Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Fruitful Escapism - James and the Giant Peach - Musical Review

James and the Giant Peach - Young People's Theatre at Lorraine Kimsa Theatre - Toronto, ON - ***1/2 (out of 5 stars)
Words and Music by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, Book by Timothy Allen McDonald, based on the book by Roald Dahl. Directed by Sue Miner
Runs until Jan. 4th 2015

Benj Pasek and Justin Paul are one of the newest, and youngest musical writing teams to have emerged in recent years, with their enjoyable musical adaptations of A Christmas Story and the excellent Dogfight, Amidst their recent emergence was their adaptation of James and the Giant Peach, now making it’s Toronto premiere at Young People’s Theatre in a enjoyable and beautifully designed production.          


James and the Giant Peach is another promising showcase for Pasek and Paul’s tuneful songwriting and fit well into the Roald Dahl universe. When a newly orphaned James who is forced to live with his horrible aunts, a magical mishap makes a dying peach tree grow the most gigantic peach, filled with human sized bugs. The bugs, in the giant peach, take James on a giant adventure across the Atlantic that ends atop the Empire State Building in New York City. It’s a strange and exuberant tale full of typical Dahl’s twisted viewpoints, but the pacing in the set up seems to stall the adventures to come, leaving the actual portion with James, and the giant peach, feel slightly rushed.

While it’s important to set up James escaping from his horrible aunts, (played by Nicole Robert and Karen Wood who are deliciously awful much to our delight), the show is at its most joyous when James finally gets to interact with his new bug friends, perhaps because it gives the wonderful ensemble a chance to sing Pasek and Paul’s songs.


With the adorable Lana Carillo as Ladybug, Stewart Adam McKensy as Grasshopper, Saccha Dennis as Spider, Jacob MacInnis as Earthworm, Dale Miller as Centipede, and a buoyant Alessandro Constantini as James, YPT has yet again assembled a talented roster for its annual holiday season musical which is proof again that our musical theatre talent is underused in our city.

The other character in the play, the Giant Peach, gets a glorious design by Yannik Larivée in what may be the most beautiful and clever production design at YPT yet (and I adored the sets for their Cinderella, A Year with Frog and Toad, Seussical amongst others) with costumes (and puppets) to match the setting, all by Robin Fisher.

Vance at http://tapeworthy.blogspot.com

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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

To A.R. With Love - Love Letters - Play Review

Love Letters - Brooks Atkinson Theatre - Broadway - New York City, NY - **** (out of 5 stars)
Written by A.R. Gurney, Directed by Gregory Mosher 


Who knew a theatrical show with only two actors sitting on stage, reading from binders, could be so beautifully moving and emotionally stirring? Never having seen A.R. Gurney's Love Letters, I did not realize the love letters being read were part of an overall series between two (fictional) people, from childhood, all the way thru decades of letter writing. We first encounter this child-like attempt at formal letters between a well poised boy, Andrew Makepeace Ladd III, and a rich girl, Melissa Gardner, and we hear the countless letters sent back and forth between the two as they navigate childhood, teenagedom, young love, jealousy, heartbreak, and more. The slow build of emotions and character development is wonderfully revealed through each subsequent letters, and sometimes in pauses in the lack of letters. This theatrical classic manages to tell a well-told tale of two people navigating the world as they try to make a connection, and while the plot would feel common and somewhat clichéd in a more classic telling, Gurney manages to make the story of these two people feel fresh and new.

As often with this show that requires little actor preparation, the current Broadway revival already has an impressive cast list scheduled to play Andy and Melissa including Diana Rigg, Stacy Keach, Anjelica Huston and Martin Sheen (with Mia Farrow, Brian Dennehy and Carol Burnett already having been in this production). Currently, TV icons Candace Bergen and Alan Alda have taken up the seats on stage to play Melissa and Andy.

Alan Alda seems naturally perfect for the role of the well intentioned, well behaved, slightly reserved Andy and Alda's calmness has a soothing quality. In the more flaky, fascinating, misguided Melissa, Candace Bergen, while knowingly a strong and terrific actress, still surprised me in her terrific, heartbreaking, and funny performance as Melissa. With glares and the roll of the eyes, in voice inflections and perfect pauses, Bergen's Melissa is a fascinating and reeling performance all while simply reading from the script while sitting in a chair. Bergen and Alda's rapport with each other is so genuine and at ease, I'd be fascinated to see how other actors pull these performances off, which I guess is one of the enduring fascinations with this surprisingly moving and heartfelt play.

Candace Bergen and Alan Alda are scheduled to appear until Dec. 18th 2014. Diana Rigg and Stacy Keach will appear Dec. 19th to Jan 9th 2015 and will be followed by Anjelica Huston and Martin Sheen.

Photo by Carol Rosegg
Vance at http://tapeworthy.blogspot.com

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Thursday, November 13, 2014

Let's Get Physical - Manon and Opus - Stage Reviews

Manon - National Ballet of Canada at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts - Toronto, ON - **** (out of 5 stars)
Choreographed by Kenneth MacMillan, Music by Jules Massenet
Runs until Nov. 16th, 2014

Opus - Circa at Canadian Stage at the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts - Toronto, ON - **** (out of 5 stars)
Created and Performed by Yaron Lifschitz with Circa and the Debussy String Quartet
Runs until Nov. 16th, 2014. Continues on Tour.


With a ballet based on Abbé Prévost's Manon Lescaut, about a young woman who essentially is sold into prostitution by her older brother, and despite finding love with a young gentleman, does not find a happy ending, there is an overlying darkness inherent to the story which makes some of the more soaring and glorious music sometimes seemingly at odds with the tragic tale and the sensitive choreography. There's a brutalness in the frank movements and story of Manon's trajectory from orphan to sold prostitute, from living a high life under a rich suitor, to being sent off to destitution and prison after her boyfriend Des Grieux is found out. At times, the piece feels oddly unemotional despite the operatic levels of drama, while other moments, humour from side characters and the absurdity of the situations provide a welcome relief, and a calm before a final heartbreaking act when Manon is raped and left in shambles in a beautifully choreographed finale as Manon is so abused, her love ends up tossing her like a used rag as he tries to pull her back up to life.

The ballet itself is a gorgeous and lush novel come to life, with beautiful sets by Peter Farmer, and soaring (if sometimes slightly jarring) music by Jules Massenet, but the choreography is nicely effective in the three different acts with a mix of wonderfully delightful ensemble numbers with some shining moments for smaller characters, while Manon, her love Des Grieux, and her brother Lescaut, are given some wonderful solos and duets amongst the mix. Manon and Des Grieux's heart wrenching finale is a sad and somber reminder of how far Manon has fallen from her earlier life (in the earlier acts).

On opening night, Manon was played by Sonia Rodriguez, who, at 14 years as a Principal Dancer (and 24 years with the company), shows no signs of wearing down unless it was purposefully for that finale dance act. Rodriguez danced like an angel and flitted nicely between innocence and heartbreak whenever the piece called for, and her eventual breakdown as Manon in Act 3 is simply stunning.


Guillaume Côté is as always, a portrait of perfection as the handsome, genuine love interest Les Grieux. Watching Côté's control and steadiness in his body movements is always breathtaking, and especially against Rodriguez's battered Manon, is a captivating counterpoint in dramatic movement that only enhances both dancers' performances.

It was wonderful and fun to see Rex Harrington back as the old Gentlemen who first "buys" Manon (especially after surviving The Amazing Race Canada), while Tanya Howard and Jenna Savella get hilarious little moments as Courtesans, both in the spotlight and on the side. There are some wonderful choreography for the male and female ensembles but from the corps, Francesco Gabriele Frolo got plucked to play a leading role in Lescaut, Manon's brother. While there seemed to be some first night jitters (especially, while he was slated to play Lescaut, he was not originally scheduled for opening night), Frolo, who I have admired in the Corps in previous shows, establishes himself as a dazzling lead with a very bright future. In fact, there is such a strong corps that other members Jack Bertinshaw and Harrison James will also perform in leading roles on rotating performances and it's such an exciting moment for the company and makes me want to see the show again to see the future of the company make their mark in this satisfying ballet production.


Opus could be categorized as a dance piece with acrobatics, or a circus set to classical music, but whatever you call it, you can call it a pretty amazing theatrical display of human physicality.

From the Brisbane company Circa, Opus reminded me of those modern ballet shorts that are part of a mixed program, except with circus and acrobatic elements as its base movements. While the world famous Cirque du Soleil has perfected the art of dressing up circus acts in a surreal setting, and Sept Dois de la Main (7 Fingers) has taken the circus act back to an urban, raw roots, Circa's Opus brings a clarity and fragility to the circus performance, stripping away most of the excess and focusing mostly on the human body and its physical nature, limits and prowess. All set to classical music, which with its initial black and white wardrobe, gives it a classy touch before breaking down societal inferences.


With the Circa troupe using minimal props (a hoop, a trapeze, a rope and a chair is pretty much it), their human acrobatic acts from a cast of 14 mostly utilizes themselves as they throw, balance, step on, jump on, hold, (and various other verbs!) each other in some of the most simplistic yet stunning movements and tricks I have ever seen. With a minimal stage set and precise lighting, we often see the shaking in the body, and thus the difficulty of some of these "simple" acts of body manipulation that seems to ramp up through the 80 min show. What is created is a beautifully choreographed and stunning show of the awesome power of our human bodies. Well, at least of THEIR human bodies as one of the overall sentiments I kept overhearing leaving the theatre was "I need to go to the gym". Astounding physicality in an artful setting with some mesmerizing images created live on stage, all moved in harmony with Shostakovich's Opus.

The music is wonderfully performed by the Debussy Quartet but when the acrobatic performers tried to interact with the on stage Quartet, it seemed to detract from the overall power of the piece. While the musicians worked well as moving set pieces at times, I found the show tended to work best when the Quartet was not part of the focus. Perhaps more or less interaction with the movement performers might have helped, but as it is currently, the few moments where the musicians and movement performers combined did not add as much as I think they were hoping for. In a way, it almost kept taking away from what could have been an emotional build up that only seemed to start when the show solely focuses on the acrobatic ensemble.

Still, it is a minor quibble that does not detract from the amazing feats of acrobatic movements from a terrific, and chiseled cast, and now makes me curious to see Circa's other shows. A welcome addition to the circus-as-theatrical world.

Photo of Manon by Aleksandar Antonijevic
Photo of Manon Act 3 by Aaron Vincent Elkaim
Photos of Opus by Justin Nicholas
Vance at http://tapeworthy.blogspot.com

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Friday, October 17, 2014

Filmed Noir - Kiss & Cry and Helen Lawrence - Theatre Reviews

Kiss & Cry - Charleroi Danses at Canadian Stage at Bluma Appel Theatre in the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts - **** (out of 5 stars)
By Michèle Anne De Mey and Jaco Van Dormael
Ended Oct. 5th 2014. Continues on tour.

Helen Lawrence - Canadian Stage at Bluma Appel Theatre in the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts - *** (out of 5 stars)
Written by Chris Haddock, Conceived and Directed by Stan Douglas
Runs until Nov. 2nd 2014

The first two shows in Canadian Stage's main stage season both utilize cameras on stage to film and project the live proceedings directly onto a screen, turning our live theatre experience into one of both a film experience and a live stage show. Watching them happen simultaneously is fascinating and when they dichotomy works well into the tension of the accompanying story, these new works are at its most compelling.


It takes a few moments to take in what's happening in Kiss & Cry, a "dance piece" by the Belgiam company that utilizes miniature sets and camera tricks on a set that looks like the control room of a live TV show, as the screen shows the results of their live performance of fingers, dancing on the tiny set pieces. Yes, fingers. With haunting narration, an old woman recounts the tales of her past loves, with the fingers of a woman clad in black, dancing and performing as the old woman, alongside her paramours, another pair of fingers from a man clad in black and hidden away from the cameras.

It's all quite odd and unique but slowly, the tales of lost love, heartbreak, passion and longing lures us into this faceless but emotionally compelling memory piece. All while we watch the cast manoeuvre and manipulate the various technical pieces on stage, with a laptop sitting centre stage editing it all live and playing on the screen above. Technically fascinating and yet strangely lyrical and eloquent and despite all the props and equipment on stage, the show feels very dreamlike.


In Helen Lawrence, first produced at the Arts Club in Vancouver, a scrim sits at the front of the stage with a blank blue walled stage behind it. Blue boxes sit around the stage, and several cameras on a camera track slide back and forth just within the scrim. Using instant editing, actors appear in the giant bluescreen stage as their giant faces are projected in closeup on the scrim in front of the live action, with their film image now within a CGI background. It's an interesting experiment, and with the mysterious story of Helen Lawrence and various characters just after WWII in Vancouver, it's a perfect set up for a film noir shown on screen, being created live on stage just behind the screen itself.

Watching both the live actors in action, and the resulting film noir directly projected in front of them simultaneously is quite a technical wonder, and it is even more impressive when you realize the camera angles and matching cgi backgrounds must match to make it all look believable on screen. It is live filmmaking as theatre and it's quite amazing to see.


Moments when you see different scenes happening live, together on the same stage, as they cut between scenes on the film are particularly thrilling, or when the film blacks out and we only see the preparation scene begin behind the scrim.

With all the technological impressiveness though, the story is both fascinating and problematic. The mystery follows various characters just as Helen Lawrence (Lisa Ryder) arrives into town as she tries to track down a certain Percy Wallis/Walker (Nicholas Lea) who seems to have crossed her in a different life in Los Angeles. There's are crooked cops (Greg Ellwand, Ryan Hollyman), an enterprising kingpin of the ghetto Hogan alley (Allan Louis) who may be being pushed out by his returning brother (Sterling Jarvis). There is a down-on-his-luck man (Adam Kenneth Wilson) with a beautiful German wife (Ava Jane Markus), as well as a creepy hotel manager (Hrothgar Mathews), the hotel's orphan worker (Haley McGee), a sweet prostitute (Emily Piggford) and a woman waiting for her missing husband (Crystal Balint). All the characters live amongst this noirish Vancouver as the stories intertwine with backstabbing and seduction, blackmail and violence.

It's a fun setup and the great cast have fun with the film noir speeches and cadences, but with so many characters to develop in the various plotlines, none of the story lines really have time to reach their full potential, and I wanted more about Helen Lawrence and Percy, and the great Allan Louis is so fantastic as Buddy Black, with such hints of a deeper story, especially with his relationship with (the terrific) Crystal Balint's Mary Jackson, it all seems to be cut short and rushed through so that we can get to the next plot point. The story of the unlucky Edward Banks and Ava Banks either seems too slight for such time given, or not enough for what the wonderful Adam Kenneth Wilson and Ava Jane Marcus can offer in developing a richer storyline that is hinted at, as their story gets squeezed between the corrupt cops and the fight for control of Hogan Alley.

The play is still a fun homage to the film noir genre, as it tries to squeeze all the usual suspects into a tight story. With the gimmick of the theatrical presentation as a literal background to the film noir being projected, it (physically) adds another layer to the mysteriousness of the story(ies) but the story set up might have benefitted from more time to play with and might have suited a long-form storytelling format that television has had the benefit of utilizing of late. (And considering Chris Haddock is known for the television series DaVinci's Inquest, he might have too expertly designed a story that has a better long term plan).

Photos of Helen Lawrence by David Cooper
Photo of Kiss & Cry by Maartan Vanden Abeele
Vance at http://tapeworthy.blogspot.com

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Thursday, October 16, 2014

School Ties - To Kill A Mockingbird and Lord of the Flies - Theatre Reviews

To Kill A Mockingbird - Young People's Theatre - Toronto, ON - ***1/2 (out of 5 stars)
By Harper Lee, Dramatized by Christopher Sergel, Directed by Allen MacInnis
Runs until Nov. 2nd 2014

Lord of the Flies - A New Adventures and Re:Bourne Production at Sadler's Wells - London, UK - **** (out of 5 stars)
Based on the novel by William Golding, Music by Terry Davies, Choregraphed by Scott Ambler, Adapted and Directed by Scott Ambler and Matthew Bourne
Ended Oct. 11th 2014. Continues on Tour.

Either To Kill a Mockinbird or Lord of the Flies, if not both, were probably in your required reading in school, and have long become modern classics. New stage productions bring these classic tales to life that remind us that these controversial and dark tales still have an enduring punch. A sad reminder that despite the many years since these stories first debuted, little progress in societal behaviour have been made, as we sit watching these old stories all while things like Ferguson, still happen in this day and age.


Young People Theatre's To Kill A Mockingbird doesn't flourish the still-gut punching story with fancy directorial visions and presents Harper Lee's still urgent tale of injustice in a plain and matter-of-fact staging. While the lighting and vision could have added a bit more atmosphere (perhaps with a musical score and lighting that could add to the heat of the south during the summer this story ), a strong cast, lead by Jeff Miller (The Normal Heart) as Atticus Finch, is all the emotional punch required to make this classic book work on stage.

In 90 minutes, Harper Lee's story is effectively streamlined without skimping over the darker issues in this production geared for young people. The story of Tom Robinson, a Black man accused of sexual assault and his trial as seen through the eyes of his lawyers young daughter Scout Finch, is a great entry for Young People's audience, and the parralel story of the hidden neighbour Boo Radley, nicely bookends the morality tale of the ostracized in society.

Up-and-comer Caroline Toal (in a total 180 from her seductive turn in Cockfight) plays the curious and young Scout, who along with her brother Jem  (a genial Noah Spitzer) and visiting kid Dill (a spunky and luminous Tal Shulman), mischievously investigates and follows along the trial Scout and Jem's lawyer father Atticus' client Robinson (the solid Matthew G. Brown), despite the misgivings of their caretaker Calpurnia (a radiantly feisty Lisa Berry from This is War). Rounding out the terrific cast includes a horrifyingly mesmerizing turn from Jessica Moss (Was Spring) as accuser Mayella Ewell, an equally scary Hume Baugh as her father Bob Ewell, and Mark Crawford (The Normal Heart) as the prosecuting lawyer and later Boo Radley.


Now Lord of the Flies, the tale of boys trapped on an island who must learn to survive and live as their own society but sadly devolves into treacherous madness and violence, is not exactly the first story that you would think of as something to be translated into a ballet, but that's what Matthew Bourne and his New Adventures company has done. To spectacular, if sometimes inconsistent results.

Originally commissioned to create a dance piece for boys as a community project in Galway, Bourne approached the Golding estate, lead by William Golding's daughter Judy, who agreed to the piece. What has transpired is a professional piece that combines a professional cast of dancers with local amateur boys, some who have never danced before, in each tour stop that, and the mix of the professional and raw movements are a perfect match for the story of school boys who devolve into their inner wild demons.

With some retooling for the dance stage, the story has been reset into a theatre, and with that, some clever changes (like salvaging for food, the boys end up eating ice cream cups and crisps), as they are trapped in the isolating space as some sort of riot seems to be going on in the outside world. As the school boys first appear, they are lead in synchronizing choreography. Well behaved boys following the rules society has set. As the isolation and power plays devolve, we get incredible choreography with boys trying to out power each other, that eventually ends up in wild and loose movements and in dance duels, allowing for the rarity of seeing male dancers together in struggles of strength and control.

Transferring the story into a theatre doesn't always work, and is most glaring when the pig shows up (where would a live pig appear in a theatre?) but while some of the story details require one to gloss over the re-imagining of William Golding's classic island tale, the raw emotions, and easily identified struggles of the boys are still effecting and powerful.

Sam Plant's Piggy, our central nerd, is exceptionally wonderful and moving as the bullied and the true hero of the story. Danny Reubens is thrillingly disturbing as master troublemaker Jack, and Layton Williams has some beautiful solo moments as Simon. Dan Wright, Sam Archer, Jack Hazelton, Ross Carpenter and Philip King round out the excellent older kids while the younger cast are just as stunning.

Photo of To Kill A Mockingbird by Jill Ward
Photo of Lord of the Flies by Helen Maybanks
Vance at http://tapeworthy.blogspot.com

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Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Sounds from Beyond Broadway - Holler If Ya Hear Me - Musical Review

Holler If Ya Hear Me - Palace Theatre - Broadway - New York City, NY - **1/2 (out of 5 stars)
Lyrics by Tupac Shakur, Book by Todd Kreidler, Directed by Kenny Leon, Choreographed by Wayne Cilento


Yes, there is a musical on Broadway that features the words, eloquence and anger of Tupac Shakur, the rising rap star who was just breaking into the mainstream before his young life was tragically shattered when he was murdered at the young age of 25. His music and words were full of anger from his view of the streets and the hoods he came from and while his song of hope, "California Love" probably became his most famous song played on Top 40 radio, Tupac Shakur spoke most of the frustrations of living amongst the violence and trap that Black America has been put in. And he spoke from his own view, with his own voice, and it created a devoted following.

Holler If Ya Hear Me, the new Broadway musical uses Tupac's deeply personal songs but tells an original tale of various characters living in the same violent and hopeless streets where nonsensical gang wars rule the day, and people live in fear, or retaliatory anger. Todd Kreidler's book spreads Tupac's word into various voices, mainly concerning a now-freed con John (an amazing Saul Williams, a noted poet) who returns to the streets and tries to stay out of trouble by getting a job at the local mechanics shop owned by the one White man in the cast Griffy (an endearing Ben Thompson, American Idiot). Unfortunately John's girl Corine (a divine Saycon Sengbloh, Fela, Hair) has moved on in during his 10-year imprisonment and is now with John's old friend Vertus (a terrific Christopher Jackson, In the Heights). The plot machinations gets moving pretty soon though when Vertus' brother Benny gets killed before we even register who Benny quite is, and then plots of revenge, pride and rising up are placed as steadily as a rap beat.

Unfortunately, while Tupac's songs have potential to be effective storytelling material in a musical, the cliched plot, and the multiple character plot lines give very little characterization and time to get deeper into each person, and thus the songs, which could have been more effective to deepen the emotions, fail to deliver any real resonance that may further the story.


When the songs fully come to life, like in "Holler If Ya Hear Me", or the respite-from-anger "California Love", they are a burst of energetic brilliance that shows the potential in the show, and the potential to create some real emotional connections. The stirring moments offer a glimpse of what might have been, but this would have benefited from a tryout Off-Broadway or out-of-town and another edit at the book.

The wonderfully game cast, which includes the commanding presence of Tonya Pinkins as Vertus' mother, Mrs. Weston, inject as much energy as they can into this dark and angry piece, and when there is choreography (by Wayne Cilento), it keeps the staging interesting from the plodding book, but alas, the overall structure and vague characters and motives are not enough to make this musical be heard properly.

Photos by Joan Marcus
Vance at http://tapeworthy.blogspot.com

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Friday, June 06, 2014

Uni(que)sex - Casa Valentina and Queer Bathroom Stories - Play Reviews

Casa Valentina - Manhattan Theatre Club at the Samuel Friedman Theatre - Broadway - New York City, NY - **** (out of 5 stars)
Written by Harvey Fierstein, Directed by Joe Mantello
Runs until June 29th, 2014

Queer Bathroom Stories - Buddies in Bad Times Theatre - Toronto, ON - *** (out of 5 stars)
Written by Sheila Cavanagh, Directed by Megan Watson
Runs until June 15th, 2014

Sexuality is far more fluid and if we seem to be a bit better at understanding that, the fluidity of gender identity is an even more misunderstood aspect of humans, and two new plays attempt to explore how we identify genders from within ourselves and from society.


Casa Valentina, the new play by Harvey Fierstein, who has had great success in several drag comedies (Torch Song Trilogy, La Cage Aux Folles, Kinky Boots) brings things back to a calmer, more introspective play about a group of straight-identified men who love to dress up as women. In 1962. Even today we don't quite understand that notion as a society and would assume that the men are just gay men who have not realized, or wanted to come out. But back then, in the Catskills, a married couple opened up a resort hidden away from the prying eyes of the world where these men could, at least momentarily while on vacation, be who they truly wanted to be, in a dress.


It's a fascinating look into a world we tend to mesh with the trans, gay or drag community, and maybe there is some intermixing (as a dramatic plot point interludes) but Fierstein embraces these men, and the woman who loves them (in a heartbreaking performance by Tony-nominated Mare Winningham (Philomena)) that the play is fascinating and fresh when he lets the characters slowly reveal themselves in their natural and most comfortable surroundings, letting them interact at their true core.


The cast is first rate, with layered performances by Nick Westrate (Unnatural Acts), Tom McGowan (Frasier), John Collum (The Scottsboro Boys), Gabriel Ebert (Matilda), Patrick Page (Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark), Larry Pine (Moonrise Kingdom) and Reed Birney (also Tony nominated for this performance).

Unfortunately, Fierstein also tries to set up a dramatic plotline to ante up the stakes, with financial troubles forcing a possibility this refuge may end up closing forever. The machinations to get the plot going bog down the spirit of the play, and distract from an otherwise fascinating character study (and entertaining ensemble). With so much to already explore with the issues at hand, the plotting device only clouds up the most fascinating ideas in the play.

In Queer Bathroom Stories, a series of vignettes written by Sheila Cavanagh based on real-life incidences and interviews about stories that take place in and around the public lavatory, the opposite problem of the play keeps the show from its potential best.


While there are plenty of funny moments, most of the humour derive from the final punchlines from a response that ends up being lighter than its weighty set up. The play, while hints and mentions many fascinating aspects about queer and gender identity culture that is cleverly revealed through the simple act of choosing which gendered bathroom to go into while in a public space, the tone tends to stay serious and dark, and the stories tend to be short and abrupt, sometimes down to a couple of lines per story. Each one individually is interesting and revealing, but put them together as a whole, and it never quite amounts to as much as a play as a whole.


While plays like The Vagina Monologues and Love, Loss, and What I Wore have successfully tied together short stories (with a female empowerment slant), the varying tones and styles, from humorous to serious, and the variation of short quips to longer, more in depth stories. Queer Bathroom Stories has a nice baseline to work with and with some finessing and editing, can possibly become a great night at the theatre, as some of the vignettes are fascinating but seem to end before it truly gets into the dramatic part of its core.

Great direction by Megan Watson keeps each bathroom story flowing from one to the next, keeping what can be a static style of theatre, into something that feels theatrical. Hallie Burt and Chi Ryan Spain don't always hit on every story but when they truly connect with a particular story, it can be powerful and dramatic. Tyson James is quite haunting from the first moment and never lets up, revealing strengths and vulnerabilities between each character in each story, that often jump from one to another in lighting speed.

Photos of Casa Valentina by Matthew Murphy
Photos of Queer Bathroom Stories by Dahlia Katz
Vance at http://tapeworthy.blogspot.com

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Thursday, June 05, 2014

The Shoe Must Go On! - Cinderella - Ballet and Musical Reviews

Cinderella - National Ballet of Canada at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts - Toronto, ON - **** (out of 5 stars)
Choreographed by James Kudelka, Music by Sergei Prokofiev
Runs until June 15th 2014

Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella - Broadway Theatre - Broadway - New York City, NY - ***1/2 (out of 5 stars)
Music and Lyrics and Original Book by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, New Book by Douglas Carter Beane, Directed by Mark Brokaw, Choreographed by Josh Rhodes

We never seem to tire of the classic tale of the poor girl Cinderella, tormented by her wicked stepmother and two stepsisters, who, thanks to her fairy godmother, manages to meet and fall in love with the Prince. Of course, at midnight, the magic disappears and Cinderella must leave the ball, but not before leaving behind her glass slipper (or in the ballet's case, her sparkly pointe shoe). A ruse to get the Prince to search for his love, before a humble Cinderella slips into the shoe that fits perfectly. Plotholes and feminism be damned, but it's a well worn tale that we still seem to clamour for.


The National Ballet of Canada revisits the classic tale that I adored back in 2008, and this time around, I adored it even more. While the tale itself isn't revolutionary, James Kudelka's choreography still feels fresh and new, within this very classic story. It's a lovely and amusing ballet and Cinderella, especially with it's grande ball at the centre of its story as a grand excuse for some glorious dancing from the entire company, with beautiful costumes that billow as the dancers partner up and dance around in this fantasy dream.


Kudelka adds a world wide search by the Prince in his search for the woman who fits the shoe, which adds a fun element for the Prince and his Officers, with additional roles for the women representing his potential princesses from each locale he searches.


Add in some physical comedy in the wicked Stepmother and Stepsisters, played to joyous sneering delight by Alejandra Perez-Gomez as the Stepmother, and Tanya Howard and Rebekah Rimsay (repeating her deliciously hilarious role from 2008) as the Stepsisters (above), and this Cinderella keeps things light between the dreamy romance, anchored by the swoonworthy team of Sonia Rodriguez in the title role and Guillaume Côté as the handsome Prince.


Wonderful dancing and characterizations by the rest of the company, and this time, a new standout to note was Trygve Cumpston, one of the Officers, joining the corps that has many dancers to watch for in the future.

The new Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella on Broadway (now running over a year), based on their TV movie special score , with a revised book by Douglas Carter Beane, manages to modernize the old-fashioned tale and adds a nice girl-power twist, and adds some dimension to the Prince's plight. While I saw the wonderful original cast (with Laura Osnes in the title role and Santino Fontana as the Prince), the current cast boasts pop star (and former Canadian Idol contestant) Carly Rae Jepsen as Cinderella, with TV star Fran Drescher as the Wicked-Stepmother. The rest of the cast includes original (and very funny) Ann Harada as one of the wicked stepsisters (and a sweet Stepahnie Gibson as the other stepsister who isn't as evil as we initially think), and Victoria Clark as the fairy godmother, but while I adored this production the first time around, with it's clever modernization of the story (adding a political element, a misunderstood "evil" stepsister, and a Prince with more depth than this story usually allows for), the beautiful originating music, and the gorgeous Tony winning costumes by William Ivey Long, the big question currently is: How are Carly Rae Jepsen and Fran Drescher.


Fran Drescher plays Fran Drescher as the evil-Stepmother, here called Madame, which is perfect for the role of the evil-stepmother. It's not really a stretch but you can delight at Ms. Drescher having a delight on stage, spitting out her lines with relish.


Carly Rae Jepsen, with her lower and raspier natural singing voice, sounds very different than the more classic and smooth voice of Laura Osnes, but Jepsen is surprisingly strong and her voice sounds beautiful singing R&H's songs. She's also wonderfully loving and winning in the role, which admittedly, isn't the most difficult role to act out, but Jepsen more than acquits herself and manages to turn in a very strong stage performance.

I also managed to see the understudy as the Prince but to my delight, it was Cody Williams, who was a revelatory delight in Arena Stage's Oklahoma!, and again here, was perfectly wonderful as the pondering Prince.

Photo of Cinderella Ballet - Rebekah Rimsay and Tanya Howard by Aleksandar Antonijevic
Photos of Cinderella Ballet - All others - by Cylla von Tiedemann
Photo of Cinderella on Broadway by Carol Rosegg 

Vance at http://tapeworthy.blogspot.com

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Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Survival of the Fittest - The Killer - Play Review

The Killer - Theatre for a New Audience - Brooklyn, NY - ***1/2 (out of 5 stars)
Written by Eugène Ionesco, Newly Translated by Michael Feingold, Directed by Darko Tresnjak
Runs until June 29th 2014


Famed actor Michael Shannon (Grace, Revolutionary Road, Man of Steel, Boardwalk Empire) is known for his intensity in his roles, usually playing the nemesis. Here in Ionesco's The Killer, he's oddly not playing the title character, and instead, Shannon plays Berenger, the hapless everyman hero who accidentally happens upon a utopian town called Radiant City after taking the wrong bus. He's in awe of the beautiful houses, the never-ending blue skies, the beautiful flowers that receive rain from underneath. Everything seems perfect except for the fact that a serial killer has been murdering everyone and the authorities have simply given up catching him and let the killer continue along his ways.


Being an Ionesco play, it is dark, and darkly funny. The absurdity is all veiled political commentary and the absurdity of human's nature, and our willingness to accept a followers position. The Killer is presented in three vastly different acts, with this production, directed by Darko Tresnjak (A Gentlemen's Guide to Love and Murder), following Ionesco's many stage directions and sound effects to great effect, using a mostly bare stage to evoke the utopian world that gets dispelled by a mysterious menacing killer.


When we follow Berenger back to his apartment (in the only literal set) in the depressing real world, we meet Edward, a friend who the audience can easily see is the Grim Reaper, there to seduce Berenger to his world. Against the madness of a busy world (and some hilarious lines spat out by a cleaner played by the always reliable Kristin Nielsen (Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike). When Berenger ultimately meets the Killer in the third act, the two opposing figures creep towards each other on two separate turntables that slowly spins them together until the ultimate match up. Berenger offers up a rant to save himself in what turns into the slowest chase scene ever, staged with incredibly creepy sound effects and in such slow and precise physical movements, that while the build up should work to build up an air of suspense, it instead deflates itself with too much atmosphere and not enough substance in this final act to sustain the act.


While the play loses steam in the final act, Michael Shannon, an unlikely everyman hero, is wonderfully intense but in an unusually hopeful way, and we easily root for his Berenger, who returns into 3 other of Ionesco's plays, and the first two acts breeze by in its mix of satirical absurdity and the intense allusions it manages to create. Robert Stanton as perfectly dry as The Architect of Radiant City, while Paul Sparks is derangedly creepy and yet amusing as Edward.

Ionesco's The Killer is not the easiest play to sit through, and it has an abundance of ideas, particularly pointed in today's world of cell phones and NSA that seem particularly forward thinking for a play written and produced in the late 1950s, but when it mostly works, with a commanding lead in Shannon, it can be quite absorbing and chillingly humorous.

Vance at http://tapeworthy.blogspot.com

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Tuesday, May 06, 2014

A Whole New World - Sultans of the Street - Play Review

Sultans of the Street - Young People's Theatre - Toronto, ON - *** (out of 5 stars)
Written by Anusree Roy, Directed by Nina Lee Aquino 
Runs until May 15th, 2014 


Sultans of the Street first presents a colourful world of the streets of India before slowly revealing pieces of information that show the dark side lying underneath all the floating coloured sheets (in a beautiful and versatile set by Camelia Koo). When two brothers (Ali Momen and Colin Doyle) skip school to fly kites, they encounter siblings (Mina James and Richard Lee) dressed up in costumes, begging on the street. The brothers are intrigued but discover the siblings giving the money they've "earned" to th
eir "Aunty" (Zorana Sadiq) before Aunty catches the brothers in a lie and blackmails them to work for her.

The new play does not shy away from a controversial subject into a world I know little about (and I imagine the intended audience sitting here in Toronto isn't that knowledgable about either), and presents the street life of exploited children in a matter-of-fact way. While the machinations of the plot tend to bog down the dramatic flow of the overall play, there's a lot of chilling information being introduced for us to take in before we get the true verity of the situation.

Did I mention this is theatre for young people? Ultimately, there's a hopefulness to the play as things get worse for the brothers, who try to convince the siblings that their way-of-life under Aunty's exploitation isn't their only option.

There's a boldness to Roy presenting the dark hard facts in such a plain, this-is-the-way-it-is way, and with some beautiful sweet moments between the siblings under the stars (and the shelter of umbrellas), where death and their sad situation are just accepted, gives the whole situation a heartening reality check. The story does not soften things or talk down to the intended young audience, but it is quite an eye-opener for adults alike.

Nina Lee Aquino keeps things balanced with some amusing double casting with Sadiq playing multiple roles as the adults who pass these street kids, all in silly costumes, and Momen and Doyle have a nice brotherly rapport that highlights the imbalance of power within the brothers (that eventually leads to their troubles) while also showcasing the protective love they hold. James and Lee’s moments under the umbrellas are sweet and moving.

While the pacing and careful reveals tended to slow down the drama and over-spelled things out, there’s also something to be said for presenting such a difficult subject matter without moral judgement.

Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann
Vance at http://tapeworthy.blogspot.com

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Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Body Politic - Flesh and The Ugly One - Play Reviews

Flesh and Other Fragments of Love - Tarragon Theatre MainStage - Toronto, ON - **1/2 (out of 5 stars)
Written by Evelyne de la Chenelière, Translated by Linda Gaboriau, Directed by Richard Rose
Runs until Feb. 16th 2014

The Ugly One - Tarragon Theatre Extra Space - Toronto, ON - **** (out of 5 stars)
Written by Marius von Mayenburg, Translated by Maja Zade, Directed by Ashlie Corcoran
Runs until Feb. 16th 2014


Flesh and Other Fragments of Love has an intriguing concept and a beautiful set up as a play, but while there is a poetic flow to the language, it never quite pieces it altogether. The play follows a married couple on an Irish holiday, trying to rekindle their romance, when they discover a dead woman on the beach. Tons of possibilities, and the plays eventually leads to it, particularly when the dead woman comes alive to recite poetic speeches that recount her tragic death and life. The tone however is an odd match that never quite stirs the plays central heart.


With muted reactions and a blasé attitude, the couple Pierre (Blair Williams) and Simone (Maria del Mar) discover the dead body and immediately go back to quibble about their own relationship problems. Former free-spirits, the melodramatic Simone has become a nagging wife and mother while Pierre thinks he can be beyond the suburban rut they've fallen into. Meanwhile, the dead girl is still laying there wrapped in seaweed and the play begins to pulse when she slowly rolls over and intrudes and interjects the couple, slowly goading them with their own problems while revealing her own story. We discover the dead girl is a local Irish girl Mary and Nicole Underhay breathes wondrous life into her words and her dead body. When Blair Williams steps into the centre of stones Mary has been laying upon, his Pierre turns into Mary's paramour and Williams' chemistry with Underhay shows exactly why Pierre and Simone were never meant to be.


On the other side of Tarragon Theatre in the Extra Space, a remount of The Ugly One has changed the extra space into a board room of sorts, with audience members sitting on both sides of the table. Under a harsh and seductive lighting design (by Jason Hand), the weird and absurd, but highly entertaining and enthralling play by Marius von Mayenburg, bursts into the room and basically sticks their face into the audience with full force.

When Lette (a wonderfully game David Jansen) finally realizes for the first time that he is actually ugly, after his boss (Hardee T. Lineham) disallows him to present his own electronic plug creation at a conference, Lette decides to undergo face surgery and much to his wife's delight (Naomi Wright), he turns out to be unimaginably beautiful post-operation. Life completely changes for Lette, whose professional and sexual life rapidly rises, all while his former assistant Karlmann (Jesse Aaron Dwyre) gets thrown to the side for the newest beauty. Throw in a sex-crazed septuagenarian business woman with a fey son who are both in love with Lette's face, and the original surgeon who manages to capitalize on his latest creation, and things start getting out of control when people begin wanting to look like the new Lette, all while Lette wonders who he really is.


Ashlie Corcoran beautifully directs the very odd and fast-paced play with aplomb, with instantaneous scene changes that are as smooth as Lette's new face, while the impressive cast shifts from the various characters and tonal shifts that adds to the absurd humour to the piece. With nice touches such as apples constantly used as props, as well as sound and folly effects (by John Gzowski and cast), The Ugly One is a beautifully well-put-together production that zips by as the weirdness and nonsense of the play ramps up while the allegories layer upon each other like the bandages that first covered Lette's ugly face.

Photos of Flesh and Fragments of Love by Cylla von Tiedemann
Photos of The Ugly One by Bronwen Sharp
Vance at http://tapeworthy.blogspot.com

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Friday, January 24, 2014

Musical Journeys - London Road & From Here to Eternity - Musical Reviews

London Road - Canadian Stage at Bluma Apel Theatre in the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts - Toronto, ON - ***1/2 (out of 5 stars)
By Alecky Blythe and Adam Cork, Directed by Jackie Maxwell
Runs until Feb. 9th 2014

From Here to Eternity: The Musical - Shaftesbury Theatre - West End - London, UK - ***1/2 (out of 5 stars)
Music by Stuart Brayson, Lyrics by Tim Rice, Book by Bill Oakes based on the book by James Jones, Directed by Tamara Harvey
Runs until Mar. 29th 2014

Two new musicals out of London, one an innovative new take on the traditional musical, using interview verbatim as its lyrical source, and setting music to punctuate and highlight the spoken source, London Road is often clever and always thought provoking. A new musicalized version of From Here to Eternity harks back to musicals of yesteryears via its source, but with its pop score and traditional staging, it is a big mainstream show that it yearns to be. Both are entertaining in their respective aspects, but flawed in their own ways that may be inherently built into their goals.


London Road is a fascinating experiment in musical theatre first become a hit at the National Theatre in London, and now making its North American premiere at Canadian Stage. Using interviews with the townsfolk of Ipswich verbatim, the musical chronicles a small British town as they deal with the murders of five prostitutes. Think of it as a Laramie Project set to music. The musical score by Adam Cork was composed to Alecky Blythe's interviews with the residents of London Road and the added musicalization is a beautifully artistic way to highlight, and reimagine and examine the community's reaction to a grizzly and horrifying event. It's an interesting combination with innovative possibilities, but the effort does not always work. When it does, it is quite an interesting way to underline key moments, ideas and thoughts about the case and the community's reactions. It brings journalistic theatre to an operatic level, and if only the words of the residents had been a bit more revealing, it might have had a far bigger impact.

Using musics repetitive nature, lyrics were often repeated, and while the effect can be illuminating, or used in a humorous way, like emphasizing the "umms" and "yeahs" punctuates speech, at times, became ineffective in its overuse. There's a lot of fascinating moments during the residents' awkward attempts at normalizing after the discovery of the murders, and their suspicions and fears as the police try to capture the killer, but it is not until the second act when some prostitutes get their (musical) moment when things become truly chilling and the verbatim structure has its most impact. There's another small moment when another resident reveals her true feelings about the victims but it is surprisingly not mined for its dark nature that the show could have gone deeper with. For a show about murders, it felt relatively safe, calm and uplifting for much of it (though partly because of beautiful uplifting flower song that returns but then overstays a its welcome a tad too long).


Despite the fascinating flaws with the piece itself, the Canadian all-star theatre cast was one to behold. From Fiona Reid to Ben Carlson to Sean Arbuckle and Shawn Wright to Julain Molnar and George Masswohl and Michelle Fisk to Steve Ross. It's a whose who and the talented cast play the numerous characters with heart and humanity and while the piece at times is built to poke fun of these regular folks, the cast never lets them become caricatures. And from the impressive cast, Damien Atkins continues his impressive streak here while Deborah Hay illuminates the stage and demonstrates why she's the toast of the Shaw Festival.

Jackie Maxwell directs the cast through the various vignettes with maximum efficiency, and although while there are a few moments I found slightly static, there are other brilliant moments (like the use of police tape cutting thru the stage) that require minimal movement for maximum resonating effect. I loved the idea of the set, with literal strips of yellow highlight along the shades of black set pieces, sliding and rotating amongst an image of London Road, though the designer in me would have tweaked the set in slight ways to give more intimacy to the used stage.

There is so much to admire about London Road and its innovative musical concept and hearing the rhythms of regular British folk speaking. While the overall emotional resonance doesn't quite hit its potential high, partly because we still learn very little about the actual victims or the caught killer, the show is a intriguing experiment that is never boring, and with a superb Canadian cast at their very best.


From Here to Eternity: The Musical is based on the novel (which got turned into the movie with the famous beach scene) that I actually haven't read, and so I didn't know if the musical changed all that much from the novel or the film, but I was surprised at how much darker and complex the story was. I was expecting (and secretly hoping for) a big cheesy romantic sweeping old-style musical, and it was a big mainstream old style musical in many ways, but the musical book kept the main characters flawed and 3-dimensional with some morally questionable actions, but it definitely added some depth into what felt like a lowbrow version of South Pacific (and to be honest, may be more my cup of tea).


With a musical score with a pop feel to it, it's catchy to make it a big mainstream musical and that keeps it from being taken too seriously, but I rather enjoyed the songs. With an impressive ensemble, the songs sounded great, and the dark tone of the story kept the musical in balance of romantic cheese and serious melodrama. Robert Lonsdale and Siubhan Harrison (above) turn in star-making performances, with the handsome Lonsdale giving a complex and unwaveringly moralistically dubious turn as Private Prewitt, a new addition to the regiment who refuses to use his talents for the sake of furthering his career.

Darius Campbell sounds terrific in his baritone voice as the Warden, and has a commanding and old school presence perfect with the time period and his partner Rebecca Thornhill is lovely as Karen.

Marc Antolin, understudying the role of Private Angelo, was particularly impressive and gives a deep and emotionally complex performance as the happy-go-lucky Angelo whose life takes a turn after innuendos and mistakes are made.

Tamara Harvey makes efficient use of the beautiful set by Soutra Gilmour and the choreography by Javier du Sutros works wonderfully in setting up the tone. While From Here To Eternity doesn't change musical theatre in any innovative way, it still manages to deepen the depth of the story within a mainstream feeling musical without losing any of the entertainment value.

Photos of London Road by David Hou
Photos of From Here to Eternity: The Musical by John Persson
Vance at http://tapeworthy.blogspot.com

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Thursday, January 16, 2014

Oh God, The Theatah - Theatre Reviews

Manon, Sandra and the Virgin Mary - Pleiades Theatre In Association with Buddies in Bad Times Theatre at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre - Toronto, ON - ***1/2 (out of 5 stars)
Written by Michel Tremblay, Translated and Directed by John Van Burek
Runs until Feb. 2nd 2014

Rifles - Next Stage Festival at Factory Theatre - Toronto, ON - **** (out of 5 stars)
Written by Nicolas Billon, Directed by Michael Wheeler
Runs until Jan. 19th 2014

On the Other Side of the World - Next Stage Festival at Factory Theatre - Toronto, ON - *** (out of 5 stars)
Written and Directed by Brenley Charkow
Runs until Jan. 19th 2014

A Misfortune - Next Stage Festival at Factory Theatre Studio - Toronto, ON - **** (out of 5 stars)
Music by Scott Christian, Lyrics by Wade Bogert-O'Brien and Kevin Shea, Book by Kevin Shea, Directed by Evan Tsitsias
Runs until Jan. 19th 2014

Can I think a production is great and/or well done if I'm not sure I fully understood the show? Does ambiguity or an understandable narrative sway our opinions about the show as a whole or the play itself, even if we recognize when a theatre piece is well put together? There are so many pieces to create the puzzle that is theatre that I'm still in awe when things come together and almost frustrated when things almost seem to come together. Or maybe when I just don't understand?

The Pleiades/Buddies production of Manon, Sandra and the Virgin Mary has a beautiful set by Teresa Przybylski, which is beautifully lit by Itai Erdal, and two powerful performances by Irene Poole and Richard McMillan. While their two opposing stories, one of Manon (Poole), an extreme Catholic whose view of the world is seen through her devotion and a giant rosary, and Sandra (McMillan), a transexual who is pretty liberal in his sexual talk and offbeat tangents, are both fascinating glimpses into the lives of two very radical extreme people, the purposely confusing narrative and ambiguity kept me just enough at bay to fully delve emotionally into the emotional stripping happening on stage.

This Michel Tremblay revival has a beautiful elusive and elegiac quality to its beautiful set up, with Manon and Sandra speaking in chorus, then telling opposing stories that slowly reveal itself in its collision, but while the structure is clever, I'm still left confused and emotionally wanting, a bit like Manon actually (although it may not have helped that I have only seen 1 of the plays in Tremblay's Belles Soeurs cycle and Manon, Sandra is one of the last ones).

Rifles, a new play from Nicolas Billon (who wrote one of my recent faves Iceland) based on Brecht's Señora Carrar's Rifles, slowly builds with clues and hints at the Spanish Civil War. With a tense atmospheric (including sound effects and score from Beau Andrew Dixon sitting centre stage) and claustrophobic setting in Señora Carrar's home, we see the debates about joining the war or sitting as safe as possible on the sidelines as Franco's army comes closer. With various characters coming in and out of Carrar's home, her protection of her two sons from joining the war comes to a feverish pitch when Carrar's brother shows up, looking to borrow her rifles she has hidden away. Billon might have outlined every argument a little too precisely into the numerous characters, but it makes for an intense drama, helped by Kate Hennig's restrained turn as Carrar and Cyrus Lane as brother Pedro.

On the Other Side of the World is an ambitious production telling the fascinating and moving tale of the Jews who escaped Europe during the rise of the Nazis only to find themselves stuck in Shanghai, China on their attempt to eventually reach the US. While the story offers up the fish-out-of-water story, as well as the story of survival in a hideous war, the play is structurally clunky with some very poignant and moving scenes happening between 4th wall-breaking narratives that are somewhat effective if a bit over-reliant. Charkow who wrote the play, manages to smooth things over with some clever direction in the transitional scenes.

The large and game cast, and Charkow's clever use of Scott Penner's sets and Siobhan Sleath's lighting gives us a wonderful glimpse into the world surrounding a young Jewish girl as her family finds safety, if not solitude, in 1940's Shanghai. While the play still needs some editing and streamlining, the essence of the story and the insights from the characters still manage to illicit a moving historical (if perhaps a bit too textbook-like) tale.

(Disclosure: A close friend is in the cast)

A Misfortune, a new little chamber musical based on a Chekhov play, is a new gem thanks to the music by Scott Christian and lyrics and an amusing book by Kevin Shea with Wade Bogert-O'Brien as co-lyricist. With efficient direction by Evan Tsitsias on a small but versatile and evocative set by Joanna Yu, the musical, with a romantically gorgeous score, is surprisingly funny despite being about the troubled love lives of five Russians. The yearning, the infidelity, the threat of infidelity, and the complete ignorance of it all, allows for some comedy of errors set in the moody emotionally restraint Chekhovian tale.

Trish Lindstrom is devastating as Sofya, the woman at the centre of a the love triangle. Stuck between the young yearning of Ivan (Jordan Till), and a strong, stoic, if completely oblivious husband Andrey (a hilarious Réjean Cournoyer). A magnificent Kaylee Harwood and an amusing Adam Brazier fill out the love tale as married friends who offer up the flip side of marriage, where passion and hatred are only separated by a very thin line.

As a big fan of Scott Christian's previous work (Hero and Leander, Through the Gates), A Misfortune offers up more of Christian's beautiful musical composition, this time matched with a witty book that feels pretty complete, and ready for the next level.

Photo of Irene Poole and Richard McMillan in Manon, Sandra and the Virgin Mary by Cylla von Tiedemann
Photo of Kate Hennig and Cyrus Lane in Rifles by Max B. Telzerow

Photo of Ashleigh Henley, Phoebe Hu, Susan Lock, Eunjung Nam in On the Other Side of the World by Dahlia Katz
Photo of Trish Lindström, Réjean Cournoyer, Kaylee Harwood, Jordan Till, Adam Brazier in A Misfortune by Dan Epstein
Vance at http://tapeworthy.blogspot.com

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Sunday, January 05, 2014

Stageworthy: The Best of Stage 2013

So I managed to hit 111 shows in 2013. Not quite as much as 2012, or 2011, but still had a grand time. Saw some great stuff, some good stuff, and of course a few clunkers, but all in the hopes of seeing a show that inspires, that electrifies the mind and the heart, and this year I've chosen 15 shows that did just that.

I also saw some repeats from previous years that have evolved and improved and landed on the list. I also saw some pretty universally critically acclaimed shows that I just didn't get. I saw some great newcomers (see Breakthrough Performances) and I got to see folks like Judi Dench, Tom Hanks, Helen Mirren, James McAvoy, Daniel Radcliffe, Ben Whishaw, Imelda Staunton, Toby Jones, Scarlett Johansen, William Petersen, Robert Sean Leonard and Bette Midler take the stage. Some to great effect (see Great Performances) and some that I sadly forgot about until I started compiling my list of all the shows I saw in 2013 (at the end of this post).

Here's the Best of Stage 2013:

1. Come From Away (Musical) - Studio Theatre at Sheridan College Theatre - Oakville, ON
Music, Lyrics and Book by Irene Sankoff and David Hein, Driected by Brian Hill


A musical about a Canadian community that comes together to help unexpected visitors during a time of tragedy sounds slightly hokey. A musical about the tragedy of 9/11 sounds simply horrific and misguided. And yet, Irene Sankoff and David Hein have written a truly harrowing, cathartic, and celebratory musical about tragedy and the prevailing human spirit. A musical about loss and love, about trust and new friendships, about unimaginable horrors and our deepest fears, Hein and Snakoff manages to send shivers and tears while finding moments of joy and humour in the true story of the time the world descended upon Gander, Newfoundland when dozens of airplanes got diverted on the morning of September 11th, 2001. With gorgeous music and songs in this low key staging with the promising students of Sheridan College Theatre, and directed with an effecting simplicity by Brian Hill, Come From Away is an emotionally stunning new piece of musical theatre.

2. The Flick (Play) - Playwrights Horizons - Off-Broadway - New York City, NY
Written by Annie Baker, Directed by Sam Gold


Three employees of an old, practically defunct cinema spend their days cleaning up after each screening, chatting away, picking up popcorn, discussing their favourite flicks, or anything else that might come to mind, and sometimes, they just work in silence. In Annie Baker's play The Flick, this goes on for three hours, and it is FASCINATING. With a set (by David Zinn) of cinema seats that almost reflect the seats at Playwrights Horizons, and a naturalistic tone set by Sam Gold and from great performances from Louisa Krause, Matthew Maher and Aaron Clifton Moten, The Flick gives a full dimensional slice-of-life moment as cinema moves to a digital realm and as people learn to readjust to a new format.

3. Pippin (Musical Revival) - A.R.T. at Loeb Drama Center - Boston, MA
Music and Lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, Book by Roger O. Hirson, Directed by Diane Paulus, Circus Creation by Gypsy Snider, Choreography by Chet Walker


Pippin has always been a problematic musical and I still don't think it works in all aspects, but boy does Diane Paulus and Gypsy Snider sure razzle dazzle us and divert our attention away from the flaws inherent in the piece and give us a spectacular tale of a young man trying to find his way while being razzle dazzled by a superb leading player in Patina Miller. With a jaw dropping performance by Andrea Martin, and great help from Terrence Mann, Charlotte d'Amboise, Rachel Bay Jones, and an amazing ensemble of circus performers and dancers, this latest revival surrounds a genial Matthew James Thomas to give his Pippin the resonance and showmanship that makes this the new definitive version.

4. This is War (Play) - Tarragon Theatre - Toronto, ON
Written by Hannah Moscovitch, Directed by Richard Rose


Hannah Moscovitch's searing new play about the lives that collide and unravel during war is both universal but ultimately feels intimate in Richard Rose's effective claustrophobic staging (in a effectively stifling theatre space/set by Camelia Koo. It may be war but this is what war does to the personal state of four individual soldiers and it may be more politically reverberating than any of the politics and politicians that caused it all in the first place.

5. Passion (Musical Revival) - Classic Stage Company - Off-Broadway - New York City, NY
Music and Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, Book by James Lapine, Directed by John Doyle


Who knew a musical about a tragic romance could bring so much happiness? John Doyle brought a tight, dark and extremely moving piece to the intimate Classic Stage space with Judy Kuhn and Ryan Silverman sparking a passionate chemistry in two-thirds of this love triangle story. Amy Justman, the understudy who had to take over the role of Clara, was beautifully gripping in the third point in Passion.

6. Buyer & Cellar (Play) - Rattlestick Playwrights Theater - Off-Broadway - New York City, NY
Written by Jonathan Tolins, Directed by Stephen Brackett


This may technically be a solo show but it definitely feels like Barbra Streisand is there with Michael Urie as he recounts this amazing (untrue) tale of working as the only sales clerk in Barbra Streisand's own personal mall, hidden beneath her home (true. Apparently). Urie has us in his hands as he secretly tells us about Alex's adventures in Streisandland and it's hilariously nutty and surprisingly moving, and Urie gives a energetic and loveable performance, voicing all the other characters in this tall-tale of celebrity homes.

7. Watershed and Being and Nothingness (Part 1) in Innovation (Ballet) - National Ballet of Canada at the Four Seasons for the Performing Arts - Toronto, ON - Original Review
Watershed - Choreographed by José Navas, Music by Benjamin Britten
Being and Nothingness (Part 1) - Choreographed by Guillaume Côté, Music by Philip Glass


Innovation celebrated new works by Canadian choreographers over one night, and Watershed, by José Navas, and Being and Nothingness (Part 1), by Guillaume Côté, both took my breathe away in their beautiful simplicity and raw emotional movements that felt fresh and evocative.

8. Merrily We Roll Along (Musical) - Harold Pinter Theatre - West End - London, UK
Music and Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, Book by George Firth, Directed by Maria Friedman


Jenna Russell and Mark Umbers truly bring the tragedy, and the eventually the youthful joy, in Sondheim and Firth's backwards tale of the downfalls of fame and fortune, or in this case, the upwards trajectory of youthful hope and naivety, all bookended by an emotional reminder that the memory of that hope never fully disappears.

9. The Gay Heritage Project (Play) - Buddies in Bad Times Theatre - Toronto, ON
Created by Damien Atkins, Paul Dunn and Andrew Kushnir, Directed by Ashlie Corcoran


Atkins, Dunn and Kushnir explored their own notions of what gay heritage means and created and performed this very entertaining and emotionally resonating history lesson that explores gay culture and our ties to its historic movement from the three actors points of views. And while admitting to their limitations (especially as gay, white, males in the gay community), their overview brings both questions, and hope to the future of gay culture.

10. After Miss Julie (Play) - Red One Theatre Collective at The Storefront Theatre - Toronto, ON
Written by Patrick Marber, Directed by David Ferry


In the low ceiling space in the low rent space of The Storefront Theatre, a steamy seduction took place as the battle between lust and responsibility shapes the lives of three people as they manipulate their ways in search for a better life. All while trying to define what "better" means.

11. Pygmalion (Play Revival) - The Old Globe - San Diego, CA
Written by George Bernard Shaw, Directed by Nicholas Martin


A delightful and layered Charlotte Parry takes on the fair lady's role in this faithful and haunting revival that has a staunch and sturdy Robert Sean Leonard as Henry Higgins.

12. Jabber (Play) - Young People's Theatre - Toronto, ON - Original Review
Written by Marcus Youssef, Directed by Amanda Kellock


A seemingly simple moral tale of two teens from different cultures manages to twist and turn into a far more complex story as the characters reveal their secrets and souls that move beyond first impression stereotypes.

13. Kinky Boots (Musical) - Al Hirschfeld Theatre - Broadway - New York City, NY
Music and Lyrics by Cyndi Lauper, Book by Harvey Fierstein, Directed and Choreography by Jerry Mitchell


Imperfect and flawed, but shiny and sturdy, this underdog story became the underdog musical that turned into a big fun mainstream hit. In the move from its Chicago-tryout to Broadway (where I deemed it a musical to watch for on last year's list) some changes needed were made, some were not, but when the Cyndi Lauper songs own up to being written by Cyndi Lauper, the shows true heart shines through.

14. Here Lies Love (Musical) - LuEsther Hall at The Public Theater - Off-Broadway - New York City, NY
Music by David Byrne and Fatboy Slim, Lyrics and Concept by David Byrne,  Additional Music by Tom Gandey and J Pardo, Directed by Alex Timbers, Choreography by Annie-B Parson


A disco musical about Imelda Marcos? Not sure if the rise of Imelda from simple girl to power-hungry notoriety is a chilling tale that should be told in such an entertaining way, but damn, Alex Timbers and Annie-B Parson have inspired the most energetic cast to dance and sing their way around the dance floor. Ruthie Ann Miles builds both sympathy and sends shivers as she transforms from dancing queen to banned queen in a show where presentation and the participatory staging enhance the actual music and story.

15. The Valley (Play) - Tarragon Theatre - Toronto, ON - Original Review
Written by Joan MacLeod, Directed by Richard Rose


A powerful examination of our society and individual responsibilities in protecting ourselves and each other. With ambitious questions, MacLeod is not always entirely successful but colliding issues around mental illness and police actions with the stories of four people in two different families hitting low points in their lives, makes for an intense and fascinating play, with a wonderfully utilized in-the-round staging by Rose.

Breakthrough Performances (in alphabetical order):

The cast of After Miss Julie: Claire Armstrong, Amy Keating, Christopher Morris

The cast of The Flick: Alex Hanna, Louisa Krouse, Matthew Maher, Aaron Clifton Moten

The cast of Here Lies Love: Renée Albulario, Melody Butiu, Natalie Cortez, Debralee Daco, Joshua Dela Cruz, Jose Llana, Kelvin Moon Loh, Jeigh Madjus, Ruthie Ann Miles, Maria-Christina Oliveras, Conrad Ricamora, Trevor Salter, Janelle Velasquez

The cast of Jabber: Ian Geldart, Mariana Tayler, David Sklar

Usman Ally in The Jungle Book
Charl Brown in Motown the Musical
Travis Cardona in This Heaven
Kevin Carolan in The Jungle Book
Brian Cross in The Snow Geese
Gabriel Ebert in Matilda
K. Todd Freeman in Fetch Clay, Make Man
Alexis Gordon in The Gravitational Pull of Bernice Trimble
Jeff Ho in Murderers Confess at Christmastime
Ramin Karimloo in Les Misérables
Cyrus Lane in Passion Play
Sydney Lucas in Fun Home
Kevin MacDonald in Macbeth and The Taming of the Shrew
Colin Mercer in The Valley
Jonny Orsini in The Nance
Peyson Rock in The Gravitational Pull of Bernice Trimble
Keala Settle in Hands on a Hardbody
Frankie Serach in The Landing
Ryan Silverman in Passion
Yvonne Strahovski in Golden Boy

Great Performances (in alphabetical order):

The cast of The Gay Heritage Project: Damien Atkins, Paul Dunn, Andrew Kushnir

Damien Atkins in Someone Else
Carly Bawden in Tristan & Yseult
Dale Boyer in Night of the Living Dead Live
Gavin Creel in The Book of Mormon
André De Shields in The Jungle Book
Sergio Di Zio in This is War
Bruce Dow in Pig
Jennifer Dzialoszynski in The Taming of the Shrew
Santino Fontana in Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella
Greg Gale in Macbeth and The Taming of the Shrew
Adam Garcia in Kiss Me Kate
Greta Hodgkinson in Being and Nothingness (Part 1)
Lisa Horner in Les Misérables
Toby Jones in Circle, Mirror, Transformation
Judy Kuhn in Fun Home and Passion
Ian Lake in This is War and The Valley
Nathan Lane in The Nance
Robert Sean Leonard in Pygmalion
Cassie Levy in Murder Ballad
Deirdre Lovejoy in Lucky Guy
Andrea Martin in Pippin
James McAvoy in Macbeth
Richard McCabe in The Audience
McGee Maddox in Swan Lake
Bette Midler in I'll Eat You Last
Patina Miller in Pippin
Helen Mirren in The Audience
Debra Monk in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
Charlotte Parry in Pygmalion
Ben Platt in The Book of Mormon
Daniel Radcliffe in The Cripple of Inishmaan
Jenna Russell in Merrily We Roll Along
Cliff Saunders in Les Misérables
Alexandra Socha in Fun Home
Carly Street in Venus in Fur
Hugh Thompson in Macbeth
Mark Umbers in Merrily We Roll Along
Michael Urie in Buyer & Cellar
Courtney B. Vance in Lucky Guy
Hannah Waddington in Kiss Me Kate
Rachel York in Anything Goes
Xiao Nan Yu in Swan Lake

Here is every Stage Show I saw in 2013 in alphabetical order. All reviews are based on a 5 stars system (Workshop Labs, Readings, Concerts and Cabarets are not graded):

After Miss Julie (Play Revival) - Red One Theatre Collective at The Storefront Theatre - Toronto, ON - ****1/2

Aladdin (Musical) - Ed Mirvish Theatre - Toronto, ON - **1/2

The Alexis Lambright Tell-A-Thon: Combating Adult Virginity (Play) - FringeNYC at 440 Studios - Off-Broadway - New York City, NY - ***

All Tchaikovsky - Toronto Symphony at Roy Thompson Hall - Toronto, ON

Annie (Musical Revival) - Palace Theatre - Broadway - New York City, NY - Review ***1/2

Annie TYA (Musical Revival) - Young People's Theatre - Toronto, ON - Review ****

Anything Goes (Musical Revival) - Princess of Wales Theatre - Toronto, ON - ***1/2

The Assembled Parties (Play) - Manhattan Theater Club at the Friedman Theatre - Broadway - New York City, NY - ***

The Audience (Play) - Gielgud Theatre - West End - London, UK - ****

Beautiful Thing (Play Revival) - Arts Theatre - West End - London, UK - ****

The Best Brothers (Play Revival) - Tarragon Theatre - Toronto, ON - Review ****

Big Fish (Musical) - Neil Simon Theatre - Broadway - New York City, NY - **1/2

The Bodyguard (Musical) - Adelphi Theatre - West End - London, UK - **

The Book of Mormon x3 (Musical) - Prince of Wales Theatre - West End - London, UKNational Tour at Princess of Wales Theatre - Toronto, ON; Bank of America Theatre - Chicago, IL - ****1/2

Bull (Play) - 59E59's Theater B - Off-Broadway - New York City, NY - ***

Buyer & Cellar (Play) - Rattlestick Playwrights Theater - Off-Broadway - New York City, NY - ****1/2

The Call (Play) - Playwrights Horizons' Peter Jay Sharp Theatre - Off-Broadway - New York City, NY - Review **1/2

Carmen (Ballet) - National Ballet of Canada at the Four Seasons for the Performing Arts - Toronto, ON - **1/2

Carmina Burana - Toronto Symphony at Roy Thompson Hall - Toronto, ON

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (Play Revival) - Richard Rodgers Theatre - Broadway - New York City, NY - ****

Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella (Musical Revival) - Broadway Theatre - Broadway - New York City, NY - ***1/2

Circle, Mirror, Transformation (Play) - Royal Court Theatre at Rose Lipman Building - London, UK - ***1/2

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Musical) - Theatre Royal Drury Lane - West End - London, UK - **

The Comedy of Errors (Play Revival) - The Public Theater at the Delacorte Theatre - New York City, NY - ***

Come From Away (Musical) x2 - Studio Theatre at Sheridan College Theatre - Oakville, ON & Panasonic Theatre (Reading) - Toronto, ON  - *****

The Cripple of Inishmaan (Play Revival) - Michael Grandage Company at Noël Coward Theatre - West End - London, UK - ***1/2

The Drowned Man: A Hollywood Fable (Play) - Punchdrunk and The National Theatre at Temple Studios - London, UK - Review ****

Eating Pomegranates Naked (Play) - SummerWorks at Lower Ossington Theatre - Toronto, ON - ***

Evil Dead The Musical (Musical Revival) - Randolph Theatre - Toronto, ON - ***

Falsettos (Musical Revival) - Acting Upstage at Daniels Spectrum, Slaight Hall - Toronto, ON - ***

Far From Heaven (Musical) - Playwrights Horizons - Off-Broadway - New York City, NY - **1/2

Fetch Clay, Make Man (Play) - NYTW - Off-Broadway - New York City, NY - ***1/2

First Date (Musical) - Longacre Theatre - Broadway - New York City, NY - **1/2

The Flick (Play) - Playwrights Horizons - Off-Broadway - New York City, NY - ****1/2

The Flood Thereafter (Play) - Canadian Stage Company at Berkeley Street Theatre - Toronto, ON - Review ***

Foreign Accent Syndrome (Musical Workshop) - At Ryerson University Theatre School - Toronto, ON

Fortune and Men's Eyes (Play) - Dancemakers and Center for Creation - Toronto, ON - ***

Fun Home (Musical) - Newman Theater at The Public Theater - Off-Broadway - New York City, NY - ****

Garden (Play Revival) - Trinity Repertory Company - Providence, RI - ***

The Gay Heritage Project (Play) - Buddies in Bad Times Theatre - Toronto, ON - ****1/2

Golden Boy (Play Revival) - Lincoln Center Theater at Belasco Theatre - Broadway - New York City, NY - ****

The Gravitational Pull of Bernice Trimble (Play) - Factory Theatre and Obsidian Theatre - Toronto, ON - Review ***1/2

Hands on a Hardbody (Musical) - Brooks Atkinson Theatre - Broadway - New York City, NY - ***

Here Lies Love (Musical) - LuEsther Hall at The Public Theater - Off-Broadway - New York City, NY - ****

House (Play Revival) - Trinity Repertory Company - Providence, RI - ***

I'll Eat You Last (Play) - Booth Theatre - Braodway - New York City, NY - ****

Innovation (Ballet) - National Ballet of Canada at the Four Seasons for the Performing Arts - Toronto, ON - Review ****1/2
Watershed *****
Being and Nothingness (Part 1) - *****
Unearth - ****
...black night's bright day... - ***1/2

Jabber (Play) - Young People's Theatre - Toronto, ON - Review ****1/2

The Jungle Book (Musical) - The Goodman Theatre - Chicago, IL - ***1/2

Kinky Boots x2 (Musical) - Al Hirschfeld Theatre - Broadway - New York City, NY - ****

Kiss Me Kate (Musical Revival) - The Old Vic Theatre - West End - London, UK - ****

The Landing (Musical) - Vineyard Theatre - Off-Broadway - New York City, NY - **1/2

Les Misérables x2 (Musical Revival) - Princess of Wales Theatre - Toronto, ON - ***1/2

Lucky Guy (Play) - Broadhurst Theatre - Broadway - New York City, NY - **1/2

Macbeth (Play Revival) - Canadian Stage Company's Shakespeare in High Park Amphitheatre - Toronto, ON - Review ****

Macbeth (Play Revival) - Trafalgar Studios - West End - London, UK - ****

Marathon of Hope (Musical Workshop) - MacDonald Heaslip-Hall at Sheridan College Theatre - Oakville, ON

Matilda (Musical) - Shubert Theatre - Broadway - New York City, NY - ***1/2

Matthew Bourne's Sleeping Beauty: A Gothic Romance (Ballet) - A New Adventures Production at New York City Center - New York City, NY - Review **1/2

Merrily We Roll Along (Musical Revival) - Harold Pinter Theatre - West End - London, UK - ****1/2

Motown the Musical (Musical) - Lunt Fontanne Theatre - Broadway - New York City, NY - ***1/2

Murder Ballad (Musical) - Union Square Theatre - Off-Broadway - New York City, NY - ***1/2

Murderers Confess at Christmastime (Play) - SummerWorks at Lower Ossington Theatre - Toronto, ON - ***

Mr. Burns, a Post-Electric Play (Play) - Playwrights Horizons - Off-Broadway - New York City, NY - Review **

The Nance (Play) - Lincoln Center Theater at the Lyceum Theatre - Broadway - New York City, NY - ***1/2

Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812 (Musical) - Kazino in Chelsea - Off-Broadway - New York City, NY - ****

Needles and Opium (Play Revival) - Canadian Stage Company at Bluma Apel Theatre in the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts - Toronto, ON - **1/2

Newsies (Musical) - Nederlander Theatre - Broadway - New York City, NY - ***1/2

Night of the Living Dead Live (Play) - Theatre Passe Muraille - Toronto, ON - ***1/2

The Old Friends (Play) - Signature Theatre in the Irene Diamond Theatre - Off-Broadway - New York City, NY - ***

Once (Musical) - Royal Alexandra Theatre - Toronto, ON - ****

On the Rocks (Musical) - Theatre Passe Muraille - Toronto, ON - ***

Passion (Musical Revival) - Classic Stage Company - Off-Broadway - New York City, NY - ****1/2

Peter and Alice (Play) - Michael Grandage Company at Noël Coward Theatre - West End - London, UK - ***

Picnic (Play Revival) - Roundabout Theater Company at the American Airlines Theater - Broadway - New York City, NY - ***1/2

Pig (Play) - Buddies in Bad Times Theatre - Toronto, ON - Review ***1/2

Pippin (Musical Revival) - A.R.T. at Loeb Drama Center - Boston, MA - ****1/2

The Power of Harriet T! (Play) - Young People's Theatre - Toronto, ON - Review ***

Pur ti Miro, No. 24, The Man in Black & Theme and Variation (Ballet) - National Ballet of Canada at the Four Seasons for the Performing Arts - Toronto, ON - ****

Pygmalion (Play Revival) - The Old Globe - San Diego, CA - ****1/2

Race (Play) - Canadian Stage at Bluma Appel Theatre in the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts - Toronto, ON - Review **1/2

Reasons to be Happy (Play) - MCC at Lucille Lortel Theatre - Off-Broadway - New York City, NY - ***

Repetitive Strain Injury (Play) - Company Kid Logic at Factory Theatre Studio - Toronto, ON - **

Slowgirl (Play) - Steppenwolf Theatre - Chicago, IL - ***

The Snow Geese (Play) - Manhattan Theatre Club at the Friedman Theatre - Broadway - New York City, NY - **1/2

Someone Else (Play) - Canadian Stage Company at Berkeley Street Theatre - Toronto, ON - ****

Swan Lake (Ballet Revival) - National Ballet of Canada at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts - Toronto, ON - Review ****1/2

Talley's Folly (Play Revival) - Roundabout Theater Company at the Laura Pels Theatre in the Harold and Mirium Steinberg Center for Theatre - New York City, NY - **

The Taming of the Shrew (Play Revival) - Canadian Stage Company's Shakespeare in High Park Amphitheatre - Toronto, ON - Review ***

The Theory of Relativity (Musical) - Studio Theatre at Sheridan College Theatre - Oakville, ON - ****

This (Play) - Canadian Stage at the Berkeley Street Theatre - Toronto, ON - Review ***1/2

This Heaven (Play) - Belvoir Theatre - Sydney, NSW, AU - ***1/2

This is War (Play) - Tarragon Theatre - Toronto, ON - ****1/2

3 Kinds of Exile (Play) - The Atlantic Theater Company - Off-Broadway - New York City, NY - **1/2

Tommy (Musical Revival) - Stratford Shakespeare Festival in the Avon Theatre - Stratford, ON - **1/2

Tristan & Yseult (Play) - Kneehigh at Berkeley Repertory Theatre - Berkeley, CA - **1/2

The Valley (Play) - Tarragon Theatre - Toronto, ON - Review ****

Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike (Play) - Lincoln Center Theater at the Golden Theatre - Broadway - New York City, NY - ***

Venice (Musical Lab) - The Public Theater - Off-Broadway - New York City, NY - **1/2

Venus in Fur (Play) - Canadian Stage Company at Bluma Apel Theatre in the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts - Toronto, ON - Review ****1/2

Winners and Losers (Play) - Crow's Theatre and Canadian Stage Company at Berkeley Street Theatre - Toronto, ON - ***

The Wizard of Oz (Musical Revival) - Ed Mirvish Theatre - Toronto, ON - Review **1/2

You're A Good Man Charlie Brown (Musical Revival) - Actor's Fund Benefit at the Baillie Theatre in the Young Centre for the Performing Arts - Toronto, ON

Zumanity (Circus) - Cirque du Soleil at New York New York Hotel and Casino - Las Vegas, NV - ****

Best of 2013 Lists:
Best of Music
Best of Television 2012
Best of Stage 2012
Best of Movies 2011/12/13

Previous Best-of Lists: 

Best of 2012 Lists:
Best of Music 2012
Best of Stage 2012

Best of 2011 Lists:
Best of Music 2011
Best of Television 2011
Best of Stage 2011

Best of 2010 Lists:
Best of Music 2010
Best of Television 2010
Best of Stage 2010
Best of Movies 2010

Best of 2009 Lists:
Best of Music 2009
Best of Television 2009
Best of Stage 2009
Best of Movies 2009

Decadeworthy - The Best of 2000-2009 Lists:
SYTYCDworthy (w/ Videos) - List Format
Theatre of the Decade
Best Films of the Decade
Favorite Films of the Decade
Television of the Decade
Television of the Decade - 1 Season Wonders

Best of 2008 Lists:
Best of Music 2008
Best of Television 2008
Best of Stage 2008
Best of Movies 2008
Best of Television Fall '07 - Winter '08 List

Best of 2007 Lists:
Best of Music 2007
Best of Television 2007
Best of Movies 2007
Best of Stage 2007
Best of 2007 (The Final Wrap Up)
Best of Television Fall '06 - Winter '07 List

Best of 2006 Lists:
Best of Music 2006
Best of Television 2006
Best of Movies 2006
Best of 2006
Best of Television Fall '05 - Winter '06 List

Best of 2005 Lists:
Best of Television 2005
Best of Movies 2005

Vance at http://tapeworthy.blogspot.com

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