September 18, 2016

Keith Burgoyne Interviews on Artists On The Island Podcast

keith-burgoyneCheck out 2 Artists On The Island Podcast Interviews from the summer of 2016 with author & PEI Writer’s Guild President Keith Burgoyne done by Jeff Bursey, Kimberley Johnston & PL Holden with some music by Rob Gaudet. In Pt.1 we talk about what the PEI Writer’s Guild has to offer & in the second part we dive into the wonderfully unusual realm of his work in progress “The Lonely Circus”.

Enjoy some Entertaining & Educational Listening!

September 17, 2016

Belles Soeurs: The Musical, A Quiet Riot of Piety & Cautionary Tale of Commercialism by Kimberley Johnston with PL Holden

The English musical theatre adaptation of Les Belles-Soeurs, originally written by Michel Tremblay (his landmark piece of theatre, Les Belles-Soeurs, has been performed around the world in more than 25 languages), is a fun show to behold, but could also be a cautionary tale of commercialism and the perils of piety. When dreary housewife Germaine Lauzon (Lisa Horner, who is debuting at The Centre this year, having played in Kinky Boots, Wizard of Oz, Les Misérables (Mirvish Productions); Fiddler on the Roof, Good Mother (Stratford), & TV/Film credits for Little Mosque on the Prairie, Road to Avonlea to name a few. Lisa has also received two Dora Awards for her work in Wizard of Oz and Grey Gardens) wins one million customer loyalty stamps worth $100,000 of free catalogue items and is betrayed by her God-fearing friends and relatives during a stamp licking party, one has to wonder what they are really worshipping. Is it God, materialism, or both?

The performance runs rampant with religious overtones. Germaine’s favourite exclamation is: “St. Therese!”, a French saint who wants for everything in her childhood but joined a convent to serve God when she was 15 years old. Germaine hands out the stamps to her friends, almost as if they are a sacrament, to paste to redemption cards. The most notable, and entertaining, example is the Ode to Bingo stop action, slo-mo number, in the second act, which ends in a tableau reminiscent of da Vinci’s The Last Supper.

The play starts off with a bang amidst an invigorating performance of “I Want It All” with an all-female cast of jealous homespun ladies spanning the generational spectrum trickling in, drooling over the prospect of new furniture, reversible dresses, & 4-slice toasters. It takes place in the working class community of Plateau-Mont-Royal, Montreal, in 1965, in the midst of the Quiet Revolution, a time of cultural introspection for Quebec. The time period is after schools are no longer administered through the Catholic Church and before Expo 67, when French president Charles De Gaulle declared “Vive le Quebec Libre!” on the balcony of Montreal city hall.

The word ‘Free’ is a recurring theme in the script. Germaine and her party guests crave things they don’t have to pay for but also wish to be liberated from their dreary lives. They steal their host’s stamps, diminishing their respective portrayals of piety, leaving Germaine to question her own belief system.

The ‘holier than thou’ attitude of the party goers is most evident when Germaine’s sister Pierrette(played by Geneviève Leclerc in her debut at The Centre, having appeared in: Guys & Dolls, Lies My Father Told Me (Segal Centre); Les Misérables (US and Canadian tours), a club hostess and social pariah, makes an appearance at the end of the first act. Everyone seems scandalized and are hesitant to exchange words with her, even if they see her regularly at the club. Germaine’s daughter Linda (played by Elise Cormier, also debuting at The Centre, appearing in Les Misérables(Le Capitole, La Place des Arts) & Little Women (La Bordée) is anxious to speak with Pierrette  about her lifestyle and how she was able to escape the drab existence that plagues the other characters.

One of my favorite numbers included a song of jealousy called ”It’s A Dull Life” featuring some unusual, yet surprisingly delightful percussion choices (by Peter Colantonio with pit credit for Belles Soeurs: TheMusical (National Arts Centre) including pots, pans, a washboard & even a kazoo! Another song featured the use of a rocking chair & of course, there’s no other way to describe it other than to say It Rocked! Aside from the music & a story that I think a lot of people can relate to (6/49 & Chase the Ace wishlist fantasies have never been hard to come by around here), the use of gossip & perfectly timed passive-aggressive name-calling kept the laughs rolling throughout this kitchen party of a tale that surfs on the cusp of rags to riches.

This show is excellent and will give audience members a lot to talk about. The creative and technical aspects are all very well thought out and executed. The 1960s kitchen and costumes (Costume Designer: Mérédith Caron who has contributed to more than 150 works & is considered a leader in the field of costume design, having worked at the Stratford Festival & Cirque du Soleil: Criss Angel Believe (Las Vegas) & Amaluna since the beginning of her career in 1978) were brilliantly done, along with the second storey balcony where the characters could sing and emote without having to be on the stage proper. Audience members familiar with the story will recognize Pierrette almost immediately.

Eagle-eyed viewers may also recognize Lisa Horner (Germaine) as the Ikea Start the Car lady, from the iconic commercial (which, oddly, has similar themes to this play). In this show, Horner looks more like Jean Stapleton’s Edith Bunker, which is a testament to the skills of the makeup and costume departments. I enjoyed the costumes of Linda most of all. They were bright, fun, and fit the period; and were a stark contrast to the other ladies’ outfits. Germaine’s party dress is also a showstopper.

pl kj

by Kimberley Johnston & PL Holden

Any acting troupes looking for a fun musical with 12 strong female roles, an entertaining book and lyrics (Book and lyrics by Director René Richard Cyr & Music by Juno Award winner Daniel Bélanger),  should take a look at Belles Soeurs: The Musical.

Belles Soeurs: The Musical runs from September 13th to October 1st, 2016 at the Homburg Theatre.

September 10, 2016

Like Father, Like Son? SORRY Apologetically Funny: New Chris Gibbs Show Mines the Mundane for Comedy Gold by Kimberley Johnston with PL Holden

British-born comedian Chris Gibbs, who opened for the sold out run of Stranger to Hard Work starring Cathy Jones last summer, has returned to Victoria Playhouse with his new one-man show about life, death, family, and fatherhood. Like Father, Like Son? SORRY (which premiered at the 2009 Toronto Fringe Festival, where it won Patron’s Pick) is billed as a stand-up comedy show but it’s so much more. Gibbs, the creator and star, mines his life for comedy gold. He brings us into his world of memorable characters and noble self-deprecation.

Chris Gibbs (who has toured extensively as a stand-up comedian and improviser, written and performed 5 hit, award-winning one-man shows, & was a regular guest on NBC’s comedy series Howie Do It) now lives in Toronto with his Canadian wife and son, is sensitive to the fact audiences may be offended by words like “vaginal”, or “fallopian”. He mentions that words can be more palatable when spoken in a cartoon voice; so he says them like Scooby Doo. Gibbs is also apologetic when he says his son is blonde-haired, blue-eyed and tall for his age. But he doesn’t mean to brag; he’s only stating facts.

One of my favourite parts is when Gibbs makes light of the fact his good-looking son has all the dominant traits of his mother. He launches into the interaction that must have taken place between the sperm and egg to result in a complete lack of genetic representation on the part of the Gibbs family.  The most vivid scene Gibbs paints is the birth of his son, Beckett, by way of caesarean section. He uses voices, physicality & plenty of his patented Gibb-erish to introduce the different personalities taking part, one of which is an overly-sensitive anaesthesiologist. His Hugh Grant impression, I might add, was also right on.

pl kj

by Kimberley Johnston with PL Holden

Gibbs, who kept the laughs coming in rapid succession in this light-hearted & clean (which this audience, I’m certain, was very appreciative for) two set stand-up routine, was quick to point out his shyness but seemed very at ease on the Victoria Playhouse stage, appearing unwilling to leave it at the end of the night. He thanked his audience members profusely and asked them to tell everyone they know about the show.

And that’s what I plan to do.

Like Father, Like Son?  SORRY is playing at the Victoria Playhouse September 9th to 16th starting at 7:30 pm.

August 9, 2016

“The Postmistress Delivers, 1st Class!” review by PL Holden

When you cross a truly unique set (Scenic Design by W. Scott MacConnell, who did a great job creating a post office/cabaret hybrid) & light show (designed by James Clement & technically executed by Dave Nicholson) with musical direction on keyboards by Holly Arsenault, & Ken Fornetran on Saxophone & then let Martha Irving go to town with her magical conversions of a bunch of random letters into song, you get a stage that absolutely beams of enthusiasm & starshine!

postmistressMartha Irving (Director of the musical Anne & Gilbert for 5 years) began her career at Victoria Playhouse in Barefoot in the Park in 1977 & returned last year to star in Sexy Laundry. This year, from August 6 to September 4, she owns the stage as a charming postal worker with a lovely French Canadian accent named Marie-Louise (whose raison d’être, she admits during the show, is her service to her post office), a role she originated at Ship’s Company Theatre in Parrsboro, NS, in this dynamic one-woman show by Playwright Tomson Highway (who is the recipient of 10 honorary doctorates & is a member of the Order of Canada, today enjoying an international career as a playwright, novelist, pianist, composer, & songwriter). In The Postmistress, Irving is quick on her feet, hitting all the notes in a variety of catchy tunes from both of Canada’s official languages (the soundtrack album of The (Post) Mistress, received a Juno Award in 2015 for Aboriginal Album of the Year), & taking the audience to school in terms of comedic timing. She also makes very effective use of props.

In many songs she was shelling out the dirt on residential gossip, but nonetheless remains a class act the whole way through. Most of the numbers required a delicate balance of sentimentality, phrasing, & punch-line ad libs (usually with a nudge & a wink) & she was very impressive. I thought the story she told about her younger days in Buenos Aires was just adorable.  Director Catherine O’Brien (who is also playing the role of Rachel Lynde in this season’s production of Anne & Gilbert at The Guild), who has demonstrated her talents as an actress & vocalist on many occasions over the years must no doubt be very proud of this performance.

I’m sure the collective abundance of theatrical experience between everyone involved had a lot to do with the seamless flow of a range of emotions from sadness, to madness, to seduction, to utter silliness (sometimes even bordering on going absolutely postal), & huge rounds of applause were definitely not in short supply. Unless you find the thought of listening to a French-Canadian accent for a couple of hours annoying there’s a pretty good chance you’ll have a great time watching Martha Irving strutting her stuff. If you can get a ticket (ticket info @ http://victoriaplayhouse.com/tickets/ ) to this feel-good, must-see PEI theatre event, it’s well worth the drive out to Victoria.

%d bloggers like this: