Tuesday, July 31, 2012

After Dark, July 31, 2012

CharPo is not what I planned
by Gaëtan L. Charlebois

This week is the first anniversary of our podcast, This Is The CPC. In a month it will be the first anniversary of The Charlebois Post - Canada. In four months The Charlebois Post - Montreal hits two years old. The Charlebois Post - Toronto is a month old and already a huge success. CharPo-Alberta and CharPo-Atlantic Canada are being beta tested and we are examining the feasibility of a CharPo-BC. We have launched a new award aimed at publicists called the CharPR Prize (pronounced "sharper") and are looking into creating an electronic publishing house: CharPoFolio. All this while jumping through hoops towards incorporation.

What the hell am I doing?! How did this happen?!

As I have said before, CharPo Montreal was begun as a response to the lessening coverage of English-language theatre in Montreal (two English-language arts weeklies have died since). It was a simple little blog I went ahead with together with Editor-in-Chief Estelle Rosen.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Sunday Read: Ian Farthing on The St. Lawrence Shakespeare Festival

THE ST. LAWRENCE SHAKESPEARE FESTIVAL – the little Festival that could!
Ten years on
by Ian Farthing
If you’d said to me 10 years ago that I was going to be the artistic director of a successful outdoor Shakespeare Festival in small town Eastern Ontario, I would have just laughed in your face. At that time I had never even set foot in Ontario, was a total city boy and had not even had the opportunity to work on a Shakespeare production professionally. Shakespeare? In Prescott? Ha!
But one day a friend called me up from the UK to say that a mutual friend of ours was directing a show in Canada and I should audition. Being a Brit, she had no idea that travelling from my home in Vancouver to Toronto was almost as far (and certainly almost as expensive) as going back to the UK. Long story short, I ended up going for the audition, landing the gig and spending my first summer working at the St. Lawrence Shakespeare Festival in Prescott, ON. 

The Abominable Showman, July 29, 2012

Montreal’s historic Le 456 Sauna (formerly The Neptune Sauna) closed in November 2011 after 33 years of non-stop service around-the-clock
Hello Montreal!
Bugs explores why a Montreal remount of the campy play Bathhouse: The Musical is a good fit in a notorious city that even global drag icon RuPaul says is absolutely drenched in sex…
By Richard Burnett
There is a famous saying about Montreal: “Good boys and girls go to heaven, bad boys and girls go to Montreal.”
If you think Montreal’s a good-time city today, you should’ve seen her back during her Sin City golden era, when she was home to some of the hottest jazz nightclubs on the planet and a wide-open scene fueled by Prohibition stateside. 
So the thirsty came to Montreal from all over the continent: gamblers, racketeers and the world’s most famous entertainers, everybody from Louis Armstrong to Frank Sinatra, who held court at the Chez Paree nightclub. The city ranked behind only New York City and ahead of Chicago on the vaudeville circuit, and even Al Capone opened a club here (it still stands today as the Lion d’Or). There were also the over 100 brothels along Ste-Catherine Street between Bleury and Berri streets, in the historic red-light district.

Tour Whore, July 29, 2012

Hard Times - Strap in and get out the tarp
by Cameryn Moore

First of all, I should say that Winnipeg Fringe is not a bad Fringe, objectively. I would not have kept applying to get in over the past two years if it was a bad Fringe. In 2010 and 2011 I made decent money here, sold out at least one show each Fringe, and oh my god, for a loudmouthed flirt like myself, the line-ups here are HEAVEN.

But this year in Winnipeg has been hard for me. And while I don’t think I’ve been all sweetness and light up until now, I haven’t had a Fringe like this in a long time, if ever, in terms of grinding me down. So in the interest of giving y’all a full-spectrum sense of the touring life, I’m gonna share. Strap in and get out the tarp.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Review: Unenlightened (Winnipeg Fringe)

by Edgar Governo

Sometimes, a performance suffers most from the timing of when a person sees it. I saw this show the day after seeing TJ Dawe's Medicine, and the two face opposite problems despite dealing with what seems to be extremely similar subject matter.

Both shows ostensibly tackle the same premise: an autobiographical tale in which the author/performer, unsatisfied with some aspect(s) of their own life, seeks help from a shamanic retreat at a remote location to learn more about their true selves. Right away, those specific parallels predisposed me to compare Elizabeth Blue's work to Dawe's, even though the two were no doubt created independently and that type of comparison can be inherently unfair. Unfortunately for Blue, such a comparison also reveals how much more polished a performer Dawe can be, despite my reservations about his work (discussed in more detail in my review of his show).

Review: Dirty Fairy Tales (Winnipeg Fringe)

by Edgar Governo

Notions like "the fourth wall" and "suspension of disbelief" seem entirely out of place when talking about any Sound & Fury performance. (It's tough to maintain that "once upon a time" feeling when a tablet at the front of the stage is counting down how many seconds the troupe has left in the show.) This trio just wants to have fun at the theatre—tell some cheesy jokes, dress up in silly costumes, and banter with the audience.

Theatre For Thought, July 28, 2012

joel fishbane
A war over Taming of the Shrew has been waged over in the comments section of the Montreal edition of CharPo, for which I’m infinitely grateful. Those who know me know I detest The Merchant of Venice, not because of the anti-Semitism but because of the poor craftsmanship – simply put, it’s a badly-made play. Shrew doesn’t quite suffer from this problem: it has its problems but the real dilemma lies in the subject matter. The story of a man named Petruchio who “cures” Kate, the titular shrew, cannot help but provoke strong opinions. Time and again, productions either ignore the uncomfortable material or attempt to distract us from it with theatrical wizardry and a comedian’s bag of tricks.
We may think that the controversy surrounding Shrew is a late 20th century phenomenon but apparently it’s been raising ire ever since it first hit the stage. In 1888, with the women’s movement on the rise, George Bernard Shaw made his own thoughts known in the Pall Mall Gazette: “Having been told that the Daly Company has restored Shakespeare’s version to the stage,” he wrote, “I desired to see with my own eyes whether any civilized audience would stand its brutality… I hope all men and women who respect one another will boycott Taming of the Shrew until it is driven off the boards.”

Friday, July 27, 2012

Review: Medicine (Winnipeg Fringe)

by Edgar Governo

This will seem like blasphemy to many devotees of the Fringe circuit, but I am losing interest in the work of TJ Dawe.

Don't get me wrong—he is still a gifted writer and storyteller. His engaging presence and command of the monologue structure are on an entirely different level from almost anyone else you'll encounter performing a Fringe show. However, the road Dawe's work is following in recent years often leaves me cold, pursuing his increasingly idiosyncratic interests at the expense of one of his other strengths, the ability to draw those interests together towards revealing something more universal.

Real Theatre! July 27, 2012

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Review: Shelby Bond: The Poor Man's Guide to Being Rich (Winnipeg Fringe)

by Edgar Governo

Shelby Bond’s optimism comes through best in how he reacted to the circumstances facing his show at the Winnipeg Fringe Festival.

When the original venue for the show (and five others) was found to lack the necessary occupancy permits, the festival engaged in a mad dash to set up an alternative—but despite his claims that adversity has finally made him bitter enough to pursue a career in standup comedy, he remains as affable a presence as ever, from his greeting the audience in line before the performance to his cheerful reassurances that the new venue is working out great.

The title of the show is misleading in the sense that it doesn’t particularly focus on wealth (real or figurative), but much of it does focus on contradictions: being the theatre-loving son of a Hell's Angel, pursuing girls when everyone thinks you’re gay, then telling those girls of your potential ferocity when you’re a relentlessly nice guy.

Bond holds no grudges, and invites you to look at those paradoxes of existence with a laugh that is good-natured and not sardonic. At the end of the day, you're never going to seem that threatening when you're strumming a ukulele.


Review: Wings of Darkness (Winnipeg Fringe)

by Nanette Soucy

In this adaptation of a native tale, we see the Bat, resentful of his alienation from both the Winged and the Legged, trigger a territorial war between the worlds of the Birds in the air, and the creatures that walk on the earth.  It takes about 30 minutes into this hour-long show to determine that this is the crux of the story. Besought by excessive flourish and too much effort put into making the script sound like a legend, the audience is left to wade through a quickly-delivered unfortunate abundance of adjectives and third-person pronouns in order to really grasp what’s going on. Where the writing reaches for abundance of poetry, it falls short of elegance to tie itself together. But what it lacks in textual clarity, Wings of Darkness makes up for in visual beauty. Simple costumes, consisting mostly of re-purposed sporting equipment and gaffe-tape, are accented by beautifully expressive masks, also inspired by the world of sports, made from altered baseball caps. With stunning and subtle projections as background, and fitting musical cues underscoring, this diverse cast tells its tale simply and clearly, despite the script. Interactions between characters on both sides of the conflict, in particular the rather diplomatic Squirrel befriending the Eagle and the Blue Jay, balance the impressively choreographed scenes of  violence and war with their warmth and playfulness.


Review: Stretchmarks (Winnipeg Fringe)

by Nanette Soucy

If there is an award for Best Poster, let it go to Kimmy Zee and her full-colour vintage pin-up housewife, from back in the days when the duck-face was adorable. I confess this is what brought me to the show, and, unlike so many Fringe shows, I was happy to see the classic housewifery aesthetic carried onto the stage.  Stretchmarks is a sexy burlesque cabaret all about the effect of motherhood and marriage on your sex life. Four delightful Winnipeg women tell us their stories with wit, wonder and song through their various means. One tells us the stories of her deeply-in-love parents, and the unrealistic expectations that creates. Another recounts the consequences of marrying young, which include wearing Northern Reflections, and falling for sweaty washboard players from the Bayou when you’re stunned that they think you’re sexy. A third brings a tear to your eye with a re-write of Cat Steven’s classic Cat’s Cradle as a mother-daughter tale of unconditional support, which is worth the price of admission alone. We don’t hear much from our Yoga-enthusiast fourth, however, other than to understand that for some, searching for inner-peace is a bodily pursuit. It would have been nice to hear a story from Robin Redbreast, “The Tall One” – whose stretch marks are present, if less apparent. Although the show has many brilliant lines and comedic moments, some are a tad too Winnipeg-specific and fly directly over the head of this out-of-towner. Much of the unabashed exploration of the importance of fellatio in marriage-maintenance and the glories of female ejaculation might have been a bit too explicit for this seemingly puritanical Winnipeg audience. In a house of easily 200 people, only one raised her hand when Kimmy Zee asks how many married women still perform fellatio, and was otherwise met with uncomfortable silence when polling the audience for reactions. Who knew Winnipeggers to be so frigid? However, for those fond of fucking, tits and sass, a roiling good time is to be had.


Review: The Touring Test (Winnipeg Fringe)

by Nanette Soucy

This scientific experiment to determine the effectiveness of beings designed, as we all are, to elicit an emotional response, is conducted by Dr. Anya Sheinpflugova (Stefanie Wiens) with perhaps… unconventional methods. We’re told that one of the actors on stage is a robot. At the end of each performance, the audience is polled via secret ballot, as to which one. The cast tours city to city under strictly controlled directives, and are forbidden contact with “the outside” and fraternization among each other over the course of the experiment. This leads, of course, to acute cases of the all-familiar iPhone withdrawal and distracting dressing room romances endemic of almost every rehearsal and performance process, even without the strict experimental controls.

The Touring Test brings us all the necessary elements to tickle your sci-fi geek bone; Robot attacks, introverted nerds with poor social skills, and scenes clipped from vintage sci-fi theatre. It will also float your theatre-geek boat with its tongue-in-cheek cracks on artistic life, the cheapness of theatre actors, and the dreaded “It was… Interesting” post-performance note. This multi-generational cast is on point, offering a flawless performance of this witty and engaging script, even handling the collapse of a major set piece with such grace as to make me wonder whether or not the malfunction was part of the show.


Review: The Daves of Our Lives (Winnipeg Fringe)

by Nanette Soucy

Poor Dave. His wife is an angry harpy, his widowed step-mother’s been keeping secrets in a way that seems to cause her to gesticulate convulsively, and his daughter, the only teenage girl in history who greets her parents with “Hey Dudes” has brought home a friend who flirts with all the charm and grace of a cinder block who somehow becomes his paramour. All this would drive me to drink too.  I feel even worse for the actor playing him, however, because it seems as though he might have some chops. Mind you, it wouldn’t be difficult to play bored, tired and rolling your eyes at the badly played melodrama of it all when this is the script and these are the cast mates you’re stuck with. Melodrama and over-the-top cheese works when it’s done intentionally. Although The Daves of Our Lives may have been cast to highlight soap-opera-style bad schmacting, the point would have been better made by showing off the talent of good actors relishing in bad behaviour, rather than abandoning the need for direction by showcasing the cast’s lack of skill. In the end, we’re left with as much sympathy for Dave, as we are for the entire cast. Pity and embarrassment on their behalf are not generally the emotional reaction a company wants to instill in their audience.


Review: power | play (Winnipeg Fringe)

by Edgar Governo

If you want to get naked, turn to Page 34. If you want to use words instead of staying quiet, turn to Page 47. If you want to fashion a sex toy from whatever happens to be in your purse, turn to Page 22.

Like a much more adult version of the children’s book series used for the subtitle of her show (Create your own adventure), Cameryn Moore offers the narrative of a sexual encounter in progress, with a forking-path structure along the way allowing members of the audience a choice in what happens next. The performance becomes a consensual act for the performer and spectator alike, with the scene literally negotiated between the two.

Moore recently wrote right here on The Charlebois Post about how difficult (and yet exciting) it is to incorporate audience participation, but power | play definitely benefits from this choice in comparison to her previous Fringe shows, Phone Whore and slut (r)evolution. Although this show still features anecdotes about her own past erotic escapades, the interactive nature of this storyline makes for a more dynamic theatrical experience while keeping Moore in ultimate control. You might have a say, but she is deciding the options.

Casual or serious? Public or private? Dominant or submissive? Each of us is on a journey of sexual exploration defined by a series of choices.


Picture of the Week, July 26, 2012

Can we just say how much we love this promo art for Macbeth?
The Montreal Shakespeare Theatre Company has always had good images to sell their productions but why is this one by Joseph Ste-Marie especially good? What do you think? Sex and violence. The colours (i.e.: skin tones) hover between arousing and just slightly off (a little like the Macbeths themselves) and everything draws one's eye to that handprint. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Review: Sherlock Holmes: The Case of the Hansom Cab Killer (Winnipeg Fringe)

by Edgar Governo

Anyone who might be concerned that a lack of familiarity with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s work will get in the way of enjoying this show has nothing to worry about—it ultimately has almost nothing to do with its literary inspiration, even as it shows a clear love for the original source material.

Christopher Bange is perhaps best known on the Fringe circuit for his work with Jonah von Spreecken in The Excursionists, a comedic take on Victorian adventure in the Jules Verne mode, and his take on the world’s greatest consulting detective (or is he?) is similarly both whimsical and affectionate. Holmes is joined, as always, by his trusty sidekick Dr Watson (Brian Kuwabara), but also finds his loyal housekeeper Mrs Hudson (Emily Windler) showing up when he least expects it.

All three cast members bring a loose and freewheeling energy to the proceedings, managing quick changes between characters while keeping a light tone that doesn’t worry too much about a stray costume piece or a wig falling briefly out of place. Even the conspicuous mid-show departure of a group of patrons led to an amusing improvised exchange between Holmes and Watson at the performance I attended.

Despite the silly approach, the heart of the plot is a true mystery that pleased this fan of the Sherlockian canon, and the show ends on a cliffhanger promising further adventures to come.


Video of The Week, July 25, 2012

In case you've forgotten how great Buddy Holly was, here's his American Bandstand appearance with Peggy Sue. Buddy's life is being performed now at Arts Club in Vancouver. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

After Dark, July 24, 2012

I Know I'm Right
Reviewers, artists and the gray in between
by Gaëtan L. Charlebois

As I walk the dog I listen to podcasts both to relax me and to feed my writing. There are three in particular: This American Life, WTF and Analog Hole. As I've said elsewhere, Marc Maron on WTF has turned out interview after interview that is personal, funny, and truthful with a wide variety of celebrities. Last week he did one with Fiona Apple.

Apple was talking about the insanity around her first album and tour and Maron asked her how she dealt with it all - the adulation, the critics. "I don't read reviews," she answered, "because I know I'm right."

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Sunday Read: In defence of Legally Blonde

In defence of Legally Blonde and the contemporary musical
by Stuart Munro
Legally Blonde: The Musical is, I think, one of the most misunderstood musicals to have been written in the last decade or so. Its Broadway run was entirely too brief (roughly 18 months), and failed to win any awards. However, its London run did significantly better, running for over two years and even winning the Olivier (the West End’s equivalent to the Tony) for best new musical. It seems the British were able to understand what the Americans weren’t: Legally Blonde is a musical worth noting. Back in March I saw the Lower Ossington Theatre’s production of Legally BlondeMy review was unkind, and at one point the theatre actually asked the editors at CharPo to remove the names of some of the people whose work I had spoken so harshly about. Looking back, I think my tone may have been a bit mean, but it was an honest reaction to a complete disappointment. You see, Legally Blonde is one of my favourite shows and I had seen it butchered in front of my eyes. In the weeks that followed, I listened to the Broadway and London cast recordings a lot, and found myself wondering why I loved this show so much. Had it simply been that the production and the performances from the MTV broadcast had captivated me? Possibly, but I’d enjoyed the tour of the show when it made its way through Toronto in 2010 just as much, even with its brutally pared-down design. No. What I love about Legally Blonde is how strong the material actually is, how gleefully it gently mocks the fact it’s a musical, and yet how perfectly it uses the genre to tell its story.

Tour Whore, July 22, 2012

“Hey, have you been out to see (world-famous museum) yet?”
by Cameron Moore

“Hey, have you been out to see (world-famous museum) yet?”
“Why don’t we check out this (scenic nearby region) this weekend?”
“So, what do you do for fun?”

Answers: no, meh, what?

You look at the map where I’ve been on tour, and it looks amazing, right? I’ve probably seen a lot of great shit! I mean, 34 cities and more in this sprawling loop around North America, passing through or by some amazing natural wonders of the world and major centers of art and culture and civic importance and obviously I would have taken it all in!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Review: Burnt at the Steak (Winnipeg Fringe)

by Nanette Soucy

Carolann Valentino, Italian Rose of Texas, can handle anything. Sizzling from the word go, Burnt at the Steak flies us from the lone star state, on the premonitions of Carolann’s psychic mother, to her challenging day job in Manhattan’s highest grossing steakhouse where this motivated restaurant manager introduces us to her co-workers, her clients and her audience-recruited trainees, with ease and zeal.

Burnt at the Steak’s bare basic set, a table, some chairs, releases Valentino to use her greatest asset, her voice, with which a simple vocal shift and a change in the tilt of her engaging smile brings us a full cast of characters whose distinctiveness are clear even as they switch back and forth from line to line within the same song. As competent at nailing an audition and serving a performance piping hot as she is at putting out kitchen fires, this performer’s chops are juicy, and rare. No steak sauce required.


Review: The Complete History of the Moustache

by Nanette Soucy

Perhaps more accurately titled, A Brief History of Kristian Reimer’s Dating Life, A Complete History of the Moustache is a casual and comedic lecture and presentation of Moustaches and the TV Dads who raise the men that wear them, which may or may not be based in historical fact. Delivered with enthusiasm and self-effacing improvisational charm and besought by the off-putting last minute venue change the presentation itself could use fewer slides, and a touch of dramaturgy in the interest of providing a few tidbits of trivia. The show manages nonetheless to take the audience poll’s moustache-appreciation numbers from 13 at the top, to 31 by the end. Reimer makes a convincing argument for the longevity of his lady tickler.


Review: The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs (Winnipeg Fringe)

by Nanette Soucy

Apple geek or not, people ought to be lining up for this show like it was launching the iPhone 5. An adaptation of Mike Daisey’s controversial Monologue, lambasted for daring to apply dramatic license to a creative work, I was initially incensed during the opening scene where four actors sat in their chairs reading from their scripts, thinking that the piece should have been billed as a dramatic reading. However, true to the aphorism that the way in which a thing is made is part of its design, by the third scene, the company had sneakily begun re-writing the code of our paradigms of effective presentation, our relationships to our gadgets, and the people that make them. District Theatre Collective are sharp, focused, and clean like all good Apple design, if unfortunately lit to match their fruity and bulbous aesthetic of the late 90’s. The actors tease each other on stage, and master the tales they’re telling with such a thorough understanding that for a moment I was certain they’d been to China with Daisey on his now infamous trip. Whether or not the stories Mike Daisey’s telling us can be taken for actual fact is irrelevant. As the Brechtian quote that carries the show reveals, art is not a mirror held up to reality, but a hammer with which to shape it. Sometimes, we have to fudge the truth to reveal it.


Theatre For Thought, July 21, 2012

joel fishbane
The Montreal English theatre community took a step towards glory this past Sunday with the first annual softball tournament, organized by the Quebec Drama Federation.
Eight teams battled it out at Laurier Park from sunrise until sundown where independent companies like Theatre Ste. Catherine and Sidemart Theatrical Grocery battled professional heavyweights like the Segal Centre and Geordie Theatre. Softball is not for the faint of heart, something which plenty of actors learned the hard way. Pulled muscles, scrapes and bruises abounded that day, with Dean Fleming, Geordie Theatre’s crackerjack artistic director, putting himself on the injured list halfway through the day.
QDF handed out several awards at the end of the day, including a Miss Congeniality Award to Geordie Theatre and the MVP Award going to Lynn Cosack of Scapegoat Carnivale. A spirit award also went to the newly created Metachroma Theatre – they didn’t have a team but they were the most colorful cheerleaders a softball tournament had ever seen (actor / director Mike Payette looked particularly fetching in a grass skirt.)

Friday, July 20, 2012

Review: (Ottawa) Black Coffee

Christie, a DB and Hercule
Ottawa Little Theatre gives escape from the summer inferno
by Jim Murchison
The Ottawa Little Theatre presented a night of mystery last evening with Agatha Christie's seldom produced Black Coffee. Before I describe the evening and the performance, the biggest mystery to me was why a play that has one of the most enduring and beloved characters in radio, film and novels -  Hercule Poirot  - has so seldom been produced. Earlier this year I missed the opportunity to see a seldom produced Dr Cook’s Garden by Ira Levin, but the feedback I heard was that it was not very well crafted.
By virtue of being the only play Christie wrote containing Poirot, one would think it would bring producers out of the woodwork or wherever they were hiding eager to cash in on one of literature’s most marketable characters and it shocks me that it was never produced on Broadway. The author herself thought the play to be pretty standard and she actually thought Poirot was a little smug and creepy after a while although not enough to stop writing him into her books and stories. She certainly kept making money off of him. 

Review: Kuwaiti Moonshine (Winnipeg Fringe)

by Nanette Soucy

The crux of the play is an ultimatum. Cuffed to a door in a Kuwaiti prison wherein he finds himself for bootlegging date rum, our hero Andy has to choose: kill, or be killed. A tense moment, for sure. Unfortunately, Tim Murphy’s performance of the tension, anger and fear of that climactic moment eats the entire show, leaving us unable to feel the love - for his Parkinson’s besought mother, his erstwhile girlfriend, or his niece and nephew - that he tries to impart as his life flashes before his eyes.

This anxiety, so thoroughly embodied might well be real, as it contributes to the difficulty of following the rather complex cast of characters by Murphy’s inability to keep their names straight, and having to correct himself at least a half dozen times throughout the course of this 1-hr one-man show, which seems written as a break-neck run-on-sentence punctuated with ubiquitous “And Then, and then, and then” and fails to set the scene in any way that makes us feel like we’re following a story in the dusty Middle East, rather than listening to a drunk on a tirade at a party.

Other than Our Hero Andy, the only other character we see on stage is Québécois Jean-Luc, who’s differentiated by a backwards baseball cap and a terrible and inconsistent accent. We’re told Jean-Luc is pretentious, and this is somehow shown to us by his enjoyment of Nickelback and tendency to speak in the 3rd person, which make him seem more childish than anything.  Pretentious: It does not mean what you think it means.


CharPo's Real Theatre! July 20, 2012

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Review: (Vancouver) Mary Poppins

The Disney Way
Mary Poppins scores with a stopover at the Queen E
by Jay Catterson

Okay, so the Disney juggernaut Mary Poppins rolled into Vancouver's Queen Elizabeth Theatre for a week-long stint. Verdict? Definitely full of sugar, spice and everything nice. The stage show, conceived by mega-musical producer Cameron Mackintosh in collaboration with Disney, is a glorious expansion of the beloved movie starring Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke. What makes this show succeed is how the creative team has carefully expanded on the movie by introducing themes and events included in the original P.L. Travers books. So instead of presenting a facsimile of the film Mary Poppins (like Disney did with Broadway's Beauty and the Beast), they present a fresh take on the Mary Poppins tale that works on stage. That being said, not all works. The show is very long, the book feels a bit clunky at times, and the new songs written for the show aren't that memorable. But the show does charm and regale you with big budget sets, high-flying antics and bombast production numbers, with Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious and Step In Time being the standout showstoppers. 

First-Person: Yana Kesala of The Ukrainian Dentist's Daughter (Winnipeg Fringe)

Winnipeg: Coming Home to a Place I've Never Been
by Yana Kesela
The moment I touched down in Winnipeg, I felt at home. Which was unexpected, considering that I've never been here before.
The saying goes, "Home is where the heart is." Home has been a lot of different places for me over the years: suburban Chicago, northern California, London UK, Seattle. Plus lots of tours travelling the world in between. It was a shocking moment when I realized that there was nowhere I could move where all my people would be. Home, and the hearts that make it, are all around the planet. A blessing and a curse, home being everywhere and nowhere simultaneously. 
I wear my heart on my sleeve. Usually it translates to making friends easily, but it means getting hurt easily, too. Thankfully a career as an actress, where you hear, "No," so much more than you hear, "Yes," has toughened me up, and the hurts don't ache as long as they used to. Winnipeg also wears its heart on its sleeve. It is home to a lot of people who spent a long time hearing, "No," and decided to go somewhere they would hear, "Yes."

Picture of the Week, July 19, 2012

Christopher Plummer in Stratford's A Word or Two. Andrew Eccles has created a delightfully whimsical portrait for the production.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Press release and Video: Antoni Cimolino announces season

Artistic Director designate Antoni Cimolino presents his reasons for each of his choices as well as brief explanations on his Laboratory and Forum projects. (Links here and below are for a YouTube video where Mr. Cimolino explains his reasons for choosing the play)

Video of the Week, July 18, 2012

An absolutely fascinating video of the studio recording of Bien l'bonjour (Good Mornin')
for the Just For Laughs/Juste pour rire production of 
Chantons sous la pluie (Singin' in the Rain). Please note one of the singers: he is ex-child-star René Simard. The show has proven to be a huge hit for the festival and has been extended to August 25.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

After Dark, July 17, 2012

Screen grab of Anita Sarkeesian in a video "game"

Do we need feminism?
How a discussion on video games should make us reflect on theatre.
by Gaëtan L. Charlebois

Gloria Steinem once wrote that it is important to say you are a feminist, especially if you are a man. So let me start right there: I consider myself a feminist. I was an activist for women's rights before I was vaguely involved in the Queer movement. I read Germaine Greer's Female Eunuch when I was 14 and my world lit up. As I joined theatre, this feminism was very finely tuned and expressed itself in my work - well into my time as a critic.

I bring all this up, this week, because a young writer, Stephanie Guthrie, made the gross "error" of drawing attention to a hideous video game that invited players to beat up feminist media activist Anita Sarkeesian. Ms Guthrie also noted that the game's designer was a Canadian and she identified him (as he was using a nom-de-créateur). I followed a subsequent Twitter-assault on Ms Guthrie that actually ended up with death-threats from a soi-disant sharp-shooter.