Posts Tagged: "Grand Theatre"

Theatre Review: A Tech-Savvy Salute to a Sci-Fi Classic

Susan Cassan - - Theatre & Film
The London Yodeller

Cassan theatre review 2The production is full of surprises, fascinating media displays, and imaginative sets which change at will with projections”

The Grand Theatre is showing a brave new adaptation of Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea by Craig Francis and Rick Miller. Rick Miller writes and produces drama that pushes beyond the confines of the stage with multi-media effects and multiple characters, such as his play, Boom, a rapid fire time trip through the 50’s and 60’s that was so well received last year.

This production aims to please everyone from 8 to 80 years of age. It is a fanciful reworking of the classic which includes beautiful media projections which will convince you that you are watching the characters floating on the ocean or submerged beneath it. The effects range from brilliant to the deliberately child-like manipulation of action figures projected onto the stage with a computer’s camera.

Andrew Shaver plays a new character, Jules, inserted into the story. He is portrayed as a narrator from our own time, a graduate student who can’t finish a PHD thesis on the state of the oceans, aboard the Nautilus, with Captain Nemo (Richard Clarkin), Ned Land (Eric LeBlanc), and Professor Arronax (played as a woman by Marie-Eve Perron).

The script integrates key incidents in the Verne story with everything from ecological concerns about plastic in the ocean to referencing King Lear. Jules, the added character, struggles to control the narrative as the story breaks out of its bounds with everything including spy technology and cellular communication. Jules’s loyalty to his friends is threatened by his enchantment with Nemo. Continue Reading


Susan Cassan - - Theatre & Film
The London Yodeller

Production PhotographyKatori Hall’s breakthrough play, The Mountaintop, is about the last night of Martin Luther King Jr.’s life before his assassination on April 4, 1968. This brilliant young writer, educated at Columbia, Harvard and Julliard, won the Olivier Award for Best New Play for Mountaintop, performed for the first time in London, England in 2009 and bringing her instant celebrity in the theatre world.

London is fortunate to see this fine production, directed by Nigel Shawn Williams, starring E. B. Smith as King and Beryl Bain as the cheeky motel maid, Camae. The audience rose to its feet at the end of the production to applaud the great performances and also the brilliant set created by Denyse Karn. Continue Reading

Theatre Review: What a trip!

Susan Cassan - - Theatre & Film
The London Yodeller

Fly Me to the MoonThe comedy shines brighter for the dark shadows. Watching ordinary people trying to hold on desperately in a world where economic winds blow away their dreams resonates as much with a London, Ontario audience as an Irish one.

Winter getting you down? Looking for a getaway? Head down to the Grand where set designer Sue LePage will take you to a bedroom in the poorer part of Belfast, home to a lonely, elderly man cared for by two support workers trying to keep their families afloat during a recession. Krista Jackson directs consummate professionals, Diedre Gillard-Rowlings as Francis, and Carmen Grant as Loretta in Marie Jones’s Fly Me to the Moon. Jackson sets a brisk pace for these actresses whose physical differences underline their difference in personality.

Fly Me to the Moon came out of a request by two actresses for a play featuring women in their late thirties. Aided by a weekend at Tyrone Guthrie’s Artist Retreat Centre in Ireland and lots of wine, Marie Jones and the actresses came up with this hilarious comedy which also has its feet firmly planted in reality. Continue Reading

Grand Fantasies

Adam Corrigan Holowitz - - Theatre & Film
The London Yodeller

Adam Corrigan Holowitz 2014 1As I look at The Grand Theatre’s 2015/16 Season I notice an interesting connection. The majority of titles in the season grapple with fantasies in one way or another. Fantasy can be the cause of delight, as with the Grand’s Christmas offering of A Christmas Story. Fantasies can lead to great highs and lows as in the experiences of the classical pianists in Two Pianos, Four Hands.  In the case of The Mountaintop the hopes and dreams of Martin Luther King are examined in a very intimate and personal way. In Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea the audience will be given the chance to confront the dangerous places fantasy can lead us, while immersed in a fantastical production.

Starting off the season is the well-loved Canadian classic Two Pianos, Four Hands. The play is the creation of theatre greats Ted Dykstra and Richard Greenblatt. The production has had international success, and yes, it is big in Japan. While Dykstra and Greenblatt no longer perform the show, Greenblatt is directing the current cast of Richard Todd Adams and Bryce Kulak. The play remains incredibly funny and touching as it follows the lives and careers of two classical pianists as they traverse the harrowing world of a career in the arts. The play is fun to watch as each performer takes on countless roles. On top of that, both actors play the piano very well. The two pianos, in fact, are as important as the four hands in the play and the instruments are used to full advantage.
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Uncle Bruce and Auntie Brenda go to the Grand

- - Theatre & Film
The London Yodeller


2 Reviews 2 Pianos 4 Hands

UB: I don’t do this very often or – to be completely honest – at all, but the editor at The London Yodeller, whose name I will not mention (but can be found on our mast head) and who is otherwise known as a driver of slaves, assigned me the task of reviewing the Grand Theatre’s opening production. (Note to editor . . . I don’t like musicals.) 2 Pianos 4 Hands playing until Oct 31st, promised to be a great opportunity to catch a nap. To maximize this possibility I filled up on food and beer before the show and was confident that an evening of tinkling keyboards would be the perfect backdrop to a very restful snooze indeed.

AB: In reviewing shows I’m usually a fairly tough critic. When my friends come out of the theatre chatting and mentioning how great something was, I rarely chime in and have resolved to only go to the theatre when I’m fairly confident that I won’t come out feeling like I’ve lost two hours of my life. Having heard that 2 Pianos 4 Hands has been around for some 20 years, I figured such endurance must count for something and I’m happy to report that it did in this case. This is a great show. Continue Reading

London’s Answer to Everything? Hire a Bureaucrat

Andrew Lawton - - News & Politics
The London Yodeller

“To be clear, I’m not against music, but I am against the disingenuousness of those who believe that London is just a few grants away from being a musical mecca.”

Andrew LawtonIt was famed local songster – or, rather, former radio broadcaster who happens to have a band – Jim Chapman who proudly crooned that “London is the city of opportunity.” The musical declaration was welcome news to then-mayor Joe Fontana, who in 2012 unveiled the ode to London as the city’s official theme song.

“Imagine a city where dreams can come true,” Chapman’s band, The Incontinentals, sang. While the song has had a unifying quality (albeit mostly in unifying people against the song, if its YouTube comments are any indicator) there is a tinge of truth to it. London is home to great amounts of opportunity – unfortunately that only seems to be for those on the public dole; an ever-increasing number that rises in the absence of results.

A lack of results rarely deters those in the public sector, however. Especially when dealing with the arts “industry.” The word industry could more readily be replaced by terms like “charity” or “money pit,” which more accurately characterize the economic place of the arts.

When Orchestra London went defunct last year, unable to pay its own performers, so died the leading champion of a taxpayer-funded performing arts centre, an idea that, regretfully, will never go away. The Music London proposal – which included Orchestra London, as well as the Grand Theatre and other partners – would have required $46.5 million in public money from all three levels of government to be put towards the $164 million centre. That plan was quashed, and rightly so, by city council earlier this year after accepting a recommendation from a hired consultant (advice I could have offered for only a fraction of Novita’s $97,500 “engaged process” fee) but with a caveat. A couple of councillors – including the mayor – hinted at a council-led performing arts centre proposal that could come after “four or five years” of studies. Continue Reading

The Yodeller Interview with Comedian, Steve Patterson

Vince Cherniak - - Interviews
The London Yodeller

STEVE PATTERSON“The segue between babies and politicians is pretty natural.”

How do you introduce one of the funniest guys in the land? When Steve Martin was hosting a Just for Laughs Gala, he said two words come to mind for this comedian: “Steve,” and “Patterson.” But for listeners of CBC’s wildly popular The Debaters with upwards of a million weekly listeners, quick witted and punishing punster host Steve Patterson really needs no introduction. He’s been hailed as Best Male Standup comedian at the Canadian Comedy Awards (twice) and Runner-up, Miss Moose Jaw 1987… one of which is true. Also true is that he’s a former Londoner and Western grad about to bring his new standup show I Laugh, Therefore I Think to the Grand Theatre. However he’s introduced, just don’t call him Scott Peterson. He might be a bit averse to that, as we’re about to learn.

Is there a theme to the material in your new show?

Unfortunately for scheduling I didn’t bring the last show to London. The last one was kind of removed from The Debaters called “This Is Not Debatable” – it was just everything I didn’t get to talk about on The Debaters.  This one kind of moves forward, it’s as current as possible. With the election coming up we’ve got a pretty bad crop of politicians for creating comedy with so we’ll definitely go into that. I also have a seven-month old daughter now that I didn’t have in the last show. I find that the segue between babies and politicians is pretty natural.

The comedian has a tough job: you can’t repeat material, unlike musicians who write a crowd favourite and the audience wants to hear it over and over.

Yeah, that’s why I like to stay current. You have to keep doing things. In the last show I talked a lot about growing up with my dad and now I’m talking more about what to do with the baby. There is enough that goes on in the world. I developed a continuum I call the F-A continuum, which is how to tell the difference between a friendly person and an arsehole. I continue that during this show, and I have letters that I write to different groups and individuals and inanimate objects sometimes. Those are always popular so I’ve written up a bunch of new ones and there’s always a bunch of songs to throw in so I’ve written new ones. It is a challenge, I’m not gonna lie to you.

I Laugh, Therefore I Think . . .  that’s a highfalutin title with a reference to Descartes. Do you find smart people, deeper thinkers, have a heightened sense of humour – there’s more info in their noggins to reference for humour?

I was definitely thinking of that when I came up with the title for the show but ironically I did a couple of shows recently for think tanks. They brought me in to do some shows for people who, as you say, have a lot in their noggins. I basically had to teach them how to enjoy a live comedy show for because they’re used to being very serious at these functions and really thinking about things and internalizing them, and if they agree with someone, they’ll nod [laughs].  But I had to explain to them that if you think something is funny here, tell your face and don’t just think it’s funny but actually laugh, because I can’t work with people just nodding at me when they agree with something. So that’s where this title came from: it’s stuff that I’ve been thinking about and often I’ll try to find solutions to some problems with the world and put them in a joke and see if other people agree with it. They don’t have to agree with the solution, but at least agree that it’s funny. Continue Reading

Rick Miller: Actor, Comedian, Singer, Playwright, Professor and Architect

Vince Cherniak - - Interviews, Theatre & Film
The London Yodeller

INTERVIEWboom-finals-59“I love when BOOM gets three generations of people sitting in the same row and afterwards they write to me saying, ‘We’ve never had a post-show conversation that lasted that long’.”

Things that go boom: atomic bombs, Apollo rockets, Little Richard lyric vocalizations, and post-war birthrates. All of these social, political, technological and cultural bursts, both literal and metaphorical, come under the scope of writer, performer and director Rick Miller’s latest one-man show BOOM at the Grand Theatre until May 2. You might know Miller from his comedic take on Bohemian Rhapsody, impersonating 25 of “the most annoying voices in the music industry” on Just for Laughs, or as the actor behind the hugely successful MacHomer, which saw Miller perform Macbeth in the voices of a multitude of The Simpsons’ characters in a 17-year international run. Now he brings his virtuosic talents to tap the historical highlights of the boomer years of 1945 through 1969, but with a serious undertone. Miller shares with us a few of his insights into one of the most transformative generations in the modern era.

 BOOM packs in a lot of important social and cultural shifts, but you’re not a boomer. Did you have the sense growing up that this generation just hogged all the air time of the century as it were?

I was born in 1970 so technically I’m way out but, as far as my show goes, the show ends with Apollo 11, and that was the day that I was conceived. So there was a little baby boom there and I was a product of it. I didn’t grow up as a young kid thinking that the ’70s sucked, but as I got older I realized that all of the music I loved had its birth in the ’60s. So, yeah, of course I wanted to go back and be there when this stuff happened, but it was never a nostalgia. Even people who don’t know history, you tell them six or seven storylines, and they go, ‘wow, a lot of shit happened!”

 In the show, with quick little recreations of events, are you sliding in some commentary, critique as well?

 There is definitely some commentary but it’s not heavy-handed and it’s not overtly political. What I’m trying to do is not overtly focus on the ’60s but to tie it in to the whole generation. So as soon as the bombs fell on Hiroshima, it set in motion so many of the storylines that were to define the whole generation all the way to the end of the ’60s. For example, Vietnam, Korea, the Cold War, the space race, all of these things pretty much started and have their roots in the ’40s, and really in the ’50s. So I didn’t just want to say, ‘Look how cool the ’60s were, look at all of the great things we did.’ If anything, it was to tie it all together and to show that people growing up had no idea that the culture they were part of was going to become so damned political by the time they turned of age. For me, that’s the commentary: whether we like it or not, we tend to become our parents in ways that would really freak us out if you told it to us as teenagers. And also that politics and culture were so deeply connected in the ’60s and it caused this explosion of creativity – and of consequence – that really still affects us, for better or worse, today. And even boomers who grew up in it didn’t have that perspective that we do now when we look back. Continue Reading

What’s the Buzz? MTP Takes a new spin on fan-favourite

Deanne Kondrat - - Theatre & Film
The London Yodeller

“The team has worked to ensure they are doing justice to all the worlds represented in this production”

DEANNE Jesus Christ Superstar 2Two universes collide. But no, this doesn’t result in an epic battle devastating planet earth. This collision creates perfect harmony. And a kick-ass musical.

Musical Theatre Productions is presenting the classic Andrew-Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice musical Jesus Christ Superstar . . . but with a twist. This revival of the 70s rock-opera will feature something new: comic book heroes.

“We have always been comic book geeks,” says co-director and Musical Director Angela Southern of herself and co-director Sam Shoebottom. She explains the idea all started when she watched a documentary about the beginning of comic books. “In this documentary they explained that in the beginning, a lot of these comic book guys in the 1930s began looking at the Bible for the archetype of their heroes.” She notes that when you begin to look into it, the similarities align: “You can see it. Jesus can equal Superman, a man falls from the heavens to help the weary and downtrodden and has lost his father.” Continue Reading