Tag Archives: NAC

Mr. Shi and His Lover @NAC: Theatre Review – Exquisite Staging and Splendid Performances in improbable real-life Affair

An edited version of this post also appeared in APT613.

Provocative musical theatre opened  at the NAC as Mr. Shi and his Lover revisits the stranger-than-fiction story of the 20-year affair between French Embassy employee, Bertrand Boursicot’s (David Kwan), and Pekinese opera singer Shi Pei Pu (Jordan Cheng) who Boursicot believed was a woman posing as a man. The story made headline news in the ‘80’s when the men were on trial in France for espionage with the Chinese government. What captivated the news cycle was Boursicot’s adamant belief that Shi Pei Pu was a woman, the mother to his child, and how this pretense had endured decades.

3Jordan Cheng and Derek Kwan 03 -- photo by Erik Kuong_preview

Jordan Cheng and David Kwan – Photo @ Erik Kuong

In 1993 David Cronenberg’s M.Butterfly recounted the story from Boursicot’s point of view while here playwright Wong Teng Chi shifts the perspective to Shi with startling effect focusing on emotions over events. The shifting balance of desire, love, deception and performance all figure large as the narrative unfolds drawing skillfully on references from Chinese folklore to western pop.

The joint Macau/Toronto production is performed exclusively in Mandarin with sur-titles in English the 75-minute production is unexpectedly accessible and an absolute visual pleasure to behold. The sparse set with little more than a dressing table and chair is framed by the accompanists; Composer Njo Kong Kie on piano and Yukie Lai on an imposing wooden marimba with Chinese percussions. Skillful lighting casts shadows speaking to the subterfuge and deception within the text while the music and spotlights create a dreamlike thrall as the piece explores where deception ends and blissful ignorance led by a master performer begins.

Jordan Cheng

Jordan Cheng @Erik Kuong

Cheng and Kwan beneath the stark spot-light ignite the stage with enthralling performances, the elegance of their voices delivering grand drama against the handsomely minimalistic backdrop. Cheng’s narcissistic, conniving and distraught Shi works with unexpected asymmetrical synchronicity to Kwan’s solid, stuffy yet strangely potent bureaucrat Boursicot. The direction is sharp and stylized, like the set, leaving generous space for the acting skills of both actors as they delve in to the driving impulses of their characters.

Teng Chi’s rendition is divided in to seven chapters that examine how desire, deceit, politics, gender, sexuality and nationalism guided their lives. Delicately, yet effectively, tentative truths are revisited while Shi’s sheer drive to “perform” weighs equally in the balance. While one or two chapters are challenging the script flows well while the sheer presence and musical abilities of both actors seemingly effortlessly deliver a contemporary chamber opera that is wholly exhilarating. A production as thrilling and unique as an out-of-earshot whisper that leaves as many questions as it answers.

Mr. Shi and his Lover
January 3-13, 2018
At the National Arts Centre
A Macau Experimental Theatre/Music Picnic/Point View Art Association (Macau/Toronto) production





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.


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.“


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.

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

Weekend Roundup: Whatever the April Weather

The Truman Show rocking TAN for St Joe's

The Truman Show rocking TAN for St Joe’s

Thursday T.A.N. Coffee is doing their thing in the ‘hood. Thinking of the community and making it a better place they are hosting a fundraiser from 6-9PM to raise some money for St. Joe’s Supper Table.  Thanks for caring TAN – hope the neighbours are out in force!

Thursday through Sunday SansSense brings an absurdist collection of short plays to Arts Court. A nonsensical whirlwind of theatre brought to life by a talented troupe. 10-13 April 8PM 10-20$

Friday there is a vernissage not to be missed at La Petite Mort gallery at 306 Cumberland. A collection of works from Mexican artists curated by Cesar Catsuu Lopez of Mexico City in collaboration with the Embassy of Mexico in Ottawa. If you can’t be there to meet the artist on the 11th you have until April 27th to check out the Up, Down, Charm, Top, Bottom/ Arriba, Abajo, Encanto Extrano, Cima, Fondo show.

Friday evening PechaKucha returns to inspire and motivate in under 7minutes. PechaKucha – which mean to chit chat in Japanese – delivers short sharp talks from a variety of speakers. This session at Club SAW Gallery features 9 speakers ranging from artists, the Director of Operations for a media company, an anti-bully advocate, and more. It’s fun, informative and smart. 7-9PM, FREE (registration required), Club SAW.

Saturday continues the run of Vacant House Theatre’s  The Anger in Ernest and Ernestine at the Backpacker’s Hostel 203 York St. 8PM – Sunday Matinee 2PM

At the NAC’s 4th stage jazz bassist John Geggie has rounded-up a great selection of Canadian jazz musicians for the last in his series of memorable concerts. NAC, 7:30pm 30$

Sunday the Ottawa Vintage Clothing Show is back at the Convention Centre. One-off finds for a uniquely beautiful style will fill the space. It’s 10$ entry but don’t expect vintage prices as fashions range from $2 to upwards of a thousand. 10$ entry and happy hunting.

Weekend Roundup: Musical March

“March” over to the NAC”s 4th stage tonight to take in the Latin stylings of Claudia Salguero and her new production Claudia Salguero – IDILIO showcasing an array of the singer’s favourite Latin love songs performed in Spanish. Salguero will donate part of the proceedings to Columbia’s Child Aid Foundation and will be supported by her musical ensemble including local Saxophonist Jasmin Lalande.

Equally on Thursday is Aganetha Dyck’s Honeybee Alterations at the Ottawa School of Art. Dyck will give a 2PM lecture on the inspiration and techniques in her works while the vernissage is from 5-8pm.

Friday night is Salguero’s last performance or you can take it down a notch and check out great Craft beer’s and live music. The Lunenburg pub hosts it’s Beerfest Friday with Toques & Suits bringing the tunes. Meanwhile over at Cafe Alt catch HSY, The Beverleys and Blue Angel.

Friday, Saturday,  Sunday and through to March 16th it is DiverCine Film Festival at the Bytowne Cinema featuring 12 films from 10 French-speaking countries. Get your daily fill of fantastic francophone movies from Canada, Senegal, France, Tunisia, Haiti, Switzerland, Belgium and beyond.

Saturday is International Women’s Day so celebrate yourself, your partner, your sister, your colleague, your daughter, your mother, you name it.

Saturday night take in the experimental sounds of Fryquency at Mugshots. As always it’s a pay-what-you-can event in the old jail bar on Nicholas featuring Doomsquad, You’ll never get to Heaven, JFM and F Hood.  9PM

Sunday it’s over to the Ottawa Art Gallery for Creative SundaysHands-on art making activities for kids. 1-3PM FREE