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Once

How Many Times Should You See Once? Twice — Three Times (is) a Maybe

You’ve heard them. You know them. There are people out there who will say, “I don’t like musicals.” And while that blanket statement may be unfair, it’s also often well earned. Many musicals are like fondue — large chunks slathered in cheese that leave you with the feeling that you’ve had an experience — but one that just doesn’t sit right in the pit of your stomach.

In many ways,Once is a musical for people who don’t like musicals. There’s a …

Evita

Lyrics by Tim Rice
Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber
Directed and Choreographed by Jan Alexandra Smith
Spriet Stage, The Grand Theatre
September 19–30, 2017

An Unqualified Success? An Unqualified Yes

At one point inEvita, Juan Peron and the ever-present critic Che debate whether Eva Peron’s Rainbow Tour was a qualified or unqualified success. It’s an apt moment for a musical that is presented with its own qualification — a High School Project amateur production.

The thing is, Evita stands alone as an unqualified success — and one of the most well-structured, performed, and entertaining stage presentations to appear on the Grand’s Spriet Stage in a long time — professional or qualified with a “high school” designation.

It hits you almost immediately. The mourning chorus lifting its voices, singing in sublime harmony with power and beauty, as Eva Peron’s coffin adorns the stage. And then Keith Ssemugenyi strides onto …

Twelfth Night

Twelfth Night features all of the hallmarks of a Shakespeare comedy: mistaken identities, clever wordplay, the interplay between nobility, servants, and commoners, breaking the fourth wall, and a raft of others. It’s one of the most-produced plays in London and area—this year alone there’s already been a high school production, and it’s on at Stratford too. So why should you see LCP’s production if you’ve already seen the play?

In short, because it’s fantastic.

Director Kaitlyn Rietdyk has created a millennia-spanning pan-Balkan musical mashup that essentially one-ups Shakespeare at every turn. She’s integrated a Greek chorus into the play, which is traditionally set on the coast of the Adriatic Sea. She and composer Matthew J. Stewart have taken the songs in Shakespeare’s text and expanded the …

Saucy Jack and the Space Vixens

Saucy Jack and the Space Vixens: Unabashed, Unashamed, Unquestioned—and Sexy—Fun Set to a Disco Beat

What do you get when you combine the interplanetary funksmanship of Parliament, the fluid and overt sexuality ofRocky Horror Picture Show, and the bell-bottom-infused passion for disco of Saturday Night Fever? You get the over two hours of ribald revelry and energetic entertainment of Saucy Jack and the Space Vixens.

Listen, this isn’t Shakespeare. It’s not high art. But it’s unabashed, unashamed, and unquestioned fun. It’s a musical that will have you moving to the beat and—for a select few—even dancing up out of your seat.

The story?Saucy

Frights of Spring IV

After two incarnations at The ARTS Project, Jason Rip’sFrights of Spring anthology has returned to its original Grosvenor Lodge home for a fourth outing. Featuring five new plays by six playwrights—two new to theFrights of Spring stable of writers—it’s a mostly-satisfying evening of new takes on classic horror tropes.

The familiar stories include the abused woman whose partner has mysteriously disappeared; the bad seed; the tortured blind man; the person flung out of time; and even a sorority seance. These are all Richard Matheson/Val Lewton-style creeping terrors, and to their credit there are few cheap “jumping out of the closet” scares. Four of the plays are solidly inNight Gallery territory, with the fifth (which I found to be the most satisfying, …

Colours in the Storm

Colours in the Storm: Vibrant Individual Elements Result in a Production Whose Parts are Greater than its Sum

Colours in the Storm features many fine elements and some outstanding techniques, but it fails to come together into a cohesive and satisfying whole. Combined with a paint-by-numbers second act, you have a production that’s generally pleasant to look at, but falls far short of being a masterpiece.

The play dramatizes the final years of legendary Canadian artist Tom Thomson’s life, from his first arrival in Algonquin Park in 1912, through his embrace of the natural landscape and his attempts to satisfy his internal vision through painting, to his eventual—and controversial—death in 1917.

Colours in the Storm features a number of outstanding moments that are a joy to …

The Colony of Unrequited Dreams

Nothing Unrequited Here – Love for a “Rock”-Solid Production

With all due respects to Mr. Telford—who did an admirable job back in the day in my gifted history program—if only all Canadian history was this dynamic and entertaining, we’d have a nation that truly appreciates the richness, diversity, and—yes—intrigue of our national past. Fortunately, we have productions like Artistic Fraud’sThe Colony of Unrequited Dreams to bring our past—both real and imagined—to vivid and entertaining life.

Ostensibly, the play is the story of Joseph Smallwood, the self-proclaimed Last Father of Confederation who is best remembered as the person who spearheaded the drive to bring Newfoundland into Canadian confederation in 1949.Colony is not …

Art

Art: From a Blank Canvas Springs a Multi-Hued, Multi-Layered Delight

Art is, on the surface, the story of a trio of friends who are forced to re-evaluate their beliefs, their actions, and the very foundation of their friendship, precipitated by one character’s purchase of a white-on-white painting. But despite the monochromatic nature of the catalyst, the play is one imbued with rich hues of colour and texture, thanks to a combination of flawless performances, and deft direction and lighting.

The stage itself is minimalist by design. The three actors interact on a starkly adorned set: a couple of grey couches, a pair of movable drops (which are manipulated by the actors with skill and alacrity to mark location transitions), and a black …

Cherry Docs

Ninety minutes is not a lot of time to unpack the motivations behind racism, the challenges of balancing social responsibility with personal beliefs, and exploring personal growth and understanding. And though the Procunier Hall venue should serve as an ideal setting for such a study of intimate emotions,Cherry Docs suffers from a superficiality that’s magnified by acting, directorial, and set-related challenges.

Cherry Docs is the story of Danny (Kyle Stewart), a liberal Jewish lawyer assigned to be the legal aid representation of skinhead Mike (Derek Barr) who has confessed to the murder of an Asian restaurant employee. The production centres around the interaction between the two as they deal with their individual demons and try to …

Jenny’s House of Joy

Prostitution may be the world’s oldest profession, but it’s also one with its own ideas of propriety, ambition and politics. This play is an enjoyable exploration of that kind of life, a comic tale with a refreshingly non-judgmental tone laced with a genuine humanity.

In the Old West, Jenny (Colleen McGeough) runs a successful brothel with the naively socially ambitious Anita (Bronwyn Wilson) and the hard bitten Frances (Charlene McNabb) as her employees. Suddenly, the refined and desperate Natalie (Kaitlyn Rietdyk) comes pleading for a job and proves, after some adjustment, to be surprisingly talented at the profession. However, Frances suspects there will be trouble ahead with this addition, and it does come, both from within and without.

Considering that …

The Secret Garden

Modern adaptations of classics of children’s literature can be a minefield, with sometimes jarring cultural attitudes or a numbing preciousness that has nothing to relate to. Thankfully, this does not apply to this play, which is tuneful and even moving story about a girl learning the power that can come from empathy and personal faith in an ideal guided with a little perspective.

After being orphaned in an cholera epidemic …

Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me

Being a prisoner in too many countries can involve extreme privation for an agonizingly long and indefinite time. To cope, you might have only your own mind and what it can provide for some kind of way to maintain your humanity. This play is a creative, if rather slow, psychological drama of a trio of such prisoners trying to do just that.

In the early 1990s, two prisoners in Beirut—American Adam Canning (Jeremy Hewitson) and Irishman Edward Sheridan (John Reid)—have been confined for some time with little hope of release. Now, they have a companion, Briton Michael Watters (Stephen Flindall) who is now in the same situation. With nothing else to do, the trio use their imaginations to the utmost as they find some solace in …

La Ronde

Love is an emotion often rife with impulse, pretensions and deceptions depending who is both expressing it and reacting to it. This play is a passably entertaining linked anthology of characters in various romantic situations even when the material struggles to make an emotional connection.

In 1914 London, Ontario, romance is in the air for all sorts of people. To illustrate that, there is a series of episodes where romantic assignations occur throughout the city with the newcomer of the previous story meeting someone in their own encounter. In each, there are plenty of the same elements including flowers, sweets, and promises they don’t intend to keep …

Joni Mitchell: River

Appreciating Joni’s Lyrics and Music

The showJoni Mitchell: River is the season opener on stage at London’s Grand Theatre. Before I can tell you about it, I need to tell you what it’s not.

It’s not the story of Joni’s life; there are no words spoken, nor any account acted. It’s not an impersonation or impression of Joni; each singer is himself or herself. It’s not a re-creation of Joni’s songs; none of the songs actually sound like Joni. It’s not a musical; it’s a concert.

Now, here’s whatJoni Mitchell: River is—it is an enchanting evening, presenting a fascinating interpretation of Joni Mitchell’s songs. It is three powerful singers who draw you into the lyrics. It is four impressive musicians interpreting the compositions.

If you grew up listening to Joni on pop radio in the 1970s, you might not recognize the songs in this show—there are several I’m …

The History Boys

The History Boys Shows London’s Theatrical Future is in Good Hands

If anything, Calithumpian Theatre Co.’s inaugural production,The History Boys, shows that the future of local theatre is promising, courtesy of a well-paced, entertaining production of the Alan Bennett play.

Some outstanding youthful casting, complemented by a pair of key performances from more veteran actors and deft direction by John Gerry, ensured that the two-hour-and-40-minute-long preview performance of the play thoroughly entertained.

The History Boys is a play about the contrast between learning and education, set in a British grammar school. A supply teacher is brought in by an aggressive, results-seeking headmaster to complement the teachings of an eccentric English teacher. It pits the headmaster’s desire to …

Prelude to a Kiss

For the happiest of couples, the time when one doesn’t seem like themselves to the other can be the most sustained traumatic time to test any love. This play is a powerful fantasy about one such couple facing a bizarrely premature version of that situation, one told with emotional heft and special insight.

After a young man named Peter (Matt Green) meets and falls in love with the eccentric cynical woman Rita (Charlotte Weeks), they agree to be married. However at the wedding, an elderly stranger (Alan Legg) requests a kiss from the bride and something strange happens. Suddenly, Rita acts nothing like …

Sleuth – A One-Man Play with Two Actors

Sleuth’s tag line is “think of the perfect crime… then go one step further.” And while not necessarily a crime in the purest sense, John L. Moore’s performance stole the show, overwhelming his co-star, in a play about love, revenge, and the games we play.

Moore’s performance and the story itself are the two defining elements of this entertaining, but flawed, production. The story, centered around two men who have a relationship with one woman—a woman never seen or heard from—deals with the meeting and aftermath of the meeting between the two principals: Andrew Wyke (Moore), a mystery writer and the man seemingly gleefully divorcing the woman in question; and Milo Tindale (Shawn Dyson), the younger paramour who is planning a future with Wyke’s …

Les Misérables

The Grand Theatre is celebrating 20 years of High School Projects with the opening ofLes Misérables, which includes a cast of 47, plus 17 crew members and three student musicians. And this year, the ensemble shines, raising the roof and filling the house with the rich anthems that makeLes Mis memorable.

Les Mis is the epic story of convict Jean Valjean (Dean Holbrough) who serves his time for a minor crime and becomes mayor under a new name. Although he is aided by a kindly Bishop (Peter Nye), he is hunted by Inspector Javert (Preston Cooper-Winder) for breaking parole. When a worker in Valjean’s factory, Fantine (Keirsten Overton), dies leaving young Cosette (Amber Sellars) an orphan, Valjean raises her as his own. He …

The Porno Play

While some kinds of entertainment have the social warrant to bring out the best in people, pornography in Western society is too often cornered into bringing out the worst. This play is an amusing look at the grimiest of popular entertainments and the people who have to work in it.

In a porno peep show establishment, work has its own set of routines, which Rich (Nick Regan) has had nearly enough of. Unfortunately, his job and his co-workers face more than their share of irritations like bothersome customers, weirdos and an overly sentimental boss making the situation worse. Meanwhile, those customers have their own concerns with group …

Skylight

The intimate third floor space at The ARTS Project with its exposed yellow brick, floor-to-ceiling windows, and old wooden floors provides an exquisite backdrop for David Hare’s Olivier and Tony Award winning playSkylight. Set and Props Designer Alina Subrt has done an exceptional job of creating the shabby Northwest London flat of Kyra Hollis (Francesca Ranalli), a 30-something East Ham schoolteacher.

Tom Sergeant (Jeff Miller), a successful restaurateur and hotelier is shocked and disapproving of Kyra’s minimalist life when he unexpectedly appears at her door one evening in the dead of winter. He cannot understand why she would forsake the life of luxury she had when she lived with him, his wife, Alice, and their two children, to live in cold discomfort …

A Minor Midcareer Retrospective

The less a performer has in stagecraft, costume or makeup to perform a story, the more the talent he has must show through.

For this one-man show, James Judd has that talent in spades as he tells a variety of hilarious tales of his very full life with boisterous thespian enthusiasm. Furthermore, to do that with only some careful lighting and a single prop is a supreme artistic confidence Judd obviously has as he spins wild and wacky tales of his life that straddle the line of the real and preposterous.

While he performs that balancing act, you will be laughing too hard to care as you savor a master storyteller turning memories in glorious comedy.…

London Fringe 17: First week reviews

Theatre in London’s team of volunteer reviewers is ready to see and review every show in the 2016 London Fringe before the end of the opening weekend. (By Sunday morning, in fact.) Reviews will initially be posted to each show’s comments section on the Fringe website, and they’ll all be archived here after the festival ends. They’ll also be in this week’s edition ofThe London Yodeller, along with their own coverage. Keep an eye on @theatreinlondon and the #ldnfringe hashtag on social media for updates during the festival.…

1-900-DEE-LITE

Life and love have a way of repeating with different variations on a theme. This play is an intermittently entertaining way of illustrating that with a story of mature love entwined with a story of young love which does not wholly work.

Life is reasonably good for Dee (Deborah Mitchell), a widow quietly working as a sex phone caller, even if she shares her home with her emotionally immature son and aspiring children’s writer, Scott (Kevin Cope). However, her burgeoning romance with the retired English teacher turned church volunteer, Tom (John Palmer), is threatened to be spoiled by her secret occupation. Meanwhile, Scott’s own ambiguity about his childhood friend, Jennifer (Heather Rivet), seems to be posing its own quandaries.

Romance stories of the mature …

Present Laughter

Noel Coward is considered of the great British comedians for several reasons and this play is a good one. Here, we see the epitome of the sophisticated drawing room comedy he was famous for with cutting wit and memorable characters well played by a good cast.

Garry Essendine (Todd Baubie) is a successful matinee theatrical star who is dealing with a mid-life crisis being in his late 40s, only to find that is the least of his life’s complications. That is because Garry is inundated with fans, relatives and partners of either questionable motives or sanity even as he prepares for a tour abroad. Amidst this, Garry has to …

I Take Your Hand in Mine

Unless you are willing to look beyond the superficial, the great artists of the past can seem untouchable and unrelatable. However, this play is a welcome defiance of that prejudice with two great actors bringing the all too short romance of the playwright Anton Chekhov and the actress Olga Knipper to vibrant life.

While I usually do not care for dedicated self-contained romance stories, this story has an enthralling passion with master actors performing those luminaries’ correspondence. With that voluminous resource—about 400 letters from a passionate six year relationship—the romance of these greats of Russian theatre takes on a depth of personality and emotional content as few other historical relationships have ever granted to posterity.

Beyond that is an intriguing look …

Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story

The Day the Music Died

The story is heart-breaking, but the music is energizing on the Grand’s stage:Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story is always a crowd-pleaser and this production is no exception.

The story tells of the very short career of Buddy Holly. In 1957, he appears on local radio as a country & western singer with his two bandmates, The Crickets. One night he plays a rock ‘n’ roll song he’s written, and the local disc jockey tells him his music has a “coloured feel to it”, which upsets advertisers. …

August: Osage County

Oscar Wilde said that each unhappy family is like that in their own way. This play is a moving drama about one such family being unhappy in a myriad of ways, but having one common denominator who has her own price to pay.

In the country of Beverly (Deighton Thomas) and Violet Weston (Dinah Watts), the ailing couple hires a live-in maid called Johanna (Niyiri Karakas) before the whole family visits. However, Beverly disappears just before the gathering and the answer to that mystery will be the spark to tear the family apart.

Family dramas are older thanOedipus Rex, but they still can reflect their times …

Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea

Modern Take on Classic Story Fails

I loved Rick Miller’sBoom, which played at the Grand Theatre last year. He cleverly wove together a history of culture, politics and news for baby boomers, playing all roles and using amazing projections. So I was looking forward to hisTwenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea coming to the Grand.

Unfortunately, it is disappointing by comparison. Following the classic Jules Verne novel, this play tells the story of the ship that goes out to find the horrible sea creature that others have reported. On the ship are the narrator Jules (Andrew Shaver), Professor Aronnax (Marie-Eve Perron) and Ned Land (Eric Leblanc). They find that the creature is actually a sci-fi submarine, the Nautilus, under the …

The Mountaintop

The Lorraine Motel 1968

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his renowned “Mountaintop” speech in Memphis, Tennessee on April 3, 1968. “I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land,” King said, foreshadowing his imminent assassination. He had received many death threats, yet he said in that speech “I’m not fearing any man.”

The play,The Mountaintop, currently on stage at the Grand Theatre, tells the fictionalized account of what happened in room 306 at the Lorraine Motel where King was staying. The next day, he was killed, at age 39, standing on the balcony of the motel.

A two-hander, this play is about the interaction between two characters: Dr. Martin …

To Ashes

Debts and confusion about them is never a happy combination for anyone, and it’s considerably worse for those who don’t have the maturity to handle either. This play is a powerful testament to that potentially nightmarish pitfall of life as we see two surprisingly similar losers clash over that problem.

In a city, a short tempered clock factory worker, Tom Ash (Jeff Werkmeister) is being harassed by a bill collector who has confused him with his house’s previous owner, an unemployed recluse, Thomas Ash (Tyler Parr). Infuriated by this misapprehension on top of his hopeless child custody problem, Tom Ash repeatedly confronts Thomas Ash and intimidates him into calling the collection agency. However, the emotionally disabled Thomas will not let the frightening incident go and plans his revenge even as …

The Catering Queen

If there is a job that can be more aggravating depending on the customer than the retail trade, the hospitality industry qualifies. This play is an amusing look at a group of people working in that trade, even as their personal lives intrude, with delightful character play and wit.

At the Smythe residence, Melanie (Alida Liberman) heads a group of caterers working a Christmas party. As she attempts at some kind of efficiency despite Timothy’s (Sam Didi) misgivings with one familiar guest and Cynthia’s (Aleen Kelledjian) grousing about the job, her own personal life intrudes. Eventually, there is more work and resolutions to come under the most unlikely circumstances.

Inside looks into the occasionally thankless jobs that make our happier times possible …

Arcadia

The past and one’s interpretation of it can be two completely different things. Unfortunately, this play is a wildly uneven production with one half being witty and engaging while the other is slower and more difficult for the unprepared, until they come together for a sharing of dramatic strengths.

In a British country estate in 1809, Septimus Hodge (Matthew Stewart) is the tutor to the precocious girl, Thomasina Coverly (Emma Ratcliffe), even as his own extracurricular activities with his lordship’s wife threaten him. In modern times, scholar Bernard Nightingale (Chris McAuley) is researching a scandalous discovery of Hodge’s close associate, the great poet Lord Byron, while the current resident, Hannah Jarvis …

Fly Me to the Moon

The Life of a Personal Support Worker

Personal Support Workers are unsung, underpaid heroes. They look after the elderly, allowing them to stay in their homes and avoid nursing homes. The comedy,Fly Me to the Moon, currently on stage at the Grand Theatre, is a something of a tribute to those workers.

On the other hand, it isn’t an all-fun-and-games comedy. It also has a dark side, with a look at the seedier life of a PSW.

Francis Shields and Loretta Mackie are two workers, looking after an elderly gentleman who is a big Sinatra fan. Unfortunately, after Francis helps him to the bathroom, he dies.

“I could be arrested for theft, fraud, and murder and it’s not even four o’clock,” Loretta says, as a comedy …

Three Viewings

However much you want to ignore it or welcome it, death is the moment that will likely shake up all around you—and especially yourself. This play is a powerful collection of dramatic monologues that become more enthralling with each well-played story.

InTell Tale, Emil (Rob Faust) is a funeral director who can’t bring himself to confess his love openly to his dream love, a realtor who always comes to his funeral home.The Thief of Tears has Mac (Kathleen Morrison), a high class coffin robber with her own secret reasons for this life of crime. Finally, there isThirteen Things About Ed Carpolotti, which has Virginia Carpolotti (Fern Tepperman), a widow whose late husband’s financial sins and more come to haunt her.

For a series of …

The Trials of Robin Hood

Robin Hood is a seminal legend in our culture, thus the subject of many a parody. Unfortunately, while this play’s attempt at that kind of humour that can be entertaining for some, others used to similar parodies will have to endure a labored production.

King Richard (Mark Speechley), recently returned to England, puts Robin Hood (Sean Brennan) on trial, and the outlaw gives his …

A Christmas Story

Getting what you Really Want for Christmas

We all have a memory of that one thing that we really, really wanted for Christmas. Maybe you asked Santa at Eaton’s, maybe you told your parents repeatedly, but whatever it was, you just had to have it!

Well, little Ralphie inA Christmas Story, now on stage at the Grand Theatre, really, really wants a Red Ryder Carbine Action 200-shot Range Model Air Rifle with a compass and a thing that tells time in the stock. Set in the early 1940s,A Christmas Story reveals the otherwise …

Dirty Dancing

Nobody puts Baby in the Corner!

The movieDirty Dancing, with the very hot and incomparable Patrick Swayze and sweet young Jennifer Grey, has a huge following. It was the surprise hit of the 1980s and has gone on to become a favourite even with those who weren’t born when it came out. So the stage show has tried to copy the movie exactly to keep those devoted fans happy.

The production now on stage at Budweiser Gardens in London brought in an opening night audience of keen Dirty Dancing enthusiasts. Many young 20-somethings (female and male!) waited for the show to begin with …

All The King’s Women

Elvis Presley was an icon of popular culture that became so much more after he died, regardless of whether he deserved that kind of worship. This play is an amusing look of the lives of several women reacting to this star that can range from the interesting to the pathetic, depending how much you know about the life of Elvis.

As much I personally consider Elvis Presley overrated as musician, his impact on North American culture is without question. As it is, this play reflects that with the reaction of various women who dealt with this star, like the store clerk who talked Elvis into accepting a guitar instead of a rifle …

The Conchologist: A Dream of Edgar Allan Poe

Edgar Allen Poe was one of the great gothic literary masters with a fertile imagination that not only created great tales of horror, but also a new kind of hero with the detective story. This play is an imaginative, if rather leaden paced, examination of this great writer’s life and inspirations.

On October 3, 1849, Poe was found in Baltimore, badly delirious and in dire medical peril for unknown reasons (although abduction by cooping thugs has been suggested). In Poe’s remaining lingering days, unconscious from this trauma, he experiences a surreal delirium in which his characters of his stories visit him to review his life and his deepest values.

Exploring the mind of a writer who …

2 Pianos 4 Hands

Tickling the Ivories and the Funny Bone

Did you hate it when you took piano lessons and your mother forced you to practice for one full hour every night? Or did you pace the hallway, straining to hear the piano notes through the closed door as your son struggled with his conservatory exam? If you’ve lived through either of these experiences, you’ll appreciate2 Pianos 4 Hands.

2 Pianos 4 Hands is a funny and touching musical comedy currently on stage at the Grand Theatre. The story is semi-autobiographical, written by Richard Greenblatt and Ted Dykstra, two Canadian actors/pianists who realized that they had the same experience growing up and learning to play piano. They collaborated on the play, which was first performed in …

Steel Magnolias

As much as I try to avoid assuming stereotypes, for some women a beauty salon is better than a church confessional. It offers all the chance to get their troubles off their chest without the moralizing and you look better in the process. This play is a heartwarming and witty dramatization of such an environment and the women who use it.

In Chinquapin, Louisiana, Truvy Jones (Sookie Mei) runs the busiest beauty salon around and has taken on Annelle (Andrea Hutchison) as her new assistant. At the salon, Jones has a regular clientele who are more than simply customers; they are a close knit group privy to their most personal happenings and trials. Whether it be personal triumphs, family conflicts, …

Steel Magnolias

Steel Magnolias, currently on stage at the Palace Theatre, is a beauty of a play. Set in the late 1980s in Chinquapin Parish, Louisiana, Steel Magnolias begins as salon owner Truvy (Sookie Mei) hires young Annelle (Andrea Hutchison), a mysterious new arrival to town to help get the ladies beautified for Shelby’s (Kelsea Meredith) wedding. One by one the characters enter the shop, including: Shelby’s mother, M’Lynn (Norah Cuzzocrea); the town’s former first lady and now widow, Clairee (Megan Moorehouse); and the curmudgeonly but lovable neighbour, Ouiser (Deborah Mitchell).

The difficulty with staging a show that has been made into a highly recognizable film is that it will always be compared to the better known version of the work, and whether fair …

The Gin Game

As one ages, the world too often closes around oneself, clinging to something to feel good about even while personal regrets loom all the larger. This play is a powerful comedic drama about two nursing home residents in such a situation over a gin game that has higher stakes than anticipated.

In a ratty nursing home, Fonsia (Irene De Salaiz) is having a difficult adjustment moving there when she meets Weller (Rob Faust) who invites her for a game of gin rummy. As they play, their growing rivalry over the card games brings their dark sides and regrets to the surface. As the last card is played, the losers become obvious.

Going to a nursing home is one of the less palatable prospects of a long …

Hello, Dolly!

The Matchmaker is a Hit!

Dolly Gallagher Levi is savvy, sassy and yet sweet—and young actress Isabella Wolder fits that role perfectly, inHello, Dolly! now on stage at the Grand Theatre. It is a wonderful romp back to the 1890s in Yonkers. Dolly Levi is a widow, missing her husband, but quite capable of looking after herself. She is a matchmaker who finds suitable spouses for others, but at the same time, asking her late husband for a sign that she should find a mate for herself. On the side, she also offers dance lessons, mandolin instruction and many more options.

It seems like half the population of Yonkers is …

Middletown

A town is simply a semi-organized collection of people of different personalities and dreams, at least at the surface. This play is a somewhat meandering take on that truism that considerably ramps up the emotional power of its telling of life’s different directions in its second half.

In the midwest USA, there is a town called Middleton where Mary Swanson (Kara Gulliver) has moved with her husband expecting her first child. There, she meets John Dodge (Jeff Werkmeister), a struggling handyman and a local mechanic who is also the local drunk (Josh Cottrell). As this trio try to live their own lives, the local cop (Deighton Thomas) …

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Robert Louis Stevenson’s 1886 novel is a seminal horror story: an allegory of human nature that still resonates today. While this play takes some liberties with the original tale, ranging from the basic to the trivial, the soul of the tragedy is kept true with gripping performances.

In 1883 London, Solicitor Gabriel Utterson (Dustin Freeman) comes to learn that his friend and client, Dr. Henry Jekyll (Timothy Richards), has a mysteriously sinister new associate, Edward Hyde (Liam Grunte). As the lawyer becomes more and more concerned with this development, the true internal relationship of the two is worse than he knows considering the …

In Real Life

Ever since video games became a mainstay of popular culture, and then a dominant one, they have attracted a passion as powerful as the kneejerk criticism that inevitably followed their rise. This play provides a newer perspective of four gamers getting deep into a massively multi-player game and finding that the real world still has a hold they cannot ignore.

Considering that popular culture is just beginning to shed the old arcade game stereotypes of the medium, this play is a more nuanced story about gamers as it’s written by one. What we have is a humorous milder version of the old exploitive Mazes and Monsters movie with an element of the film, Her, with the central video game having a seemingly …

Romeo and Juliet

There have been a bazillion and one productions ofRomeo and Juliet over the year. It’s arguably William Shakespeare’s most famous play, and sometimes companies go a little overboard trying to be unique in their presentation. Troubadour Theatre Collective’s production ofRomeo and Juliet, running at the London Roundhouse, straddles that line effectively — modernizing the play whilst staying true to its roots in an overall enjoyable presentation.

[Note: theatreinlondon.ca webmaster Peter Janes is the producer of this play.]

This is not your grandfather’sRomeo and Juliet — even if it’s performed in the same Shakespearean tongue that he would have been familiar with. And that’s clear from the opening …

Dracula

The danger of adapting plays from literary works is that the mental experience of reading a book is substantially different from the physical experience of a performance. Ironically, it’s dialogue that is often the problem, particularly when the playwright has an affinity for the source material: a paragraph or two of exposition isn’t much to process, but those same two paragraphs as a speech can send a play to a screeching halt.

Funeral Pyre Theatre’sDracula, adapted by Liam Grunté from the Bram Stoker novel, lurches along more like Frankenstein’s monster. It’s not bad—a rock opera adaptation I saw in Sarnia several years ago was truly terrible—but the creeping horror of the story gets tripped up by the text.

There are some notable performances and …

London Fringe 16: Opening weekend reviews

Theatre in London’s team of volunteer reviewers is ready to see and review every show in the 2015 London Fringe before the end of the opening weekend. (By Sunday morning, in fact.) Each review will initially be posted to the Fringe website, and they’ll all be archived here after the festival ends. They’ll also be in this week’s edition of The London Yodeller, along with their own coverage. Keep an eye on @theatreinlondon and the #ldnfringe hashtag on social media.…