O.A.R.’s “THE TOP TEN” (plus plus), 2016 Reply

Editorial & Administrative opinions
There have been previous years where due to tie-votes, our ARTS REVIEW’s TOP TEN list has, in actuality contained 12 or even 14 items. This year has seen such a plethora of worthy efforts of entertainment that the final selection process was daunting. So, for the first time, O.A.R.  will also specify an ‘Honourable Mention’ (sort of Silver or Bronze medal) category.

THEATRE UNLIMITED, This successful Miss ‘a community group undertook staging the musical version of Monty Python’s SPAMALOT. The droll puns and one-liners still abound but with the addition of musical numbers, it’s even enhanced. As we wrote in our review “– an awesome giggle from start to finish and we loved it!”

the candidates for work as part of A CHORUS LINE

the candidates for work as part of Stratford’s “A CHORUS LINE”

CITY CENTER MUSICAL PROD., The first of our “Honorable Mention” items is CCMP’s JEKYLL & HYDE-the musical. The direction was professional and the results polished. The casting of Erin Mouchian in the pivotal role of Lucy made this effort a standout and if it weren’t for a surfeit of other excellent offerings, this would have been a ‘Top Tenner!”.

THEATRE ERINDALE  Shakespeare’s COMEDY OF ERRORS, & ‘PERICLES’ both in February gave fans a welcome break from winter. David Matheson directed the former as pure comedy thus allowing the critic to tongue-in-cheekily ask “Wherefore art thou, Dromio?” Patrick Young helmed the latter with a more insightful and analytical approach, but still allowed some humor to the Prince of Tyre. Both were so meticulously staged that selecting one only became impossible. Each were “epitomic examples of what pure theatre can accomplish with dynamic direction” Therefore – a tie.

HAMILTON PHILHARMONIC ORCH. A concert of Spanish music had us sitting enthralled but perhaps it was partially due to a bias towards the genre…especially the traditional zarzuela folk format. Jeffrey McFadden’s reading of Rodrigo’s ’Concierto de Arajuez’ was exquisite; the interpretive dances sequences and ‘Habanera’ vocal reading made this evening every concertgoer’s ‘perfect concert evening’. An earlier concert under Gemma New was entitled “Cirque de la Symphonie” and contained on-stage acrobats and even aerialists. This was a visual as well as aural delight. “CIRQUE” gleans an ‘Honorable Mention’ document.

THEATRE SHERIDAN,  This college faculty is a consistent ‘Top Tenner’, but this year it earned a ‘hat trick’ in that three of its offerings were smashes. DAMN YANKEES was every bit as good as the Broadway original of 1955. Retelling the Faustian legend but from a pro ballplayer’s view, it’s songs have impact even out of context. GRAND HOTEL -the musical; is an update on the famous 1932 drama but under meticulous & comprehensive direction by Brian Hill, and the faultless choreography of Robert Allan, this was a smashing effort. We enjoyed the Meadowvale Music’s “SHREK- the musical” and it was a contender…until Sheridan staged it in December. It was such a perfect production and director Keith Pike’s rather unique focus resulted in something we considered for an encore visit.

STRATFORD FESTIVAL  Twenty-sixteen will certainly be remembered by the O.A.R. contributors. If it weren’t for Soulpepper’s version of “Incident At Vichy’; Stratford’s season would have been a double Hat Trick! MacBETH directed by Cimolino himself was a benchmark interpretation that like some other renowned staging’s; should be Broadway bound and then on tour. Miller’s ALL MY SONS offered a new insight into families and morals under the direction of Martha Henry; A CHORUS LINE had some artistic tweaking by Donna Feore that resulted in something that outdid the original NYC offering by Hamlisch himself; and our banner-line for AS YOU LIKE IT was amended to As You WILL like it. We did; our counterparts did and most of the viewers (except for the purists) liked it too.

WEST END STUDIO THEATRE   Experience has taught us to compare offerings by WEST with the same pencil sharpness as anything professionally mainstream…they’re that talented. A.R. Gurney’s LOVE LETTERS was staged twice this year and critiqued (by different contributors) both times. Each offering was special, emotional and impacting. No wonder so many of their alumnae end up mainstream.

SHAW FESTIVAL, Athol Fugard’s 1982 MASTER HAROLD & THE BOY is a shortish drama about race relations in Apartheid South Africa. Our correspondent wrote that the atmosphere created by the cast & crew had the audience actually feeling the simmering tension portrayed therein. Each representation was believable and impacting. To quote our writer- “Everything about the production was charmed and magical”.

OAKVILLE PLAYERS   A new locally written play about a funeral home was premiered by the Oakville Players and they and it was a standout. Not quite a contender, GIBSON & SONS earns an Honourable Mention for its creativity; entertainment value; understated comedic moments. director Angie Fyke and the cast septet handled the one-liners with aplomb and created something touching and identifiable. We felt forced to actually apologize post-preview for such a surfeit of laughter as to almost disturb the on-stage timing.

WATERDOWN VILLAGE THEATRE   Even judging by non-professional community theatre standouts, there are some efforts that almost make the Top 10 criteria. An Honorable Mention diploma was earned for ‘MURDERED TO DEATH which was a parody of the whodunit genre. Loose directorial reins by Graham Clements allowed the cast to seemingly enjoy emoting the ridiculous misnomers, malapropisms and confused homonyms. Another pure giggle from opening to curtain.

SOULPEPPER Albert Schultz’s theatre team’s métier seems to be challenges. To undertake a story about the Holocaust; ‘banality of Evil’ and inhumanity in a convincing and dynamic way with resort to uberdrama or histrionics requires a keen hand and Alan Dilworth’s direction was what our writer Judith R. considered masterful. Arthur Miller’s play “INCIDENT at VICHY” packs a right hook to the kidneys, but Soulpepper still managed to stage something that was theatre as its most impacting.

ORCHESTRE SYMPHONIQUE DE MONTREAL  – Something extra-special. The T.S.O. invited the OSM to perform at Roy Thomson. Almost fifty-five years to the day, our writer Danny Gaisin re-critiqued the organization that was his very first published column as a music critic. Till Fellner’s reading of the Beethoven 4th piano concerto was faultless and melded perfectly with the OSM musicians and their renowned conductor. The interpretation gleaned some teary-eyed moments but it was the time personally spent with conductor Kent Nagano that really reduced Danny to an emotional wreak. Such is hero worship.

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