Category Archives: Theatre

Fringe 2016:Well isn’t this super… (Marvellous Man IV: The Return of Marvellous Man)

An edited version of this review was published by Apt613

A rather sophisticated story with sweet perspective shifts Well isn’t This Super… exhibits an impressive maturity by Dead Unicorn Ink while their irreverent edge remains firmly intact. In the amusing opening sequence, a Tinder hook up reveals itself to be the set of a superhero movie. The production shifts between the on-set film, with actors in character, to characters with real-life struggles trying to make their professional mark.

Well-Isnt-This-Super...-375x375Newcomer Nikki Reilly is trying desperately to establish her character Mystic Quartz as a viable superhero lead alongside the eponymous star of the Marvellous Man franchise Dan Stevens and cheering frat-boy Director Michael Cove. Corseted, in stilettos and a mini-skirt it is when the director yells cut that the misogyny at the heart of the piece really comes to the fore.  Dismissed and marginalized, Dan even refers to her as “tits”, Nikki has visions of a strong independent female superhero and a possible spin-off franchise.

Pace and comedy keep the storyline brisk despite the characters’ struggles with casual, even institutionalized, sexism and the insincerity of the Hollywood promise. Creator Patricia Forbes does an admirable job providing serious content with no heavy lifting required by the audience.  The writing is crisp and action swift as it moves from between-scenes conversations to on-camera sequences with over-the-top hokey dialogue and a very winning super villain. It’s an ensemble piece where everyone pulls their weight. The roles of Nikki and Dan are assuredly strong while Len, the androgynous runner, provides a delightful performance where an alliance is counter-balanced by personal aims reflecting the narcissism through-out the piece. The cast are accomplished and deft throughout delivering a brilliantly performed work.

As the production plays out there are more twists and turns as each character tries to solidify their own position to the detriment of their colleague. Who ends up on top remains to be seen in this trust-free environment.

Book in early for “Well isn’t this super…” as it has the hallmarks of a festival favourite.

Ottawa Fringe Festival 2016
Well Isn’t this Super…
BYOV Nostalgica Café 601 Cumberland St.
June 15-26, 2016

 

Cantares at the NAC: A Latin Jazz Journey with Claudia Salguero

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

Our Apartment 613 contributor caught up with musician and visual artist Claudia Salguero in the run up to Cantares, her 6th annual Latin Jazz concert at the National Arts Centre.

A collaborative multi-cultural effort, Salguero will present a range of hand-picked Latin Jazz songs and be joined on stage by 10 musicians from nine different countries including: Peru, Colombia, Canada, Mexico, Chili, Brazil, Great Britain, Togo and the US.

Claudia-Salguero-Latin-Jazz-3

Salguero and musicians in concert

A traveller herself, Salguero hails from Columbia making Ottawa her home since 2001 while “never forgetting her roots.” Speaking of Bogota, Salguero shared “We grew up dancing and listening to music. We have it in our blood” and it is this gift, her love of Latin Jazz, that will be showcased at her concert.

Her expansive artistic scope and embrace of cultural diversity has guided Salguero’s curation of the program. Audiences can expect music beyond the familiar salsa and merengue strains and look forward to romantically emotive boleros, explore the African and Spanish roots of Latin Jazz and take in Latin-styled interpretations of North American jazz classics.  “It is not all Latin American music. I love old jazz and you will hear universally familiar classics interpreted in a Latin America style. “

“I sing songs that have meaning to me and that transport me.” Salguero has hand-picked compositions that deeply moved her, that are rich in emotions and that steeped in cultural history.

And it isn’t simply the music that elevates this performance but the dialogue that Salguero brings as she expounds on the compositions; their origin, the instruments on stage and her personal interpretations of the songs. “Though I sing mostly in Spanish I explain every song, what is happening in the narrative and why it touches me.” As the instruments change with the songs it provides a further opportunity to engage the accompanying musicians in the dialogue and deepen the experience for audiences as countries of origin and meanings are explored.

“Every song is different from the last. People like that and the interaction and conversations with the musicians on stage.” said Salguero, “Many people share that they come to the concert with an expectation of Latin American music and leave with a new and fuller understanding of the music, the countries, the instruments and the stories.”

Salguero is flattered by the interest and attendance at her concerts which are frequently sold-out and the opportunity it provides for her and the other musicians.  As such, a portion the proceeds are donated to further the advancement of artistic talents back in Bogota.  Salguero has always selected a foundation to donate to and for a 2nd year the proceeds will go to Casa Taller Las Moyas, a charity in the impoverished Barrio San Luis that promotes and teaches music, art, cooking and other skills to underprivileged children.

“We chose this charity as it mirrors my outreach as an artist here in Ottawa. I work in different communities to bring the artistic experience to low income children and neighbourhoods.  My projects are often about creating art objects, be it a mural or piece of visual art, with the idea that “art creates a better society.” Participants learn about equipment, techniques and produce a tangible work that is a lasting part of their community. This outreach is about empowerment and belonging while learning a skill that hopefully leads to further work.  When I visited Casa Taller Las Moyas, saw their work and the impact they were having on these children the fit was obvious.

Cantares” Salguero summarises, “is a professional, polished and elegant night of Latin Jazz” with the added bonus of a musical and educational resonance that crosses borders.

Claudia Salguero – CANTARES
May 28, 2016
NAC – Studio

Jazz Legends light up NAC’s Night at the Cotton Club

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

Our Apartment 613 contributor spoke with conductor and Night at the Cotton Club co-creator Jeff Tyzik at his home in New York.

Tyzik promises to take Ottawa back in time to a Harlem sparkling with the top entertainers of the 1920s and 30s. The gifted guest conductor will take the reins from Shelley for three nights transforming the NAC orchestra in a “truly unique experience”. “We set up the entire evening and transform the stage in to the historic Cotton Club by arranging the orchestra in a horseshoe configuration, adding in a saxophone section and leaving ample space centre stage for world-class soloists.”

Cotton Club poster

And these soloists promise to dazzle. It was with renown trumpeter and vocalists Byron Stripling, who has toured with Dizzy Gillespie, Lionel Hampton, Woody Herman and more that Tyzik was compelled to create the show.

“When Byron and I created this show it wasn’t just that it was a good idea. It was love of the era and of the Cotton Club, it was the knowledge that with our own connections to the jazz masters of the past we could bring history back. The creation of Night at the Cotton Club took on an importance capturing our imaginations and it is why we do the show the way we do it: partial tribute and partial living historical document to the times and the music.“

“All the music is from the prohibition years from 1926-1932 spanning the era of the Cotton Club’s in-house Duke Ellington and Cab Calloway orchestras. The show is incredibly fast paced.” In keeping with the original club’s fast and furious floorshows where Lena Horne and Josephine Baker brought sizzle and style Tyzik promises “action every few minutes. The rules aren’t the same as in a classical concert. We embrace spontaneous feedback and reactions – it’s a different vibe.“

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Ted Louis Levy

One performer who promises to ignite the room is tap great Ted Louis Levy; protégé of Gregory Hines, Emmy award winner, Tony award nominee and world-famous dancer, choreographer and vocalist. Like Tyzik and Stripling Levy provides a direct connection with Jazz history having trained and danced with masters such as Jimmy Slyde.

Jeff Tyzik

Jeff Tyzik

Tyzik tells us “The performers are a direct link to the greatest masters that came before them. They are not just trained; these people are the real deal. When audiences hear them perform they are but one step away from the jazz greats.”

Carmen Bradford is a star with remarkable jazz lineage. The vocalist sang with the Count Basie Orchestra and a breathtaking array of famous names including James Brown, Lou Rawls, Lena Horne, Tony Bennett, Herbie Hancock, Frank Sinatra. A story Tyzik shared that trivia buffs will love is that “it was Bradford’s disc found in Ella Fitzgerald’s CD player when the legendary singer passed away.”

Tyzik touched on the innovation of the era reflected in the music and the culture of the time. “Through our respect for the integrity of the music we are bringing back that originality and excitement.” said Tyzik The music remains relevant today and through their connection to the time and respect for the music’s integrity they are sharing a cultural and musical legacy.

“It doesn’t get any closer than this.”

Night at the Cotton Club
28-30 April, 2016 8PM
National Arts Centre – Southam Hall

 

The Sound of Music plays pitch perfect to its charms

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

The story needs little introduction, so familiar is the iconic 1965 film version of Rodger & Hammerstein’s The Sound of Music starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer. So the question at last night’s packed opening was could this version begin to approach the crowd-pleasing experience associated to its famous legacy?

Sound of Music

Set in Salzberg, Austria (oddly referred to as Kaltzberg in this production) on the eve of the outbreak of World War II the two-part story is that of would-be nun Maria (Kerstin Anderson) sent away from the abbey to become governess to the 7 children of widowed naval Captain von Trapp (Ben Davis). She ignites a love of music in the singing brood and in doing so turns the head of the Captain whom she marries. The Captain, a vehement opponent to the Nazis, is commissioned to the German Navy leading to the crafty dénouement whereby the family flees the country over the Austrian alps.

The production sticks close to the film version. It is a nostalgic romp through the classics from the opening scene with Maria belting out the title number through the delightful ensemble performances of Do-Re-Mi, My Favourite Things and The Lonely Goatherd, to the show-stopping Climb Ev’ry Mountain and iconic Edelweiss.

Anderson has a beautiful voice, steady and clear throughout, doing great justice to every number though her acting is mildly stilted.  Davis as the Captain on the other hand blends a powerful and accomplished singing voice to a wonderfully all-in performance. Coming up against a role “owned” by Christopher Plummer, Davis injects it with a full-on homage to that version while making it very much his own. His masterful yet playful performance had my companion bestow him the moniker Camptain von Trapp.

Sound of Music LieslOther stand-out voices were von Trapp children Liesl (Paige Silvester) who delivers a mature and delightful “16 going on 17” and Louisa (Maria Suzanne Knasel) who we wished had more solo moments.

The production is a feast for the eyes with remarkable backdrops and sets. In particular, the wedding scene in the abbey, the sparkling chandelier overhanging the von Trapp mansion and the still-shocking flag backdrop of the music festival.

As the curtain fell on the final act the audience hopped to it’s feet proving director Jack O’Brien has understood and captured the spirit of this musical delivering a production that plays perfectly to its charms.

Broadway Across Canada presents The Sound of Music  at the National Arts Centre until April 17, 2016. For scheduling and ticket information, click here.

Getting to Room Temperature – Undercurrents 2016

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

Fringe theatre by its very name explores characters and topics frequently marginalized.  Getting to Room Temperature adheres to this tradition in Arthur Milne’s one-man show recounting the struggles that accompany the decline and death of his mother Rose.

Based on Milner’s experience with his mother Rose’s death the work was inspired by her pursuit of assisted suicide when incapacitated by a lung infection in her early 90s.

Part personal story, part lecture the play follows a natural progression from childhood reflections on the “noble” death of Inuit elders once commonly believed to leave their families to die in the wild through to contemporary research on euthanasia and the repercussions of life-extending medical practices.

BoekstahlThe weighty material flows through Robert Bockstael’s seemingly effortless delivery weaving a believable humor with poignant remembrances and effective arguments. Bockstael feels familiar even intimate; a confidante who spins out his story as though at a fireside chat.

Having previously lost his father to cancer, in his early 70s, Milner balances the notion of death by illness versus death by old age. His father fights a losing battle while his mother sees science fight off what would have killed her in a previous era as her body and quality of life steeply decline.

The show is peppered with humour. Alone with his father at the time of death Bockstael comically relates all manner of trick to confirm death and, when he finally announces it to his family, “everyone looked at the nurse”. He recalls cracking bad “a guy goes to the doctor” cancer jokes to relieve the anxiety: the good news is you have cancer, the worse news is you have Alzheimer’s. Well at least it isn’t cancer. The show uses laughter throughout the production mimicking real-life coping strategies to relieve the strain of death.

Via anecdotes of hearing loss and blaring televisions to the move to a retirement home, Milner asks us to weigh-in on serious questions including the impact of incessant medical intervention, quality of life and the financial strain of eldercare telling us squarely that aging in any dignified sense requires deep pockets in Canada. Despite top-of-the-line facilities providing quality care and accommodations shadows lurk in the corners where dementia lives and is studiously avoided until it takes hold.

Bockstael asks many questions and convincingly delivers many interlocking theories on death: the search for death is not an illness, suffering is not a virtue. From a Polish-Jewish background that fled the Nazi who wiped out her remaining family are we right to require, as a society, that Rose suffer more? Are we right, as a society, to require that anyone gripped in a painful old age suffer more? Do the aged, like the terminally ill, have the right to die; this is at the very crux of the production.

This personal story cum TEDtalk raises universal questions about aging and eldercare that are provocative and timely. Milner’s work is well-time with law makers currently struggling to legislate Canada’s 2015 Supreme Court ruling on the right to assisted suicide.

Where do we go next? That is the lingering question in this journey of Getting to Room Temperature.

Getting to Room Temperature
Undercurrents
February 10-20, 2016
Arts Court
2 Daly Ave

 

Monstrous, or, the Miscegenation Advantage – Undercurrents 2016

 

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

Mis-ceg-e-na-tion (noun): the interbreeding of people considered to be of different racial types.

monstrous1Sarah Waisvisz travels a murky, muddled and miss-remembered heritage in Monstrous a world premiere performance at Undercurrents that blends storytelling to dance in Waisvisz search for cultural belonging. Premiering during Black History Month this work comes at an opportune moment offering insight into the baggage carried by many North American’s in relation to cultural identity.

Monstrous explores, from mostly a personal perspective, the lost history of stolen and exiled people whose birthright was clouded by the impact of slavery, the holocaust and enforced displacement.

Born to a family of both the African and European Jewish diaspora Waivisz finds her identity inconsistently, interchangeably and assuredly defined by strangers. Straddling a range of indefinable skin tone somewhere between dark European and light African she is the “ethnic” child while her brother is the blonde “Gerber baby”. Growing up they play slave trader games and no points in guessing how the roles were divided.  As an adult strangers pronounce her identity assuredly and inconsistently: black, white, Israeli, Lebanese, Caribbean, Italian and other. The consistent repeated disassociation coupled with in-family jokes leads Waisvisc to self-diagnose herself as suffering from cultural schizophrenia.

Waisvisc dynamic energy fill the minimalist set where music, projection and dance illustrate a global trek as stories, anecdotes, lies, hearsay and research are pulled from this trunk of family history.

Africa, Europe & Martinique all figure  large in the exploration of a family’s legacy. Waivisz’s multilingual talents and her choice of French-language music serve this production well emphasizing the international scope. “Pourquoi tu n”habite pas ici tati?” gives an authenticity to this self-reflective production.

She travels to Martinique, where her parents first met, and remarkable silhouetted shadow-play on evocative projections linking sensory impacts – sound, sight, taste – with the cultural sense of self – “I want to remember everything – how do I know I will ever return”.

monstrous2Stories and research are played out through song, chalk maps and dance episodes so masterful that the room burst in to spontaneous applause. Through her performance and a vibrant selection of projections Waivisz takes us from Africa to Martinique, to Ottawa, Rotterdam, Paris, Ferney and beyond.

How do you define yourself when your cultural identity is blurred? Take a trip with Monstrous to decide.

Undercurrents
February 10-20, 2016
Arts Court
2 Daly Ave

 

 

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