Wednesday, February 29, 2012


THE TORONTO OPERA REPERTOIRE'S production of THE MERRY WIDOW is a delightful light operatic romp replete with Can-can dancers and male choral interludes that bemoan the unpredictable identity of their female paramours. Franz Lehar’s 1905 operetta ages well as a farcical, comic example of how gender stereotypes collapse into themselves when they are exploited by male characters who are as socially ill adjusted as the women they simultaneously love and malign.

Highlights of the TOR production include the gorgeous, smouldering sounds of Pablo Benitez Astudillo’s Camille de Rosillon as he effortlessly makes his way through mellifluous duets and powerful romantic diatribes about his love for the tantalizing affections of Zeta Valencienne. Caroline Colantonio’s Valencienne is a beautifully rendered and subtly demure counterpart to the assertive strains of Astudillo’s Camille.

Gerald Hannon’s Baron Mirko Zeta is charming as the over wrought Grand Duke in search of a romantic solution for his beleaguered country's predicament. David Roche as the Njegus, the Baron’s assistant, delivers a layered comic performance as the bumbling, concerned, foppish stock character who attempts to shield his master from the unpredictable and playful couplings that occur throughout. Given the illustrious careers of these two community icons a bit of homosocial, lightly erotic subtext might have been a nice, performative touch.

Jennifer Rasor’s merry widow is another musical highlight of the evening as she matches Astudillo’s seamless highs and lows, and presents a strong, confident version of the compromised widowed subject in search of a financially viable and romantically fulfilling partner. Jay Lambie as Danilo, the hapless prince caught in a classic triangulated love match, creates a strong and delightful contrast to his co-stars.

The overall ensemble excels in strong melodic choral moments as they gather together to support and observe all of the priceless and promising movements of coquettishness, cash, and masculine haphazardry located precariously within their tiny threatened little Grand Duchy - and piano accompaniment by Rina (Hyewon) Kim is divine!

The delightfully convoluted ending of the show reveals just how skilled a woman has had to be, historically speaking, once confronted with legal structures that have restricted the movement of capital when it has been left to a biological female in search of a brand new conjugal playmate. It is a merry romp indeed as all of the characters cavort from Royal balls to folk dancing festivities and rollicking Parisian restaurants in pursuit of a secure economic future for the tiny, financially tenuous, and utterly imaginary Balkan country of Pontevedro. What with current global concerns over the monetary stability of a variety of countries, both great and small, this century old musical gem is a lighthearted reminder of how much can go terribly wrong when capitalism reigns supreme.

THE MERRY WIDOW RUNS UNTIL MARCH 2ND AT THE BICKFORD CENTRE (777 bloor west, christie subway) for further information online go to:

Wednesday, February 22, 2012



Anyone who has ever been among men hell bent on drugs, money & the realization of their wildest dreams knows just how funny, dramatic, & strangely sensual it can all seem.

The current Soulpepper production of Lee MacDougall’s ever-popular dark comic play High Life is rife with dramatic tension and brilliant comic foreplay, mid play, and after play. The debauched commingling of direct tension in this tightly knit script, however, is a very different kind of tension that must have existed in the original 1996 Crow’s Theatre production starring Randy Hughson, Ron White, Brent Carver and Clive Cholerton.

Michael Hanrahan, Diego Matamoros, Mike Ross, and Oliver Dennis display varied degrees of brilliance as they inhabit a cast of characters one may not want to meet in a dark alley, or a brightly lit bank lobby. Dennis as the ailing Donnie is the highlight of the show with his bumbling offbeat zaniness that contrasts sharply with the quirky, manic machismo of Mike Ross’ Billy, and the fading yet powerful testosterone ridden, gun toting violence of Michael Hanrahan’s Bug.

Director Stuart Hughes has carefully placed subtle but smoldering moments of intimacy between men who do things in prison that they claim they don’t do when they’re on the outside. The ensuing repressed boiling pot of homosocial camaraderie-cum-sexuality runs the gamut from hilarious re-tellings of a drunken night when a romantic encounter ended in scatological disarray to a narrative including a stray bullet that somehow found its way into the wrong philandering body. The fleeting but memorable references to stories about the last time these men were in close contact with the opposite sex posit them as diehard heterosexuals with pasts that may have required a little gender diversity in the sack and behind bars.

Hanrahan creates a perfect composite of the bitter, violent, Springsteen obsessed, hoodlum who finds himself in yet another muddled ménage. Matamoros has an effective and direct way of embodying Dick, the ringleader of this hapless foursome, and his delivery is both strong and believable for the most part. He might have exchanged some of his controlled mind play, however, for a bit of the manic energy that the rest of the cast possesses, thereby rounding out a crazed quartet with some of the general ensemble mania that the script seems to demand.

One scene between Dennis and Ross plays in an enigmatic, unexpectedly intimate way as the two men suddenly attempt to bond in the midst of mayhem. The close proximity of their bodies suggests more than the script is ever able to fully realize, nor should it as the dialogue consistently embodies and evades any real human connection between any of the men until very late in the plot. This ambiguous tension reflects the ways in which a somewhat older cast inhabiting a classic Canadian comedy can bring new tension to an old story and come up winners in a production that moves along with the speed of a police cruiser on the heels of a stolen car.

Mike Ross’ beautiful, funny, and expressive delivery of a single monologue demonstrates just how subtle the playwright can be when he dares to barely address some of the hidden agendas and potential pathologies of men at war with themselves, each other, and the rest of society. Anyone who has ever been among men hell bent on drugs, money and the realization of their wildest dreams knows just how funny, dramatic, and strangely sensual it can all seem. As MacDougall’s climax reveals, the surface tensions, even at the end of the day, continue to conceal the profound desire to keep everything just a little mysterious, just a little superficial, and laced with layers of profanity and innuendo.

Sound design by Paul Humphrey is especially effective and works incredibly well for the nuanced drug injection scenes, adding a kind of quixotic Sam Shepard-esque tone to the proceedings, and ultimately fleshing out the subtle narratives regarding the hopes and dreams of four befuddled criminals in pursuit of their next big crime.




Monday, February 20, 2012

“As if this collection of

things is what she is. So we fall in love with ghosts.”

Michael Ondaatje, Divisadero

the revival & reflection of exciting new formats

“The prismatic structure of his novel lets Ondaatje revive and reflect old stories in new formats. His title, "Divisadero," has two meanings, both pertinent to the plot shift. The first comes from the Spanish word for "division." The second derives from divisar, meaning "to gaze from a distance." From a distance, patterns and echoes emerge: lost mothers, forbidden love, estranged fathers, twins and triangles, loneliness. If Anna is the writer of Segura's tale, as she seems to be, the Petaluma story is thrown into lovely relief by its French counterpart. As she says, "We live permanently in the recurrence of our own stories, whatever story we tell."

For anyone who has never read a novel by Michael Ondaatje, the current performance project at Theatre Passe Muraille could be a thrilling introduction to his work as it takes part in the revival and reflection of exciting “new formats.”

The re-mount of this two hour tour de force represents a beautiful rendering of literature onstage that stands on its own as a kind of theatrical hybrid that may impress even the most devout fans of Ondaatje on the page.

"For we live with those retrievals from childhood that coalesce and echo throughout our lives, the way shattered pieces of glass in a kaleidoscope reappear in new forms and are songlike in their refrains and rhymes, making up a single monologue. We live permanently in the recurrence of our own stories, whatever story we tell.”

Michael Ondaatje, Divisadero

On the stage, in the hands of veteran actors Maggie Huculak and Tom McCamus, the language is as rich, as flowing, and as thoroughly engaging as the poetic pages of the acclaimed authors works. In collaboration with Ondaatje and a brilliant ensemble director Daniel Brooks has been able to create a fascinating configuration of music and voice that constantly surprises the eye and ear as all of the elements blend seamlessly, replete with soothing poetic moments cut with shrieking playfulness, and one thrilling scene where the diverse musical stylings of Amy Rutherford provide an entertaining segment that channels the likes of Marianne Faithful, Patti Smith, and Leonard Cohen. Brooks’ directorial expertise/prowess is in full force here as the performer utilizes a relatively small area in which to thoroughly physicalize intense moments of emotional expression.

For spectators more familiar with the direct, plot-invested action of more traditional theatre it may all seem a bit slow going at the very beginning. But it is well worth the wait as one settles into this dark stroll through the lives of traumatized individuals whose fated paths seem destined to divide and unify them in harrowing and haunting ways.

Ultimately the gorgeous sounds of Huculak’s incredibly measured, deliberate storytelling mode, alongside McCamus’s impeccable characterizations of three very distinct characters, turn the performance into an expertly crafted novel for the stage. Juno nominee/folksinger-cum-actor Justin Rutledge’s beautifully layered singing, combined with brief sensual moments with Amy Rutherford’s complex and richly conceived Bridget, alongside Liane Balaban’s equally as mesmerizing Claire, produce an overall effect that is at once poignant, breathtaking, and shot through with moments of great beauty and conflicted joy.




Sunday, February 19, 2012

Everything Under the MoonEverything Under the MoonEVERYTHING UNDER THE Everything Under the MoonEverything Under the MoonEverything Under the MoonMOON

The World Stage production of Everything Under the Moon redefines enchantment and takes it to a fully integrated level of pure entertainment that simultaneously entertains and illuminates in a thoroughly delightful way.

A collaboration between visual artist Shary Boyle and singer/songwriter Christine Fellows, the piece was commissioned by Harbourfront Centre’s Fresh Ground new works commissioning programme. The final product, being premiered over the next four days (Feb. 18-23) is a beautifully conceived cautionary tale about the fragile nature of the planet and how a variety of seemingly incompatible creatures may work together in order to save each other from the destructive path of modern technology as it threatens life on earth. And there is an irresistible doily that steals the show.

Everything Under the MoonEverything Under the MoonEverything Under the MoonEverything Under the MoonEverything Under the MoonEverything Under the Moon

A re-imagining of the classic shadow play, the fifty five minute piece has been described as “a fantastical work of theatre told through hand-animated projections and narrative song.” Boyle’s visuals, always intricate and vibrant, play with a form of gorgeously rendered naivety that is perfectly coupled with the exquisitely whimsical vocal stylings and compositions of Christine Fellows. Ed Reifel and Alex McMaster provide onstage accompaniment as their contrasting voices integrate seamlessly with McMaster’s skill on clarinet, keyboard, and trumpet, while Reifel adds hauntingly evocative percussion to the mix.

One, among many, highlights of the evening has Fellows centre stage accompanying herself on the ukelele as she sings a very poignant song about a lost friend. Costumes by Heather Goodchild round out the overall effect as fancifully dressed human counterparts interact with projections that come together by the end and reveal all of the pieces of a single universal puzzle regarding the health and welfare of a decaying planet.

Everything Under the MoonEverything Under the MoonEverything Under the Moon

This is a show filled with humour, pathos, and a sincere regard for the welfare of the planet and all its inhabitants. Designed for audiiences of all ages Everything Under he Moon is a brave and rewarding choice for the inaugural event at this years installment of World Stage.



Pathways of


Les Cheminements de l’influence (Pathways of Influence), Laurence Lemieux’s new solo dance work, opened the recently competed Citadel centre for contemporary dance and filled the space with a lively, at times austere elegance and vigor that brought aspects of Quebec politics to the forefront.

As a tribute to Lemieux’s father Vincent, an eminent political scientist and sociologist, the work utilizes a variety of spoken recordings ranging from the 1984 NHL playoffs to Quebec Politician Camil Samson’s 1970 “rant” regarding the state of what he considered to be a deplorable provincial tax system.

The overall sixty-minute program, frequently punctuated with evocative piano compositions by Gordon Monahan, is a series of lyrical and gestural images that respond to the music and the recordings with great precision and focus.

Lemieux enters the space in simple elegant streetwear, quickly reveals a red and black checked shirt, and then, over the course of the hour she gradually removes upper layers of her costume in order to complete a mesmerizing tour de force ranging from athletic balletic movement to a painstaking gestural treatment of the edge of the playing area as she carefully treads, in single steps, at times a stylized crawl, delineating a kind of territorial circumference for the spoken narrative and accompanying movement.

Lemieux’s powerful presence never falters, and there are gorgeous visual moments, due to the combination of stark, cool evocative lighting by Gabriel Cropley, the simple costuming, and the Hockey recordings. At times one might be reminded of the direct playful forms inhabiting the open compositional field of a William Kurelek painting. Lemieux empowers and politicizes the playful as she presents these sharply delineated forms through her lone dancing body in a way that subtly transforms all of the elements of her choreography into a beautifully layered dance narrative as homage to her father’s detailed and painstaking work.

Lemieux has cited Vincent Lemieux’s constant support of her work as an artist. When she says that he once “quoted a French mathematician who said that the master of dance surpasses the master of thought, because the dancer needs full control of the mind and body, while the thinker only needs the mind” (NOW article, Feb 9-15, 2012) she reveals her own commitment to the complex ideologies that frequently influence her art. She has been quoted in an interview as saying that she “can’t dance sociology or political science.” (NOW) However, her current work, being premiered in a building situated on the edge of a massive revitalization plan for Toronto’s Regent Park area, seems to do just that as she assembles a multi-media sound and visual landscape that allows audiences to listen, learn, and observe the delicate, complex movement of body and mind as they inhabit a variety of complex ideologies, at times political, at times sociological, and always punctuated by gorgeous sound and movement.

Les Cheminements de l’influence (Pathways of Influence) runs at the Citadel

304 Parliament Street, until February 25th

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


the butterfly’s unrest

Mostel: If I appeared there, what if I did an imitation of a butterfly at rest? There is no crime in making anybody laugh. I don't care if you laugh at me.

Congressman Jackson: If your interpretation of a butterfly at rest brought any money into the coffers of the Communist Party, you contributed directly to the propaganda effort of the Communist Party.

Mostel: Suppose I had the urge to do the butterfly at rest somewhere?

Congressman Doyle: Yes, but please, when you have the urge, don't have such an urge to put the butterfly at rest by putting some money in the Communist Party coffers as a result of that urge to put a butterfly at rest.

Testimony before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), October 14, 1955, regarding Mostel's appearance at a Communist Party fundraiser.

The current production of Jim Brochu’s one man tour de force based on the life of Zero Mostel is a remarkable evening of theatre that manages to mix disturbing historical fact with bits of charming and intimate theatre history, creating a ninety minute tour de force that leaves the audience gasping for more. Directed with a firm hand for powerful nuance and characterization by actor/director Pipe Laurie, the show flies by with a compelling breakneck pace. Brochu’s text is peppered with anecdotes ranging from Mostel’s intense dislike for Jerome Robbins due to sharp political differences, to traumatic family dysfunction, life altering physical injuries, and precious moving stories about a time in America, not so different from the present, when fear around identity and personal politics was palpable on a daily basis.

Brochu’s frequently poetic language is handled with moments of wild and layered gesticulation that, in the hands of a lesser performer, could be viewed as insincere histrionics. This seasoned actor, however, and recipient of many prestigious acting awards, is able to take his own writing and layer it with so much integrity, passion, and physical energy that it all comes across as the passionate and fascinating ramblings of a man on the edge of art and politics struggling to survive in a world gone stark raving mad.

Mostels’ career was derailed during the nineteen fifties by the infamous House Un-American Activities Committee. He was able to rise from the ashes by 1960 and create some of his most memorable roles such as Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof and Pseudolus in A Funny Thing Happened on the way to the Forum. Brochu’s script includes delightful moments of nostalgia and true passion for the art of the theatre as he carefully weaves anecdotes throughout, giving the play a sense of how art and life commingle relentlessly over the course of a single career. Ultimately a kind of love/hate relationship between Mostel and his creative path emerges, providing audiences with a deeply personal yet hauntingly universal testament to the intermingling, frequently conflicted power of art and politics.

Zero Hour runs at

the Bathurst Street Theatre

until March 11th



The power of opera,

where every drama is a hoax;

with a little make-up and with mime

you can become some

one else.

But two eyes that look at you,

so close and real,

make you forget the words,

confuse your thoughts…

Caruso - by Lucio D


The Art of Time Ensemble’s Cantabile: An Evening of Italian music was a brilliant and eclectic evening featuring two incredible artists whose very distinct voices provided audiences with a program of dual virtuoso performances that came together at the end of the evening in a thrilling climax.

Canadian tenor Michael Ciufo’s program included beautiful selections from Donizetti, Verdi, Cilea, Tosti, Cardillo, Gastaldon, Denza, and ended with a very moving and powerful version of the famous aria, Vesti la giubba from Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci.

Ciufo’s much lauded charisma was in fine form as he commanded the stage with a powerfully subtle charm and enthusiasm for the material at hand, and contrasted sharply and favorably with the more rollicking persona of his musical partner, Dominic Mancuso.

Alternating throughout the evening the two performers never faltered in a diverse array of music supported by the highly skilled and musically inventive work of Benjamin Bowman (violin), Andrew Burashko (piano), Davide di Renzo (drums), Andrew Downing (double bass), John Johnson (saxophone), Véronique Mathieu (violin), and Rachel Mercer (cello). A highlight of the evening featured Benjamin Bowen’s intricate violin stylings that Mancuso introduced by saying that he had been told that the musician would be eager, and very capable, of providing sharp non-traditional accompaniment for the evocative soundscapes that supported Mancuso’s stylish and highly textured vocal presentations.

Ciufo’s controlled and gorgeous operatic tones, reaching spine tingling crescendos, provided audiences with a variety of pieces ranging form salon music to classical opera, while Mancuso’s textured, storytelling approach to voice and song ranged from the rollicking manic layers of Pino Daniele’s Je so’ pazzo (I’m Mad) to the more romantic strains of Lucio Dalla’s Caruso, providing an intriguing meta-theatrical narrative connection to Ciufo’s more operatic tones as he sang, in one verse, in stylishly moody, gorgeous and decidedly non-operatic tones about the power of opera.

The duet at the end of the evening brought these two disparate voices together in a seamless and incredible rendition of Zucchero’s Miserere. Written by Italian rock star Zucchero Fornaciari with English lyrics by U2’s Bono, Fonacaciri had hoped, in 1992, to persuade Pavarotti to record the song. Pavarottis’ response has become legendary as he declined the offer and politely responded by saying: "Thank you for writing such a wonderful song. Yet you do not need me to sing it - let Andrea sing Miserere with you, for there is no one finer." Pavarotti was speaking of Andrea Bocelli, whose recording of the version Pavarotti first heard was instrumental in catapulting Bocelli to international fame as he toured with Zucchero in 1993 where they performed the song together.

Artistic Director Andrew Burashko must be commended for once again bringing together an incredible group of musicians able to create a truly unique and engaging evening. His work with the Art of Time Ensemble continues to provide audiences with one of a kind collaborations, including the recent I Send you this Cadmium Red (an evening of theatre, dance, and music) and the upcoming forty-fifth anniversary celebration of the release of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band that will utilize the talents of a variety of musicians as they reproduce the entire album in a variety of forms ranging from pop and jazz to more classical interpretations (May 31st - June 2, 8pm, Enwave Theatre - Harborfront).

Cantabile: An Evening of Italian Music ran at the Enwave Theatre (Harborfront) February 10th and 11th

Saturday, February 11, 2012


rorrim weiv reeuq eht urht thru the queer view mirror
It seems, in fact, as though the
second half of a man's life is
made up of nothing, but the
habits he has accumulated
during the first half.
Fyodor Dostoevsky

The current stage adaptation of Dostoevsky’s novella, The Double, running at the Factory Studio Theatre, perhaps unconsciously takes the original authors own concise thoughts on the two parts of a single lifetime and capitalizes brilliantly by producing an explosive and intriguing second act. Unfortunately, a lengthy first act that spends too much time telling, and not enough time showing, makes it difficult to make one’s way happily to the unexpected burst of comic, dramatic, and physical genius that fills the stage after the intermission. But it is well worth the wait.

There may have been two ways to go in this very impressive yet unbalanced production. Either a tighter, shorter first act with more dramaturgical flair regarding the beleaguered civil servant who meets his doppelganger, or cut the first act and turn the play into a sixty minute uninterrupted tour de force. The production is blessed with the cast's staggering ability to play multiple roles, and the ongoing original jazz accompaniment by narrator/musician Arif Mirabdolbaghi gives the show a beautiful and intense rhythm that never falters from start to finish.
As the dualized and distressed central character, writer/performer Adam Paolozza delivers a passable but lackluster first act performance, upstaged constantly by the brilliant physical and vocal antics of Viktor Lukawski’s multiple characterizations. Even during a lengthy, over-narrated first act Lukawski is able to inject impressive moments of sharp comic and dramatic play that lay the foundation for act two. Hampered by opening scenes that need judicious trimming, Paolozza rises like a phoenix from the ashes and catches up to his co-stars formidable talents early into the second half when the doppelganger takes full effect and the real action begins.
TheatreRun’s artistic ensemble clearly has the ability to create simply staged, impeccably executed pieces of thought provoking physical and psychological theatre, and the three bearded beauties that take the stage in The Double ultimately bring their audiences a delightful and provocative take on what could be considered Dostoevsky’s very queer view of one man’s tortured existence. There is titillation, gorgeous original music by Mirabdolbaghi, exhilarating performances, and a startling, downright eerie denouement. All it needs is some tightening and the The Double would become a perfect adaptation of an original work. And just a bit more erotic play wouldn't hurt.
running until February 19th