Opinion by O.A.R. administrators
Dec. 22, ‘ 18
Can’t fight progress, so this year there will be a major change… a Toronto Fringe offering is to be included, even though we previously relegated these 1-hour efforts to the ‘Honourable Mention’ category. However, the criteria for overall inclusion remains unchanged- memorable; educational; entertaining and definitely professionally staged!
HAMILTON PHILHARMONIC. This superior orchestra under the direction of Gemma New offered a full series of superlative concerts whose eclectic selections ran the gamut from the seriously classical to fun pops and contemporary compositions. Given the high caliber of the HPO, choosing just one as a standout proved too difficult; so, a 4-way-tie.
February brought the ‘Cirque du Symphonie’’ and the Haydn concert; A Brahms evening in September and a delightful Halloween afternoon with the orchestra under guest conductor, Daniel Bartholemew-Poyser (costumed along with the HPO musicians). Not quite contenders, but well-received;-this month’s ‘The Hockey Sweater” and the Leonard Bernstein tribute-evening in May.
THEATRE ERINDALE. Caryl Churchill’s TOP GIRLS and its message about the gender-limiting glass ceiling made an impact on both sexes. This was a major undertaking and both cast & crew met the challenge. We considered it an apogee moment until “Metamorphoses” in October which had us actually phoning folks to tell them not to missit! Erindale’s “Clybourne Park” was nine+ contender, too.
BURLOAK THEATRE. This Oakville community group undertook the staging of “Little Shop of Horrors”. Aware of the costs, technical challenges, and thespian demands; we attended the opening planning on utilizing our dullest pencils. Unnecessary, this was almost on a level of the downtown (read -expensive) theatre presentations. The vocal talents displayed, the creative effects and even the cynical but hilarious graffiti that covered the backdrops made this a Top-Tener from the opening curtain.
BINBROOK LITTLE THEATRE. There is nothing less adjectival than ‘little’ about the BLT. Their staging of the WWI story about just a few days in the trenches of Belgium gave its audience an intimate almost claustrophobic feeling of sitting just below ‘no man’s Land a few meters away from the enemy’s guns. Witnessing war through the eyes of a coward; shell-shocked naive youth and hero-worship was both memorable and meaningful. Director Aubrey Boothman had the cojones to ask his charges to portray all the warts endemic with every human being, thus giving the whole enterprise more than just a hint of reality and as most of the (older) folks mentioned post-curtain, credibility. All the team deserved an “M.C.” for effort.
THEATRE ANCASTER. It isn’t very often that our administrators find something done locally that exceeds the big budgets of Hollywood or Broadway. Seeing the on-stage version of Kander & Ebb’s CHICAGO was a highlight of our theatre season. Everything about the presentation was faultless. The direction by Al Croxall was immaculate; the singing (& acting) by leads as well as support cast was about as good as it gets; and the creative staging and S/X contributed to an impressive and memorable effort. From the opening ‘All that Jazz” by Velma Kelly (we wrote that she is a quintuple threat and covers more than just adequately, all those attributes of theatre). The orchestra support, choreography, and costuming made this another of those efforts that had us calling friends advising them not to miss it.
SHERIDAN. Given that there was a disagreement with Theatre Sheridan’s chief administrator over our requisite for a photo (or photo-op) to accompany each of our articles; we no longer will be covering their stage efforts. But we did see and enjoy ‘Kiss Me Kate” & “Crazy for You”.
TORONTO FRINGE. The Wes & Aaron Berger offering “FIRST DATES” brought eight familiar actors onstage in a gem-like series of inter-connected vignettes about social relationships from the young twenty-somethings to the elderly. This was so powerful a presentation that we requested the opportunity to witness and experience it twice. The thespian team of Fox; Fulton; Lea; Dillon, Berger; Bennett; Singh and McIntyre; made this critic wish that it could have been videotaped for TV or an even wider viewing audience. BTW, it deservedly won the ‘Best in Fringe’ award!
The Professional Biggies — –
STRATFORD FESTIVAL. Along with its sister Festival in Niagara, these jewels in our Province’s theatre-world rarely don’t hit home runs, or score ‘Hat Tricks+’. This year, we thoroughly enjoyed Wilson’s ‘MUSIC MAN’ and exited humming about a plethora of trombones. The kids that could express such talent, focus and faultless lyrics/dialogue is a credit to the preparation that is necessary to be so perfect on stage.
“ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW” was a definitive interpetation of the cult favorite; but it was Harper Lee’s’ “TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD” that left the greatest impression. Amazing considering that the iconic movie was such a powerhouse. The Festival’s visionary inrerpretation of “CORIOLANUS” made us add to our long-distance calling charges in order to tell our American Stratford fans about this incredible effort. Hopefully, it too, was taped for future TV showing.
SHAW FESTIVAL Vicky Baum’s pre-war drama about the early thirties in Berlin — “GRAND HOTEL”, certainly defined the title. The enormous and detailed set; the choreography and energetic dancing, the superb role interpretations and the overall impact of the ‘essence’ of the era; are all evidenced. Even the subtle foretelling of the inevitable war reverberated with audiences.
The ‘game was afoot’ with Reid & Atkins interpreting Watson and Holmes in a delightful and entertaining version of the ‘HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES’. On the minus side, our lack of knowledge about Narnia made ‘The Magician’s Nephew’ difficult to follow, Fortunately, two teenagers, post-curtain, took the time to elucidate what had happened previously, and explain what we had just seen. Actually, at one point we thought the action was taking place in an Amazon® distribution warehouse!