience as the intelligent, corduroy wearing Emmett Forrest.
  3. To Kyle Roberts & Nick Denis for providing the show with so much panache and élan as the hilarious gay & European couple, Carlos and Nikos Argitakos.
  4. To Rob Murphy, whose sexy Irish dancing legs stole the show in his role as Kyle B. O’Boyle.
  5. To Kayla Tripp as Margot. Here’s a young woman who knows how to take command of a stage. I could not stop watching her in every scene she was in. Brava!

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A huge, like totally awesome, freakin’ amazing CONGRATULATIONS to the cast, crew & creative team of The Oshawa Little Theatre’s production of “Legally Blonde- the Musical”. It runs April 6, 7, 8, 13, 14, 15, 20, 21, 22 @ 8:00pm and April 9 @ 2:00pm. This show is already 75% SOLD so please visit http://www.oshawalittletheatre.com or call 905-723-0282 to get your tickets FAST!

 

Photos by Raph Nogal Photography

Wunderbar!

Every performer can give you their short list of characters that they want to play before their time runs out… aka. they are too old. On my top 3 is the role of Kate in Cole Porter’s “Kiss Me, Kate”. Surprisingly, I have never seen a production of this show. This is probably because it is hard! Jazzy chords, hard choreography and singers that need to be able to belt and sing in an operatic style. It’s not common that a community theatre group can pull of this show. But Alexander Showcase Theatre was up to the task!

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There’s something to be said about the leading characters in any show. Not only do they have the most stage time and therefore a more demanding role in the show, but they also need to ‘lead’ the cast; both as the ‘leading’ character in the show but also as a ‘leader’ to their fellow actors both on & off the stage. I have seen many Alexander Showcase Theatre productions and have been in a few of their shows as well. So it could be said that when I go one of their shows, I know what to expect. There is no doubt that one of their shows are going to be an overwhelming success when Patrick Brown is leading the cast. His strength as an actor is remarkable, the dedication to his character is flawless, and his natural god-given talent is tremendous. It is obvious that every time he’s on stage every other performer is at their best and exceeding expectations. It is always a pleasure to watch Pat as you know you will always be pleased and thoroughly entertained. He does a wonderful job of portraying the handsome, full-of-himself Fred Graham/Petruchio.

Total honesty: I want to play Lilli/Katharine so badly. So, being the soprano that I am, there was a part of me that came into the show ready to hate whatever lovely lady had been cast in the role. And I tried. God help me, I really tried to hate Finnie Jesson. But it’s just so damn hard! She was everything I wanted in Kate and more. She’s a beautiful soprano, a strong presence, and has remarkable comedic timing. She and Patrick brought out the best in each other and exemplified what true comradary on stage looks like. Ok Finnie, you won me over. You are just so damn charming!

It was so fantastic to see James Rowan play the role of Bill Calhoun/Lucentio. James is such a fun, caring guy in real life and I was really excited to watch him bring this role to life. He is charming, nimble, and just a little bit slimy as Mr. Calhoun. And those dance moves… Damn boy! Hot stuff!

A huge congrats to Jaime Robertson for doing some of the best choreography I have seen to date from her!.”Tom, Dick or Harry” and “Too Darn Hot” were amazing and worth the price of admission. She had a hell of an ensemble to work with and they brought her choreography to life.
Additional shout outs:
1. Kudos to Christine Lindo for opening the show as the bright and energetic Hattie.
2. To Beth Roher for going toe to toe with Patrick Brown. Not an easy task but I’d say that in a fight, you could take him!
3. To Sophie Rivers and Tatum Shiff who 100% stole the show as the upstaging donkey!
4. To Brandon Chambers and Eliot Winkler, the goofy gangsters who charmed the audience with their rendition of “Brush up your Shakespeare”.
5. To Sharon Zehavi for her energetic and sensual portrayal of Lois Lane. You can misbehave with me anytime 😉

A big congrats to the cast, crew & creative team of Alexander Showcase Theatre production of “Kiss Me, Kate”. The show runs March 31-April 8, 2017 at Fairview Library Theatre, 35 Fairview Mall Drive, Toronto. Visit http://www.alexandershowcasetheatre.com to get your tickets.

Positoovity

When I go to show, it takes me maybe 30 minutes to decide who I’m going to write about and why. Typically, I know if I going to like an actor by about the 3rd note they sing. I come home at the end of the night, poor myself a glass of scotch and write. It takes me maybe 20 minutes to do each blog. But tonight, I’m stumped.

(drinks scotch and stares off vacantly into the distance)

I am stumped for a good reason, I promise. The reason is that there were so many amazingly talented performers and elements of Marquee Productions’ “The Little Mermaid”, that I don’t know what to write about.

(drinks more scotch and stares  even further off vacantly into the distance)

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Ok so I guess I’ll break with my usual format and just talk about everything I liked, in no particular order. I’ll keep it brief and entertaining!

Sydney Nicholson – Ariel – I hear you are in high school still? Girl….you were AH-MAZING! Seriously, if your voice is this good now, I cannot wait to see what you are doing in 5-10 years. Congrats on carrying an iconic role and show on your shoulders with class and poise. You were a true Disney princess up there tonight.

Diane Cobbold – Ursula – What a fantastic role! OMG I wish I was an alto so that I could sing this role one day. Diane surprised me. I know her slightly and only as an amazing backstage helper, and she strut out on stage (tentacles and all!) and commanded your presence and thoroughly entertained us all.

Sheryl Thomas  – Producer – I have never talked about a Producer before. It’s hard as an audience member to really appreciate what the producer has done. But in the case of Marquee Productions there is no doubt what Sheryl has accomplished with each show she does. Her fingerprint is on everything and the show is always better for it.

Mary Bowden – Music Director – There are some really beautiful harmonies in this show and I find that chorus harmonies are often pushed aside after choreography is taught and forgotten about. Not in this case, I am happy to say! Mary did an excellent job of teaching the harmonies but more importantly making sure they were heard (SHOUT OUT to whoever was running the sound board!)

Jeff Stephenson – Scuttle – What a super fun role and the creative team definitely found the right guy to play it! Jeff is tall & lanky and floated awkwardly around the stage while playing Scuttle, the loveable, goofball seagull who befriends a mermaid. He coupled well with….

Shira Mitchell Forsyth – Sebastian – There are so many words to describe Shira that I can’t seem to choose. I’ll start with comedic genius, then move onto crab-tastic (see what I did there?!!) and end with stellar performer. She was a crab through and through. I don’t quite know how she accomplished that, but accomplish it she did and I gotta say, she looks good in red.

Additional Shout outs:

  1. To Madison Torkoff for an adorable portrayal of Flounder. You might be the cutest part of this entire show!
  2. To Bob Rothmel for his clever tap choreography in the Les Poissons  and to Jordan Sharp & the ensemble for pulling it off with style.
  3. To Kellie Anderson, Ellen Cotton, Sadie Harrison, Kimberly Koumbiadis, Cristina Pietrantonio and Kendra Stevenson who played Ariel’s hilarious sisters. You all looked freakin’ beautiful and O.M.G. your voices sound stunning together!
  4. To Jeff McAlister whose voice is so pretty that I want to curl up in it with a good glass of wine and a romance novel.
  5. To Tyler Winder and Devlin Cousins as the conniving Flotsam & Jetsam. True triple threats: Excellent dancers, singers and some amazing mask work from these very talented actors.
  6. To the village of good Marquee citizens who created the absolutely colourful, innovative and visionary costumes, you my dear friends are the real heroes of this production. Without your effort and imagination, Ariel’s world could not have been brought to life!

A huge CONGRATULATIONS to the cast, crew & creative team of Marquee Productions’ “The Little Mermaid”! It runs March 30, April 1, 6, 7, 8 @ 7:30pm and April 1, 2, 8, 9 @ 1:00pm at Newmarket Theatre. Get you tickets online at http://www.nettix.ca or by phone at 905-953-5122.

Chicks & Ducks & Geese

What’s up West Side!!! So excited because this is my first review of a community theatre company from the west of Toronto. If you like what you read, pass along my name to other companies west of the city so that I can see all of the talented people on that side of my world!

***This whole blog is best read in a deep Southern accent***

Tonight I was at the dress rehearsal for City Centre Musical Productions’ “Oklahoma!” What a rip-roaring good ol’ time I had! First off, it’s just such a fun musical. It’s like 80% music and 20% dialogue and you can’t help but tap your toe/do full on dance moves in your seat while watching such a talented cast of people have a swell time!

The incomparable Michael MacLennan was at the helm of this golden-age musical as both Director and Choreographer. Michael comes into this Rogers & Hammerstein classic with countless years of experience both on stage and on many creative teams. With a cast of 40 adults under his reign, he weaves them through box steps, grape vines, and two-steps and not once does the stage seem cluttered with people. They all dance (literally and figuratively) around the stage with ease and clarity. One of my pet peeves happens to be large ensembles in shows, but I didn’t feel like this group of 40 performers was a large amount at all, and that’s because of Michael’s blocking and overall vision. The whole “Farmer and the Cowman” dance number was my all time favourite. Wonderful choreography executed brilliantly by the cast. Bravo!

When I first arrived, as it was a dress rehearsal, I was asked to come through the stage door which led me out onto the stage and then into the audience. As I walked on stage and saw the set, there was a part of me that wondered if they hadn’t yet gotten around to painting it yet….then once the show started, the curtain rose, and I saw such a beautiful sight. The set, which is mostly blonde wood (excuse my ignorance to describe that any further…) miraculously changed before my very eyes from scene to scene because of how that simple wood played under the lights. The simplicity was perfection and with minimal set changes ( I HATE set changes!!!) I, as the audience member, never felt like I was being taken out of the show. I was in it from front to end. It was a beautiful pairing thanks to Chris Stolz’ set design and John Dalgleish’s lighting design. The burst of colour in each scene came from the lovely costumes designed by mother-daughter power team, Alex & Carmen Amini. It was a true representation of how the design elements can come together in a production.

I could not stop hearing “I am not throwing away my shot!” over and over again in my head when I saw Ray appear in scene after scene. The character of Ali Hakim, the peddler, is in the show to provide an arch-nemesis for Will Parker (played by the adorable Malakai Vieira) and to toy with the sex-drive of Ado Annie (portrayed by the charming and funny Heidi Cyfko). Ray just killed it! He made everyone around him on stage better when he was in scenes with them and his level of professionalism in the way he moved, spoke and invested himself in his character was sensational. Hey Ray, wanna come give me a Persian goodbye?

Additional Shout-outs:

  1. To the Dance Ensemble – Emma Campbell, Yvette Ferguson, Dale Hunter, Camille Labonte, Alix Kingston, Katherine Kormos, Kristen Amy and Diane Spence – you ladies were awesome! You are incredible dancers and were always in sync, smiling and being down right adorable!
  2. To Matthew Butler who charmed his way into my heart as the stubborn, yet loveable Curly McLain.
  3. To Malakai Vieira and Heidi Cyfko for some hot on stage chemistry as Will & Ado Annie.

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City Centre Musical Productions’ “Oklahoma!” is not one to miss! Be sure to catch it at Meadowvale Theatre, March 17-26, 2017. Tickets are available at http://www.encoretix.org or by calling 905-615-4720. Ye-Haw!

Snow White and the Postage Stamps

Tonight I made the drive through rush hour traffic (and a horrible accident in Brooklin) to good ol’ Port Perry, my hometown. I had the privilege of seeing Borelians Community Theatre’s production of “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike”. This rather new play was written by the brilliant Christopher Durang and is quoted as being a “Chekhov Mash-up”. But don’t worry, you don’t need to know ANYTHING about Chekhov to watch and throughly enjoy this comedy!

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A brief character connection-graph-pie chart-description for you: Masha and Vanya are brother and sister. Sonia is their adoptive sister. Spike is Masha’s much younger lover and an aspiring actor. Cassandra is the house-cleaner for Masha & Sonia (who unfortunately live together and are single in their late-fifties). Nina is the sweet girl next door who is obsessed with Masha (the Hollywood star), adores Spike’s body, attempts to encourage Sonia and bestows Vanya with the term of endearment “Uncle”.

Joanne Norman’s portrayal of Masha, the conceited actress, is strong and so full of life. She enters the stage as if trumpets had announced her and commands your presence with every step she takes. I loved watching Joanne in this role. She had a fluidity to the way she moved and spoke. She exemplified the art of being a diva. Which, for those of you who know Joanne, meant she was acting A LOT. She is such a down to earth and kind person, so there was some serious character acting going on for her to play the arrogant, yet loveable, Masha.

I’ve had the privilege of sharing the stage with Colin Murphy about 10 years ago. I have to say that working with such a consummate actor is a complete and utter privilege. He shines again on the stage of Town Hall 1873 in this role playing Vanya, the gay, shy brother to Sonia and Masha. I would say his character is written as the most well-rounded in the show. He is comical, compassionate, kind, rude, and has a very dry wit about him. Colin really brings it home during his massive monologue in Act 2. Apparently it was 4 pages long. WOW!

Cheryl Tulloch plays the eerily depressed adoptive sister, Sonia. She drags herself around the stage in the first scene and is quite the contrast to her much more livelier brother and sister. Cheryl played a lot of the physical aspects of character. She would sit down on the couch and it almost looked as though she were being devoured by it. She would drag herself around the stage with her shoulders hunched and it was hard not to take pity on her but also laugh at her at the same time. Her portrayal of “Maggie Smith-winning-an-Oscar-for-playing-an-actress-who-was-nominated-for-an-Oscar” was so entertaining and showed a refreshingly new side of Sonia.

Additional Shout-outs:

  1. To the Dickies – the cutest newlyweds there ever were. Kyle looks hot in his underwear and Justine got to ogle her own husband each night…. along with the 3 other women on the stage and all of the ladies (and maybe some men!) in the audience!
  2. To Alexandra Hines – remind me never to piss you off. You looked surprisingly comfortable working that voodoo doll!
  3. To John Lunman – I’m not one to give shout-outs to directors, but I’ve got to say I could really see the character development that must have gone into this show and I enjoyed the blocking. With 6 leads on stage at one time, all vying for the spotlight, you made sure that everyone was within focus and they never appeared in the dreaded “line”!

Congratulations to the cast, crew & creative team of Borelians Community Theatre’s production of “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike”. Be sure to mark these dates in your calendar and get on out to see this amusing comedy at the Town Hall 1873 – Centre for the Performing Arts, running February 16-25, 2017. Visit http://borelians.ca or call 905-985-8181 for information on tickets.

December 26, 2007

Apparently, this was a sad day for the people of Ireland. This was the day that Joe Dolan, the legendary Irish singer, died. In all honesty, prior to this evening, I had no idea who he was. But a gotta say his tunes are catchy! Imagine if Elvis, Frank Sinatra and Frankie Valli had a love child. That’s Joe Dolan!

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Tonight I had the privilege of witnessing the North American premiere of “The Night Joe Dolan’s Car Broke Down” performed by the Toronto Irish Players. The play starts by introducing you to 10 loveable characters who all reside in County Cavan, Ireland and frequent The Glenaduff Inn for a few pints on the day after Christmas. Each character has their own idiosyncrasies and although we really only see the majority of characters in Act 1, each one was entertaining and had their own story to tell. Through a combination of sexual drama, liquor and a few hits of pot, the audience is taken through a night filled with laughter, music and a few show-stopping numbers by Joe Dolan himself!

One character that does grace us with his presence the entire show is the loveable, obliging bartender, Barney, played by Stephen Flett. When we first see Barney, you don’t think much of him. He’s pouring drinks for customers and basically minding his own business, and then outta nowhere you find out he’s been sleeping with someone’s wife AND with a girl young enough to be his daughter. Hell of a left turn! Stephen was adorable, funny and so comfortable to watch. I assume he’s a veteran of the stage, based on his ease and a bit of Facebook stalking, and I really enjoyed watching him develop his character and have some fun with Act 2.

Now every bartender needs his loyal, slightly alcoholic customer. Willing to play the part is Ian McGarrett who portrays The Horse. I honestly wonder if Ian was drunk up there (and I mean that in the best way possible!). He was hilarious and really hit the nail on the head with The Horse. He was kind (when needed), good an’ drunk (all the time) and wore that cowboy hat with swagger & style. Ian & Stephen were a grand pair and really did some fine acting opposite each other.

For the majority of Act 2 the 4th wall is broken by the man of the hour, Mr. Joe Dolan. I was impressed to learn, by eavesdropping at intermission, that Hugo Straney made his onstage debut tonight in the show’s title role. Considering I had no idea who Mr. Dolan was, I wasn’t able to truly appreciate Hugo’s performance until I got home and switched on youtube. Wow! Hugo WAS Joe Dolan! He looked like him, sang like him (beautiful voice!), walked like him, did hand gestures like him and rocked that white suit! What an iconic Irish character to play your first time onstage. Comhghairdeas Hugo!  (p.s. for all you non-Irish peeps out there, that means Congratulations!)

Additional Shout-outs:

  1. To James O’Meara for a simple and lovely set.
  2. To Rebecca De La Cour and Kelly Marie Murtha for battling it out over that stud-muffin Barney!
  3. To Sinead Ni Bhraoin for playing the touching role of Jane.

 

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The Toronto Irish Players’ production of “The Night Joe Dolan’s Car Broke Down” is playing at Alumnae Theatre (70 Berkeley Street, Toronto) from February 16-March 4th. Visit http://www.torontoirishplayers.com for information on tickets. Go raibh maith agat! 

Give Them What They Want

Well the cast & crew of Scarborough Music Theatre’s “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” certainly gave me what I wanted (and needed) after driving through treacherous snow for an hour to get to the theatre: a couple of hours full of laughter and one hell of a rowdy 50/50 draw!

Rich Burdett starts off the show with his strong, tall presence in a well-tailored suit. He plays Lawrence Jameson, who runs a big con game on the French Riviera by seducing rich, stupid women. Rich has an ease on stage and no matter how hard you try to catch him, he doesn’t look like he’s having to think about what he’s doing at all. It’s natural for him. I’ve seen him a few times in shows and it’s always like that. Give him a role, he works hard, conquers it and then it just flows right outta him.

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Ok, I’ll admit it… I have a little show crush on Carson Betz. I don’t know where you came from (the USA, according to your bio), but please stay here in the GTA, do more shows and let me know when they are! I’m a big fan of the original Michael Caine/Steve Martin film and absolutely LOVED Steve Martin in the role of Freddy. I was a little nervous that whoever I saw was just not gonna cut it. But, and I’m sorry for this Steve Martin, I think Carson may have just beat you out of a role. His comedic timing was nothing short of brilliant. He had quick and dirty digs all over the place and caught me off guard, had me laughing awkwardly out loud (much to the chagrin of the lady to my right) and charmed his way into my heart with his orange t-shirt and pink-patterned boxer shorts. When Carson & Rich had scenes together, they were completely captivating. What a great pair of performers!

Now let’s move on to the ladies of the show: Jill McMillan started us off as Muriel Eubanks and dazzles us with her low, sultry tones in “What Was a Woman To Do”. Her surprising love affair later in the show was hysterical! Next came Hayley Goldenberg as the adorable, ignorant Oklahoman, Jolene. She is quite the character actress and the cramp I feel in my side from laughing so hard is because of her during “All About Ruprecht”.  And last but certainly not least, along came SMT’s sweetheart Ms. Katie Wise as the charming and disarming Christine Colgate. It takes a while for the character of Christine to appear and once she did I saw a noticeable change in both Rich & Carson. Once Katie came on stage they stepped up their game big time and the chemistry between Rich & Katie, Carson & Katie, Carson & Rich and Katie, Carson & Rich, was really quite amazing! They gelled together so well.

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Additional shout outs:

  1. To Chris Warmerdam for designing a simply beautiful set. It set the time period, location and needs of the cast to a tee.
  2. To David Buffham for lighting Chris’ set just as beautifully. There were some particularly lovely looks throughout the show that really helped to create the many hilarious scenes and gorgeous French moods required.
  3. To John Palmieri who was a damn fine Frenchmen and made me laugh not once, not twice, but many, many times when he graced the stage with his presence.

Don’t miss your chance to see SMT’s fantastic production of “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” at the Scarborough Village Theatre, 3600 Kingston Road East, Scarborough. Visit http://www.TheatreScarborough.com or call 416-267-9292 for tickets to this wonderful show!

Photos by Foreshots Photography 

Short Skirts and Pretty Ladies

Ok I’ll admit, that title is pretty sexist. But those were the times! Whitby Courthouse Theatre’s production of “Catch Me If You Can” is based on the life of the infamous Frank Abagnale Jr. and is set from 1963-1969. So ya, short skirts and pretty ladies were kinda of a big thing back then (hell, they still are!). I knew nothing about the music of this show going in; I knew the story because of the movie, but not the music. What a fantastic score! So much fun and flavour and it was great to see it brought to life in good ol’ Whitby!

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To bring a major musical like this together you need continuity. Something that makes the whole show seem tight, together and concise. For this production, that was the brilliant and exuberant choreography of Ms. Baiba Senecal. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, that woman works wonders! Baiba is a remarkable teacher and such a dynamic choreographer. She was lucky that she had some pretty stellar dancers in this show (SHOUT OUT to Alex Lembo, Amber Sargent and Julia Basden especially!) and the remainder of the ensemble looked sharp and fresh as they danced their little butts off to Baiba’s smooth 1960s dance moves.

Have you ever been hugged by Tom Lynch? If you haven’t, you should go to a show he’s in, become his friend and make sure to get as many hugs as possible. He gives damn good hugs. He also sings, dances and acts with the best of them! He was quite the charmer as Frank Abagnale Sr. and look damn fine in that pin-stripped suit. He has such a strong voice (technically and volume) and really captured my attention whenever he was on stage.

Brian Hargan is a guy who I have always wanted to work with and haven’t had to the chance to do so as of yet. In whatever role he plays, he always comes across so casual and at home… like he’s just being himself. Yet every time I see him in a show, he’s playing completely different type characters. Just goes to show you that true talent does exist in community theatre. Brian was funny, loveable and sang sexy tenor notes that made me feel a little bit tingly inside. He was the perfect Carl Hanratty and quite frankly (after listening to the Broadway soundtrack on the way home) gave Norbert Leo Butz a run for his money.

Abigail Denardis came on stage. That was basically all she had to do for me to fall in love with her. She played Brenda Strong, the sweet, innocent nurse who Frank Jr. falls in love with. First off, she’s cute as a button. I was watching her do scene after scene and I found myself waiting….. Waiting for what you ask? To be honest I didn’t know. I just felt like something was coming. Like I wasn’t seeing all that she could do.  And then it happened. Abigail opened her mouth, started to sing and stole the whole freakin’ show! Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman wrote a beautiful ballad for the end of Act 2 that is sung by Brenda called “Fly, Fly Away” and Abigail nailed it. I couldn’t stop staring at her. Her voice was strong and easy. There was so much emotion and connection with what she was singing. Honestly, I haven’t been struck like that at a show in a long time.

Additional shout outs:

  1. To Kathy Knight for giving me LOL  in the role of Carole Strong. Every time I see you, I love you and you make me laugh. Never Stop!
  2. To Mr. Hanratty’s 3 Stooges, portrayed by the hilarious Brett Huether, Josh Ford and Nathan Simpson –> You guys were the perfect combination of charmingly pathetic and delightfully stupid.
  3. To the kick-ass orchestra for rockin’ out to all that 60s swing music!

 

Be sure to check out “Catch Me If You Can” at Whitby Courthouse Theatre before they all fly outta town! Feb 9-11, 16-18, 23-25 at the Whitby Centennial Building, 416 Centre Street South, Whitby. Visit http://www.whitbytheatre.org or call 905-668-8111 for info on tickets.

 

 

Silence: It’s pretty loud

Tonight I got to start the 2017 winter/spring community theatre show season with a  historical drama at Oshawa Little Theatre entitled “A Man For All Seasons”.

Brief synopsis: You got Thomas More, all around nice guy and medieval-era-type-politician. Then there’s King Henry VIII who wants to divorce his wife, Queen Catherine, and shack up with Ann Boleyn because chances are he can knock her up and then he gets himself a son and heir.  For Henry to pull this off, he would begin the Reformation of England and the end of the Catholic religion in England. Sir Thomas is against this concept and sticks to his guns until the bitter end.

OLT veteran Michael Schneider played the revered Catholic saint, Sir Thomas More. I’ve seen Michael perform many times and am so used to seeing him in “character” roles (Pseudelus in Forum, Roger De Bris in The Producers and The Devil in Damn Yankees). Surprisingly for me, I found that this role suited him. It grounded him and really showed me what he can do as an actor. He had a simplicity on stage, and I do mean that as a compliment. You could feel that he had found the heart of More and was using his own compassion and spirituality to bring More’s endurance of moral character to life.

Will van dear Zyl played the conniving Thomas Cromwell. He had such a strong presence on stage tonight. I was drawn into each word he was saying and frankly he was creeping me out a bit too! The way he moved on stage, and gestured showed how well he can embody a character.  He made his fellow actors’ performances excel when they shared the stage with him. He definitely knows how to bring out the best in the actors he shares the stage with. I loved the way his character arched throughout the show and really loved the strength he brought into the courtroom scene near the end of the show.

The production was directed by Geoffrey Coulter and hats off to the man, indeed! This is a LONG show. I’ll be honest, I didn’t know what I was in for. But Mr. Coulter created a beautiful world for me to watch and entertaining characters to drive the moral (or immoral at times) plot line home. I could tell that a lot of character development and focus went into his direction of this production.

Additional shout-outs:

  1. To Kathryn Fraser and Tyler Cox for being such a cute couple! The further into the show we got, the more and more I enjoyed your characters and saw the development that you had obviously worked on. Bravo!
  2. To the incomparable Christopher Furlong who was the only comic relief of the show and did a damn fine job of it at that!
  3. To Colin Hughes for a really beautiful lighting design. I particularly liked the looks in the Pub, Jail and at the very end as More climbed the stairs for the final time.

Congratulations to the cast, crew & creative team of OLT’s “A Man For All Seasons”! The show runs February 2-4, 9-12 and 16-18 at 62 Russet Ave., Oshawa. Visit www.oshawalittletheatre.com or call 905-723-0282 for tickets.

The Women of WAPR

Last night I had the opportunity to see Alexander Showcase Theatre’s production of “A Christmas Carol”. It was performed as a radio play, which comes off as a ‘show within a show’. Bias alert: I was in the first 2 (of 4) radio play productions by AST. I was a jingle singer and voice actor during the two runs of “It’s a Wonderful Life”. So yes, I obviously like the radio play concept, so to keep my bias out of it, I won’t specifically talk about the concept.

What really stood out for me in this particular production was the women. They killed it! Whether it was doing a wide variety of voices on mic (both male and female and of all ages!) or playing up their radio station characters in the background, I can pretty much guarantee that 90% of the show I was watching a woman.

The Jingle Singers were cute & girly and sang some awesome jingles. They would strut around the stage in their sexy 1940s outfits and seductively fix their stockings, and if I, as a straight woman, couldn’t take my eyes off them, I can only imagine how the people who are attracted to women were feeling in the audience. Wowsers!!

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Erin Mouchian had me cackling with laughter (apparently she heard me!) when she played one of the young Cratchit boys. And then she did a 360 on me and pretty much had me salivating in the audience as she and Matthew Payne heated things up in the alley during a very tender and romantic scene together. She is such a talented and versatile actress.

The lovely Nina Mason has a sexy, flirty sorta of mean-girl thing going as her radio station character Kathleen Robinson. She sure knows how to “work” her costume and garner the attention of all of those watching her. Then she goes and throws you for a loop as she eagerly clobbers her way to the mic to portray the voice of a young, goofy boy.

As an actress, I know that if I’m sharing this stage with a child or an animal, I may as well not bother showing up because they are going to steal the spotlight. And that’s just what Sophie Goldman did when she walked on stage for Act 2. This adorable second grader charmed the audience as Tiny Tim and was such a little professional! She was on stage for all of Act 2 and sat like a little lady on the floor, played cards with 3 big men at the grownups table and walked up for her cues on mic like she was a veteran of the theatre.

Additional Shout-outs:

1. To Sharon Zehavi for flirting it up with her real-life husband on stage and learning how to play the violin just for this show.

2. To Robby Burko for writing such delightful and entertaining jingles.

3. To Maurizio Curto, on his stage debut, for charming me (and I’m pretty sure the rest of the audience) and showing off your new-found acting chops.

4. The Beth Roher who is truly the most remarkable talent! She is a beautiful painter and her scenic art on the sets is truly what transforms you into another era.

Congratulations to all cast, crew and creative team involved in AST’s “A Christmas Carol”. What a delightful holiday treat!

(Photo by Vincenzo Sestito and Editing by Woman’s Touch)

A Secretary is NOT a Toy

Last night I had the privilege of seeing Oshawa Little Theatre’s production of “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying”.

I need to start by giving a huge shout of to my first ever leading man, Todd Appleton. This show is LONG and there are so many songs and so much fast paced dialogue and the vast majority of the show is falling onto the shoulders of whoever plays J. Pierrepont Finch. In true Todd fashion, he lead the cast of 29 talented and enthusiastic performers and the entire show and everyone was better for it. I know that Todd is the first to say that this casting choice is a bit humorous considering he’s a 45 year old playing a 25 year old, but to be honest I didn’t notice at all. I was just so entertained by him and his energy was youthful and uplifting. Apparently your forties are the new twenties!

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Oshawa Little Theatre is known for their sets (they are one of the few lucky community theatre groups who has a workshop directly off the stage right wing) and once again they did not disappoint. Ian Handscomb’s set was clean, period and simple. It added to each scene, but did not take away from it. I particularly liked the scene in the bathroom during the song “I Believe in You”.

Baiba Senecal has done it again! For those of you who have not worked with this amazing choreographer, drop what you are doing and find out what show she is working on next and audition. Community theatre is non-professional, so in all likelihood, the participants are not trained dancers. But you don’t want them to look like non-dancers up there on the stage, you want them to look like they could be doing those steps in their sleep. Baiba has many skills: the first being that she is able to teach choreography to non-dancers so that they look like dancers on stage. The second is her ability to take simple steps and make them look more complex and entertaining then they might be if choreographed by someone else. I have worked with her before and always felt so confident performing her steps and it was apparent that all of the cast of H2$ felt the same.

If you were in the audience last night, no doubt you heard my loud cackle pretty much every time Johnny Soln was on stage as Bud Frump. His physicality as the character was enough to make anyone laugh and then he opened his mouth and I was done for. His voice reminded me of a Sesame Street character and his personal vendetta against Finch was performed with such dedication (and complete obsession!). I am always a fan of Johnny’s acting as you give him a character and he is so invested in his performance, but his singing voice stood out for me last night as well. He had some solid belt notes coming outta him that I must say impressed me.

Additional Shout-outs:

  1. To Mary Soln who charmed her way into my heart as Rosemary Pilkington.
  2. To Jill McMillan who rocked those 1950’s costumes and made me laugh during “Been a Long Day”.
  3. To Donna Lajeunesse who made me do a double take because I didn’t even recognize her… and of course for that high B at the end of “Brotherhood of Men”.
  4. To Alexandra Lembo and that blue dress! (If you see the show you’ll know what I’m talking about…. WOW!). She sure knew how to “work” it!

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Overall, a great show with some stellar designs and performances. Congratulations to all involved in OLT’s production of H2$!

(Photos by Raph Nogal Photography)