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Volume 17 Issue 4 - December 2011

  • Text
  • Jazz
  • Toronto
  • December
  • February
  • Theatre
  • January
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  • Choir
  • Musical
  • Arts

Small ChangeTimes TwoR O

Small ChangeTimes TwoR O B E R T W A L L A C EDECEMBER: With minutes to spare, I pick up my ticket forSeussical at Young People’s Theatre (YPT) on Front St. anddash to my seat. The matinée audience of primary schoolstudents squeals and squirms with excitement, their eyes dartingintermittently to the red and white striped hat that sits in the middleof the stage. I read a programme note in which Allen MacInnis,director and choreographer ofthe production (who also happensto be the artistic directorof YPT), expresses his ownexcitement at remounting theshow which was eminentlysuccessful in 2006 when hetheatre. Questions about whyhe is redoing it so soon areimmediately answered: “Iwanted to revisit the musicaladaptation of Dr. Seuss’sstories because it is a perfectare thematically linked by thepower of change.”How coincidental, I think:my late arrival at YPTon King St. E. where theOccupy Toronto protest hadswollen across the borders ofSt. James Park in response toa City eviction notice. Morethan seasonal change is in theair, a fact evident in muchof the musical theatre on view during the next two months, in andbeyond the GTA.Settling into my chair to watch Seussical, a shortened versionof the show by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty that premieredon Broadway in 2000, I didn’t have to wait long to recognize itsrelevance to the idea of change that permeates our current socialclimate. “A person’s a person, no matter how small,” Horton theHortonHears a Who!, also the title of one of the stories by Theodor Geisel(Doctor Seuss) that the musical incorporates into its book. AlthoughHorton is unable to see a Who, he can hear one, namely Jo-jo, aresident of the tiny world of Whoville who cries for help from herperch atop a speck of dust precariously caught on a clover leaf.Unable to convince anyone in the Jungle of Nool, where he lives,that Jo-jo exists, Horton becomes a subject of ridicule, sufferinghumiliating indignities that increase after Mayzie LaBird leaves himto guard an egg that she subsequently abandons. Captured by a teamof mischievous monkeys, Horton is put on display in a circus where,despite his outcast status, he continues to protect Mayzie’s egg andstrives to rescue Jo-jo and the citizens of Whoville in whatever wayhe can.For director MacInnis, Seussicalnumber of reasons. “I’m obsessed with the ways in which kids comeinto their own power,” he explains in an interview, “how they learnto give and take it.” Power, he suggests, is as much a sensation as aforce: one senses it internally and externally, and not just in relationto physical prowess. Horton has power because he believes inhimself — in what he alone can hear. Because he senses the capacityof his belief to change things, no matter how small, his powerstrengthens and begins to affect others. MacInnis likens Horton’sbelief to imagination, which is one of the reasons he includesa musical in every YPT season. “Musicals make the audiencework —to use their imagination in ways that naturalism doesn’t allow.” Thismakes them ideal for young people, especially those who let theirimaginations run wild.Seussicalskills of the cast, as much as their musical talents, maintain itssnappy pace and help to elevate its simple staging to a sophisticatedstyle that is as clever as Ahrens and Flaherty’s eclectic score whichcovers a range from rap to rhythm ‘n’ blues and even includes alullaby. George Masswhol brings a melancholy resolve to his performanceof Horton (along with a voice like an angel) that groundsthe production with sincerityand compassion to whichthe rest of the cast play withpartner, Sharron Matthews,essays a mesmerizingMayzie, especially when shevamps her way through HowLucky You Are. Runninguntil December 30, Seussicaloffers family fare that isas timely as it is tuneful.There’s no better gift for theholidays than this wise andwinning tale.Sharron Matthews and GeorgeMasswohl in a scene from Seussicalat Young People’s Theatre.JANUARY: When I undertookto interview Mitchell Marcus,artistic producer of ActingUp Stage Company (AUSC),about Caroline, or Change,the American musicalthat receives its Canadianpremiere on January 21 atthe Berkeley Street Theatre(downstairs), I didn’t considerthat Seussical might make auseful comparison. After all, what possible connection could existbetween a musical compilation of Dr. Seuss’s fantastical parablesand a character-driven study of an African-American maid workingfor a Jewish family in Louisiana in 1963? The answer is obvious tome now: change.With a book and lyrics by playwright Tony Kushner (Angels inAmerica), Caroline, or Change arrives in Toronto with a string ofawards but limited commercial success. This alone provides a parallel,of sorts, to Seussical which, in its original Broadway incarnation,failed to win popular success or critical approbation. In retrospect,DANIEL ALEXANDER22 thewholenote.comDecember 1 – February 7, 2012

MarkMasriDECEMBER 20Canada’s next vocal sensation!Embrace the spirit of the seasonas Masri wraps his lush vocalsaround all your holiday favourites.MavisStaplesJANUARY 27‘I’ll Take You There’ ‘Respect Yourself’“Staples’ voice is a rich liquid wonder...”- Rolling Stone MagazineMichaelKaeshammerMARCH 7A consummate entertainer andextraordinary pianist, Kaeshammeris Canada’s boogie-woogie king.Dan HillFEBRUARY 9Legendary singer-songwriter behind‘Sometimes When We Touch’,‘Can’t We Try’, ‘In Your Eyes’ and more.Angèle Dubeauet la PietàMARCH 8Dazzling all-female string quartet renowned for theirimpeccable precision, elegance, energy and style.Your Home for Live MusicCONTACT THE BOX OFFICE AT905.874.2800www.rosetheatre.caFollow us on Twitter @RoseTheatreBramBecome a fan facebook.com/RoseTheatreBramptonDecember 1 – February 7, 2012 thewholenote.com 23

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