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!


Fave Five: Moments from the Toronto production of Bring It On: The Musical

When the invite landed in our inbox, we couldn’t have been more thrilled – two tickets to the opening night of Bring It On, the musical that Mirvish recently debuted in Toronto. We were huge BIO fans in high school, with the first film starring Kirsten Dunst instantly becoming a classic, joining our other teen faves like Clueless and Dirty Dancing. Rewatching it now that we’re older and wiser only confirmed our love for the movie (and also caused us to wonder how they got away with some of the lines that are a little more…risque and non-PC. But that’s another post). 

Photo: Craig Schwartz.

Overall, the musical was awesome. We were a bit surprised to discover that it doesn’t really follow the plot of the original film, but in the end, it was as good thing. No one would be able to really do justice to KDunst’s character, anyway. 

Here are our five favourite moments from the play. If these don’t convince you to go and see it, we don’t know what will. 

1. Bridget: Played by Ryann Redmond, she is far and away the best character in the play. So. Many. Funny. Moments. She’s the foil to the ultra-put-together and popular Campbell (KDunst’s Torrence counterpart in the play, played by Taylor Louderman), and has some pretty hilarious lines. One of the best is not a line at all, but rather the way she waves her parrot wing in a sad flap after being told she’s not good enough to be on the squad, and has to continue playing the mascot. She also delivers some solid life lessons to Campbell about fitting in, and girl knows how to shake her booty. 

Bridget steals the show (and Twig’s heart!).

2. The moment when La Cienega (Gregory Haney), a fierce and funny transvestite, calls Campbell out on her bullshit comment that La Cienega wouldn’t understand what it’s like to not fit in. Seriously. The audience laughed so hard, as it was a very funny moment, but it was also a really strong point in the production for one of the main messages to hit home – fitting in vs. being yourself.

One of the best characters of the play: La Cienega. 
Photo: Craig Schwartz.

3. The AMAZING tumbling that happens: The athleticism of some of the performers was quite remarkable. We could literally hear the audience draw in their collective breath during some of the highest tosses in the air or particularly tricky-looking backflips or other… gymnastic-y moves. Plus there were some solid break dancers and hip-hoppers. There’s some serious talent on that stage, which makes the show that much more enjoyable, and the characters that much more believable.

Skilled, skilled dancers at Jackson High.
Photo: Joan Marcus.

4. Campbell’s leprechaun dance: The girls at Jackson High (the school in the “hood” that Campbell gets transferred to) make Campbell put on a leprechaun mascot outfit and perform at a dance-off of sorts that they’re having. It’s really, really funny to see a massive leprechaun head dancing around on stage. Trust. Plus, Taylor Louderman is actually very skilled at dancing in that ridiculous costume. 

A glimpse of the leprechaun suit.
Image source.

5. How fun it is. Sometimes it’s really nice to see a production purely for entertainment value, which this one has in spades. Yes, theatre should sometimes be deep and meaningful and thought-provoking. And we love those productions just as much. But honestly, seeing this with a good friend who appreciates easy humour with a glass of wine in your hand (yes, you can drink during plays at the Ed Mirvish Theatre!) is a really good night out. 

Sequins and dance? Pretty much a guaranteed good time.
Photo: Joan Marcus.

Honourable mention: The use of Google maps/street view. Because it was neat, it worked, and makes the show relevant to both younger and older audiences. Plus, we’d never seen that device used in a play before and we’re suckers for a clever gimmick.

Bring It On: The Musical is playing until at Ed Mirvish Theatre (244 Victoria St) until Sunday, June 3, 2012. Performances run Tuesday to Saturday 8 p.m., Wednesday, Saturday & Sunday 2 p.m. 
Ticket prices range from $35 to $130 depending on the performance. Rush seats are available for $25.
Tickets are available online, in person, or by calling the box office at 416-872-1212.

Fave 5: On stage

Even though we talk a lot about fashion, beauty and events, we also love a good dose of culture on a regular basis. There’s always tons of great theatre happening in Toronto, but here are five of the shows we’re most looking forward to seeing over the next few months. 

1. Kim’s Convenience: We love the premise of this production – a glimpse into the life of a Korean family that owns a convenience store in Regent Park. We’re hoping for a slice of Toronto life that many of us are familiar with and can relate to in some way. Based on the excellent reviews that this play has gotten, we think our hopes will be fulfilled. It’s sold out through it’s original February 11 run, but it was recently announced that it will return to the Yonge Centre for the Performing Arts from Thursday, May 17 to Saturday, June 9. 

 In rehearsal: Paul Sun-Hyung Lee, Clé Bennett, Wenyi Mengesha. 
Photo by Sian Richards.
2. Potted Potter: The Unauthorized Harry Experience – A Parody by Dan and Jeff: Even if we weren’t helping with publicity for this play (full disclosure) we’d be extremely excited for it. More than a few of us are serious Potter fans, and this is one of the first productions to come out of the internationally popular series. It’s a fun and funny play that has two guys – Dan and Jeff – perform all characters, from each of the seven Potter books, in 70 minutes. They’ve been compared to Monty Python, and we’re suckers for some good British humour. Playing at the Panasonic Theatre from Saturday, February 11 to Sunday, March 4. Buy tickets here
Jeff Turner and Daniel Clarkson in Potted Potter: The Unauthorized Harry Experience – A Parody by Dan and Jeff
3. Cruel and Tender: We’re big Atom Egoyan fans (and well, who isn’t, really?) so were very excited when a few of us got to check out a preview of the show. It was definitely not theatre for the faint of heart – there are heavy hitting themes, scenes and monologues. Egoyan’s wife, Arsinée Khanjian gives a strong performance as the wife of the General, dealing with an absent husband and the truth about his actions while at war. Go see it if you want a challenge – those of us who’ve not been yet will see you there! At the Bluma Appel Theatre until Saturday, February 18. Tickets here.
 Thomas Hauff, Arsinée Khanjian and Abena Malika in Cruel and Tender
Photo by Bruce Zinger.

4. Hughie: A short but powerful production in the west end that we’re excited to check out (another client – full disclosure). Hughie has played internationally – notably by Al Pacino back in ’96 – and depicts the conversation between alcoholic gambler Erie and hotel nightclerk Charlie set in a 1920s NYC hotel. The one-act play makes for a perfect way to start our evening with a 2-man cast and intimate audience. And if you’re looking to give back, they’re donating 100% of their proceeds of their Feb 20 performance to Anaphlaxis Canada. At the Theatre Centre Toronto from Wednesday February 8 until March 3. Tickets available at 416.538.0988  

5. Penny Plain: Plays with puppets seem to be popping up all over in Toronto as of late (War Horse, Avenue Q) and we’re most intrigued by this marionette production about Penny Plain, a blind old woman sitting in her living room, listening to news about the end of the world and interacting with a host of complex characters. We’re told that many Kleenexes are needed to sit through this play, which is by turns sad, uplifting, funny and serious. We love a good evening running through the gamut of our emotions, so we’ll be there, tissue box in hand. At the Ronnie Burkett Theatre of Marionettes until Sunday, February 26. Tickets here.
 Penny Plain.