“O.A.R.’s TOP TEN for 2019 ” Reply

Opinion by O.A.R. administrators
Dec. 15th, 2019

Age is finally catching up with us (almost) ancient critical scribes. We attended and wrote about fewer cultural events due to octogenarian fatigue, aches, and general ennui. Still, enough energy to have adequate content from which to select the ten most effecting.

HAMILTON PHILHARMONIC. The whole season was superlative. The HPO’s musicians are all “A-Team” worthy; the conductor’s renown in the orchestral community continues to grow; and the eclectic program has something for everyone. The works chosen please, educate and entertain. The HPO is a credit to its host city and especially its audience. Kudos for a 2nd year in the black! *

Matt Nethersole inviting us to BRIGADOON’s “McConnachy Square

SHAW FESTIVAL, It is a rarity, given the limited opportunities offered the media, for us types to repeat in a season. The 1940’s Broadway musical BRIGADOON” (Lerner & Loewe) has been seen and enjoyed numerous times over the decades, but this take by the SHAW FESTIVAL was the uncontested best- including the original NY cast. Director Glynis Leyshon’s usage of projected imagery explains the rationale behind ‘Tommy’ & Jeff’s bachelor hunting trip, and underscored Mr. (Mistress) Lundie’s explanation of Brit/Scottish events two centuries earlier. Confession; this writer teared up at both the early and final performances we attended.

STRATFORD FESTVAL, It had to be BILLY ELLIOT and the eponymous lead young Nolen Dubuc that made this the standout offering of the season. “Merry Wives of Windsor”; Little Shop of Horrors and “Henry VIII” all were critically acclaimed. Unfortunately, “Front Page” was only staged in the Fall, maybe the Festival will bring it back in the future.

QAGGIQ COLLECTIVE (Nunavut) Contributor Ellen Jaffee was so impressed with “KIVIUQ” that her review was sent to us with an asterisk mentioning how moving this effort was and her response to the on-stage portrayals was visceral. Based on this drama, both she and our O.A.R. Administrators decided that if future opportunities to attend indigenous theatre comes about, we’ll certainly attend, critique and publish same.

SIMCOE LITTLE THEATRE, This southwestern community staged “MOONGLOW” which dealt with the symptoms & aspects of Alzheimer’s. Being staged at the exact time that the malady affected our household made it both meaningful and dynamic. Such a challenging subject and demanding role portrayals made this an automatic candidate for our Top Ten. If we hadn’t chosen Moonglow; then “25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” and its delightful kid performers would have certainly made the cut

ANCASTER THEATRE, The B & B of “ABBA” created MAMMA MIA as a showcase for their numerous Gold Record compositions. As a movie, it ranks among the worst things Hollywood attempted; as a stage play it succeeded and Ancaster’s semi-pro thespians; young and older alike, made it good enough to compete with the so-called ‘Big Guns’ of musical theatre.

BINBROOK LITTLE THEATRE, a ridiculous play by Joan Bethencourt entitled “The Day they Kidnapped the Pope”, turned out to be a hilarious romp for the actors and a delight for its audience. Giggles, guffaws and outright laughter almost overrode most of the hilarious and dialogue and bang-on delivery.

PENINSULA PLAYERS, John Addison directed “THEFT” where audiences again witnessed cast members obviously enjoying performing and interpreting their characterizations. Actor Ray Hunt is the so-called bad guy of the piece and he epitomizes perfect casting. His method of role reading, timing and expressions all per perfectly suiting for the pivotal part.

THEATRE ERINDALE, By now readers may think that we’ve abandoned the professionals for community enterprises. Not so, the big fellas also made the cut. Herein a tie! “THE GLOVE THIEF” is a historical play that takes place in Elizabethan England and deals with the Queen vs. Scottish Mary as seen though the eyes of the help. UTM’s Theatre Faculty impeccably trained thespians make the dialogue, and interacting flow smoothly and even the support-crew activity is professional and immaculate. Then, a month later -“THIS IS WAR” was acclaimed as ‘gritty as the real thing’ and as emotionally identifiable. The onstage quartet were mesmerizing in every aspect of their role interpretations. Back in the fifties’ I was there, did that’ so our opinion comes from a little experience and recall!

(Tie) TORONTO SYMPHONY ORCH. Given that the mainstream media completely covers all kinds of stuff going on in Toronto, Our blog tends to emphasize beyond the city. However, when the HPO’s conductor, Gemma New, was asked to take a podium whose predecessors included Davis; Oundjian; Ozawa; Feldbrill; Ancerl & MacMillan; we had to traverse the QEW. The TSO’s handling of Mozart (concerto in C Major) & Shostakovich’s 5th Symphony, showed why it is a benchmark among Canadian orchestras, and why New never need to take a backseat to anyone… she’s also a benchmark!
OAKVILLE CHAMBER ORCHESTRA, It may represent a rather mid-sized town, but the 35 year-old O.C.O. undertook Bach’s famous Brandenburg concerti. Utilizing acclaimed guest soloists and the Oakville Centre’s better acoustics, this was an experience for both the people in the town and exurbs like us. We were especially taken with the harpsichord work by Ron Greidanus and trumpeter Brian McAuley. It was a Bach aficionado’s perfect evening


As mentioned in this column’s intro, among the omitted genres, the super Toronto Fringe was by-passed. We DID have a full program list; and had even dog-eared some choices; but given that finding a safe Toronto storage place for our motorcycle (in order to zip from venue to venue) wasn’t found, we forewent (forego-ed) the pleasure and experience of being a ‘FRINGE-er’. Maybe next year. We pray that 2020 brings only good things to all of you, our faithful readers.

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