Sandy Hill Winter Carnival this Sunday!

Sandy Hill’s very own Winterlude hits the ‘hood this Sunday! The annual Winter Carnival kicks off at 2pm on Sunday. Get set for merriment, conviviality, skating, maple syrup, sleigh rides, ice sculptures, rides, a community dinner, crafts and more. See details on the poster below.

It all takes place at the Sandy Hill Community Centre 250 Somerset St E with plenty of indoor and outdoor activities.

Organizer’s will be accepting donations of new or lightly used winter wear.  A wonderful opportunity to come together as a community and share with our more vulnerable neighbours.

sandyhillwinter carnival

Matchstick lights a theatrical fire at the GCTC

An edited version of this review was published by Apt613.ca
Once upon a time a girl born in an undesirable country meets a boy from the land of freedom and opportunity and so begins the not-so-fairy-tale journey of Matchstick in Nathan Howe’s beautifully inventive musical-narrative that stitches enchanting storytelling to heart stopping reality.

Matchstick

Matchstick photo courtesy Electric Umbrella via the GCTC

Young Matchstick (Lauren Holfeuer) leaves behind a traumatic childhood moving to her Uncle’s home in an unnamed city where her difficult past gives way to a sparkling adolescence in a city replete with parties, comical suitors and ultimately the enigmatic foreigner Alik (Nathan Howe). Through self-contained episodes the story arc moves across the ocean from a colorful yet autocratic soviet land to an idealized then polarized US driving ever closer to a dark plot twist that no spoiler should reveal.

A simple set with little more than a cut-out cityscape backdrop, a screen and musical instruments dotted about transforms through the astounding and novel use of lighting. Projections, shadow-puppetry and ingenious if limited use of props elevate the accomplished narrative and bring characters and settings fully to life across borders and cultures.

From the opening story of Matchstick at the zoo through the animated picture-frame Aunt Valia, the befuddling bus ride, the poignant teaching gig and the acquired pram to the tremendous use of archived recordings each scene has remarkable visual impact. The result is stunning design from the creative team and a veritable feast for the eyes where even subtle costume changes evoke temperament and mood shifts while a rolled up blanket delivers a cradled infant.

Howe and Holfeuer bring consummate depth to the principle roles whilst also fairly cramming the stage with a cornucopia of well rounded and entertaining characters.  The physical delivery is graceful and accomplished with charming dance numbers including the notable ‘orphans’ while the music does away with the contrived awkwardness of so many musicals in favour of an independent contemporary delivery that is highly successful given the talents of these two artist with  Holfeuer’s poignant new year’s eve in the bath being a stand-out to watch for on the night.

Having identified the upcoming “reveal” rather early on in the production the twist has potential for greater impact if left to the penultimate scene which is so beautifully executed through sound, imagery and acetate overlays. However, this is but a small critique to bring to an exceptional work.

Nathan Howe and Kristen Holfeuer deliver impeccable performances under the masterful direction of Lauren Holfeuer.  This is must-see theatre with a concluding reprisal as piercing and visually satisfying as this triumphant production is throughout.

Matchstick
January 21st-31st 2016
At the Great Canadian Theatre Company

 

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Happy New Year!

Happy New Year

Freezing Seasonal Theatre @The Gladstone

An edited version of this review was published by APT613.ca
Warm temperatures haven’t put a thaw on unbridled icy enthusiasm as Freezing  returns to Ottawa “Bigger, Bolder… Colder” for its second seasonal run at The Gladstone Theatre.

From the opening parody song and dance number “No business like snow business” the stage is set for a performance both professionally polished and alive with playful humour.

FreezingWill Lamond

Will Lamond delivers a devilish Hans in Freezing

Appropriately for a pantomime the show never takes itself too seriously, convivially embracing the fine tradition of on-stage slapstick coupled with audience participation. Freezing ticks all the boxes of the traditional Christmas panto; parodying an – albeit new – classic, incorporating rollicking song and dance, bringing nonsense and groaner comedy alongside current political references to the fore and including the controversial yet iconic cross-dressing pantomime dame – finely played by Constant Bernard. The dame, facing politically correct challenges, will hopefully survive as the newly-acquainted learn the form springs from the anarchic tradition of carnival subversion at the heart of good panto, but only time will tell.

Set in an icy kingdom Princess Adele (Jessica Vandenberg) is a winter sport enthusiast while sister Hanna (Émilie O’Brien), the bashful bookworm smitten, is by iceman Krisco (Chad Connell).  Matriarch Queen Gerda (Bernard) sits at the helm of this small family and though frequently at comical odds with her daughters a fine stream of girl-power permeates the piece; after all, “it’s 2015”.  Enter the devilishly mischievous Hans (Will Lamond) keen to launch a temperature control app and bring an end to winter unless he can wed Hanna or Adele. Will Hans’ evil plan see him take the hand of one of the two Princesses? With a playful talking Beaver, a subservient Troll and tornados a tap away expect the unexpected.

The audience at the weekend matinee was fully engaged and keen to participate. The crowd that day enthusiastically joined in; booing the villain, cheering the heroes and letting all know if a monster was “behind them”.  At times the unbridled energy made way for a witty adlib.

Festive costumes reinforce the kid-accessibility of the characters while timely political commentary keeps the performance up to date and adult. Musical numbers and choreography are strong and confident– even a duet with a moose is surprisingly winning.

Contemporary political humour was more refined this year; the Justin Trudeau song and dance number and transit message from Jim Watson who “feels our pain” were hilariously executed.  The production, partly funded by donations from Little Italy businesses, did away with heavy-handed plugs integrating a tremendous #ShopLocal homage in a delightfully innovative scene.

Sarah & Matt Cassidy have returned with a refreshed and winning p

FreezingMiniCritics

MiniCritics& Cast

roduction; a panto that deserves to become a new local tradition.

Don’t take my word. In closing I offer the opinions of two 7yr olds “I didn’t like it… I loved it!” and “Double awesome thumbs-up”.

Freezing
The Gladstone Theatre 910 Gladstone Ave.
until January 3, 2016
Click here for showtimes & tickets

Anne & Gilbert: The Musical – Review

An edited version of this review was published by Apt613.ca 

Anne and Gilbert - Andree Lanthier

Anne (Ellen Denny) & Gilbert (Alex Furber) Photo courtesy Andrée Lanthier

Anne & Gilbert: The Musical has swept in to Ottawa in time for the holiday season and, not being a committed Anne of Green Gables nor family-friendly-format aficionado, the challenge set was whether this piece could entertain as a one-off night at the theatre.

The story follows Lucy Maud Montgomery’s eponymous flame-haired hero in to young womanhood taking cues from the author’s later novels: Anne of Avonlea and Anne of the Island each novel getting its own act in Martha Irving’s smartly directed production.

Created by Nancy White, Bob Johnston and Jeff Hochhause the musical follows childhood rivals Anne and Gilbert now blossomed in to great, if conflicted, friends.  All of Avonlea believes these two are meant to wed but, while Gilbert (Alex Furber) is besotted with Anne (Ellen Denny), she is haughty with overly-saccharine longings for an exotic, ideal and urbane lover.

Act 1 reacquaints the audience with Avonlea and its many iconic characters. Anne and Gilbert teach in neighbouring towns – Anne schooling her former classmates in Avonlea – and both dream of higher academic studies and broader horizons. Act 2 tracks the protagonists’ adventures to the “mainland” university of Redmond where, following Anne’s rejection of Gilbert’s proposal, the two keep a measured distance while love rivals add complication and humour to this homespun story of hesitant love.

The musical score is rousing and the live trio performing adds a superior dimension to the evening. The musical chops of some performers, most notably Denny alongside the outstanding Alison Woolridge as Marilla and the captivating Amanda LeBlanc as Philippa Gordon, far outweigh others. In the whole however the quality of the songs accompanied by the energy and vibrancy of Brittany Banks crowd-pleasing choreography, and the talent of the ensemble make this a clear musical success with a pageant of song and dance characters that evoke emotion and provide undiluted delight.

Alongside the centre-stage story are a handful of well-drawn characters including the formidable Marilla Cuthbert and Rachel Lynde (Robin Craig) who provide a sub-plot on stoicism, resilience and life choices with moving performances of “Our Duty” and the stand-out “When he was my beau”. The two characters provide grounded humour alongside frank and determined hardiness. The amusing Phillipa Gordon (Amanda Leblanc), the wealthiest student at Redmond, who seesaws between beaus fairly lit up the stage with her gleeful dynamism.  Her beaus providing great comedy relief with their Monty Pythonesque stalking about the set. Ottawa’s own Charles Douglas and David Whiteley make impactful contributions to the ensemble. The former in a comical turn as Torontonian millionaire and Anne’s love interest Royal Gardner while the ever talented Whiteley fairly stealing scenes as the bumbling fiddle-playing Ministry-student Moody MacPherson particularly in scenes alongside Leblanc’s Philippa.

Paint me entertained and charmed by this sweet Canadian classic musical tale of Anne & Gilbert.  As seasonal entertainment this family friendly musical is a clear feel-good winner where even a curmudgeon may well find themselves declaring they’re “island through and through”.

Anne & Gilbert:National Arts Centre
NAC Theatre
Dec 1-23, 2015 various times

Adàwe – a bridge connecting communities

Friday Dec 4th at 1PM the new pedestrian and cycling bridge spanning the Rideau River between Strathcona Park and River Road opens.

Adawe

Adàwe, meaning to trade, provides a vital and necessary link connecting communities and businesses; reclaiming a part of Ottawa’s history on the site where historically practical residents built a boardwalk passage.

Adawe predecessor

The Adàwe crossing eliminates the unnecessarily long detour for walkers and cyclists by providing a crossing points in-between the car-centric Cummings bridge and isolated MUP train bridge.

This is a hopeful sign of change in Ottawa where modal-share infrastructure investment is, even in record years, woefully inadequate and the destitute to vehicular road investment.

Adàwe transforms Riverain and Strathcona parks from end-points to passage-ways providing a commuter route for many.  The beauty of this route reclaims the river, encourages the practical use of parks, promotes mobility and builds interaction between communities via a purposeful people-place in the heart of urban nature.

Congratulations to all that brought this vision to reality!

 

Saturday Night is Bettye Hyde Trivia Night

This Saturday, Nov 21st, support local and win big at the 9th annual Bettye Hyde TriviaNight. Trivia night tickets are 25$ however a FREE silent auction reception kicks off the soirée.

The evening at Bate Hall (317 Chapel St) features cocktails and silent auction from 6:00-7:30PM. The chance to take home great prizes accompanies an opportunity to catch up with neighbours in the elegant atmosphere of this stunning heritage venue. The cocktail event is followed by the trivia night from 8-11PM where locals will vie to take home the coveted trophy of honour.

This aim of the community event is to improve the school playground equipment. Spring 2016 will see the addition of permanent garden structures to nurture motor-skill development in a natural setting that plans to include climbing rocks and a water feature.

For more information or to purchase Trivia tickets contact bhtrivianight@gmail.com