Tag Archives: theatre

I am telling my friends: Go cut Footloose!

27 Jul
Colin Sheen and Company in Footloose, 2015 Season. Photographer: Darlene O’Rourke.

Colin Sheen and Company in Footloose, 2015 Season. Photographer: Darlene O’Rourke.

By Diva Caroline Thuss

I am feeling a flashback after enjoying another stellar musical at the Huron Country Playhouse near Grand Bend yesterday.

From the neon coloured clothing, teased hair with scrunchies, acid washed jeans and large wads of chewing gum, the cast of Footloose: The Dance Musical in Sunday’s opening performance had me looking through old photos from my childhood and reminiscing about what growing up in the 1980s was like (even though I was very young when the original Footloose movie was released).

Having the pleasure of taking in several of the offerings so far this Drayton Entertainment season, I was excited at the opportunity to see another hit.  This time I was up in the balcony and I was pleasantly surprised by how good the view was. The rows were staggered so that even if the person in front of me shifted a lot in his seat it would not affect my view of the stage. Definitely worth considering getting tickets up there the next time.

As soon as the curtains open, the audience starts to feed off the high energy of the ensemble of “Footloose” and it allows us to get the feel for Colin Sheen as the defiant outsider, Ren McCormack. Sheen oozes talent (who can rollerskate like that anymore?) with his vocal talents, dance moves and looks the role of the teen heartthrob. I enjoyed Sheen as Gilbert and Danielle Wade as Anne in Anne of Green Gables earlier this season. The chemistry between Sheen and Danielle Wade, who plays Ariel, is evident in the pair’s rendition of “Almost Paradise” although my theatre companion thought it was a bit corny…that was the traditional love ballad of the ‘80s! Wade is able to portray the multiple sides of Ariel with ease and belts out one of my favourite tunes “Holding Out for a Hero” with passion.

I found that as good as Sheen and Wade are in their leading roles – and they are both excellent – my favourite scenes are the ones with Nick Settimi as Ren’s dancing challenged friend, Willard and Jade Repeta as Ariel’s friend, Rusty. The number of one-liners that Settimi delivers has the audience cheering for him and Repeta’s rendition of “Let’s Hear It for the Boy” had me dancing (and very quietly singing) along in my seat.

Director and choreographer Timothy French has put together a solid cast filled with amazing talent and backed by a great orchestra led by the incredibly talented Craig Fair. The ensemble was great as well with some very talented dancers. It was easy to hate David Cotton’s character of Chuck Cranston, Ariel’s abusive boyfriend. I was hoping that Ren would knock him out at several points.

Victor A. Young delivers a very moving performance as the Reverend Shaw Moore. In his song near the end of the show, “Heaven Help Me,” Young wrings every ounce of emotion out of it he can. Susan Gilmore as the Reverend’s wife, Vi, Rebecca Poff as Ren’s single mother, Ethel, and Wade come together beautifully for “Learning to be Silent”.

Once the cast kicks off their Sunday shoes for the finale, the audience was all up, clapping and dancing along with the ensemble. I can almost guarantee that you will leave the theatre dancing and singing too!

Footloose: The Dance Musical runs until August 8.

Tickets are $42 for adults and $25 for youth under 20 years of age. Tickets for preview performances and groups of 20 or more are $34. Tickets may be purchased online, in person at the Drayton Entertainment Box Offices, or by calling (519) 238-6000 or toll free 1-855-DRAYTON (372-9866).

Theatre so silly you have to roll with it

12 Jul
Lisa Justine Hood as, um, the balcony, Ben Van Osch as Juliet and Shawn Van Osch as Romeo. Photo courtesy of Devin Sturgeon.

Lisa Justine Hood as, um, the balcony, Ben Van Osch as Juliet and Shawn Van Osch as Romeo. Photo courtesy of Devin Sturgeon.


By Diva Heather Boa

GODERICH – If you’re looking for high-brow culture in summer theatre, then The Livery Theatre is probably not where you want to be.

On the other hand, if you’re looking for some well-over-the-top rollicking fun, then this is precisely the place to be, in order to catch a showing of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged), directed by David Armour.

Relying on a script that gives the impression of being written by a pre-pubescent male for all its cheap sexual innuendos, cross-dressing and fixation on bodily functions (specifically, puking), the trio of actors – Lisa Justine Hood, Shawn Van Osch and Ben Van Osch – take to the stage with all the gusto of neighbourhood kids playing make-belief long into a summer’s evening.

I’ll tell you straight out that this play is uproariously funny if, and only if, you give in to its persistent silliness.

It might seem a little weird that Ben Van Osch really relishes his roles as Ophelia and Juliet, with massive wigs and long dresses, but then again, there was a time when women’s parts were exclusively played by men. And this is the season of community reunions where more than a few men will inevitably dress in skimpy women’s lingerie and plaster on makeup for shirt-tail parades. So best to just roll with it.

When you accept that its entirely appropriate for Ken and Barbie dolls, an inflatable dinosaur, a few lines from The Time Warp, and the Van Osch brothers’ mother to be woven into the production, then you’ll have a grand time.

In this play, the 37 or so tragedies, comedies and histories spun out during Shakespeare’s prolific career are turned into a series of quickies strung together over two hours. They are irreverent, raunchy and sometimes swollen with bad puns. Oh yeah, and definitely not appropriate for a young audience.

Last night, it was a very friendly audience. Perhaps a quarter of the people were related to the Van Osch brothers, and a number of producers and directors from other plays staged at The Livery were there.

You can still catch a performance of this play on July 16, 17 or 18, starting at 8 p.m. Tickets are available online or by calling 519-524-6262 on Thursday or Friday, from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Tickets are $25 (adults), $22.50 (seniors) or $15 (youth). Livery Members: $20 (adults), $18 (seniors) or $15 (youth). Seating is by general admission.

The Wilberforce Hotel: History made relevant, accessible in world premiere

12 Jul
Sophia Walker as Milly Steward and Marcel Stewart as Austin Steward in Wilberforce Hotel. Photo by Terry Manzo for the Blyth Festival

Sophia Walker as Milly Steward and Marcel Stewart as Austin Steward in Wilberforce Hotel. Photo by Terry Manzo for the Blyth Festival

By Diva Danica Rush

The sounds of The Wilberforce Hotel are foreign to Blyth Festival audiences of today. Musical bones, shackle keys and clapping rocks harmonize with raw and spirited voices to create soul-aching melodies that never had a chance to root themselves into Ontario’s landscape.

A sense of familiar backdrops the little known story of the Wilberforce Hotel, a play wonderfully executed in its world premiere last week at the Blyth Festival.

You don’t need to know anything about the Wilberforce Colony to enjoy this production. From the moment it starts, the story is easily placed within Huron County’s history. The set and props are local textures – wooden tables, clay jugs, farming hoes – these are items that share heritage with the audience. Places discussed in this play are our soils – Birr, London, Lake Huron – we know these lands. The Wilberforce Hotel unites our local senses to a historical time period that we seldom see as connected to rural Ontario. And I have to say, seeing this play during a week where the American confederate flag was under scrutiny made me realize that no time or place is immune to political seasons, not even Huron County in the 1800s.

Playwriter Sean Dixon and Director Philip Akin excel in their work by bringing the autobiographical tale of Austin Steward to the stage to make this historical story accessible and relevant to local audiences. The characters of this play are identifiable yet complex. I image several couples went home from the play with different perspectives on the characters and stayed up late discussing them.

Austin Steward is the play’s moral compass, whose unwavering values can be frustrating at times. His wife, Milly, the only female character, is a strong woman whose love for her husband does not blind her to his flaws. For me as a woman and a partner, I felt Milly’s pain as she stood by her husband knowing she would draw a line in the sand at some point. Austin is a man whose struggles with purpose and pressures and is committed to faith and family. He’s so good that he simply can’t see the bad in others. The other major characters are easy to identify with too. Henry Hill, the wet blanket who doesn’t understand how he gets in or out of tense situations, and Robert Cole, a man of “leisure and corruption” whose hotel high jinx and brushes with the law would probably tire out any horse or woman he came across. Austin’s goodness is matched up against a fraud by the name of Israel Lewis, a toothy-grinning narcissist who dresses himself in popular fashion and politics. The actors should be commended for their ability to stay true to the many accents they take on during the show. At no point did a cartoon impersonation come out as they transitioned smoothly between Southern and European speech of that time period. Strong actors have the ability to show their characters’ nature and reflections beyond the script and this cast brings body to the characters’ words. A puffing of the chest, a toiling back, a memory flickers on someone’s face… you feel as if you are sitting at a table at the Wilberforce Hotel pretending not to be listening to the men.

The audience laughed alongside Milly and men’s banter, and grew silent during darker speeches. The standing ovation at the end was well deserved. As soon as I got home I did Internet searches on the Wilberforce Colony, as I just needed to know and understand more about this piece of local history.

The Wilberforce Hotel will definitely entertain you. This play lingers with you in the corner of your mind for days afterwards, as you slowly realize that those familiar textures and lands hold stories that haven’t been given breath yet. If you open yourself up to truths that lie between histories and art this play will, to paraphrase Austin Steward, show us to ourselves.


 

The Wilberforce Hotel runs until Aug. 8.

Blyth Festival Box Office

Location: 423 Queen St., Blyth

Phone: 519-523-9600

Hours: Monday to Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on show nights)

Website: www.blythfestival.com

Tickets: Adults: regular $30, preferred $34; Preview: regular $22, preferred $26; Youth: regular $15, preferred $15.

Theatre in a uniquely beautiful setting

3 Jul

By Diva Jennifer Mossop

According to NASA, Jupiter and Venus are a “jaw dropping few degrees apart” right now and clearly visible at sunset in the Western Sky. Venus is all about love and beauty. Jupiter is the planet of the abstract mind, ruling higher learning, and bestowing a yen for exploring ideas, both intellectually and spiritually. A perfect analogy for the experience that awaits you on the shores of Lake Huron, at the Huron Country Playhouse on the outskirts of Grand Bend.

There is something quite precious and picturesque about an evening at the Huron Country Playhouse.   The farmers’ fields are very green now, and filled with promise. The sky is big, blue and endless. And nestled in the midst of all this natural delight, is a seat of culture – an iconic member of the Drayton Entertainment family. For over 40 years, generations have been coming to this renovated barn to be treated to the entertaining, mind expanding, soul searching and soul satisfying delights of live theatre.

We drove along the B line from Highway 21, feeling the lush summer country landscape engulf us. My daughter sat beside me – 12 years old now, and dressed in crisp white shirt, black pants and a scrubbed clean look ready for her first “real job”. At age 12, children in the surrounding area are invited to usher at the Playhouse. Ushering is now ranked as a tradition and an honour, shared by generations in the Grand Bend area. These are the eager young faces that meet you as you arrive. Eager to serve and eager for the chance to watch professional live theatre!

Photo Credit: Kevin Kruchkywich and Daniela Vlaskalic in Last Chance Romance, 2015 Photographer: Darlene O’Rourke

Photo Credit: Kevin Kruchkywich and Daniela Vlaskalic in Last Chance Romance, 2015
Photographer: Darlene O’Rourke

There are two theatre options, with the main productions housed in the old barn and the smaller Playhouse II accommodating lighter fare.   Last year, Les Miserables met with ecstatic reviews, as did a pantomime version of Peter Pan. This year, Anne of Green Gables has already stolen many hearts, and now Chicago is just ramping up. This was the production my daughter took in as she helped hand out programs in the main theatre. I, on the other hand, had tickets for the Playhouse II, for the comedy, Last Chance Romance.

Jodi McFadden and Company in Chicago, 2015 Season.  Photographer: Hilary Gauld-Camilleri.

Jodi McFadden and Company in Chicago, 2015 Season.
Photographer: Hilary Gauld-Camilleri.

Sets and costumes are always creatively, meaningfully and well done, and the calibre of performer and performance continually meets with approval from seasoned theatre-goers and critics, alike.

Intermission brings the chance to step out into the fresh country air, and gaze at the magnificent sky, ablaze in setting sun glory. Collecting a refreshment, we ventured out on to the lawn to see the new gazebo and met up with the Chicago goers, gushing about the production next door. Note to self, buy tickets now.

At end of the evening, we collected our daughter, her eyes wide and shining with the new experience. Climbing into the car, we looked over the fields at the rising full moon to the East, and enormous Venus and Jupiter in the Western Sky. Natural beauty and human experience in a satisfying balance. If you haven’t been to the Playhouse yet, or yet this season, don’t miss the chance. Check its website here.

Love Letters: Signed, sealed & delivered at Blyth Festival

26 Apr

loveletters

karenstewartBy Diva Karen Stewart

BLYTH – The Blyth Festival is my favourite place to escape to and last night was another enjoyable evening at the theatre. The new plays they present are always engaging and they have another great season opening up in a few weeks, but on this evening they were presenting a special fund-raising event. The play was Love Letters by A.R. Gurney.

Over five performances, this production will feature five separate couples. On this night, Jodi Kuran, who is the principal of St. Anne’s Catholic Secondary School, and Phil Main, a well-known radio personality from CKNX, played the parts of Melissa Gardner and Andy Ladd.

Melissa and Andy began corresponding in second grade with thank you notes and postcards from summer camp. Their correspondence is evocative, and often funny. They establish a deep relationship through letters that chronicle humorous observations and their feelings from age seven through high school then college and beyond.

Andy loves to write. He talks about how letter writing is a dying art and how he feels most alive when writing letters. However, when he tells Melissa details of his everyday life story, she is not terribly interested, telling him to write about his feelings. When she suggests the telephone might be not only be a more modern way to connect, but also much more efficient, Andy disagrees stating “telephone calls are dead as soon as they’re over” while letters are “alive” and can live on.

Kuran brings Melissa alive through not only her voice, but also her timing and befitting facial expressions. She crafts a cheeky Melissa who has privilege of wealth but lacks the richness of deep family bonds.   She fights to expose the hypocrisies of the times, preferring to be a little rebellious even though it spins her in dangerous directions at times. Lost for most of her life, she becomes more vulnerable throughout the play showing, she is real and down-to-earth.

Main’s portrayal of Andy is reserved and low-key. He is the mature one, continually living up to his parents’ expectations of who he should be. In doing so he manufactures an artificially perfect family life. He is inflexible when it comes to deviating from respectability – a trait that emotionally devastates him.   But, through his relationship with Melissa he admits to himself that she is the only one who truly loves him for who he is.

Letters are vital lifelines for Andy and Melissa. Their correspondence through the decades – like many love stories – includes silences and reconciliations, marriages, divorces, children, career adventures, and deaths. They share intimate details of love, relationships and opportunities missed because of ego and pride.

Kuran and Main make the characters of Melissa and Andy their own. They share a long enduring friendship that brings a sweet chemistry to the stage. Kuran brings a bit of sass and Main remains stalwart throughout the production.

Love Letters is a lovely theatre piece,” says the director, John McHenry. “There’s no elaborate set or special effects, the focus is on the words; it’s heart-warming, poignant, and funny.”

I wish I could see all five performances as I can only imagine how real-life couples Bruce and Margaret Whitmore and Duncan and Lynda McGregor will each bring vastly different personalities to the characters. I don’t doubt Lisa Hood will bring a little sass to Melissa too while Quinn Ross and Shawn Van Osch will each bring an intensity to Andy in their performances.


If you get a chance to go:

Where: Blyth Festival

When:

Thursday, April 30 at 8 p.m. features Shawn Van Osch & Lisa Hood

Saturday, May 1, at 8 p.m. features Lisa Hood & Quinn Ross

Sunday, May 2 at 8 p.m. features Duncan & Lynda McGregor

Cost: $25. Order tickets by calling 519-523-9300 / 1-877-862-5984 or visit online.

Unnecessary Farce draws necessary laughs

9 Apr
The cast takes a much deserved bow at the end of the dress rehearsal.

The cast takes a much deserved bow at the end of the dress rehearsal.

rachellynnBy Diva Rachel Lynn

GODERICH – Tuesday evening, I attended what’s referred to as the soft opening of Unnecessary Farce, the final “practice” before opening night of this Goderich Little Production on April 9.

There were many in the audience and the cast treated it as a true performance.

Written by Paul Slade Smith and directed by local Goderich-ite Nina Reynolds, Unnecessary Farce is being staged at The Livery Theatre in Goderich. The play is about two cops who are undercover in a cheap motel, trying to catch the mayor in a $16-million embezzlement scheme with the help of one “HOT” accountant. Add in Agent Frank (Jordan Henry), and “Big Mac,” you have one perfect recipe for suspense and laughter.

But it’s so much more than that. From the beginning, I was laughing and sometimes covered my

Confusion leads to hilarity in Unnecessary Farce, which opens tonight, April 9.

Confusion leads to hilarity in Unnecessary Farce, which opens tonight, April 9.

mouth I was laughing so loud. A word of advice, don’t cover your mouth. Laugh out loud. For me, it’s one of the best sounds on this planet. Now and then, the actors had to wait until the laughter died down to deliver their next line. Officer Dwyer (Eric Lubbers) and Sheraton (Shawn Van Osch) have a great back and forth banter as the incompetent cops who keep messing up. Ms. Brown (Jenna Leifso), the accountant, keeps taking her clothes off, but it’s not what you think. Agent Frank arrives to protect the mayor and search the room for “bugs”. Is Agent Frank who he says he is?

By the end of the show, I was laughed out and my cheeks hurt.

Bring a friend or family to see this wonderfully hilarious comedy.

A caution, there is some mild swearing so it may not be appropriate for a younger audience.

“The Livery itself has a grand history. Records indicate that the rear portion of The Livery was erected

The audience can watch events at The Livery in added comfort, now that the new seats are installed.

The audience can watch events at The Livery in added comfort, now that the new seats are installed.

during the 1840s as a harness shop by Samuel Seegmuller, trader in hides and whiskey along the Huron Trail between Guelph and Goderich.” In 1978, the building was almost demolished but, with the help of council and a private citizen, The Livery was saved. For more information on the history, please visit online.

Unnecessary Farce opens tonight, Thursday, April 9, at 8 p.m.

Additional dates: April 10,11,16,17, 18 at 8 p.m.; April 12 at 2 p.m.

For tickets, please visit The Livery’s box office at:
35 South St, Goderich or phone (519) 524-6262.

The Livery is also a venue for live music, film festivals and rentals. For more details, visit online.

A Night of Gnocchi, Galleries and Good Theatre 

17 Aug

Part 2 Bistroby Diva Calista Powell

It has been a very long time since I walked through the doors of Blyth Memorial Hall, and upon walking out last Wednesday I vowed to return soon. A friend and I came down from London to see the Blyth Festival’s preview show of St. Anne’s Reel a new play written by Gil Garratt and directed by Marion de Vries. Starting with an absolutely amazing dinner by Chef Peter Gusso at Part 2 Bistro, my friend Pravin and I chose the vegetable gnocchi pasta in a brandy rosé sauce, and the mushroom stuffed chicken supreme. I am a huge gnocchi fan, and not many restaurants can make it right, but as always, Peter Gusso did not disappoint. Pravin chose the chicken supreme, and as he is originally from Toronto, he was amazed that the ingredients were from our local Huron County agricultural belt. I was definitely proud to show someone from a busy metropolitan area how we do things in rural Ontario. Resisting the temptation of dessert, we then headed over to the Hall and had a couple moments to browse through Kelly Stevenson’s art installation at the Bainton Art Gallery. It was amazing to see the fine details in the geometric patterns of her work and it interested me that she used india ink on a variety of mediums.

A couple onlookers view Kelly Stevenson’s exhibit at the Bainton Gallery.

A couple onlookers view Kelly Stevenson’s exhibit at the Bainton Gallery.

Doors open at Memorial Hall.

Doors open at Memorial Hall.


After perusing Kelly’s captivating work, we settled into our seats amongst a full house of eager theatre-goers. The performance started off with old man Walter in his farm house struggling to play his fiddle. He is then joined by a young and beautiful woman with a ghost-like presence who disappears when a travelling cowboy, Daniel shows up at the door. Quite quickly, the character roles fell into place and it was established that Daniel was returning back home for his mother’s funeral and Walter was in the midst of dealing with his recent widower status. Through heated bickering and passionate fiddling, the two wove a story of love, loss, and life’s regrets with the ghost of St. Anne hovering over them with a watchful eye. David Fox, Emily Lukasik and J.D. Nicholsen received a well deserved standing ovation at the end of their performance. I made a point to not read any synopses before St. Anne’s Reel and, as always, the Blyth Festival put on a deeply moving and unforgettable production.

St. Anne’s Reel plays until September 6th, 2014.

For tickets and other information about the Blyth Festival visit: http://www.blythfestival.com

Blyth Festival
P.O. Box 10, Blyth, ON  N0M 1H0
519-523-9300 | 1-877-862-5982

Photo 1: Come visit Peter Gusso and try his amazing gnocchi!

Photo 2: Doors open at Memorial Hall.

Photo 3: A couple onlookers view Kelly Stevenson’s exhibit at the Bainton Gallery.

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