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Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Burning Bluebeard... If we spirits have offended...

There was a moment in Edmonton Actors Theatre's production of Burning Bluebeard at Theatre Network where I experienced a flashback.  In high school I did a lot of volunteering both onstage and backstage at Keyano Theatre in Fort McMurray. When I was in grade 10, I was working running crew on Aladdin, the Christmas Pantomime.  I had just placed my *rock* onstage and was waiting backstage for the end of the scene when I heard a loud bang onstage.  I was instantly worried that my rock had fallen over so I rushed to the stage door and opened it to the sight of smoke and fire and the Music Director rushed out of the smoke yelling, "Get out! Get out!" The set was on fire.  I helped lead the orchestra out the stage door (they had been located upstage in a burlap tent) and exited the theatre out the back loading dock. Outside on the loading dock, in December in Fort McMurray were the dancers and actors from the show. There the girls in their tights and sequinned bodysuit stood, shivering in the cold as we waited to find out what happened. This was the moment I recalled as John Ullyatt (as the Stage Manager) described lifting 6 dancers up through the coal chute onto the chilly Chicago street outside the burning theatre. For the Iroquois Theater it was stage lighting and hanging scenery and a stray spark, for us it was the pyro, used in the cave scene, a stray spark ignited the hanging backdrops.  The loud bang was the fire curtain dropping.  The actress playing Aladdin had to jump into the audience and exit with them through the front doors of the theatre. It was the second show of the run. Some people blamed the ostrich feathers that were used in the show (I saw an ostrich feather onstage in Burning Bluebeard too, and my breath caught), someone wondered if the Scottish play had been mentioned (it happens) or if someone had whistled backstage, most understood that pyros and burlap (even fire-proofed burlap) don't always mix well.

I thought a lot about that fire as I watched the show.  We were lucky - no one was hurt, and the worst thing that happened was the show was cancelled. For the 1903 audience of Mr. Bluebeard in Chicago at the Iroquois Theater, it was much, much worse.  The audience of Burning Bluebeard, however, was treated to a wonderful show - funny, irreverent in places, sad, and magical. It incorporated the audience without alienating them. It felt modern and fresh despite being about something that happened in 1903. It's use of low-tech magic was whimsical.  The cast of 6 (John Ullyatt, Amber Lewis, Braydon Dowler-Coltman, Vincent Fortier, Stephanie Wolfe and Richelle Thoreson) was a brilliant ensemble - multi-talented, all clearly in the same world, performing with an infectious joy and an undertone of sadness, and totally embracing the aesthetic. Dave Horak's direction is imaginative and playful.

Over the past few years I have been able to see quite a bit of theatre around the city.  Some companies I find hit and miss - I like one show, but the next I go 'meh'. What I am finding with the Edmonton Actors Theatre is that even if I am not totally a fan of the play or the message of the play, the company never fail to impress me. I always leave thinking about the show I have seen for some time afterwards. With Burning Bluebeard, I really liked the play and the show, so I double-lucked out, and I am still thinking about it...

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Cafe Daughter, A Christmas Carol, The Sultans of String and She Loves Me... all in a week's work!

Anyone who claims there is nothing to do in Edmonton needs to have their head examined! When I looked back at the week and realized that I saw 4+1 varied performances I was a little surprised myself!

In reverse order...

Last night I took in Workshop West Playwright's Theatre/Alberta Aboriginal Performing Arts production of Café Daughter by Kenneth T. Williams. A entirely enjoyable evening of theatre due primarily to the phenomenal skills of Tiffany Ayalik as the title character, Yvette Wong.  The story was inspired by the life of Dr. Senator Lillian Eva (Quan) Dyck who was the daughter of a Cree mother and Chinese father and who was raised to hide her aboriginal roots. Ayalik does a tremendous job giving life to Yvette and the myriad of characters that populate her life, shifting smoothly between each one.  It is a story of struggling with identity and coming to terms with embracing that which has been hidden. Kudos must also be given to T. Erin Gruber for the stunning set, evocative of a Saskatchewan prairie with intriguing layers and puzzle pieces. The script could use a little more complexity and perhaps seek a little more universality, but it's a fascinating story especially for it's being rooted in a true story and it is elegantly told in this production. The show runs at the Backstage Theatre until December 6th.  It's their 6-pack show and the space is small so I encourage you to buy in advance as they have had Sold Out houses and this will likely continue.

Friday night was the Invited Dress Rehearsal for A Christmas Carol at the Citadel. For me, the show now signals the kick-off to my holiday season. Before the Citadel production I was never a fan of the Dickens' story, despite it actually being the first play I was ever in (grade 7 - I was the fiddler at the Fezziwig party and a Cratchit child). But there is something truly magical about the production that literally makes me cry every single time I see it. There are a number of new actors this year in key roles.  I have to say, it was like seeing the show anew. It's the same show but with a slightly different energy and that made it so incredibly engaging. Previews started last night and the show runs until December 23rd. I know first hand that tickets are moving incredibly fast.  If you plan to see it, you should get on that sooner rather than later.

Wednesday night, Mark and I took in She Loves Me presented by Foote in the Door Productions. The show was a little dated, but lots of fun as presented by this enthusiastic cast.  It's the inspiration for You've Got Mail and followed a traditional Rom-Com formula. Boy meets girl, they rub each other the wrong way, turns out they are also anonomously corresponding and in love on paper, boy discovers this, they discover this and all is well! Stand-outs for me were Christina O'Dell as the girl who always picks the wrong guy but meets the right one in a library and Dustin Berube as the best friend who just doesn't want to get involved in all the hi-jinks. I also loved the restaurant scene and the Christmas shopping scene!

Last Sunday, we took a drive all the way out to the Maclab Centre for Performing Arts in Leduc to see the Sultans of String. My brother-in-laws' brother is in this Toronto-based band and we have been trying to catch them when they've come though Alberta in the past and this was the first time it worked with our schedule. We had a terrific time. The venue was perfect for this kind of concert and the band was exceptional. The focus is on strings - guitar, violin, bass - along with a percussionist.  They also had a guest performer on Cello.  The music itself pulled from a variety of cultures - Celtic, middle-eastern, new music, rock and roll, jazz and some terrific sounds reminiscent of whale song. There's also a real sense of humour to the music and they certainly know how to entertain a crowd!

Last Saturday was closing night of Wind in Her Sails.  It was so wonderful to see the show again after being away. The show was slightly over-sold and they had to squeeze in a few more chairs to accommodate everyone. Very exciting! Afterwards, it was wonderful to go out and celebrate with the cast and team and raise a glass to Mavis and her adventure!  Just because the show is over, doesn't mean you can't still support MSA Research.  Check out the Wind in Her Sails website for information on how you can still donate!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Once - Better after I saw it Twice...

Last night I took in Once at the the Jubilee as part of the Broadway Across Canada tour.  I had seen it earlier this summer in Toronto and although I liked it, I saw it at the end of a very, very long day and it was just okay. I was very glad to see it again last night as the experience was a lot different. Perhaps I was more refreshed and less tired and that helped. Perhaps my seats were better. Perhaps the connection of this cast was just a little but stronger.  Perhaps, having seen it *once* already I was able to relax into it better. In any case, I really liked it last night. It doesn't follow a traditional musical theatre format. I remember that catching me off-guard the last time. All the actors onstage not only sing and act, but they also provide the instrumentation for the show.  That is one talented cast up there onstage. Some play guitars, the piano, some the violin, there's a bass, a drum kit, a mandolin, banjo, and accordion. Most of the time they are both singing and playing and sometimes they are also dancing, as well. More than triple-threat.

The story itself is interesting - small, and personal and yet at the same time it has an epic quality to it (isn't creating art always epic?). You connect because these people could be you and you can relate to the things that push and pull them.  Who hasn't had challenges in love and career and life.  Who hasn't wanted someone when they are with someone else? I like it because it casts aside the idea that there is only one soul mate for each of us, and suggests that there are more than one and that you can't always have all that you want but sometimes you can get enough to be happy. Maybe I am taking that too far?

Anyhow, the music is wonderful and the show is compelling - it's funny and sad and beautiful.  I'm just glad that I saw Once more than once, because the second time was better!

A Thrilling Opening Night! The Duchess has Set Sail at the PCL!

Last Thursday night, to a packed house (only 3 empty seats!) Wind in Her Sails opened and was greeted with a thunderous standing ovation! The ovation was as much for the play and the performance as it was for the playwright, Elizabeth Bowering, who spearheaded the whole project and it was an overwhelming moment for me. I was more nervous than I realized so it was indeed a wonderful feeling to hear the response from the audience and above-all hear that Elizabeth herself was pleased with the show. Unlike other projects, where I have simply been able to interpret the work to my own satisfaction, there was an added layer of expectation that this show not only fulfill my artistic vision, but that the playwright also be happy with it. I do not think the two visions were at odds, but this is a business fraught with insecurity and doubt. The script was an excellent guide - well-written with 4 well-rounded and interesting characters, as well as a charming narrator skilled in story-telling and fiddling! The work is definitely easier when the script is solid. I also enjoyed that despite being set in 1907, the themes of the piece were still very relevant in today's world.

I have been blessed with a terrific cast - Halee Pierog, Kris Loranger, Morgan Smith, Murray Farnell and Larissa Pohoreski - as well as a wonderful creative team - Kirsten Jensen (SM), Erin Foster-O'Riordan (Sound Design), Geri Dittrich (Costume Design), Janine Hodder (Fight Choreographer), and Joan Hawkins (paint). As there were a number of things I was looking out for that fall outside the purvey of directing, it was wonderful to have such hard-working and talented and generous friends to join on to make the whole thing come to fruition.

The show runs until November 21st in the PCL Theatre. It is more than just a show.  It's also a Fundraiser and Awareness project for MSA (Multiple System Atrophy), a rare and so-far incurable disease.  Proceeds from the production go to research into new treatments for MSA and you can also find out more about it and what you can do to help. You can also find out more here: www.windinhersails.com

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

So Much Seen and Heard... No Time to Write...

The last few weeks have been a whirlwind!  Between shows and rehearsals I have been hard-pressed to write.  Some of the things I saw are done, so sadly you cannot still see them, but some are still running so make the time, if they interest you!

In Reverse Order!

Most recently I saw The Last Five Years, the first show in Theatre Network's season and in their new space. L5Y is one of my favourite musicals and I have also directed it before so it was very cool to see it staged by someone else in a very different way.  Jeremy Baumung (Jamie) and Patricia Zentilli (Cathy) are lovely singers and well-suited to their roles in this show which is a series of monologues about a relationship.  His is told from beginning to end and hers from end to beginning, all set the beautiful music of Jason Robert Brown. Director Bradley Moss staged the show in an alley which was interesting and helped take me out of comparing it too much to my own production. For fans of this show, you won't be disappointed and for newcomers, I think it's an excellent introduction to the piece. I would recommend sitting on one side or the other instead of the middle as we found the mics a bit high being right under the speakers, but those who were on the ends of the rows said they found the sound really good.

Last Thursday, I saw Opening Night of Evangeline at the Citadel (full disclosure - I work there). It was a fantastic evening! The show has being fabulously received by audiences and critics alike. I alsoreally enjoyed it.  I teared up quite a few times as the show took us through the 40 year long journey of Evangeline, Gabriel and the rest of the Acadian people who were ejected from Canada by the British. Josée Boudreau as the title character is a powerhouse vocal performer.  Her voice is both strong and gorgeous and she sings Ted Dykstra's music like she was born to do so.  When she and Jay Davis (Gabriel) sing together it is electric. I am going back to see it again this next weekend and taking the family.  Evangeline runs until November 22nd at the Citadel. Just a head's up - ticket sales have been incredible.  This is one to buy early rather than risk buying later. You do not want to be disappointed.

I also took in Shadow Theatre's The Best Brothers by Daniel MacIvor at the Backstage Theatre. I'm an uber MacIvor fan and hadn't seen or read this show before and this was a great way to be introduced to it.  As two brothers dealing with the death of their mother, Andrew MacDonald-Smith (Kyle) and Garrett Ross (Hamilton) are wonderful contrasts on the stage. It's a comedy that deals deftly with grief and the complicated and varied relationships that children have with their parents. There's also a third, furry sibling, who complicates things between the brothers. It's a really nice piece, well-presented and well-acted. I think if you are a dog person it might be even more. The Best Brothers runs until November 15th.

I caught the cabaret performance of Ted Dykstra and Friends in The Club at the Citadel as part of the Beyond the Stage Series a few weeks back.  It was a thrilling night of music. That space is so terrific and it was hard to believe that we were sitting there so close to the caliber of performers that were up on the stage.  It was a terrific preview of what we'd be seeing later in Evangeline. It was all terrific but Brent Carver blew me away.  He is similarly amazing in Evangeline as Father Felician, but up close in The Club was so incredible. This was a two night only performance, but you can check out other Beyond the Stage events for the rest of the season.  There are some great shows coming.

I had never been to Dead Centre of Town before, although I heard a lot about it.  I wasn't really sure what it was. I think I thought it was just a haunted house, but this was actually quite a bit different.  It was in Fort Edmonton Park this year and it was an interesting immersive theatre experience. This was a good thing for me, because I was a little stressed about going as I don't do scary well.  But the presentation was more macabre than jump-out-at-you scary and I could handle that better.  There were terrific special effects and lighting and they used the old fort really well in their tour.  It also opened my eyes to the fact that there is  heck of a lot happening at Fort Edmonton Park for Halloween that I had known nothing about.  We're hoping to go back next year and bring the boys!

Edmonton Opera's The Merry Widow was also on my list of things I've seen.  It was delightful and beautiful both aurally and visually. Lots of cool cinematic references that the old move buff in me really appreciated and none of it felt pasted on. I loved the throw-back to Marilyn Monroe from Diamonds are A Girl's Best Friend (the younger peeps will think Madonna in Material Girl), and the Fred Astaire and Ginger Rodgers moments. The music was also wonderful. I do have to say, Jason Hardwick practically steals the third act. He was absolutely hilarious every time he was onstage! The use of humour was so engaging and the pace did not lag.  I had so much fun. See, opera doesn't have to be so serious!  It can be a lot of fun too!

Well, that was the last couple of weeks.  In between shows I have been in rehearsal for Wind in Her Sails. I have really enjoyed working on this project and with so many new people. It's also for such a good cause and it is great to make art that is also doing something more beyond telling the story. Whether it makes people more aware of MSA or raises more money for research, I'm glad to have been a part of the project for that reason alone. We open tomorrow and we've had a great couple of days adding the lights, sound and costumes to the mix. I'm hoping to see you all out for that!  It runs November 12-21st in the PCL Theatre.


Friday, October 16, 2015

What is going on? Ravenscroft (Walterdale) and Les Blues des Oubliées (L'Uni Theatre)

This week I saw two very different plays.  One, Ravenscroft, was a mystery where the truth was slowly unraveled as lies and exaggerations were discarded.  The other, Les Blues des Oubliées, was a french-langueage play with sur-titles. So in both,I had to work hard to figure out what was going on!

Ravenscroft, currently running at Walterdale Theatre until October 24th, is a who-dun-it with a surprise twist at the end. Inspector Ruffing (Dan Fessenden) interrogates the 5 women of Ravenscroft Manor to try to discover exactly what happened the night the footman was killed.  It's a clever play with juicy characters set in an English Manor in the early 1900s.  I did the props for the show and due to my busy schedule this was first opportunity to see if the worked.  They did! It was great to see the show up on it's feet. The cast does a nice job creating the world and for me it was great to see 5 of the 6 cast members are newcomers to Walterdale. I also liked that they each were clearly defined characters - the beautiful and icy Governess, Marcy (Melanie Bahniuk); the silly and imaginative daughter of the house, Gillian (Sohpie Healey); the not-so-bright and clumsy housemaid, Dolly (Brittany Hinse); the stern and disciplined cook, Mrs. French (Rebecca Bissonnette); and the naughty but imperious Lady of the house, Mrs. Ravenscroft (Catherine Wenschlag). The whole cast works well together, but highlights are the hysterical and saucy Wenschlag and Bissonnette has some absolutely terrific dead-pan moments. They are all supported by a marvelous set (Leland Stelck) and to-die-for costumes (Geri Dittrich).  I was glad to see my few little props measure up.

Last night, I took in my first ever french language play,  Les Blues des Oubliées (The Blue of Forgetting), at L'Uni Theatre.  It was a very cool experience.  Like with Opera or Shakespeare, it took me a few minutes to adjust to reading the surtitles and adapting my brain to deal with the language differently than I do normally, but once I settled in, it was very interesting.  The play is more of a performed poem with dance and song, as a woman recalls her own life and the life of her grandmother.  One theme of the piece explores language as it comments on being a French speaker in Alberta, as well as how that language translates when visiting other French speaking provinces and countries.  That section was very meta for me, being an English speaker in the audience with all those layers of translation.  Other themes were motherhood, childbearing, religion, and culture.  It was non-linear and fragmented and beautifully augmented with projections and dance, as well as sound created by a live musician sitting amidst the audience.  Les Blues des Oubliées runs at La Cite until October 24th.

Friday, October 02, 2015

Teatro closes their season with warmth and humour in The Hot House Prince

I never know quite what to expect with Teatro la Quindicina.  That's a good thing.  I've learned to go into their shows with a spirit of "let's see what happens" because you never quite know what their show will be about.  The Hot House Prince was certainly that for me.  With references to Three Sisters (all played by the delightful and multi-faceted Kendra O'Connor) the play takes us to Russia during the revolution and a young Prince Dmitri Romanov-Orsk (Luc Tellier) must find a way to survive by fleeing the country.  It's a cautionary tale about entitlement and how that doesn't prepare us for the real world, but it tells it's story in a charming, humour-filled way. What saves Dmitri is his irrepressible hope and willingness to adapt and work hard.  The Hot House Prince left me feeling all warm inside!  The cast is terrific, led by the charming Tellier. I found the cast refreshing and engaging, and highlights for me were Jayce MacKenzie as Dmitri's doomed sister, and Evan Hall and Mari Chartier as the funny-speaking Canadians. Overall though, the cast was a tight ensemble that deftly created the crazy world that Dmitri must negotiate.

The Hot House Prince runs until October 17th at the Backstage Theatre.

Reflections on Bone Cage, Theatre Yes...

I admit it. I had reservations about Bone Cage before I saw it. This was heightened when I read the Director's Notes which indicted the Oil Sands industry and it's toxic sludge of tailings ponds and the suggestion that if we really thought about what we were doing to make a living we would be sickened by it.  I've heard that rhetoric before and having spent most of my life in Fort McMurray I couldn't help but bristle a bit, but I was determined to view the play with an open mind.

I was expecting a rhetoric laden piece about the environment, with blame laid here and there... but that's not what I saw.  Instead, I didn't see much of the environmental message earned. It was there, but it felt pasted on as a convenient scapegoat for the unhappiness of the people in the play. What played out was that these people were screwed up because of past tragedies - a lost son/brother, a wayward mother, a missing father, bad parenting, poor choices in school, or general immaturity. Do people stay in jobs that they don't like because of the money - yes - but people do that all the time. I know former teacher colleagues who I could tell hated teaching, but they would never leave the field because the money was good. I know friends who don't leave jobs they dislike (because they have no passion for it) because they are scared of not knowing what else is out there. This is not something unique to resource industries.  I think Jaime, played with intensity by Neil Kuefler, tries to blame the work for his unhappiness, but he'd still be destroying ecosystems if he got his dream job in B.C. He'd just thinks he'd be happier if he was piloting a helicopter.  It is not the environment he cares for. He just wants something outside himself to blame for why he's unhappy, but really he has a myriad of things to blame for that.  With all the characters, the solution would be to take responsibility and change themselves, but no one seems to keen to actually do that. Their personal inaction and lack of true communication with each other gets somewhat irritating.  Why don't they just leave? I don't know how many times I asked myself that question...

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

New Projects... I think I have a problem with Down Time...

Back in the spring of this year, I got a phone call from Elizabeth Bowering.  I had heard of Elizabeth because she had been quite busy at Walterdale over the years, but I had never met her. She explained to me that we had a mutual friend, David Kirshner Sr., and that she and David suffered from the same illness, MSA (Multiple System Atrophy).  I remembered when David was diagnosed and this terrible illness swept into his and his family's life.  A once vibrant and active man was suddenly stilled. Elizabeth was in the same boat. She went on to explain that she wanted to produce one of her plays, Wind in Her Sails, as a fundraiser and awareness project for MSA and she wondered if I might consider directing it. So I asked her to send me the script so that I might read it.  I read it and I was immediately in. It's a beautiful piece in tribute to her grandmother telling a story on a trip on a 60 ft. schooner in the early 1900s full of East Coast music.

Well, now it's fall and the show has been cast and we have started rehearsals.  The cast is terrific:

Narrator/Fiddler - Larissa Pohoreski
Mavis - Halee Pierog
Captain - Morgan Smith
Pike - Kris Loranger
Purdy -Murray Farnell*

No doubt I will regale you with more stories from rehearsal.  So far we have been having fun singing Lukey's Boat and learning a few other East Coast songs (Feller From Fortune, Killgrew's Soiree), as well as embracing the accent! As a former resident of Fort McMurray, it is fun to be surrounded by the accents of the rock and the script is peppered with the Newfoundland sense of humour I love. Whether you are an aficionado of all things from Newfoundland and the East Coast or whether you want to support this terrific cause, I hope to see you out!

The show runs November 12-21st at the PCL Theatre at the Arts Barns. Tickets can be purchased through Tix on the Square online or by phone 780.420.1757.

* appears with permission of Equity

Monday, September 28, 2015

September was a Two #yegbookclub Month! Next up in October...

Like last summer, I picked two #yegbookclub books to read other the summer and then we discussed them on twitter over two consecutive weeks in September.  So this was a 2 #yegbookclub month! I worked hard to get the books read (or at least started) early so that I wouldn't be caught up after the crazy Fringe-filled summer I had.

First up, on September 14th, we talked about Every Blade of Grass by Thomas Wharton.  The novel follows, primarily through the exchange of letters, a relationship between Martha and James.  It was my first foray into Eco-fiction (except, someone said that Atwood's Oryx & Crake is eco-fiction, but I through that was more speculative fiction... I don't know the categories... ). This book took place in the past moving up to the early 2000s. A romance, but a subtle one, with environmental topics woven through the letters, along with a growing intimacy as their relationship evolves. Themes of death, loss and friendship are also explored. Here are a few tweets!


Then on September 21st, we talked about Love Letters From the Angel of Death by Jennifer Quist. Without planning it, I happened to select two books with similar themes of letters, love, death and loss.  They also both mention Fort McMurray which for me as a former long-time resident was a surprise. Here are a few tweets!


Next up for the #yegbookclub is Winterkill by Kate Boorman.  We'll be talking about it on Monday, October 26th from 7:00 - 8:00 p.m. Edmonton time! Use the hashtags #yegbookclub and #Winterkill to follow the discussion or follow me (@smeep22003) and I will retweet all the tweets!

I picked Winterkill up this summer and after I read it I simply HAD to put it on the list for #yegbookclub! The sequel, Darkthaw, is also coming out on October 13th so if you like it you'll be able to pick up the next in the series right away! 

A Fabulous and Frenetic Week with the Kick off to the Citadel's 50th Anniversary Season, Nuit Blanche, The HeART Beat Party, and BOOM!

September has been a bit of a blur for me.  We've been working extra hard to get ready for the Opening of the Citadel's 50th Anniversary Season,  It's been very cool looking back through the archive photos over the last 50 years and seeing who has been on the various Citadel Stages.  These will be coming out on throwback Thursday throughout the season.  I've by no means planned all of them so... if you have a favorite show you'd like to see pictures from, let me know!

Most of what we've been working hard on in terms of events this month happened this last week.  We opened the season on Thursday night with BOOM. Prior to the show, we we treated to speeches from various dignitaries, including the Lt. Governor, representatives from Federal, Provincial and Municipal governments, sponsors, the Board, Penny Ritco, Bob Baker and Kayla and Marshall Shoctor. I think Kayla Shoctor's speech was my favorite as there was something about it that spoke to the magic of the creation of the Citadel 50 years ago, and I also really liked Bob Baker's speech as it really addressed that what we have is due in large part to the artists that create.  Following the speeches the audience was surprised by a flash mob consisting of local theatre artists and led in song (The Impossible Dream) by Susan Gilmour.  This was truly magical and I got all teared up as it happened all around me.  And then the show - BOOM - which was tremendous!  An artistic marathon for solo-performer Rick Miller wrapped up in technical magic.  It traversed the Baby Boom years from Hiroshima (1945) to the Moon Landing (1969) through events personal, historical, political and cultural with a distinctly Canadian flavour.  I liked it so much that I went back to see it again on Sunday evening with the husband and son #2! Following the performance there was a fantastic party in the Shoctor lobby complete with live band, champagne and delightful treats!  It was still going when I left at midnight!

The other major kick-off event this weekend was The HeART BEAT Indoor Street Party in celebration of the mile-stone anniversaries of the three resident companies in the Citadel Theatre: the Citadel (50 years), Rapid Fire Theatre (35 years) and Catalyst Theatre (20 years).  This coincided with Nuit Blanche happening on and around Sir Winston Churchill Square all evening.  First a large group of people gathered at 7:30 p.m. to HUG THE CITADEL.  It was amazing to see all those people surrounding the building and banging their Boom Sticks! Following the HUG, the husband and I took the boys to see Chimprov at Rapid Fire Theatre.  It was Doctor Whom and we're big fans, plus the kids love improv and they've never gone to a RFT show before so it was about time!  They had a blast and I know we will be heading back for more!  There was even a Tardis in the lobby that you could go in and/or take pictures with!

After the show we came out into the streets of the Citadel to the HeART Beat Party!  All three shows in the building let out at the same time so it was packed.  Plus there were lots of people coming in from Nuit Blanche to check out what was going on!  I think the security counted approximately 4,000 people coming into the building! Live bands (Scenic Route to Alaska, and Fast Romantics) as well as Thomas Culture provided music.  There were Food Trucks lined up outside.  There was a very cool interactive guest book provided by Catalyst Theatre.  I think I saw a lot of people who perhaps had never been in the building before.  Truly a terrific time!

We also spent some time taking in the installations for Nuit Blanche.  It was really fun to see so many people taking in downtown on a Saturday night.  I am not sure if it was the art, but it was all rather civilized and fun!

Now, if that wasn't the right way to spend Alberta Culture Days, I am not sure what would be!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Did a Show... Caught a Show! Love Letters...

Today we had our 2nd SOLD OUT show for Double Double: The Musical.  It was so much fun.  It's weird because we still have 3 shows left but it also feels like Fringe is almost over! Three more for Double Double and only one more for Shout! (which is already almost Sold Out).  So, this has certainly been a terrific Fringe! And now for a little watching...

Love Letters - This was a wonderful piece about two people corresponding from elementary school to late adulthood.  The correspondence between Melissa (Holly Turner) and Andy (Brian Dooley) is charming, funny and in some places heart-breaking.  It was a delightful piece of theatre with terrific acting.  You know they are good when you are completely captivated and they are just sitting there reading letters.

That's all I could manage.  With the 2 show schedule I have to take it easy (and it's killing me a little bit!).

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Word of Mouth - Fringe 2015 - Wednesday, August 19

I had a great time talking to people lined up to see Shout! today about what they would recommend for my Word of Mouth blog.  It's the halfway point so people have seen more shows and I am getting some variety.  One gentleman asked me to be sure to say that the shows recommended were well-done but that people should see read the descriptions, because not everyone likes musicals and not everyone likes Pinter.  So, if a descriptions interests you and it's on this list, this likely means it's well done and you can safely check it out!

Edgar Allan (this has been mentioned A LOT)
Kiss Around Pass Around
Beau & Aero
Loon
Ordinary Days
Assassins
Fiddler on the Roof
Bonnie & Clyde
The Lover
Gidion's Knot
A New Brain

I hope you can check some of these shows out!

A Couple More Fringe Shows...

Yesterday I snuck in a show between my two shows and I forgot to mention one from the earlier day (all that hairspray I am inhaling is affecting my memory I think!). 

Life is a Musical! - It seems the only time I catch Improv is at Fringe and this is the 3rd time I have caught Grindstone Theatre's live improvised musical.  The story this time centered around a Barista from Starbucks named Sasha.  They cleverly tied it to West Side Story and it was a lot of fun. Highlights for me were the villans, Antonio (Neil Kuefler) and Banderas (Mark Vetsch) whose machismo was hysterical and the absolutely brilliant Mary Hulbert who played Sasha.  Hulbert sang a torchy long song (she's done this before) that I hope they recorded because it was so good. A sure-fire, super fun, hour of improv!

Loris and Beaver Play BINGO - I caught this earlier in the week. It's a play about writing a play.  As a playwright there were things I connected to in terms of the struggle to actually work and the things you do to avoid the writing (I however, do not drink nearly as much wine!). I really liked the scenes from the "play in progress" and would have liked to have seen more of that.  I think those where the places where the writing was strongest and most focused. All three actors are engaging and likable and quite natural onstage. 

Anyhow, I have my penultimate SHOUT! performance today.  Was excited to be approached in the Beer Tent last night by Laurie Blakeman who said she really enjoyed the show AND that she tweeted about it! Woo hoo! Catch us at 2:15 p.m. today or 9:00 p.m. on Saturday! 



Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Word of Mouth - Fringe 2015 - Tuesday, August 18

Checked in with a few more Fringe Goers in the line-ups and beet tents and got some more Word of Mouth recommendations for shows you should try to see:

2 Ruby Knockers, 1 Jaded Dick
Release the McCrackin
Edgar Allan

The Second Self
Pacific Times
Subway Stations of the Cross
Allure
Fear and Loathing
Shout! (squee! from a stranger, so it's legitimate!)
Miss Katelyn's Grade Threes Prepare for the Inevitable
Tall Tales & the Tinkerbox presents: Beautiful Nonsense

I'll be out scouting for more recommendations tomorrow after my 2:15 p.m. performance of Shout! If you see me, let me know what you recommend!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

And so we've started! Woo Hoo! Saw some shows too!

On Friday I had two Openings - Shout! and Double Double.  It's the tightest two show day in my Fringe schedule and all went terrifically well! With Shout! at 4 p.m. and Double Double at 8:45 p.m. I had a nice 2 hour turn around to change make-up and eat and refocus and it was enough.  It makes the other 2 double show days feel imminently manageable! Whew!

Shout! kicked off the day.  We had a fabulous, receptive audience and despite some mic issues (mostly mic tape coming off due to our womanly glows...) we rolled with it and had a great time. So great to be singing these songs and playing these characters in front of an audience again.  We've since been reviewed by the Edmonton Journal (3 stars - and an exceptional write-up!) and VUE Weekly (4 Stars - YAY! and another great write-up). Our Saturday night show was even better and it was great to have so many people there for an 11 pm show! Tomorrow's show is selling incredibly well - I can't wait!

Double Double was also terrific fun.  Since it's a new work, we weren't sure how it would be received, but the laughs started off the top and we left the theatre floating. I can't wait until Tuesday when we get to do it again! We haven't been reviewed yet - but I found this fabulous tweet series on twitter and it made me feel pretty good!

I also got out to see a few more shows - not as many as usual, but I gave it a good shot!

Assassins - I'm a Sondheim fan so I was drawn to see this.  You don't get to see Assassins done very often, as it's challenging and hard for audiences to connect to because all the characters are, well, assassins.  I was frustrated by the lighting and the the pace, but it was a good show overall. Highlights for me were Jeff Page as Sam Bick, Nancy McAlear's comic timing as Sarah Jane Moore, and Chris W. Cook as Charles Guiteau. 

Self(ish) - This is simply a beautiful modern dance piece. It was humorous, strong, touching, and very complete.  I want to see more things like this throughout the season. I've been to a few dance shows, but some of them felt like they were still experimenting. This one feels like it is well developed and I was amazed by both the story-telling and the physical abilities of the dancers. 
No Belles - I don't usually go to Storytelling shows, but the topic was and is compelling.  This is the show to take you children - girls AND boys - from ages 10 and up to.  They need to be able to listen, but that's the age we need to reinforce the message of the show.  The stories of the Nobel prize winners (and should-have-been winners) are so inspiring and heart-breaking and we need to realize that we still have further to go.  It's not a theatrical piece - but it is delivered thoughtfully and artfully. I did feel that the standing ovation at the end was more for the women the play was about, than for the performance itself, but that's okay - those women deserved it. 

Release the McCrackin - the third installment in the McCrackin trilogy was SO MUCH FUN! We took the boys and they howled with laughter. Even if you haven't seen the first two, you will be familiar with the movie tropes they are playing with and they build in enough back story to keep everyone in the loop. Their merging of film and theatre is so good that the audience broke into spontaneous applause several times after particularly cool sequences. Here are the boys mini-reviews:

Gibson - "I get this! I really get this! I want to see that again! Oh, and my sides hurt from laughing so much!"

Oliver - "That was HILARIOUS! Oh, the references! They have, like, ALL the references! So good."

They are not that articulate, but you get the idea... 

See a show! 

WORD OF MOUTH - Fringe 2015

One of my regular Fringe Features is WORD OF MOUTH, where I ask people in line ups and the beer tent what they have seen that they would recommend. If they're artists I ask them to name something other than their own show... I try to talk to a variety of people because tastes are varied and these come with no qualifiers so I recommend you still read the Program to see what the show is about...

rooms//apart
The Famous Haydell Sisters Comeback Tour
Nantucket
Mama's Boy
Gidion's Knot
A New Brain
Amish Project
Folk Lordz
Gordon's Big Bald Head
No Belles
Oh Manada!
Shadows in Bloom
Edgar Allen

I did have one person say Shout! but it was a friend of mine.  He insisted that he was recommending it to people, but I think I will wait until a stranger mentions it to me before I add it to the list!

I'll keep chatting and getting more input.  One thing is clear, there is a lot of good stuff to see!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Guys... It's Started... FRINGE!!

Well, it's been a heck of a build-up for me.  That's what being in and directing two shows will do for you, never mind the myriad of other related tasks, but it's here! Tonight I walked in the parade dressed as the Orange Girl from SHOUT! and handing out materials for both it and DOUBLE DOUBLE! People seemed receptive to both and although the pavement was not kind to my go-go boots, it was a lot of fun.  Then I caught my first Fringe show.  This Fringe will be a little different as I seriously doubt I will hit my usual 20-30 shows due to my own performance schedule.  I am getting what I can in!

My first show was AfterFat by Carlye Windsor which spoke to body image, particularly with regards to being heavy.  It was an autobiographical journey and was very honest and as a larger than average person with a lot of personal confidence I found a lot I could personally relate to.  Windsor is very charismatic and charming and is best when her natural humour comes through, although my favorite moment was when she told a story about her mother which was a heart-breakingly honest. I think that there is a lot for anyone to hear in this piece.  It's more personal story-telling than theatrical, but even if you've never been heavy chances are you've had some insecurity about your appearance and I think there's common ground for everyone.

I have also taken a bit of time to look through the Program.  Here's a few that have caught my eye:

American Idiot - The Scona Alumni group always do a show that would stand up anywhere in the season, not just for Fringe.

Love Letters - Blarney Productions - Brian Dooley and Holly Turner directed by Wayne Paquette - sounds like a winning formula to me!

No Belles - A story about women scientists?  Well, if you read my posts about Arcadia, you probably understand why this attracts me!

Who Am I? - The latest from Toy Guns - I'm just really interested in seeing what they will do now! Last year was so much fun!

Release the McCrackin - Accidental Humour - So special that it will be our Anniversary Date.  Mark was in the 2nd McCrackin show so we have to see how this all ends up.  Always funny and always really well done.

2 for Tea and High Tea - My sister saw these guys in Toronto and recommended them.

Assassins - Well, it's Sondheim...

There's more as I have only scratched the surface. I'll be doing the Word of Mouth posts so if you see me around, let me know what you would recommend and I will share it!

Friday, August 07, 2015

Getting Ready for Fringe! Double Double and Shout! Twice the Fun!

Fringe is almost upon us!  It's my favorite time of the year and I feel kind of bad that I have let my blogging slip (missing posting on the Mayfield's The Long Weekend - a fun show and a great date night with the husband!), but the fact is I have two shows on the go and I am onstage in both of them. Not only am I onstage, but they are both ensemble musicals so it's not like I'm popping in for a cameo. I am singing and dancing in both and while it is terrific fun, it has been taking up a lot of my time!

What am I doing? you ask... Let me tell you!

The first show is familiar, because it is a remount of Shout! The Mod Musical, which I directed and was in earlier this year.  We had a 4 show run in January at C103 with wonderful houses.  We were thrilled to get a Fringe spot because it meant we could re-visit and tighten the show and we've even added more choreography and changed up a few costumes!  It was a really solid show in January and I am pleased to say it's even stronger now.  It's funny how learning choreography over again is actually a lot easier.  I don't even dread putting on the white go-go boots!  It's also been fun getting back together with the girls onstage and backstage, and the music is so great to sing.  For me, being able to sing these iconic songs, with 4 other women who can really handle the 4 and 5 parts, is something that I have truly missed. 

Featuring: Leslie Caffaro, Nicole English, Kristen Finlay, Erin Foster-O'Riordan, & Monica Roberts
Directed by Kristen Finlay
Music Direction by Sally Hunt

Choreography by Kelly Webber

The second show I am involved in is Double Double: The Musical. I am wearing many hats on this production as I am co-writer, co-director, co-producer and I am onstage performing in it.  It's been amazing to see and hear my second musical come together.  We are blessed with a terrific cast and team and that has made it all the better.  It really is a ridiculous little show - in a good way!  The songs are varied in style and are tuneful ear-worms.  I am so thrilled with the work our arranger, Matt Graham, has done to help bring our musical vision to life. I don't even think you need to like Tim Horton's to have fun at this show - if you have a favourite, you understand the addiction and brand loyalty, and whether you recognize yourself or other people in the characters of the show, I think there will be some connection. 

Featuring: Owen Bishop, Justin Deveau, Kristen M. Finlay, and Nadine Veroba
Written and Directed by Kristen Finlay & Anne Marie Szucs
Music Arrangement by Matt Graham
Music Direction by Arielle Ballance
Choreography by Leah Paterson
Sound Design by Erin Foster-O'Riordan
Stage Managed by Kirsten Jensen



Sunday, July 12, 2015

The Ladies Who Blog on What it is Podcast...

This past week I had the opportunity to sit down with 3 other #yegtheatre Bloggers and the What It Is Podcast to talk about the past theatre season.  It was a terrifically fun hour with the What It is guys, full of great discussion of theatre blogging in Edmonton as well as a ridiculously fun game where we had to remember what we wrote in our blogs, and what the others may have written.  The other 3 Bloggers were Louise Mallory (Ephemeral Pleasures), Jenna Marynowski (After the House Lights) and Savanna Harvey (The Pretentious English Major).  I know Louise and Jenna very well and often see them out and about and it was great to meet Savanna.  I think we each add something different to the online #yegtheatre landscape.

You can listen to the podcast here.

Summer is a Terrific Time for Arts Education! Artstrek and Foote Theatre School!

Friday, I got to have one of those incredible experiences that really underscores for me why I volunteer as a Theatre Alberta Board member.  We try to have our board meetings coincide with the programming that we offer: Emerge, Dramaworks, Playworks Ink, Artstrek.  It's a great opportunity to see what we are actually putting the work in for.  Two years ago, we were supposed to attend on one of the Artstrek sharing days, but the flooding that happened made that impossible as there were emerging issues that had to be dealt with and the board meeting was pushed to later in the summer. This summer, however, we were able to be there for Exploration I sharing.  I 'knew' that Artstrek was an awesome program, but I had never seen or felt it.  The energy and the spirit and commitment to practice that I saw on stage made my eyes well up with tears more than once during the one hour sharing.  There was such a phenomenal spirit of respect - from the students to the instructors and back - and from the students towards the art.  Truly wonderful.  I so want my sons to experience this.  I think I will be able to get my younger one to do it, but the older one needs more convincing.  I could tell that this was an incredibly safe place, where he would feel safe and where he would have fun and where he would learn.  Now I just have to figure out how to get him there. You can find out more about Artstrek here. 

How do I know this would be something for him?  Because Friday also was the final day for my kid's camps at the Foote Theatre School.  I worried that the older one was getting too old, but his enthusiasm every day when he came home, talking about the activities and games and how great his teachers were, was wonderful to hear.  The only thing I have heard him talk about with as much enthusiasm is Minecraft so it's great for me to hear him demonstrate a similar passion for something else.  The younger one was similarly engaged and having fun - he's more social so it's more about the other kids - but still he loved what he was doing and I can say honestly that the Foote Theatre School has helped him to feel safe onstage so that he no longer has his terrible stage fright (he used to cry about going onstage - no more!). I am glad I have a few more years with him there!

Foote Theatre School has camps and classes all year long for kids, teens and adults.  You can find more information on it here. 

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Freewill Players' As You Like It - Great to be back in the park!

Sunday night my husband and I took in As You Like It in Hawrelak Park - the comedy of the Freewill Shakespeare Festival.  It was so lovely to be back at the park under the big white canopy.  I enjoyed Taming of the Shrew last summer, but there is something about seeing Shakespeare outdoors that feels so right. It was good to be back.

The show was so much fun.  No terrific surprises in the delivery of the play, but solid performances from everyone and a lot of laughs for the audience.  I loved the Downton Abbey inspired costumes by Hannah Matiachuk. Everything was picture perfect and the aesthetic really seemed to suit the play.  As You Like It is one I have seen a few times before, and this look gave the play a really fresh feel.

The company is so very solid, and we see many familiar faces on the stage.  I think if you normally shy away from Shakespeare because you feel you won't understand it, then this is certainly the show to see to get you over that fear. The actors in Freewill, even the newbies, have a facility for the language that makes everything accessible.  It's also great fun.

Highlights in action for me included the wrestling (both the warm-up and the actual bout), the wonderful BFF connection between Rosalind (Mary Hulbert) and Celia (Belinda Cornish), Amiens' (Nicholas Donald Rose) wonderful singing, Touchstone (Ryan Parker) making his cane a character of it's own (he's hilarious, even when he messes up - perhaps more so!), and Ashley Wright's excellent portrayal of Jaques.  Jaques is often too morose for me, but Wright played him in a refreshing way, almost like a scholar of melancholy as opposed to a sufferer of it. There are lovely little moments in the piece that give testament to the maxim, "There are no small parts, only small actors." John Ullyatt proves this with his hysterical performance as Le Beau, as does Nancy McAlear with her delightfully abrasive Phebe.

All in all, it was a lovely night.  Next weekend I shall be back for Coriolanus (which I have NEVER seen - so I am SOOOOOO EXCITED!!!)!

Saturday, July 04, 2015

Why Artistic Directors choose the plays they choose...

Tonight I will be attending and to some degree participating in the following event:
YEG Reading & Panel Discussion - July 4, 2015 - (7 pm)The Space - Casavant Productions - 6776 - 99th Street - Edmonton
Come and join us for our final event of the inaugural APN RBC Emerging Artist Mentorship Program.
The event features a panel discussion with Edmonton Artistic Directors entitled "What Was I Thinking?". Panelists John Hudson(AD - Shadow Theatre), Heather Inglis (AD - Theatre YES) & Bradley Moss (AD - Theatre Network) will be discussing what goes into the selection of works for presentation at their theatre.
Following the panel discussion there will be staged readings of excerpts from the plays that were created as part of the mentorship program. Readings from Sarah C. Louise, Alison Neuman, & Kristen M. Finlay.
This event is open to the public, but seating is limited. To RSVP please email: trevor@albertaplaywrights.com
Despite being incredibly busy (perhaps too busy) I participated in the APN RBC Emerging Artist Mentorship Program this spring.  I was mentored by Kim McCaw and we had terrific conversations that I've taken as jumping off points for two scripts and hopefully many more to come.  There were fabulous tips and suggestions that made me think differently about what I was writing.  I'm having a section from my script The Water Beneath Her Feet read, and although I have a long way to go on that script, it was good to get back into it. I have a feeling that this is one of those scripts that will take me many years to finish.  It was great to have someone else look at what I had and ask me the right questions to get me moving on it again. We also talked about The Easy Road and I am so excited about what I want to do with that script now.  I have worked a lot on that script and it is probably the closest to production, but it is amazing what having a different set of eyes look at it can do (someone outside the workshop experience). When you are knee deep in something it can be hard to see it in a different way.  Kim's questions have energized me on this and as soon as Fringe is done I will be jumping back into it with both feet! 
Anyhow, feel free to come by tonight.  I am looking forward to the panel and am a little nervous about the reading, but it would be good to see you there!

Friday, July 03, 2015

A Man of No Importance a moving celebration of community...

Last night I took in Opening Night of A Man of No Importance at Walterdale Theatre. It's a musical version of the 1994 movie starring Albert Finney, about a bus conductor Alfie (played with subtley and charm by Morgan Smith) in Dublin in the 1960s who finds a happy life leading a local amateur theatrical troupe in the local church and living with his older sister who is just waiting for him to get married.  He is deeply closeted as it is a time in the very Catholic Ireland when homosexuality is both a crime and a sin. When he decides to produce Salome by Oscar Wilde the resulting scandal turns his well-ordered life upside-down and he decides to confront the truth of who he is.

It's a wonderful piece of theatre.  It celebrates and it mourns. It celebrates the community of community theatre, really of any theatre collaboration.  All the members of the troupe come together to be something more than what their lives are.  As directed by Lauren Boyd, this cast does a lovely job of staying in the world.  The staging is fluid and dynamic and engaging, drawing us into these ordinary people's lives. We recognize ourselves and others on the stage and we also see the passion and love for creating art. It fits perfectly upon Walterdale's stage and you believe that you are watching this encapsulated world.  Joan Hawkin's simple but ingenious set does part of that, but so does Boyd's direction and the ensemble's commitment to the world.  There are imperfections, but those are owned as they would be by the actual characters of that 1964 Dublin.

The play also has sad and touching moments, without over-dramatizing we see the struggle for Alfie as he hides who he is and who he loves, finding consolation in his love of theatre. When that is taken from him and he sees so many other people in his world sinning without repercussion, and he decides to be he who truly is, the results are heartbreaking. A great deal of that goes to Smith's delicate delivery of Alfie and his anguish.  So many wonderful moments communicated internally subtly and honestly.

Smith is supported by a thoughtful and dedicated ensemble. The songs, though not particularly memorable, are well sung and tuneful, and if I had one criticism it was that volume of some of the solos was a little low and the use of mics or some muffling of the orchestra in places might help with that. My favorite was the ensemble piece,Art, but though that song says "in a week and a half, it'll be art," I beg to differ.  This show is Art right now.



Saturday, June 27, 2015

Double Header Saturday - Saint Albert and Calvin Berger!

On a day like today, it was quite delightful to spent the afternoon and the evening in air conditioned theatres, particularly since my van's AC has crapped out (great timing...).  Anyhow, it's even better when the theatrical fare is entertaining and well done!

I took in Teatro la Quindicina's newest offering, Saint Albert, in the afternoon.  A last minute cancellation of my original date combined with great timing on behalf of my husband meant for a surprise afternoon date.  He'd never seen a Teatro show before so it was nice to finally introduce him. He had fun and I think he'd go again. The show is a bit hard to describe without spoilers, but provided quite a few laughs especially from Jeff Haslam as the mysterious Magnus.  There's also a terrific song, Onion Bun, evidence of the Europop success of Desi played by the bright and perky Rachel Bowron. I am hoping that we might be able to download it eventually.  It was super-catchy in the spirit of ABBA and Aqua! Following the show, my husband and I had a terrific chat about various historic Alberts and we felt a sequel with Albert Einstein could be a lot of fun! Saint Albert runs until July 4th at the Backstage Theatre. 

Then we went home, had a great steak dinner off the BBQ and gathered the boys and took them to see Threeform Theatre's Calvin Berger, a modernized musical version of Cyrano set in high school. The boys are getting to the age where real children's theatre is too young for them and I was pleased to take them to this.  They both had a great time and Oliver in particular found it hilarious.  He's almost 14 so the activities and emotions of high school students was particularly compelling.  All four of the actors (Matt Graham, Mackenzie Reurink, Sydney Williams and Kirkland Doiron) in this show were terrific. The score demands big, competent voices that soar and there was no problem with that.  We really have some talent in this city.  These are young up and comers that I expect we'll see more of in years to come.  They were also quite funny and worked well as an ensemble.  It closed tonight, but keep an eye out for more Threeform Theatre work as I have been impressed with everything of theirs that I have seen. 

Tomorrow I am back at rehearsal for both my Fringe shows, SHOUT! and Double Double.  I'm pretty sure that part of me will be wishing I was back in an air conditioned theatre, but the rehearsing is going very well and I get  bit of a break from Canada Day through the weekend. It's summer folks! 

Saturday, June 20, 2015

A Trip to Runyonland... ELOPE presents GUYS AND DOLLS at the Timm's Centre

I have a fond attachment to ELOPE Musical Theatre.  When I moved to Edmonton in 2005, the first how I auditioned for (and got in) was ELOPE's Fiddler on the Roof. There I met many good friends who remain part of the core of my friends today.  A few years later I was in Baby with ELOPE which added many more terrific people to my friends list and a few years later I directed The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee which was an amazing experience.

This season, ELOPE is putting on the classic Guys and Dolls at the Timm's Centre.  It's a fun world of gansters, gamblers, showgirls and salvation army misionaries in New York in a time long past. The songs are highly recognizable from the cutsey A Bushell and a Peck, to Sue Me, to I'll Know, to the title song Guys and Dolls. This cast handled the music well, particularly the leads.  Christina O'Dell and Stephen Allred as the mismatched Salvation Army Missionary Sarah Brown and Gambler Sky Masterson both had sweeping voices well equipped to handle their soaring love ballads.  O'Dell handled the challenging If I Were a Bell terrifically with a full sounding soprano and Allred's Luck Be A Lady was similarly well delivered. James Toupin and Karin Thomas as the more comic couple Nathan Detroit and Miss Adelaide had a real chemistry.  They've appeared as a couple onstage previously (The Full Monty) and their ease with each other really worked onstage.  Thomas was a lot of fun and made some terrific character choices to great comic effect.  Toupin's Detroit was a great foil and always believable.  They were great onstage separately and even better when they shared the stage together. Another highlight for me was Joe Garreck as Nicely Nicely Johnson.  He did a fantastic job on the show stopper Sit Down You're Rockin' the Boat.  

If I had one criticism, it would likely be to clip a few of the dance numbers both in length and in people onstage.  Sometimes in the big numbers like the Havana scene and Sit Down You're Rockin' the Boat it got hard to know what to look at because there was just too much going on.  With a show this length some of the dances originally put in to cover scene changes could have been shortened to move it a long faster.  But that's me... I'm sure someone else has a different opinion on that.

It's a fun show and one you leave humming the songs.  A little birdie from Tix on the Square told me that it is selling really well, so this might be one to buy your tickets in advance for.  It was certainly a packed house last night!