STAGE DOOR, a UTM blockbuster success Reply

Review by Danny Gaisin

The adjectival phrases for evolutionary advancement have morphed from ‘expanding horizons’; to ‘paradigm shift’ to ‘outside the box’; and ‘pushing the envelope’. All are appropriate for the major thespian project by UTM’s THEATRE ERINDALE. To mount the original version rather than the extremely familiar movie version is a challenge.

the Footlights Club residents

Photo  courtesy of Jim Smagata

To influence twenty-nine budding thespians into satirizing themselves and their own potential careers without weakening their enthusiasm is certainly daunting. Designing a set that can sufficiently overcome dimensional limitations so that 2 ½ dozen kids don’t trip over each other, yet can be directorially

Blocked, must require legerdemain. All these adversities have been successfully conquered and STAGE DOOR is a certifiable blockbuster.

Edna Ferber & George Kaufman’s ¾ century-old paean to the dedication; love (& capitulation to Mammon) and commitment to the theatre still has a message for today. The price tag may differ; the pathways deviate, but the end result remains constant…a few successes; far more disappointments, but steadfastness is unremitting. The plot deals with a New York boarding house for ladies circa 1940 all waiting for their theatrical break. Think ‘A Chorus Line’ but without the music. Each stereotype is embodied- the ingénue; the sexpot; the gold-digger; the naïf; the diffident; the untalented and the determined. In other words, theatre people!

This is undoubtedly the director’s take. Heinar Piller again is the recipient of kudos from this scribe. He allows his female side to empathize with his characters and his appreciation for the searing wit of Ferber is obvious in the way his charges present some of the zingers that is so obviously hers! When pianist Olga (Ali Richardson) scathingly comments on a lifestyle in but two words; “everything pink” conveys whole paragraphs. There is the moment that the heroine’s dad, played by Ben Hayward, on meeting her suitor observes “I guess you’ll do” that communicates all those emotions a father feels on such occasions… succinct yet poignant.

The focal character is Terry Randall and Hannah Drew bestows such integrity into her portrayal that she comes across as more than just credible, she’s familiar. The frivolous tap dancing and physical dexterity exhibited by Carolyn Nettleton adds some visual humor to what otherwise might verge on over-dramatization. Sarah Robbins’ classically beautiful face is also a study in dramatic mobility and visage expression range. The two ‘Mary’s’ –Karyn Mcgibbon & Emily Johnston also contribute moments of tension relief.

The two major male contributors are Jake Maric & Fraser Woodside whose characters are diametric opposites. Both young men give full measure in their readings of such diverse attitudes and personalities. Even their stances express attitude. The rest of the cast also contribute full measure and as the director stated post-curtain…there are NO small roles. Stage Door gives testimony to that truism.

The stage-set, designed by Patrick Young gives the illusion of a much larger area and yet parsimoniously is and was adaptable for other performances. Sarah Jane Burton’s choreography and the incredible costuming by Joanne Massingham all contribute to an effect that is worthy of anything produced by mainstream Toronto. This is one meticulous and demanding effort that succeeds in all aspects. STAGE DOOR is at Erindale until the 18th, but please use the box office entrance!

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