8 years ago

Volume 18 Issue 4 - December 2012

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theatrically spectacular

theatrically spectacular musicals such as the Webber Oz and pantomimeshare similar goals — notably, reassurance of the audience’svalues (hence the use of stock characters and well-known stories)coupled with emotional and visual transport.Variations to the story of Snow White in this year’s panto, whileequally audacious, are more traditionally conceived to adhere tothe conventions of the form. Subtitled “A Deliciously Dopey FamilyMusical!” the show collapses the seven dwarfs of the original fairy taleinto one character — 007, a James Bond lookalike played by Stratfordleading man, Graham Abbey, whose appearance fulfills the conventionof a celebrity guest star. As usual, the convention of the crossdressedolder woman (known as the “pantomime dame”) is addressed by Pettyhimself who, by performing the role of the evil Queen, adds anotherdrag performance to the long list of comic portrayals that makeshim a fan favourite. Playing the title character is Canadian Idol winnerMelissa O’Neil who made her panto debut as Belle in Petty’s 2010production of Beauty and the Beast. Fresh from appearing in theBroadway production of Stratford’s Jesus Christ Superstar, she perpetuatesan unofficial connection between Petty and Mirvish that thework of Andrew Lloyd Webber continues to facilitate.The Story: Moving further afield, geographically if not aesthetically,a third show provides a unique form of spectacle even as itdepicts a narrative traditional to the season. The Story, a productionby Theatre Columbus, conceived and written by Martha Ross, returnsto the Evergreen Brick Works on December 4th where it plays for theremainder of the month. Now in its 29th year, Theatre Columbus hasa prestigious history of innovative play creation and production, withroots firmly planted in the creative compost of clown, commedia andbuffoon. Ross, a co-founder of the company, unites her performanceexperience and writing skills to create the script for The Story whichuses various locations in the Brick Works and its adjacent parklandto imbue the tale of the nativity with comic irreverence and visualbeauty.Based on the gospels of Matthew and Luke, the events of The StoryWHEN THE SWEETNESS and light of holiday offeringsbegin to pall (usually around mid-January in myexperience), take heart; edgier fare is nigh. By January 30,we’ll be well into the new year and, as if to remind us of thefact, Acting Up Stage Company opens Do You Want WhatI Have Got?, a new exploration of contemporary humanitythrough the lens of (are you ready for it?) postings on Craigslist,the internet catchall for everything marketable. You can buyanything (or anyone) on Craigslist, or so the rumour goes, sowhy not use it to create a 90-minute song cycle and market itas a musical? That is exactly what the Vancouver duo of VerdaHille and Bill Richardson has done.After selling out an extended run at Vancouver’s PuShFestival last January, this original presentation, affectionatelysubtitled A Craigslist Cantata, moves to Toronto’s FactoryTheatre where it is certain to elicit multiple bids from a newmarket of consumers, blitzed out or broke by a surfeit of goodcheer. It’s too soon to elucidate the details of the Torontodebut, but mark your calendars now. You don’t want to be leftout in the cold when the show closes on March 3. After all, it’sa long slog to spring.—Robert Wallaceare widely known. In this hour-long version, they occur mainlyoutdoors as the audience follows the flickering lantern of a solitaryshepherd as he guides them past kilns, under iron girders, alonggravel paths, through various interiors and into open spaces. With astrong eye for visual composition, director Jennifer Brewin uses theindustrial and natural geography to imaginative effect, ably supportedby Catherine Hahn (set and costumes), Glenn Davidson (lighting) andJohn Millard who, as sound and musical director for the production,oversees the local choirs (a different one each evening) that serenadethe audienceThe Story.with seasonal songswhile it weaves itsway to each location.Brewin’s DORAaward for her directionof thepremiere of thisshow last year iswell deserved. Herdecision to bring aphysical approach tothe material encouragesthe actors todevelop their characterswith broad,clown-like techniquesat whichthey excel. TheThree Kings are lostand disoriented;Mary is impatient and tense; King Herod is paranoid and petulant;and Gabriel, the herald, overwhelmed by the message he must deliver,has a dizzy quality reminiscent of a befuddled fairy in a panto. In fact,all the characters resemble those of a pantomime, their slapstick andbuffoonery foregrounding psychological states and, ultimately, infusingtheir situation with a winning humanity.The Story is short, sweet, and, at times, stunningly beautiful—themajesty of a star-lit winter sky providing a backdrop so unexpectedthat it hardly seems real. But it is, and so is the weather. Dress warmlyand treat yourself to the hot chocolate on sale at the site — unusual directionsfor my hot tip of the month.Jacqui Jensen RoyBased in Toronto, Robert Wallace writes abouttheatre and performance. He can be contactedat December 1 – February 7, 2013

Beat by Beat | Jazz NotesIn One Year andOut the OtherJIM GALLOWAYIhave been writing a column in WholeNote for a number ofyears now and as 2012 heads towards the past I thought it mightbe interesting to look back at some of the items from the late 90son, at changes that have taken place as well as some constants thatdon’t alter.2000: For example, at end of the year 2000 I wrote: “Looking backover the past year, I realise just how much good jazz is available ona regular basisin this city. Onany given weekin Toronto, youcan hear a widerange of music.The performersare often visiting“names,”but the majorityare our ownartists — and thestandards arehigh. The concentrationofgood musiciansin ourown community is astonishing.The number of playing opportunities is regrettably small, for it is anunfortunate fact that there is a lot less work for musicians than thereused to be. And Toronto is a city with more playing opportunitiesthan most. A young player entering the profession today has a difficultpath ahead. There are simply not enough jobs to go around and talentis no guarantee of success.”And I thought it was bad then!2003: A sense of humour is part of the makeup of most jazz musiciansand I have always tried to inject some into this column almostevery month. So in 2003 I made up a small list of CDs that “mighthave been”:Anita O’Day – “What A Difference O’Day Makes”Bill (aka Count) Basie/Bill Holman Christmas Album – “Jingle Bills”Mitch Miller – “Mitch’s Brew”Al Kay – “Kay Passa”Guido Basso – “Basso Profundo”Phil Dwyer – “Dwyer Circumstances”Ray Bryant and Bill Mays – “Bryant and Mays: A Perfect Match”Stompin’ Tom Connors – “Stompin’ At The Savoy”(And in rehashing the topic for this month’s column with DavidPerlman, I have to give him credit for suggesting an album with MikeMurley, Larry Cramer and a rhythm section that could be called“Murley, Larry and Co.”)2010: The 2010 December issue contained some memories of theyears when I was artistic director of the Toronto Downtown JazzFestival including the following:“We have at times even helped the course of true love. One time Iwas in one of the festival vehicles along with a visiting group on theway to a sound check when the band’s road manager saw a lovelyyoung lady walking along the street in downtown Toronto. He calledout to the driver, “Stop the van! I must meet that beautiful woman!Stop the van!!” He slid the passenger door open and jumped out intothe crowd.We never saw him again — not at the sound check or the concert. Hesimply disappeared. I do hope everything worked out for him.”In 2008 I expressed some of my feelings about Christmas in a piecetitled “The Ghost Of Christmas Presents”:“It’s that time of the year when the festive season, and all that goeswith it, is upon us,” I wrote. “That time when there arethe rival groups of Ho! Ho! Hos! in the red corner andBah Humbugs! inthe blue.“Please don’tmisunderstandme when I admitto being drawnto the blue corner,but I’m tiredof the commercialismand insinceritywhich has turnedthe season intojust another bigsell. School maybe out, but crassisn’t dismissed!“The firstChristmas card’s inscription read: “merry Christmas and a happy NewYear to you.” “Merry” was then a spiritual word meaning “blessed,”as in “merry old England.” But today the great divide is betweenthe spiritual aspect of Christmas and the secular and the secular iswinning at a canter. Christmas may come but once a year but thecommercial aspect of it which might well be called “giftmas” lasts forat least two months.”Resolutions: After Christmas comes the event that used to be oneLeft to right, RalphSutton, and the “JingleBills” — Bill Basie andBill Holman.• St. Philip’s Anglican ChurchEnjoy the Spirit of Christmas – God’s magnificent improvisationA casual, relaxing hour of prayer + great music● Sunday, with the Dec city’s 2, finest 4pm musicians | All BeatlesPat Murray Quartet● Sunday, Dec 16, 4pm | ChristmasBeverly Taft Quartet● Sunday, Jan 13, 4pmLaura Fernandez Quartet● Sunday, Jan 27, 4pmGregory Hoskins● Sunday, Feb 10, 4pm | DixielandBob DeAngelis Band• St. Philip’s Anglican Church | Etobicoke25 St. Phillips Road (near Royal York + Dixon)416-247-5181 • www.stphilips.netDecember 1 – February 7, 2013 35Holman: John Reeves

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