Sunday, May 01, 2016

Stageworthy May 2016

Reviews of (in order of most recently seen and reviewed for this month):

A Chorus Line - Stratford Shakespeare Festival in the Festival Theatre - Stratford, ON
Jekyll and Hyde - The McOnie Company at The Old Vic Theatre - London, UK
Blue/Orange - Young Vic - London, UK
Running Wild - Regent's Park Open Air Theatre - London, UK
Kinky Boots - Royal Alexandra Theatre - Toronto, ON

Upcoming shows:
Elegy - Donmar Warehouse - London, UK
Le Petit Prince - National Ballet of Canada - Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts - Toronto, ON

Kinky Boots - Royal Alexandra Theatre - Toronto, ON - ****
Music and Lyrics by Cyndi Lauper, Book by Harvey Fierstein, Directed by Jerry Mitchell

4th time in Toronto. 8th time overall. I realize it's a flawed show (and still think on it's 8th outing that the first few songs could have been cut or at least edited down) but it's got so much heart and once Cyndi Lauper stops writing for musical theatre and starts writing in her own style, the show truly gets Kinky.

Graham Scott Fleming is still terrific as Charlie and has the best, most stirring "Soul of a Man", and is the most convincing Charlie when he turns on Lola. Elena Juatco stepping in Nicola's shoes is great. Gonna miss the Canadian production.

Running Wild - Regent's Park Open Air Theatre - London, UK - **1/2
By Michael Morpurgo, In an adaptation by Samuel Adamson, Directed by Timothy Sheader and Dale Rooks
(Preview performance)

Based on this and Morpurgo's War Horse, I'm getting the sense that his stories are summed up within the title. A horse in the war. Running wild in the wild. I also had the same reaction coming out of the Open Air theatre as in War Horse... The puppets were AMAZING. Unfortunately, while the horse eventually won me over right in the end, I was less enthralled here, despite the jungly exotic atmosphere. The pretty simplistic story of a boy who loses his mother and gets lost in the wild in the great Tsunami that devastated Indonesia, moves to some harsher realities that seems jarring against the rest of the play's family friendly sobering tone, full of moments of the large ensemble greek chorus who reiterate everything in words in case you missed the more subtle elements happening on stage. The show tries to be subtle but underlines everything that it reminded me of many "theatre" cliches Stupid Fu**king Bird was parodying.

The large cast and puppeteers try their best but their noble efforts are drowned out by the earnest and overly explained (yet) simple story.

Blue/Orange - Young Vic Theatre - Main House - London, UK - ***1/2
Written by Joe Penhall, Directed by Matthew Xia
(Preview performance)

An interesting revival of a play that runs about 20-30 minutes too long and feels slightly dated in it's psychological analysis but the issues of systemic racism and workplace seniority (and bullying/trust within that system) is still fascinating, relevant and frustrating. As always, the main house of the Young Vic is completely transformed (I have yet to see the space laid out the same way twice!).

Laid out in a ring format, Daniel Kaluuya's Christopher is on the eve of release but young doctor Bruce (a terrific Luke Norris) wants to keep him longer to treat his borderline personality disorder, while the senior consultant Robert believes he should be released back into the community. Charges of racism, race expectations, budgetary reasons, differing psychological diagnosis come into play. David Haig's Robert is smug and bulldozes over Bruce, and while the play is probably supposed to be weighted more evenly, it was not hard to feel for the young (and white and cute) Bruce as the underdog and who thinks he's doing right, especially when Christopher clearly has some sort of mental disorder (he sees Oranges and thinks they are blue). Lots of fascinating issues, but not quite as balanced arguments as it might have felt originally, and runs a tad long with some points hammered a few too many times, but Kaluuya and Norris are definitely actors to watch for.

Jekyll and Hyde - The McOnie Company at The Old Vic Theatre - London, UK - ****1/2
Devised, Choreographed and Directed by Drew McOnie, Music by Grant Olding
(Preview performance)

Well, I did not expect a new dance show about a nerdy man who turns into a serial rapist and killer to be so much fun! Drew McOnie fluidly tells the tale in dance format, transferring the Jekyll and Hyde to 1950s London, with fantastic new music by Grant Olding, and they hit the right cheeky, fun, and creeping dark undertones in just the right balance. Daniel Collins is wonderfully gawky and winning as Dr. Jekyll, while Jason Winter filled in for Mr. Hyde and his swagger and chiselled build is extremely seducing (and I can't imagine someone else in the role). Filling in for Winter's regular role, Ashley Andrews is also fantastic as Charlie, a cocky rival to Jekyll's love, the beautiful Rachel Muldoon as Dahlia. A beautiful cast fills in the ensemble with some really fun choreo from McOnie who manages to make this narrative dance play work in a thrilling way (and reminded me of the best Matthew Bourne dance shows). Was also really taken by Ebony Molina, Alexandra Sarmiento, Anabel Kutay, and (cover) Simon Hardwick's dancing.

A Chorus Line - Stratford Shakespeare Festival in the Festival Theatre - Stratford, ON - ****
Music by Marvin Hamlisch, Lyrics by Edward Kleban, Book by James Kirkwood and Nicholas Dante, Conceived and Originally Directed and Choreographed by Michael Bennett, Directed and Choreographed by Donna Feore
(Preview performance)

Elegy - Donmar Warehouse - London, UK
Written by Nick Payne, Directed by Josie Rourke

Photo of Blue/Orange by Johan Persson

Best of Stage 2015
Best of Stage 2014
Best of Stage 2013
Best of Stage 2012
Best of Stage 2011
Best of Stage 2010
Best of Stage 2009
Best of Stage 2008
Best of Stage 2007

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