Saturday, November 27, 2010

Notes from the Big Apple

I've been down in New York since last weekend, to celebrate American Thanksgiving with my extended family. I love spending a few days in New York City before the holiday, catching up with old friends and seeing shows. This trip I was really excited because there are some interesting new musicals on Broadway. Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, got a great preview write up in the New York Times and seemed promising, as did, Kander and Ebb's final work, The Scottsboro Boys. Also on my short list was, American Idiot, the new show, set to the music of Green Day. There are some real heavyweights on Broadway right now. James Earl Jones and Vanessa Redgrave are starring in Driving Miss Daisy. Elaine Stritch and Bernadette Peters are back on Broadway in A Little Night Music. Ms. Kristen Chenoweth is starring opposite Sean Hayes in Promises, Promises, which also features a cameo by Molly Shannon. And the incomprable Patti Lupone is in the new show, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, based on the classic film by Pedro Almodovar.

With so many shows to choose from it was a tough call as to what I should see during my limited time in town. So my first stop was to visit my friends at New York Theatre Barn . I wanted to find out what they have seen and what they would recommend. Unfortunately they did not have great things to say about a few of the above mentioned shows and their criticism was echoed by a few other trusted voices. Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, was probably the show I was most excited about but from everything I have heard it may not be worth seeing. Most of the criticism for the show was about the music. Several people have told me that the score is not very good, and one person even went so far as to say that the show doesn't have a score. Yikes! Other people took issue with the story, saying that the show had some clever bits but either didn't develop them or made them into cheap jokes rather than anything with substance. Too bad. I also heard similar criticism for American Idiot. Most detractors felt that it isn't really a musical, but actually a song cycle. Not that there is anything wrong with a song cycle, but you get the picture.

Nobody I talked to had seen the Scottsboro Boys yet, but it was definitely the hot ticket in town. Everyone wants to see it, including me. The show tells the story of nine black boys who were arrested in 1931, for allegedly raping two white women, while traveling by train in the South. The show is also the last fully published collaboration between Kander and Ebb. The legendary duo wrote such classics, as Cabaret and Chicago, and had several shows in development, but Mr. Fred Ebb sadly passed away in 2004.

Usually when I am in town. I like to get half price tickets from TKTS in Times Square, for Wednesday matinees. You never know what is going to be available, which is half the fun of it, and you are guaranteed to have some choices. This year the line was unusually short, I practically walked right up to the window. There weren't nearly as many shows up as I had hoped, but both Promises, Promises and Women on the Verge... were available. Despite my great love and admiration for Ms. Lupone I opted for the former. I am frankly sick of seeing movies turned musicals on Broadway, and Promises is a classic.

The score of Promises, was written by Burt Bacharach and feature such iconic tunes as, "I Say a Little Prayer", and "I'll Never Fall in Love Again." Neil Simon wrote the book, so all and all it's a pretty solid piece. The show stars Sean Hayes, of Will and Grace fame, and despite a touch of cold that was evident he held his own and was very charming. When the revival was reviewed at least one critic chastised Mr. Hayes for being "too gay" for the role, a criticism which I have occasionally lobbied against other actors. But I actually didn't find his portrayal overly campy. No more so than the show itself, which is pretty camp.

As for Ms. Chenoweth, I have very mixed feelings about her. Her unique vocal tone does sometimes grate on my nerves but there is no denying her vocal prowess, and she as endearing as ever, not to mention perfectly cast, in the role of Fran Kubelik. She and Mr Hayes have an obvious affection for one another that helps sell their love story. With a little help from Molly Shannon the show has a lot of laughs and lightens the heart. There is nothing heavy hitting about Promises, Promises, but then again does a show have to be challenging to be entertaining? Definitely not.

I will be in town a few more days and am going to try and get to one or two more shows. Scottsboro Boys anyone?

Friday, November 26, 2010

Preview: The Silicone Diaries

Photo of Nina Arsenault by Tanja-Tiziana

Last night at Buddies in Bad Times Nina Arsenault returned to the Toronto stage, and it was a memorable evening to say the least. Last November Nina bursted onto the Buddies stage with The Silicone Diaries and had every critic around the city collectively applauding the piece. It turned out to be a massively successful sold out run, and we are loving the decision of Brendan Healy to bring the show back for a second run in this year's Buddies programme.

The Silicone Diaries is Nina's tour de force account of her transition from an awkward, insecure man into a jaw dropping silicone bombshell, a process that spanned eight years, sixty surgical procedures and a lifetime of preparation. Buddies is thrilled to welcome back this inspirational, hilarious and harrowing encounter with one of the most provocative queer voices in the country as she wrestles with the contradictions that surround the pursuit of inner and outer beauty (

Besides an outrageously warm Chamber room and a bizarre incident of a young woman running by Nina in the middle of the show and accidently vomitting everywhere (which Nina handled to perfection with a simple, "It's intense"), the show was absolutely captivating. It is a fascinating and profound piece of work. Furthermore, the juxtaposition of still photography and spoken word from Nina works really well here. Nina is simply fierce as well. Her gestures, body movements and timing are really strong. It is a riveting 2 hours and we highly recommend seeing this show. We will be writing more on the show as the week goes on!

Buddies in Bad Times Theatre presents
The Silicone Diaries
Created and Performed by Nina Arsenault
Directed by Brendan Healy
Dramaturgy by Judith Rudakoff
Production Design Trevor Schwellnus
Associate Lighting Designer Michelle Ramsay
Music and Sound Design Richard Feren
Stage Manager Sandy Plunkett

November 25 - December 11, 2010

For tickets click the header, or cick here!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Mirvish and Sony Centre announce affiliation deal

Mirvish Productions and the Sony Centre are joining forces to cross-promote and co-produce programming, announced David Mirvish and Dan Brambilla, CEO of the not-for-profit Sony Centre. Both companies are major heavyweights in the Toronto theatre community and the new partnership has got a lot of people talking.

According to Ouzounian in The Star; "both men revealed that they will immediately start offering their patrons special arrangements to purchase tickets for the other’s shows; help each other with cooperative publicity and make the spacious (3,200-seat) Sony available for up to 10 weeks a year for Mirvish-Brambilla co-productions that would demand the increased capacity and production facilities" (

It will be interesting to see how this all pans out, however, to read the full article in The Globe and Mail regarding this merge, click here!

The Year of Magical Thinking performance added

Due to an overwhelming demand for tickets Tarragon has decided to add another performance of The Year of Magical Thinking. The added performance will be on December 12th at 7pm.
The Year of Magical Thinking has been getting really strong reviews from all the mainstream press:
For tickets please click the header!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Preview: Studies in Motion

Andrew Wheeler
Photo Credit: Tim Matheson

"The ground-breaking Vancouver-based Electric Company Theatre presents a physically and visually explosive multimedia spectacle inspired by the life, work and ghosts of the father of modern cinema. In 1885, Eadweard Muybridge sets out to catalogue animal movement and human gestures, but he is haunted by the ghosts of his past and the rational scientist that he has attempted to become must face the naked animal that remains inside him. This spellbinding profile of the man who froze time explores themes of memory, identity, and the quest for meaning". (

We are really excited about Studies in Motion at Canadian Stage. Muybridge was such an influential figure from the early cinematic years and the juxtapositioning and intergration of medias to reveal his life seems like the perfect way to explore such an fascinating subject matter.

For tickets click here!

Studies in Motion
Bluma Appel Theatre
27 Front Street East

Director: Kim Collier
Written by Kevin Kerr
Choreographed by Crystal Pite
Costume Design: Mara Gottler
Composer: Patrick Pennefather
Original Set, Lighting & Video Design by Robert Gardiner
Lighting Adapted by Adrian Muir
Stage Manager: Jan Hodgson
Assistant Stage Manager: Jennifer Swan

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Preview: Bethune Imagined

Playwright and Artistic Director Ken Gass (Slip Knot, Claudius, The Boy Bishop and Hurray for Johnny Canuck!) has a new play premiering at the Factory Theatre, entitled Bethune Imagined.The piece looks at the charismatic and contradictory iconic figure, Norman Bethune (1890-1939), through a six-month period in 1936 when he resided in Montreal, prior to his departure for Spain and, subsequently, China where he died a hero to billions of Chinese. Bethune was also a man who really loved women and the story we see on the Factory stage is that of Bethune and three remarkable women in his life. Described as a 'passionate, insatiable man driven to conquer everything and everyone around him'. Bethune Imagined promises to give us 'three love stories and a date with destiny'.

Bethune Imagined
Written and Directed by Ken Gass
Starring: Fiona Byrne, Sascha Cole, Irene Poole and Ron White
Factory Theatre Mainspace
On until December 12th
For tickets or more info click here!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Preview: It's $5

The lovely, talented and always self deprecating, Ms. Heidi Brander is returning to the Crown and Tiger on College Street for a second edition of the enormously successful, It's $5. If you like laughing then we are pretty sure this show will tickle your fancy. Furthermore, back for a second round are Laura Di Labio and Zachary Pearse who both brought the house down in the first edition, so we are very excited to see these two back in the line up!

Again, because Brander is so good at what she does, we have decided to simply place the press release as it was written below:

"What do you get when you combine stand-up comedy, wigs, song parodies and sass (besides Dame Edna)?

You get "IT’S $5"! A $5 night of stand-up comedy for only $5 (two for $10, 3 for $15)

In the tradition of "Sex and the City 2" and "Crazy Fat Ethel 2", get ready for "It’s $5 2"! (Hereby known as simply “It’s $5” because it’s not $52.)


Andrew Johnston (Dark Child Remix)
Diana Love (Feat. Timbaland)
Julia Hladkowicz (Freemasons Mix)
Kathleen McGee (Glee Cast Version)
Juan Manuel Gonzalez-Calcaneo (Feat. Willow Smith)
Laura Di Labio (Karaoke Version)
Marco Bernardi (Radio Edit)
Rhiannon Archer (Love Theme from “Top Gun”)
Vicki Licks (Feat. Vicki Lawrence-Schlutz)
Zachary Pearse (Onyx Hotel Tour Live)

Admission: It’s official – I can’t have children
Cost of Admission: $5!"

It's $5
Tuesday, November 23 · 8:00pm - 10:00pm
Location The Crown & Tiger, 414 College St.
(College & Bathurst)
Tickets will be sold at the door.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Preview: The Cure for Everything

Opening this coming week at Theatre Passe Muraille is a show Liza and I are both very excited about. It is a solo show called The Cure for Everything and it is supposed to be really amusing.

A sequel to the much adored You Fancy Yourself, The Cure for Everything is set in 1962 and tells more tales of endearing Elsa, a 14 year old from Edinburgh who is in the midst exploring her sexuality. This time around creator and performer Maja Ardal has chosen to juxtaposition the Cuban missile crises with Elsa's own personal conflicts. In an interview with NOW Magazine, Ardal says; "The Cuban missile crisis seemed like a good time to set the action. Just as the world is at the brink of complete chaos, so Elsa is at the brink of discovering her sexuality and what it means to be an adult". Set to the early tracks from The Beatles, this show sounds like the perfect theatre outing!
The Cure for Everything
Created and Performed by Maja Ardal
Directed by Mary Francis-Moore
November 10 to December 4, 2010
Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace
16 Ryerson, Toronto

For tickets click the header or click here!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Who Knew a Financial Crisis Could be so Funny.

It's not easy to make light of a recession that costs hundreds of billions of dollars and sent investors, banks and governments into a tailspin. But performers and co-creators Ravi Jain and Adam Paolozza do a pretty good job in Spent, on now until November 28th, at Factory Theatre.

Created in collaboration with director duo Michele Smith and Dean Gilmour, Spent takes comedic aim at the 2008 fiscal crisis, born on Wall Street. Through a series of vignettes, in which Jain and Paolozza play dozens of characters, they weave together the story of two former Bay street traders whose attempt at suicide makes international new. In one elaborate scene, the two are plunged into the depths of hell and square of with the Devil himself, who of course they also play. The show tackles the darker elements with a light hand leaving the audience entertained rather than depressed.

While it might be fair criticism to say Spent fails to hit very hard, preferring the humorous to the profound, there are moments of serious reflection. In one scene, the actors re-create the House of Representatives Oversight Committee investigation of Lehman Brother executive Richard Fuld. Pitting Paolozza against Jain, as US Representative Henry Waxman, to great effect. The scenes in Spent are well crafted, entertaining and pointedly drive home the message, financial crises make excellent fodder for comedy.

Spent is well worth the night out at the theatre and we highly recommend it. Click the header for more information or to get tickets.

Preview: The Year of Magical Thinking

In this dramatic adaptation of Joan Didion’s award-winning memoir, a recent widow struggles with the sudden loss of her husband of forty years and their only child. Seana McKenna reprises her critically acclaimed performance.

The Globe and Mail loved this show, click here to read the article!

From The Belfry Theatre Company in Victoria, British Columbia
The Year of Magical Thinking
Written by Joan Didion
Directed by Michael Shamata
Starring Seana McKenna
At Tarragon Theatre
The Year of Magical Thinking runs in Toronto until Dec. 12

Click the header for tickets!

(Courtesies of

Monday, November 8, 2010

Preview: Wide Awake Hearts

The world premiere of Wide Awake Hearts is taking place this week at the Tarragon Theatre. Written by Brendan Gall and directed by Gina Wilkinson Wide Awake Hearts tells the tale of a successful screenwriter and producer, A (Raoul Bhaneja) who casts his wife, B (Lesley Faulkner), and best friend, C (Gord Rand), as lovers in his newest feature film. When B and C's on-screen intimacy spills over into real life, things get complicated. A wonders if he wrote the relationship into existence or if it had been there all along.

Starring: Maev Beatty, Raoul Bhaneja, Lesley Faulkner, Gord Rand

Director: Gina Wilkinson
Set, Costume & Video Designer: Lorenzo Savoini
Lighting Designer: Bonnie Beecher
Sound Designer & Composer: Mike Ross
Stage Manager: Beatrice Campbell

Playing until December 12th.
Tarragon Extra Space

For tickets click here.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

"You can't eat the orange and throw the peel away - a man is not a piece of fruit."

We are happy to announce that Soulpepper has decided to extend both A Raisin in the Sun and Death of a Salesman until the 20th of November! Click here for tickets. EAP has seen both shows in the Distillery District at the Young Centre for the Arts and we really, really enjoyed them. Both are powerful productions with very strong casts and intelligent direction.

I personally was more moved by Death of a Salesman. Real-life couple and Soulpepper founders Joseph Ziegler and Nancy Palk play Willy and Linda Loman to perfection. Ziegler ability to sway from tenderness, sadness and nostalgia to anger, despair and rage is a true testament to his capabilities, and proves yet again that he is one of the finest actors in our city. And Palk is simply superb as Linda. She is so present, open and sincere in the role.

Now let's take a moment and discuss the piece itself. Arthur Miller was a phenomenal playwright and Death of a Salesman could arguably be his best. The language of the play has a profound impact and the sweeping themes still resonate today. Betrayal, loss, love, abandonment, heartbreak, sacrifice, extraordinary tragedy in ordinary lives, and the dynamics of family relationships are still at the forefront of human existence. What was most surprising was how relatable I found the entire play. Miller clearly believes that the tragic hero of the modern world is the ordinary man, and really, so do I. The piece is moving, profound and made me question my own beliefs (or are they just illusions?).

Here are my favourite quotes from the Death of a Salesman:

I have such thoughts, I have such strange thoughts. —Willy

Work a lifetime to pay off a house. You finally own it, and there’s nobody to live in it. —Willy

It’s a measly manner of existence. To get on that subway on the hot mornings in summer… To suffer fifty weeks a year for the sake of a two-week vacation, when all you really desire is to be outdoors, with your shirt off. And always to have to get ahead of the next fella. And still – that’s how you build a future. —Biff

Never fight fair with a stranger, boy. You’ll never get out of the jungle that way. —Ben

Gotta break your neck to see a star in this yard. —Willy

I don’t say he’s a great man. Willy Loman never made a lot of money. His name was never in the paper… But he’s a human being, and a terrible thing is happening to him. So attention must be paid. He’s not to be allowed to fall into his grave like an old dog. Attention, attention must be finally paid to such a person. —Linda

And the best two are:

You can't eat the orange and throw the peel away. A man is not a piece of fruit. -Willy

A small man can be just as exhausted as a great man. -Linda

Click the header for more info and to buy tickets!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Preview: Homeland

Tomorrow night EAP is attending Homeland, at Theatre Passe Muraille. Homeland explores the meaning of home to individuals in a hybrid setting of dance, live music and documentary film. The spoken, and at times unspoken, words of the personalities in the film from a wide array of backgrounds are translated into dance and physical theatre against the beats of drums and the flow of electronic sequences. Through this contemplative journey of words, sounds, and movements, you will rethink the definition of home and add your own to the already existing ones.*

Homeland joins a bunch of show opening in Toronto over the next few weeks that explore issues of identity through mixed mediums of dance, music, and in this case, film. The show runs at Passe Muraille until November 6th. Saturday matinee tickets are $10.00. All other tickets are $20.00. For information click the header. Be sure and come out in support of Homeland. And check back for our impressions of the show.

Written & Directed by Setareh Delzendeh
Performer: Megan Nadain
Sound Design & Composition: Reza Moghaddas
Percussions: Lorenzo Castelli
Stage Manager & Artistic Assistant: Lida Nosrati

*Description courtesy of Passe Muraille

Preview: Voice-Box

World Stage, at the Harbourfront Centre, is proudly presenting urbanvessel's World Premire production of Voice-Box. The show sounds amazing , EAP is happy to say that we will be attending the opening, next Wednesday.

"Voice-Box brings together the sweet science of boxing and the power of the singing voice to create a knock-out performance, uniting the talents of choreographer Julia Aplin, writer Anna Chatterton and composer Juliet Palmer. The creators step into the ring with the feisty quartet of Vilma Vitols (opera, cabaret, new music singer and accomplished boxer), Neema Bickersteth (actor and opera singer), Savoy Howe (comedian and boxing coach) and Christine Duncan (improviser, jazz and gospel singer)."

The show sounds like an amazing and eclectic mix, and we are really looking forward to the music, and the fighting. The show deals with issues of gender and aggression and even hints at audience participation. Ladies, wear comfortable shoes cause I have got a feeling that everyone will be able to get in the ring at this one.

Harbourfront Centre’s World Stage 2010-11
urbanvessel (Canada)
Part of Fresh Ground new works
November 10-13, 8 p.m. & November 14, 2 p.m.
York Quay Centre,
Brigantine Room 235, Queens's Quay West
Tickets $15-$35
Box Office: 416 973 4000 or click the header

Monday, November 1, 2010

Preview: Spent

Theatre Smith-Gilmour, Why Not Theatre & TheatreRUN are bringing back last year’s Dora-Award winning and critically praised comedy, SPENT.

Created by Michele Smith, Dean Gilmour, Ravi Jain and Adam Paolozza SPENT is made up of two hot emerging artists and two seasoned veterans who combine forces to bring some economic commentary (read: comedy) of the recent financial crisis to the Toronto stage.

Click here to visit the Factory Theatre website. Call for tickets. EAP missed SPENT last year but we see it Friday and will be letting you know how we felt about it.

October 29 - November 28, 2010
Factory Studio Theatre
Tickets $15-28