Selected by Staff & Admin.
Annual Ritual no. 10 as O.A.R., but the 14th incarnation of re-capping those efforts that had the greatest impact on our attending contributors… the best of over two hundred cultural events. Here in calendar order are the most entertaining or thought-provoking endeavors selected.
“A Stitch in Time”; Theatre Erindale has made it a habit of staging only Class “A” presentations. It’s beginning to feel that we are more publicity agents than critics of their efforts. A Stitch in Time‘s plot may have other iterations but the comedic aspect is clever enough to still capture an audience.
Under director David Matheson, the cast captured the subtleties as well as the blatant humour of marital & extra-marital involvement. “Stitch’ was fun from the opening needle threading to the final tack. Confession: the team almost came to blows over whether ‘Stitch” or “The Massey Murders” should be on the list. Let’s call it a tie!
“Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” The big con game is always fodder for both drama and comedy. This particular sting created a problem for our Top Ten listing…we assuredly knew it made the list as soon as final curtain. Then, eleven months later, Theatre Sheridan staged “Hello Dolly”, and it too, was a Top Tenner. So, Robin Calvert’s cast and especially the support actors & dancers were the ‘Zis’ of listing #2; while Avery Saltzman’s team of musical matchmaker & company were the ‘Zat”!
“The Secret Garden” has some off-center religious overtones so undertaking to stage such a production takes guts. Meadowvale Music Theatre selected Danny Harvey to direct the effort and his choice of Avery Kadish in the pivotal role was inspired. The character portrayals; costumes; musical accompaniment and prop utilization were worthy of any professional stage effort.
“Oakville Chamber Orchestra & Israelievitch” In early March, the O.C.O. invited the recently retired concertmaster of the TSO to perform Beethoven, only violin concerto. Ludwig would have approved. The soloist’s interpretation, the orchestra’s counterpuntal support and Demuynck’s loose rein made this an outstanding evening. The OCO’s reading of the rarely-performed Brahms Serenade in D major was also faultless and except for a slight dragging of the adagio 3rd, the concert certainly deserves inclusion in this noble listing.
“Jesus Christ Superstar” City Centre Musical Productions had the temerity to undertake J.C.S. so soon after Stratford’s professional effort went to La Jolla & then to Broadway. But, under the artistic leadership of Maria Moore, this rendering was a little more laid-back and thus had none of the frenzy associated with a rock musical. This was spiritual without proselytizing. Chris Ning’s Judas stole the show; while apostles Simon & Peter gave heartfelt interpretations. The leads were all strong and obviously committed. It may have been our 4th viewing, but CCMP made it a standout.
“The National Academy Orchestra” An opening concert of a re-made conglomeration is usually expected to have glitches. The NAO featured Mozart’s ‘Jupiter’ Symphony as well as Wolfie’s ‘Requiem’ with the Arcady Singers and guest soloists. The selections presented, the performers and the technical expertise exhibited by the young NAO musicians made our introductory visit to the new Burlington Centre a memorable experience. The Subsequent “Eroica” & “Emperor” concert in June received just an “OK” for the former, but the latter itself was deserving of a Top Ten listing!
“The Philanderer” G.B. Shaw’s semi-biography tires to rationalize the great one’s humanity with all its foibles and instincts. The Festival named for him seemed to have an especially deep insight into Shaw with its rendering of The Philanderer. Director Lisa Peterson captured the very essence of the man with both her cast selection and interpretation. Gord Rand was a slightly tongue-in-cheek George Bernard, while Marla McLean and Moya O’Connell were perfect adversaries. Our review’s closing comment – “Shaw at his best, and SHAW at its Best.”
“STRATFORD 2014” If ever there was a season that was a must see, this was the year. Almost everything that was staged was class ‘A’ and we were unanimous about three. “CRAZY FOR YOU” was so perfect in presentation, singing & acting; superlative dancing and Natalie Daradich was like Semtex ™:- small but dynamite! Gave it a new definitive – “A Dancical”
“KING LEAR” was theatre at its best. Feore’s Lear made me wish I had done more memorization back in Eng. Lit. The two Eds’- Gloucester & all 3 daughters gave full Shakespearean effort.
“MAN OF LaMANCHA” was directed by Robert McQueen and he deserves 5-stars and a bullitt (pun intended). This reading showed a novel look at both the book and the character. Walked out humming about 5 of its hits & decided that this one too, deserved a CD stamping.
“The Gentleman Clothier” We went to Pt. Dover NOT for yellow perch or a motorcycle jamboree but to see Norm Foster’s newest play…Loved it. The story almost plagiarizes Mark Twain’s tale about going back in time, but in Foster’s hands and under Chris McHarge‘s direction, the Lighthouse Theatre gave us a full-measure professional piece of thespian art. The cast were well-suited to their individual characters; the portrayals –faultless and the set and effects – proficient. The ‘Gods’ also seem suited to us being how we both are under 5½ feet tall.
“SKIN FLICK” It seems that West End Studio Theatre refuses to present anything that less than totally professional and perfect. Another Norm Foster creation, we really shouldn’t divulge much of the plot because we-thinks that WEST will simply HAVE to re-stage this effort. Briefly, instead of ‘let’s put on a show’ premise; ‘let’s make a porn movie’ sounds like a plan. Director Mustafa and his enthusiastic cast presented a fun alternative to ‘web porn’… or so we’re told!
“Young Frankenstein” Anything Mel Brooks is sure to be a parody; certainly comedically educating, and definitely comedic. ‘Fronk’ is no exception and certain lines of dialogue have entered the modern lexicon. (6 or 7 quickies etc. or ‘Roll in the Hay’ or ‘it’s alive!’). Clarkson Music Theatre recruited a delightful and talented cast to bring the movie “Alive” with the addition of an almost operatic format. Director Bob Riddell fully accentuated the farcical and scatological aspect of Brooks’s original, yet gave it a light and almost delicate touch. We left Meadowvale sure that we had just witnessed a serious Top 10 contender.
“Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra” Yup, we can count to ten, but one of the HPO’s artistic director contenders presented an evening that merited inclusion. The Stilian Kirov presentation of Mendelssohn’s violin concerto in E-minor with soloist Blake Pouliot and post entre-acte Beethoven’s 2nd symphony demonstrated the category that the HPO can achieve among renowned classical ensembles. Glad I’m not one of the selection committee members.
The Toronto Fringe Festival entries are limited in time & scope but there were a couple of noteworthy presentations, whose creativity and production were notable. “Here After”; “Hugh & I”; “Elvis & Dick”; & “Mute…” by Randolph theatre were all exceptional.
There was a play presented by Hamilton’s HAMMER PRODUCTIONS that certainly would have made our Top Ten listing; but a post-review position made it not only ineligible but also no longer will it receive any promotional or critical coverage.