Stage Write: Winter Theatre Lineup

We’re feeling dramatic (again) so the lovely Christine Gresham of Theatre Isn’t Dead popped by the Fourth Floor to share her theatre picks for the upcoming chilly months. 

We’re well on our way in 2013 and so far so good. We made it through the end of
the Mayan calendar unscathed, it’s (usually) cold enough that we can adorn our winter
duds without fear of an onslaught of slush from a passing car, and we’re in the
thick of the winter theatre season.

Obviously one of your new year’s
resolutions (the one that you’ll actually keep) is to see more theatre. And like
a good personal trainer, I’m here to help.

Here are some shows that will exercise your theatrical chops; none are too laborious and all will leave you
feeling invigorated and healthy. You may even wipe some sweat from your brow in
the process.

Clybourne Park, a Studio 180 production as part of the Off-Mirvish series. 

Now through Sunday, March 3 at the Panasonic Theatre (651 Yonge St.)

Prize-winning theatre started at the Panasonic Theatre on February 12. As part of the Off-Mirvish series, Tony, Olivier, Evening Standard and Pulitzer Prize-winning Clybourne Park will undoubtedly knock your socks off. The Studio 180 production is back for a second time after a critically acclaimed run last spring at Canadian Stage. I missed it in NYC and I don’t intend to do so in T.O. The uniformally rave reviews and the stellar word-of-mouth buzz ensure that this play will be the talk of the town.


Cast of Clybourne Park.

Sem Mim & Ímã by Grupo Corpo, part of Harbourfront Centre’s World Stage program.

Now through Saturday, February 23 at The Fleck Dance Theatre (207 Queens Quay W.)

Sem MimÍmã features two brilliant dance productions by the Brazillian dance troupe Grupo Corpo. Part of Harbourfront Centre’s World Stage, Sem Mim merges the rhythm of the sea with medieval Portuguese-Galician chants, while Ímã takes inspiration from the law of magnetism. The performances beautifully combine classical ballet technique with a contemporary take on Brazilian world dance.

Brazilian Grupo Corpo dancers perform Ímã. 

Gabriel Prokofiev: From Chamber to Electronica, an Art of Time Ensemble performance. 

Friday, February 22 to Saturday, February 23 at The Enwave Theatre (231 Queens Quay W.)

If you’re like me, you don’t experience
classical music enough – mostly because it can be hard to find an entry point
and can also be a BIT snoozy (just being honest). Cue Art of Time Ensemble’s
latest gig in February. 
London DJ Gabriel Prokofiev (grandson of
Sergei) comes to the Art of Time Ensemble to continue the family tradition of
reinventing modern music. Prokofiev will add some spin to legendary modern
classical composers Gavin Bryars and Jonathan Goldsmith (BAFTA Award-winning
Canadian film composer) instrumentals. Prokofiev performs DJ sets between
performances, the type of classical music I can get into. Plus, the
creative/marketing campaign is amazi


Poster art for Art of Time Ensemble’s Gabriel
Prokofiev, created by Monnet Design.

Spotlight Japan, presented by Canadian Stage. 

Tuesday, February 26 to Saturday, March 2 at the Berkeley St. Theatre (26 Berkeley St.) 

For something completely different, I’m
into Canadian Stage’s Spotlight Japan. The series features a selection of
dance, drama and music from Japan’s leading arts innovators, and to be frank,
the entire line-up sounds unique and exciting. 
You can catch two double-bills: Haptic and Holistic
(double bill one) or Sayanora and I, Worker (double bill two). See one or see them both, because you aren’t likely to
see anything similar around these parts for a very long time.


Hiroaki Umeda in Holistic Strata. Photo by Ryuichi Maruo (YCAM). 

For a dose of classic theatre, check out
Soulpepper’s Rosencrantz and Gildenstern are Dead and for
contemporary Canadian drama, see Tarragon Theatre’s mini-festival of Hannah Moscovitch’s plays (until March 24). If you haven’t heard of her already you will soon, so get on the bandwagon while there’s still room.

With this regime you should be sufficiently
theatrically worked-out until spring, when you can flex your brain for the
summer festivals. A theatre-goer’s work is never done.

Bonne chance!

Rave: The Big Band Show

As we’re on the cusp of the holiday month, prepare yourself to be bombarded with Christmas carols, candy cane-flavoured everything and Santa Clauses at every turn. If you’re like us, it’s likely one of your favourite holiday traditions is The Nutcracker ballet. The National Ballet has you covered on that front, with their annual production running from December 19 to January 5. However, if you’re looking to get into the festive spirit a bit sooner, then we’ve got the show for you!

Mr. Andrew Burashko

Art of Time Ensemble is one of Canada’s most innovative and artistically accomplished music ensembles, led by the inimitable Andrew Burashko. Their latest show is The Big Band Show, which features a 25-piece (you guessed it) big band on-stage. Classically-trained musicians are joined on-stage by some of Canada’s most renown jazz giants, to share the power and beauty of big band sound with audiences. 

There aren’t any tights on the Art of Time stage.

Now, you’re probably asking yourself “what the heck does that have to do with The Nutcracker, goddammit?!”. Well, we’re glad you asked. As you may know, The Nutcracker ballet is set to music by Tchaikovsky. What you probably do not know is that jazz great Duke Ellington re-imagined the classic score through the prism of jazz. Pretty cool, eh? Transforming the romantic orchestral composition into jumping jazz melodies is quite the feat, but not for Ellington! The cool cat takes the gorgeous classic and turns it on its head, resulting in the hip Nutcracker Suite

Duke tickling the ivories.

The Nutcracker Suite is the jewel of the program, which also includes Stravinsky’s Ebony Concerto and Shostakovich’s Jazz Suite No. 1. All three pieces are very rarely performed and, to our knowledge, have never been performed together. The Big Band Show plays tribute to both classical and jazz music, and the relationship between the two genres.

Dmitri Shostakovich, one of the greatest classical composers of 20th century.

The show opens on November 30 and runs until December 1. It’s a short run (only two performances), which makes it even more special. Some people buy limited edition purses, but how many people have seen limited edition big band shows? Not many, that’s for sure. Grab some hot chocolate, spike it if you like (we won’t tell) and kick off the holidays with some culture. You fancy, huh? 

Tickets from $25 to $59 are available online at,
by phone at 416.973.4000 or in-person at the box office.

*All images courtesy of Art of Time Ensemble, unless otherwise noted. 

Stage Write: Fall Theatre Lineup

Every now and then, things get a little bit
dramatic up in hurr. With a few resident drama queens in our
midst, we’re thrilled to be working with some incredible performing
arts clients this year, like Canadian Stage  and Art of Time Ensemble (not to mention some great past shows like Potted Potter and Love Lies Bleeding) To stay on top of the season’s buzziest openings and hottest shows, we’ve enlisted
theatre-blogger-extraordinaire, Christine Gresham of Theatre Isn’t Dead for a new monthly column called Stage Write. She’ll lend some theatre expertise each month and give you the goods on the latest and greatest theatre shows in Toronto.

To start, here’s what we’re most excited about this fall on the city’s stages.

Fall is one of my fave times of year –
the leaves change colour, the weather becomes cooler, so my wardrobe options
increase, and, Halloween arrives, bringing with it the self-mutilating urge to
increase my sub-zero tolerance for scary things.

At the moment, I still can’t handle scary
movies, stories or even photos. Case in point – someone told me the plot of Paranormal
, and I couldn’t sleep that night. I hadn’t seen a trailer for the
movie, let alone ANY image from it and I woke up multiple times in the night
convinced an (spoiler alert!) invisible hoofed demon was standing over my bed
waiting to possess me.

So this year I’m looking to the theatre
(where else?!) to help me become a tougher, more down-with-the-gore, more
supernatural-loving person.

Here’s where I’m starting:

Tear The Curtain! an Electric Company production, presented by Canadian Stage.

Sunday, October 7 to Saturday, October 20 at The Bluma Appel Theatre (27 Front. St. E.)

A jaded theatre critic in a gritty film noir rendition of 1930s Vancouver falls for the screen siren Mila, and is
caught dangerously between two warring mob families – one controlling the
city’s playhouses, the other its cinemas. As the action moves from screen to
stage and back again, Tear the Curtain! blurs the boundaries between film and
theatre in a stylish psychological thriller that’ll knock your socks off.

Canadian Stage’s Tear the Curtain! will knock your socks off. 
Image source.

Bloodless: The Trial of Burke and Hare, a Theatre 20 production presented as a bonus in the Mirvish Productions subscription season.

Tuesday, October 9 to Sunday, October 28 at The Panasonic Theatre (651 Yonge St.)

Watch the true story of two 19th century
Irish serial killers, who go into business selling corpses to anatomy schools
in Edinburgh. Reminiscent of Sweeney
, this eerie tale of deceit, murder, and mayhem is told in memorable song,
macabre humour, and compelling lyrics.

Bloodless: The Tale of Burke and Hare tells the story of two Irish serial killers. 

Jekyll and Hyde, a Mirvish Productions musical.

Wednesday, November 14 to Sunday, November 18 @ The Ed Mirvish Theatre (244 Victoria St.)

The classic tale of good and evil is
re-vamped and re-mounted with all of the chilling Broadway songs that first
grabbed audiences by the throat and transformed the show into a
theatrical phenomenon.
This production stars Grammy Award nominee Deborah Cox
and American Idol Star Constantine Maroulis, which, depending on your
point-of-view, could also add to the creepiness factor.

Constantine Maroulis and Deborah Cox star in the classic production of Jekyll & Hyde
Image source.

War of the Worlds, an Art of Time Ensemble performance.

Tuesday, October 30 to Sunday, November 4 at The Enwave Theatre (231 Queens Quay W.)

Aliens have landed! Again! In the return of the sold-out 2001
production of the play based on Orson Welles’s infamous radio broadcast. The
all-star cast of Sean Cullen (The Producers) joins Nicholas Campbell (Da
Vinci’s Inquest
) and Marc Bendavid (The Border) is accompanied by an
on-stage radio orchestra and remains chilling enough to cause Margaret Atwood
to tweet “Brilliant! Not 2 miss!”.


Even Margaret Atwood thinks you should see Art of Time Ensemble’s War of the Worlds

Shows that are currently running and are scary
GOOD are Nightwood Theatre’s Between The Sheets (at the Tarragon Extra Space now until October 7) and Soulpepper’s production of Arthur Miller’s faux/real witch
tale (depending on how you view Abigail), The Crucible (at the Younge Centre
for the Performing Arts until October 6). 
Wish me luck (and sound sleeps)!