You’re Invited! Kaleidoscope 2007

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Kaleidoscope invite

Circle September 24 on your calendar and plan to join TAPA at Yonge-Dundas Square for Kaleidoscope, a celebration of Toronto’s 2007-08 theatre, dance and opera season. Kaleidoscope begins at 12:00noon with special announcements, and features entertainment, a dynamic marketplace, and free ticket giveaways!

More information to come … check out for more details in the coming weeks.


Upcoming Provincial Election – Important video to watch!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

If you’re in Ontario, you know that the upcoming Provincial election is on October 10 (if you didn’t know, you know now).

The parties are already gearing up for their campaigns with the NDP and Tory’s already gearing up. One thing you might want to consider during this election is where each of the parties stand on a very important environmental issue facing our province: the deforestation of the Boreal Forest.

Check out this video which gives you a good idea of what’s going on and then visit Forest Ethics for more information.

Back to the basics – Cirque du Soleil, Kooza

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

KoozaIt seems like yesterday I saw Cirque du Soleil‘s masterpiece, Corteo. But that was two years ago now … my how time flies. It’s enough time, however, to make me jones for another spectacular show that only Cirque du Soleil can deliver.

When tickets for Kooza, Cirque’s latest touring show, went on sale back in the spring, I was online, credit card in hand and ready to pay a good penny for premium seats. Cirque is one of the few things I will pay top $ for without knowing anything about the show.

I’m a Cirque fanatic and proud of it. I’ve seen every touring show that has made it’s way through Toronto – dating back to 1986, I believe.

So on Friday night, my boyfriend and I headed down to the Portlands – where Cirque has planted itself this year after years at Ontario Place. I always get a rush when I see the Grand Chapiteau set up in all it’s blue and yellow striped glory. One of my favourite parts of going to Cirque is walking up the stairs into the tent and seeing the set for the first time. Corteo changed the entire seating of the tent by running the stage horizontally across the width of the tent, but Kooza has placed the circular stage back in the centre. There were no huge mechanical set pieces hanging from the top of the tent like Varekai, no set pieces coming out from the back of the stage. At first glance, this show looked much simpler than previous Cirque shows.

As per usual, the clowns came out into the audience before the show began causing mayhem and laughter as they interacted with the unsuspecting onlookers. I always enjoy this part of the show as it puts everyone in the mood and breaks down the fourth wall.

And then, “Mesdames et monsieurs. Welcome to Cirque du Soleil!” The announcer officially began the show and then blackout. The world we were transported to once the lights came back up on the stage was a mysterious, child-like world of innocence, hilarity and heart-pounding exhilaration! I’ll justs give you a few highlights here:

The contortionists were mind-blowing! I’ve never seen anyone bend and twist in so many different ways. These three young girls were absolutely jaw-dropping. They moved across their rotating platform bending around each other and creating beautifully symmetrical shapes with such ease and agility – they made it look like this was the easiest thing in the whole world. As the first act, they certainly set the standard for the rest of the show.

Act 1 ended with the most amazing tight-rope walkers I have ever seen. There were two tight ropes – one about 20 feet off the ground, the other, about 40 feet. Four men ascended to the various levels and began jumping and skipping rope with no safety net or safety harnesses … but the most terrifying part was when the four of them ended up on the top rope. Two bikes descended from the top of the tent and were placed on the tight rope one at each end. One man got on the bike and rode backwards to meet up with the other bike rider who attached himself to the backward biker via a shoulder harness with a 10 foot bar between them. Then, a third man climbs on top of the bar with a chair in hand, balances the chair on the bar, connected to the men sitting on bikes on a rope 40 feet in the air … confused yet? The third man sits on the chair and the three of them ride out into the centre of the rope when the chair man then stands up on the chair balancing on the bar … and sits back down. It was terrifying. The woman sitting next to me put her face in her hands and was shaking her head mumbling “No no no …” I don’t blame her. I couldn’t believe what I was watching myself. Especially with no safety net or harnesses. The applause when they finished their act was deafening.

Act 2 began with a bang as two brave souls conquered the Death Wheel. The two massive cylinders, attached on an axis in the middle, was lowered from the top of the tent. One of the performers jumped into one of the wheel and ran back and forth inside it causing the entire contraption to begin to spin from the stage floor to the top of the tent in one giant circle. After getting the whole wheel moving, the other performer grabbed hold of one the spinning wheels and jumped in helping the wheel to spin the wheel faster and faster. Eventually the performers were jumping up as the wheel hit the crest and went into a free fall on the descent finally catching themselves as the wheel spun around and began climbing up again. It was a sight to behold. Of course, they didn’t stop there. To heighten the tension a tad, one of the performers swung out and onto to the top of said spinning wheel, walking on top of the cylinder and then, of course, skipping rope, doing jumps, free falling … you know, the usual.

They received a well deserved standing ovation at the end of the act.

Overall, the show was wonderfully entertaining, but very simplistic in comparison to past Cirque shows. The performers were more front and centre and the acts were well chosen. The music was wonderful and really added to the excitement of the performances.

My only criticism, if any, was after all the exhilarating acts, the last act of the show ended on a rather “ho-hum” note. The final act – the teeterboard – has been used in other Cirque shows. While performed wonderfully by the acrobats, it lacked the sense of finality of many other Cirque performances like Varekai or Quidam.

Having said that, I still walked away with a feeling of exhilaration and excitement after having witnessed the magic that is Cirque. For those of you who have never seen a Cirque show – go! For those of you who have but haven’t seen Kooza – go! The show’s been extended until October 21, so there’s still time, but tickets go fast!

A hilarious Dream in High Park

Sunday, August 19, 2007

CanStage Dream in High ParkFriday night, a group of 5 of us took a seat on the hillside at the Dream in High Park around 6pm. It’s important to get there early in order to stake out a place to sit and make sure you have enough space for the people in your group. This is a summer tradition I hadn’t done in quite a few years – I used to go all the time when I was in high school and earlier … but the summer’s had always passed by lately without a wander to The Canadian Stage’s Dream in High Park.

We spread the blanket down, third row centre and brought out the various salads and pastas and chips and dips which made up the picnic we were going to eat for the next two hours before the show began. A nice box of French Rabbit wine made the evening’s feast complete. It was a bit windy that evening and the sand storm that came from the path lead a bit to be desired, but overall, it was a beautiful night for a picnic.

This year’s Shakespeare selection was the ever classic A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I’ve seen this play a gazillion times, studied it in school, acted in it etc. but I never seem to tire of it. When done properly or with an interesting twist, this can be a hilarious comedy. This year’s production achieves ‘hilarity” status.

Director ahdri zhina mandiela set the Bard’s comedy in a modern day, urban Athen. The Athenian costumes were understated but effective while the faeries garb was anything but.

Puck was punk complete with tattoos from head to toe. Titania’s 3 faerie servants were dressed in magnificent colours – a sort of updated modern take on the 80’s (what the 80’s would look like if we dressed like that today).

But the most striking of all were the faerie King and Queen themselves. Titania, played by the ever amazing Karen Robinson (if you haven’t seen this woman on stage, you must – she is a force on stage to be reckon with) strolled onto the stage in a patch-quilt dress of oranges, greens and white followed by these amazing circular bouncing wings that looked like coils from a train conductors watch.  As playful as Titania’s costume was, Oberon’s was equally proud and larger than life. Outfitted in a blue tuxedo-type jacket, there were enormous leaves like peacock feathers protruding from his back, sticking straight up a good 10 feet into the air. Watching these two celestial figures walk on stage definitely gave the audience the impression that these characters were larger than life.

The Mechanicals – always the scene stealer – hammed it up and had me in stitches with their rendition of Pyramus and Thisbe at the end of the play. But when you have actors such as Steven Gallagher (last seen in CanStage’s The Rocky Horror Show) as Peter Quince and Andrew Kushnir (Hair) as Flute in the mix, you are sure to be in for a laugh. Everyone in the Mechanical ensemble was perfectly cast. Matthew Brown as Snout, Sarah Dodd playing a bitterly funny Starveling, Emberly Doherty as the shy Snug, and Matthew Kabwe as the know-it-all Bottom were all fantastic in their roles.

The Lovers, Hermia, Helena, Demetrius and Lysander, were also very well cast. I have to say that Maev Beatty stole the show out of the four of them with her brilliant comic timing and embodiment of Helena’s awkwardness and longing for Demetrius’ love. Lysander, played by Antonio Cayonne was very well acted including some wonderful rapping using the text provided. Holly Lewis and Richard Harte also performed exceptionally well in their role as Hermia and Demetrius respectively. Sarah Dodd, who doubled as Egeus, played this role perfectly as the executive suburban female constantly on the phone and full of contempt for practically everything. I do have to say though, it seems that she has worn the same skirt in the past three shows I’ve seen her in (the other two being Marion Bridge and A Whistle In The Dark).

The three ladies playing Titania’s faeries were a funny, energetic, mischievous trio of singers. Most of their text were sung with beautiful harmonies. And the master of mischief, Puck, played by Colin Heath, did a most excellent job in the role. His acrobatics alone really gave the character that faerie-like quality intended for the role. He seemed to fly through the air at parts or blend in to the scenery only to pop out later on.

There are times when watching Shakespeare can be tedious and tiring, and even in a comedy such as this, the play can drag. But thanks to the amazing direction from Ms. mandiela there is never a dull moment, never a lag. The almost 2 and a half hour show seems to whiz by and leaves you with a huge smile on your face. It really did seem magical that evening.

My friends and I thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and I would suggest to anyone looking for a really enjoyable evening to check out this production. Bring some snacks, a blanket and get there early. It is one of the summers traditions in Toronto that is definitely worth checking out.

The Dream In High Park is on until September 2.

The Royal Alex turns 100!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Royal Alex is 100!Toronto – The Royal Alexandra Theatre was officially opened on August 26, 1907. One hundred years later, on Sunday August 26th, the beloved Grande Dame of King Street, the oldest continuously operating legitimate theatre in North America, will celebrate the milestone with a public street party and open house. Activities get under way at 11 am and continue until 6 pm. At 2 pm, on a specially erected stage in the middle of King Street, the official ceremony will take place.

The Royal Alexandra Theatre Centenary Celebrations will include self-guided tours through both the public and private spaces of this fabled building. Members of the public will be able to stand on stage and know what it feels like to look out into the gorgeous auditorium of 1,500 seats. They will be able to visit the backstage areas, including all four levels of dressing rooms, the legendary “paint room” (said to be haunted) at the top of the fly tower, and the wood-paneled Manager’s Office in which the famous leather-bound clipping books list all of the theatre’s past productions. In the theatre wings, members of the crew will demonstrate how stage riggings and scenery are handled.

The official ceremonies will feature a medley of songs performed by Camilla Scott (who starred in both CRAZY FOR YOU and MAMMA MIA!), and accompanied by Rick Fox, from many of the big musicals that have played the theatre. And 16 members of the original 1969 cast of the landmark Canadian Premiere production of HAIR will reprise some of the famous songs from that show. Dignitaries and special guests will offer tributes and share memories of the theatre. Sunday August 26 will be proclaimed Royal Alexandra Day, and Heritage Toronto will unveil a commemorative plaque.

At the street party in front of the theatre there will be free cake, ice cream and refreshments. Entertainment will be provided on the outdoor stage with Toronto All-Star Big Band and musicians from the Toronto Musicians’ Association. (King Street will be closed to vehicular traffic from Simcoe to John Streets.) Heritage Toronto will lead a walking tour of the neighbourhood.

A new website will be launched. Featuring a complete and searchable database of all productions and musicals that have played the Royal Alexandra, anecdotes from some of the performers and audience members, a timeline of the theatre’s history and a guest book in which the public can add their own memories of the building, the website will be companion piece to the handsome book, The Royal Alexandra Theatre: One Hundred Years by Robert Brockhouse, that will be published by McArthur & Company in October 2007.