News   Jun 14, 2024
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Live Theatre in Toronto

One would think that with the Occupy protests fresh on the mind, the touring production of the musical Hair would be very timely. But it is not. In fact, Hair suffers from the fact that the freshly-scrubbed young actors on stage lack the edge that made (some) people slightly afraid of the unwashed Occupy masses and made many people afraid of the free-spirited, free-sex, anti-war, pro-drug young people prevalent in the ‘60’s and ‘70’s--and portrayed in Hair. Running up and down the aisles of the Royal Alex tousling audience members’ hair only made them seem less intimidating and more ‘up with people’ friendly. And so the show doesn’t really work because it has no edge. Songs were good, but like Glee cover versions, they have been drained of their original meaning.

While the musical Memphis may similarly suffer from a lack of authenticity, it makes up for it with characters one can care about. While I couldn’t feel anything for the layabout youths in Hair, I did feel for Memphis’s oddball Huey, who finally finds his niche in life as a white DJ playing black music in a segregated 1950’s Memphis, Tennessee. He also finds love in the ambitious black R&B/soul singer Felicia. But his own naïveté and fear of leaving the confines of his hometown doom him to an unexpectedly (for a musical) dreary fate. I actually overheard someone while leaving Hair saying how she would gladly see Memphis again rather than Hair (the discussion was on what show they would take some other friend or family member)--and I was inclined to agree. While they may not be performing it 40 years from now like Hair, Memphis was the more enjoyable show for right now.
Private Lives is closing 5 weeks early in New York due to poor ticket sales. It did so well in Toronto. I wonder what this says about Toronto audiences and New York audiences, if anything?
I see Hair on Tuesday night. Am I in danger of having my hair ruffled?

If you are in the orchestra level on the aisle, yes. Oh, and at the end of the show they invite audience members to come up on stage during the encore (Hair/Let the Sun Shine). If you've ever imagined being on the stage of the Royal Alex, this is your chance. I was sitting in the second row on the aisle and I actually did go up on stage (uncharacteristicly for me) though I did hide at the back.

Private Lives is closing 5 weeks early in New York due to poor ticket sales. It did so well in Toronto. I wonder what this says about Toronto audiences and New York audiences, if anything?

I would think that Kim Cattrall gracing the Toronto stage was a big thrill for us, whereas New Yorkers can see many more stars of much higher wattage on any given night on the Broadway stage. Paul Gross is a better known name in Toronto than New York. And Private Lives is an oft-produced vintage play that would be more appealing for an older audience, but despite its strengths this wasn't really a 'must see' production. On the other hand, most of the Broadway theatres are currently tied up with musicals, so you'd think a straight play would attract an audience (despite the $176.50 premium ticket price).
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Back from Hair! I thought it was fun, although somewhat amateurish and yes, definitely lacking an edge. Good energy, and the songs and music are classic but not always well performed -- I found some of the arrangements rushed. It is getting dated though (I'm old enough to remember). There were some younger folks near us who didn't get some of the references. And the people beside us left at intermission because the nudity was just too shocking. :) Just missed out on the hair ruffling BTW.
American Idiot- Toronto Centre for the Arts-Dancap Productions

"...the first great musical of the 21st century." Richard Ouzounian

Really? Good thing we've got 89...88 years left. I enjoyed the same 95 minutes of "American Idiot" that Ouzounian saw, but thought "Oh, no! How much more of this adolescent angst can I take?" Three suburban boys see life, plan their escape to something else, and find the "something else" worse than what they left. Every generation has to hear its own melancholy sung back to itself, and I guess this is it for this one. Although, in my curmudgeonly way, I wanted to slap them, and tell them to stop whining, I will say there is magic in this morass of bewildered self-pity. The energy and talent of the actors on stage will MAKE you love them! And I did. Now, here's fifty bucks to tide you over;go get a job! Stupid kids!

95 minutes, no intermission
I saw Blue Dragon last night. I was not impressed. I thought it was self-indulgent. Yes, there were a lot of cool and interesting staging "tricks", but that didn't make up for a boring story line. I failed to see the point of a sub-titled stage production. If I want to go to the movies, I will. When I go to the theatre, I don't want the play to be turned into a movie.

The cast was competent but not outstanding. The characters were not particularly likeable or very interesting, for that matter.
The Golden Dragon-Tarragon Theatre

Pink Lucy, I get to see the Blue Dragon at the end of the month. Your take on the play is what I've always thought of Lepage’s work: a lot of cold, "cool tricks". But, speaking of dragons...

"The Golden Dragon" by Roland Schimmelpfennig amazed me with what can be contained in a ninety minute, one-act play. It's a nasty, dark take on what happens to young man working in The Golden Dragon restaurant kitchen, his missing sister, and the people who live near it. The gifted cast of five actors shift effortlessly between character, gender, race and age. The playwright seduces you into watching the story unfold, and keeps you watching, even when you'd prefer not to. That’s talent. Kudos to the director, Ross Manson, and set & costume designer, Teresa Przybylski; the theatre is configured so the stage, a versatile platform, is in the center. It works wonderfully. I’m not going to pretend the humour in this play is enough to soften the awfulness that happens. It’s a bitter, beautifully made study of disposable lives.
Kim's Convenience - Soulpepper

"Kim's Convenience" is just terrific! I'm glad to say that its translation from Fringe Festival hit, to a larger, more formal venue hasn't hurt it one bit. Inis Choi, the playwright and actor, has written a marvelously funny and touching play about life in a convenience store in Regent Park. The Appa (father), played by Paul Sun-Hyung Lee, dominates the stage as much as he dominates his family and store. The aspirations of Appa and his wife, Korean immigrants, clash with those of their Canadian-born children who have different ideas. Some of them not very good ones. The set is wonderful; walk into any corner store and you've seen it. There are so many laughs in this play I wouldn't be surprised if it were picked up as a weekly TV sitcom. But there's more than enough "meat" to keep it from being total fluff. That's Choi's great success; his words are SO good!

One act, 85 minutes's_convenience.aspx
I totally concur. Kim's Convenience is a delight. Although the story is familiar (immigrant parents toil away so that their children may have a better life, but the children have different ideas and are unfulfilled), Choi makes the story very specific, and in doing so opens the door to a life right under our noses.

Korean-owned convenience stores can be found throughout the city, yet how often have we thought about the lives of the people who work there? Choi fills the play with plenty of laughs, such as Appa (father) explaining how he can size up a customer and determine whether that person will steal or not. Hilarious!

But underneath the laughs are the eternal stories (of a man wondering what his legacy will be) and conflicts (between parents and children), which elevate it above mere sitcom. It is a tender and loving portrayal of a family, and it is clearly a play that was written with much love.

Edit to add: Although it is scheduled to close February 11, Soulpepper will be bringing back Kim's Convenience from May 17 to June 9.
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Cruel and Tender at the Bluma Appel left me cold. Overwrought performances, although I blame the writing more than the performing. I was bored and uninterested through most of it. Audience provided polite applause but there didn't seem to be much enthusiasm at all.

I'm hearing really good things about Kim's Convenience; I'll have to wait til it comes back to see it though.
I saw War Horse on the weekend -- it's definitely worth the hype. For me, it was the best show of the Mirvish series this year. The puppetry was terrific and it is indeed possible to forget that the horses aren't quite real. However, the goose puppet stole the show :)

The story is changed up a bit from the book, and I actually think they could have shortened the production a bit, but those are minor irritants from what was, on the whole, an excellent production.
I've heard great things about it but for some reason I just can't get excited enough to actually go see it. Nothing's really exciting me right now in fact... looking forward to Book of Mormon though. I wonder how it will fare in Toronto?
I bought Mirvish season tickets again for next year; it looks like a good season.