July 1, 2015

Sexy Laundry opens in Victoria

Henry (Rob MacLean) & Alice (Martha Irving who directed Anne & Gilbert, The Musical for 5 years) represent the modern middle aged couple in a crumbling relationship, saying out loud what most lovers might only wish they could hear from each other at the advice of a marriage councillor.

In the first opening night of the season in Victoria, Pat Smith (Managing Director) acknowledges before the show that her small staff are “a huge part of keeping the theatre going for 34 years” & notes the 2 previews of Sexy Laundry (written by Michele Riml & directed by Ted Price, who directed last year’s Kiss the Moon, Kiss the Sun) went over swimmingly! Victoria Playhouse Board Chair Campbell Webster also stated in the introduction that he is very excited about the line up for the upcoming season featuring 5 terrific actors including, other than Irving & MacLean in this show, Cathy Jones, Johanna Nutter, & Jody Racicot.

Confronting the lack of excitement with a sex manual, loads of (inoffensive) innuendo, & shared fantasies in a synthesis of eastern design & western sensibility the stage was a penthouse in a fictitious hotel called “The L” (created by Scot McConnell in his 11th season as Set Designer).  This delightfully awkward pair recited some great one liners & used some funny body language as the arguments about a stale marriage well past its best before date unfolded while seeking out ways to release their inhibitions thru massage in the opening scene.

Both in this 2 character show establish early on that they are know-it-alls with totally different approaches. Alice is insecure about her body & her age and might have just a little bit of OCD going on, while Henry is stingy, boring, bashful, & seems to feel pretty inadequate as a husband. Just like most of us in “the real world”, their only crime is being ordinary people who try to be something they’re not in the pursuit of happiness.

The Price of Keeping up with The Joneses…

Ever since couples like Al & Peg Bundy from the sitcom Married with Children have been on TV I’ve found the tennis match of put-downs & cheap shots to be pretty amusing. Of course, it’s not as much fun if you aren’t on the outside looking in. That’s what’s so great about seeing great actors express the emotions that are most people are too proud or afraid to comunicate when they have so much to lose.

Seems as though most successful men want the trophy wife, consequentially, that type of woman will probably start to feel less and less beautiful after years comparing herself to the endless parade of “it girls” in the tabloids & silver screen. It’s as if a woman starts out on top as far as self-esteem goes & slides gracelessly downhill on a slippery slope of aging, occasionally grasping on to visits to the salon, shopping sprees, trips down south, & maybe even a little plastic surgery.

The man on the other had starts at the bottom or possibly a few rungs higher on a skyscraper of a ladder to infinity where every risk, every hour of overtime, every opportunity to suck up to the boss, every missed opportunity to spend a few minutes with their kids gets them a little closer to the often unattainable financial security they’ve been fantasizing about their whole life so they can theoretically have a woman in their life that actually wants to stand by them when there is actually time to spend with eachother. Men who rate themselves by their salaries (there can only be so many millionaires, & the number of them is shrinking) can feel like an under achiever & maybe even a fraud from a young age.  If they’re lucky, they’ll come to terms with things before retirement while in the meantime diving headfirst into the rat race at any angle they’re qualified or have the financial wherewithal to.

As the show continues in Act 2, ultimatums are tossed around as well as the f-word for a brief stint. The audience of folks mostly 40+ years of age really seemed to identify with Henry & Alice and no doubt can feel their pain as well as their triumphs. I’m not a psychiatrist or nothing but I can imagine that inadvertently, most couples may vicariously give their relationship at least a little bit of a tune up through the shameless antics of Henry & Alice.

Sometimes the “being & the doing” needed in a marriage is so out of sync that it’s an inevitability that a husband & wife will feel trapped in a boring place. This performance, however, was definitely anything but boring & the audience just loved it! Modern, honest, hilarious, Sexy Laundry is an alluringly entertaining romantic comedy.

June 29, 2015

The Silliness in the Looking-Glass By Cindy Lapeña

I have great memories of Lewis Carroll’s pair of books: Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, which I first read as a very young child in a single-volume Children’s Classics Edition. Back then, I didn’t know what to make of the jabberwocky or brillig and no dictionary search could help me, yet the poems did make sense in my child’s mind. Watching James Reaney’s stage adaption of Through the Looking-Glass as interpreted by directors Jullian Keiley and Christine Brubaker for the Confederation Centre of the Arts’s 2015 Charlottetown Festival brought back wonderful memories of my childhood reading and the zany characters that populated the pages of Carroll’s timeless stories. Kudos to set and costume designer Bretta Gerecke for the amazing and innovative sets. I thought that it was extremely clever to show the scene changes by having the cast wheel them about with bicycles. The stylized and whimsical designs for the sets felt like something out of a cross between Dr. Seuss, Roald Dahl, and Tim Burton—straight out of a child’s imagination.
https://www.facebook.com/charlottetownfestival/timelineAdmittedly, there was a lot of cheesiness and tongue-in-cheek acting, but it enhanced the story so much so that, instead of the existing film interpretations, which feel like literal and somewhat serious interpretations of the book, the stage production created humour and evoked hysterical laughter from the audience at almost every turn. It was so entertaining with so many surprises dropping down or popping out at the audience that one could not help but be completely engaged with the performance. The use of human Zorb bubble balls was another huge surprise and I could only think of how much fun it would be. There was a great deal of complicated and complex choreography by Dayna Tekatch, interpreted by the Confederation Centre’s resident choreographer Kerry Gage and executed perfectly by the cast.
Speaking of which, the casting was brilliant, and way the chorus was dressed and acted was largely responsible for chortles that broke out from different parts of the audience each time they appeared. I had always read Carroll’s two books as somewhat serious adventures where the well-mannered Victorian Alice just could not understand why everything had to be so illogical and so silly, but this interpretation has given me a totally different and fun perspective on the story. It has made me see this from a child’s point of view, which could be just what the author intended in the first place. That the looking-glass world was also funny was evident throughout and magnified by the silliness of the acting.
I have to admit that I was taken aback by Natasha Greenblatt’s powerful and lower-register voice, which is the opposite of the almost shrill falsetto childishness of the Alices of film, but once you get over the it in the first scene, it grows on you and becomes a warm, conversational tone that does not jar the eardrums.  The Red and White Queens, Charlotte Moore and Eliza-Jane Scott were spectacles on their own. Qasim Khan as the White Knight was a walking—or rather, rollicking, bouncing—comedy and the knight’s horses were a riot. While Hank Stinson as the Red King uttered nothing more than snores, his sleeping presence commanded enough attention to keep the audience in stitches. The White King, Rejean Cournoyer, on the other hand, stole his laughter as he executed his single-square moves in his scene.
 
As town councilor Greg Rivard said, it was a bit slow starting but was thoroughly enjoyable and interactive by the second act, so that his kids enjoyed it very much. That children will enjoy it is undoubtable, as one little child yelled out answers to Alice’s questions, adding to the entertainment value. Unless you are an avid reader, I would not suggest reading the books, though, as the turn-of-the-century language lacks the vibrancy, humour, surprises, and pacing that the play brings. The 2 ½ hours it took from beginning to end didn’t seem like 2 ½ hours at all, except, maybe, before Alice stepped through the looking-glass.
by Cindy Lapeña

Cindy Lapeña 2012

I could go on and on about each cast member’s performances and the clever costumes and props, but that would be giving too much away. Suffice it to say, there were surprises in every scene and you just have to see it for yourself. I do not know if the original performance of this play was meant to be interpreted this way, but I couldn’t care less because this version is what I want to remember from now on.

June 14, 2015

Anne of Green Gables-The Musical™ Review by PL Holden

I’ve found myself enticed in following the evolution of Anne of Green Gables the Musical. This show takes on a different meaning every time I see it. Behind the displays of acting, music, dance, fable, & marvel lies a story of various resulting  predicaments provoked by rumors, misconceptions blurred due to self-righteous beliefs, being yourself in the face of rigid expectations, or perhaps a story of reaping the rewards of being out of your comfort zone. These themes & others have may have left lasting impressions for individual perceptions over the past 51 years.

This years’ subtle changes in its vibrant setup helped contribute to more rustic look yet remained elegant with organic stage props & vivid lighting. Superb acting (as always) graced the stage in The Homburg Theatre displaying a fresh youthfulness in the young characters giving authentic yet genuine representations in mostly first time performances in the major roles.

Rising Star Jessica Gallant  as Anne Shirley was without flaw technically in capturing the many displays in the wide spectrum of this world-renowned character’s blazingly emotional depictions. I observed a profound intensity in her eyes although I think her stage presence has just a little way to go  before matching Katie Kerr’s performance who’s energy & sparkle (in my opinion) may never be duplicated as the beloved red head in the last 2 seasons. However, needless to say, the young Ten Mile House born actress got a tremendously spirited reception in the leading role & I believe she is well on the way to earning the title of PEI’s darling of the stage!

As for the other performances, former Anne (*my personal favorite as Anne out of the performances I’ve attended over the years), Kated Kerr blew the crowd away in a jazzed up performance of “Open the Window” as Anne’s impulsive & inspiringly extraordinary teacher Ms. Stacy. Hank Stinson had a twinkle in his eye in a very loveable performance as Matthew Cuthbert, capturing the true essence of this quintessential old soul of Avonlea.

Marilla played by Charlotte Moore was blunt but definitely likable. Capturing the grace, ageless beauty & most notably, as well as importantly an enduring strength in what I think may be the toughest role to cast just right in this play. She was at her pinnacle as she sang her heart out in one of those classic send-off’s “The Words (reprise)” near the end of the show. Ben Chiasson as Gilbert Blythe was a delight, keeping away from overelaborating on the rivalry card, which to me has had a tendency to impede the momentum of the feel-good vibe that flows through the better part of the show.

Although I tend to think I instinctively have a pretty good idea how the characters should be represented, I admittedly haven’t seen half as many performances (or audience responses) as the world class creative teams. I can’t remember if I mentioned in my previous reviews of this show – but I’ve always had a penchant to compare the characters on stage to the 1985 mini-series, who knows exactly what L.M. Montgomery originally had in mind. I have to say that for my taste, Artistic Director Adam Brazier & company have their on the ball for this presentation more than ever this year!

June 9, 2015

PEI Weekend Events June 12 – 13

Friday

Anne & Gilbert, The Musical – The Guild, 07:00pm

The North Atlantic Tionól –Brackley Beach North Winds Inns and Suites 07:00pm – 08:00pm

Anne of Green Gables, The Musical PREVIEWS –Confederation Centre: Homburg Theatre 07:30pm

Larry Christopher: Neil Young Solo Acoustic Tribute –King’s Playhouse

Joey Doucette –The Albert & Crown Pub & Eatery,

Emilee Sorrey Band with guests –Baba’s Lounge

Trevor Cameron –Brothers Two Restaurant

Misty Water –Charlottetown Legion

Exiles On Mainstream Tribute to Matchbox 20 –Fishbones Oyster Bar & Seafood Grill

Muddy Buddy –John Brown Richmond Street Grille

Adam MacGregor –Marc’s Lounge

Boys in the Kitchen –Olde Dublin Pub

 

Charlottetown 250 Week –Charlottetown

City of Charlottetown Natal Day celebrations with activities for all ages in downtown Charlottetown locations. http://www.charlottetown.ca

Nathan Carragher –Water’s Edge Restaurant 05:30pm – 08:00pm

Hoedown Throwdown –Dairy Barn 06:00pm – 11:00pm

John MacAllar –Dundee Arms Inn 06:30pm – 10:00pm

Billy MacInnis –Trailside Café & Inn 08:00pm Source: BUZZon.com

Saturday

Anne of Green Gables, The Musical OPENING –Confederation Centre: Homburg Theatre 07:30pm

https://www.facebook.com/charlottetownfestival?fref=ts

Anne & Gilbert, The Musical –The Guild, 07:00pm

Bootleg City Smash Up! –Cody Banks Arena (Sherwood Sportsplex) 07:00pm

Cape Breton Fiddle Frenzy-Old Triangle Pub 08:00pm  -Featuring Chrissy Crowley, Colin Grant, Jason Roach & Remi Arsenault.

Indie Pop Night with DJ Bones –Baba’s Lounge

Wrecking Crew –Charlottetown Legion

Mudder Trucker –Factory Cookhouse & Dancehall

Floodland –Fishbones Oyster Bar & Seafood Grill

The Dysfunktional Dads –Hot Shots Sports Bar

Muddy Buddy –John Brown Richmond Street Grille

Blues Matinee with Got Blues and guest(s) –Factory Cookhouse & Dancehall 02:30pm – 04:30pm

Saturday Music Matinees –Old Triangle Pub 05:00pm – 08:00pm

Saturday Nights Steak and Sizzle with Adam MacGregor –Water’s Edge Restaurant 06:00pm – 09:00pmPeter

Kyle Drake –Marc’s Lounge

Ryan Merry –Next Door @ Merchantman

Boys in the Kitchen –Olde Dublin Pub

Ellis Family Band Summer Kick-off Dance + Saul Good Band –Silver Fox Curling & Yacht Club

Walk Stride to Turn the Tide –Charlottetown Farmers’ Market 09:00am

 

 

 Dennis Ellsworth with Leeroy Stagger – Trailside Café & Inn 08:00pm  – Dennis Ellsworth is a prolific songwriter. Lately he’s gotten into rhythm of writing, recording and releasing an album a year. Opening will be Victoria, B.C native Leeroy Stagger.

Iain McCarvill –Sims Corner

Charlottetown 250 Week –Charlottetown -City of Charlottetown Natal Day celebrations with activities for all ages in downtown Charlottetown locations. http://www.charlottetown.ca

Richards CD Release “The Women All Were Dancing” – The Pourhouse, 09:00pm – Source: BUZZon.com

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