Liz Nicholls did a great post of the year in review in Edmonton theatre. Colin MacLean had a great post of the Best of 2017 too.
I’m not organized enough to give you a review of the year, but it occurred to me the other night that this last bit before Christmas has been a week of re-views, for me.
I watched Star Wars: The Last Jedi. It was fun. Seeing Carrie Fisher in new scenes for the last time was moving. Mark Hamill was cryptic. Another character from the 1970s trilogy was a pleasant surprise. I liked that for 21st-century audiences there is more than one interesting female character, and I hope that continues to be a thing. Also, that there is more than one interesting character of colour. It’s embarrassing that that didn’t used to be a thing.
I watched a Canada-USA women’s hockey game, the last in their exhibition series of this Olympic year. I missed attending the first-ever international women’s tournament in 1987 in Mississauga, but I volunteered at the first IIHF Worlds in 1990, attended the World Championships in Kitchener in 1997 and in Mississauga in 2000, and was on the ice between periods with my 5-6yo hockey students for an exhibition game at Air Canada Centre in the early 2000s. And I’ve watched or listened to broadcast Canada-US games many times over the years, usually the gold medal games. So it was a nostalgic treat to watch the 2017-18 rosters of these powerhouses in our new Rogers Centre. Canada’s head coach is now Laura Schuler, and I remember when she first made the national team herself. Shannon Szabados of Sherwood Park was in net for Canada, and the backup goalie Genevieve Lacasse, like several other players on the Canadian roster, spent some time as a young player in clubs and leagues which my mother or I helped to start. Canada won 2-1 in overtime.
And I saw lots of theatre that in various ways was re-watches. Back to the 80s Part II, at the Mayfield, was a lot like the previous one in the series a couple of years ago – brief live versions of popular songs of the 1980s, with costume and dance, strung together with a loose plotline and skits. This one included some music from movies and TV shows, as well as pop music remembered from MTV and radio. Before it started, I couldn’t think what songs/artists would be left to do, but I remembered almost everything once they started playing it.
I wanted to see this year’s Christmas Carol at the Citadel because I wanted to see Julien Arnold play Scrooge (a few years ago he played Bob Cratchit), and it was lovely as usual. Beth Graham and Jamie Williams are the Cratchits this year, and Robert Benz is great in various small roles. The pacing was very good, too.
Two years ago, Edmonton Actors’ Theatre’s production of Jay Torrence’s Burning Bluebeard hit uncomfortably close to home, a show about a theatre fire being produced for the temporary Roxy on Gateway, only seven months after the original Roxy Theatre had burned down. I didn’t see it last year, but this year I saw it twice, once with John Ullyatt playing the stage manager and once with director Dave Horak in that role. This year another cast change has Brooke Leifso playing the fairy queen instead of Richelle Thoreson. Leifso brings another level of compelling awkwardness to the role, as if her ballet slippers were on the wrong feet, and a fascinating powerful remoteness, not making eye contact with the other characters but controlling the story. Partway through my most recent viewing, it occurred to me that Amber Lewis’s character (Fancy Clown in the program) was not introducing herself in the same ritualized documentary personification as the other characters were, each telling their own story of who they had been and what had happened on the afternoon of the fire, and asking audience members to remember them. Lewis’s character was more of a general narrator, remote and not particularly likeable, and I began to wonder if this character was in fact a representation of fate or of something more sinister.
And I also made time in my schedule for a couple of viewings of The Best Newfoundland Christmas Pageant Ever, once on tour and once at the Varscona Theatre. Since the last time I’d seen it, they’ve added Vicki Berg as musical director and on-stage piano player Miss Vicki. Her character is very funny, and the recent musical additions include a haunting rendition of “Mary did you know” with a beautiful arrangement showcasing each of the performers. My companion pointed out that the lyrics of that song made a thought-provoking contrast with the thoughts expressed by the later-in-life Mary as seen in Northern Light Theatre’s Testament of Mary earlier this season.
Which also reminds me of my Theatre Alberta present-under-the-tree – I figured it was okay to unwrap it early because it’s a library loan which I will need to return – as part of their Christmas promotion #UnderWraps, they sent me a copy of Terrence McNally’s Corpus Christi, which was so good I was teary eyed in the Next Act. It reminded me of Testament of Mary, being tribute fiction adding complexity to the story of Christ. It seems eminently stageable, just needing thirteen male-presenting actors and a few props, and I hope someone puts it on here.