More performance genres at Fringe 2017

Note:  I don’t know why the caption isn’t showing up on my photo.  That’s Bethany Hughes from Evil Dead talking to the audience members seated in the Splash Zone. 


Animal Farm Treatment – I have never studied, read, or seen any version of George Orwell’s novel Animal Farm, but as with Sartre’s No Exit, I had a general idea of the theme and I knew one line.  During Animal Farm Treatment, a solo show by creator/performer Alice Nelson from Calgary, I wondered how it would appear to an audience member who didn’t know the expected outcome from the original cynical parable.  The playbill said that she has a study guide to accompany her show for high school audiences.  The performer skilfully switched among several speaking characters, using different physicalities and speech patterns as well as clues of having the characters refer to each other by name, and she used a few simple props to move the story forwards.  I knew that the experiment in democracy would not end well, but I kept hoping it would.  Two more shows, Friday 2:45 and Saturday 11:30 pm.

Evil Dead – Amanda Neufeld directed this lively, funny, gory musical, which is playing at L’Unitheatre.  Bethany Hughes stage managed, and in the picture above is reassuring the audience members in the Splash Zone.  Music is a four-piece instrumental group under the direction of Daniel Belland (also seen in Mormonic at this festival).  The narrative moves quickly through the tropes of horror fiction, the college students each with his or her own incentives to vacation at a lonely cabin (Matthew Lindholm, Jaimi Reese, Nadine Veroba, Stephen Allred, Josh Travnik), the eerie woods with limited access, the intrepid explorer returning from Egypt to finish her father’s work (Neufeld), the source of local knowledge Reliable Jake (Travnik), and the demons (uncredited here because that would give away some plot).  It’s very funny, and the songs are great. The action moves quickly and it’s over in 90 minutes as advertised.  Some tickets are available for tonight’s late show.

Puck Bunnies – This is another cleverly-scripted and poignant drag comedy in the spirit of Flora and Fawna’s Field Trip with Fleurette, from Guys in Disguise.  Darrin Hagen, Trevor Schmidt, and Jason Hardwick play the girlfriends of junior/minor-league hockey hopefuls, sharing support, gossip, and relationship troubles while in the bleachers for an intra-squad scrimmage.   Tammy, Tanya, and Tina are more than silly caricatures (although I have to say that the costumes are spot-on perfect), each with her own struggles.  The dramatic-irony part (where the audience knows something a character doesn’t realize) is great.  The gentle insertion of a more feminist awareness into a culture of “support the boys at all costs”, by Hardwick’s Tina, is credible and satisfying.  I last paid attention to this culture in the mid-90s, I found it disturbing and necessary to be reminded that, despite the pussyhat, some things have not changed.   Shows Friday, Saturday, and Sunday afternoons.

You Fucking Earned It – At last year’s inaugural Edmonton Clown Festival (now renamed Play the Fool, and running Sept 28-Oct 1 2017), in a panel discussion Deanna Fleischer (aka Butt Kapinski) pointed out that traditional bouffon was criticizing the king in front of the king, and she challenged performers using bouffon techniques to ask themselves “Is the king in the room?”  There are two key points in this.  One is to punch up – make fun of the powerful instead of the powerless.  The other is that if it’s good bouffon serving its purpose, nobody in the audience should feel comfortable and safe.  At the start of the performance of You Fucking Earned It (a Naked Empire Bouffon work featuring Cara McLendon and Sabrina Wenske, directed by Nathaniel Justiniano whom you might recall from You Killed Hamlet), I wondered whether the piece would succeed at the second point for an Edmonton audience, but it definitely did.  One more show, 2:45 today (Friday).

The show I’ve been working on, How I Lost One Pound, the Musical, also has one more show this festival, at 6:30 pm today in the Rutherford Room at the Varscona Hotel.  We are not sold out at the box office and I will have some tickets available at the door as well.  I’d love to show more people this quirky funny low-key narrative about a woman at mid-life.   Lesley Carlberg’s show will also be playing at Vancouver Fringe and at Guelph Fringe in October, if you miss it here.


Fringe solos and classics

Edmonton Fringe 2017 is somewhere around half over.  Around this time I start realizing I can’t see everything I should see – I can’t even see everything I want to see.  I don’t think I can fit in The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds, and I can’t find a time to see Turn of the Screw either.

But one of the great things about Fringe is that we don’t all see the same shows – and even when we do, we don’t all see the same performances.  So we have lots to talk about.

Wednesday I saw two touring solo shows along with two scripted plays at the Varscona Theatre.  None of them was classified as new work.

Redheaded Stepchild – Johnnie Walker tells a story as a 12-year-old boy, Nicholas, as his wellmeaning-but-weird stepmother Marianne, and as his more suave alter ego Rufus Vermilion.  It’s suitable for families as well as adults, as Walker catches the 12-year-old’s voice and physicality very well without mocking him, and his problems are easy to identify with.  And the stepmother – first we see her quirks through Nicholas’ eyes (that awful laugh!) and her acknowledgement that she never wanted to be a mother and isn’t cut out to be a stepmother, but then we see her understanding that she messed up and offering Nicholas a kind of low-key companionship which he accepts.  Walker and director Morgan Norwich have created an entertaining and inspiring tale with good pacing and interesting visuals that fits the one-hour time and the King Edward School stage perfectly.

No Exit – Jean-Paul Sartre, the French existentialist philosopher, wrote No Exit in 1944.  All I knew about it beforehand was one famous line, but as it’s somewhat of a spoiler and comes late in the play I won’t write it here.  Ron Pederson, Belinda Cornish, and Louise Lambert are the three disparate characters stuck in an ugly room together.  George Szilagyi has a small part as the bellboy.  The colour palette of the show is mostly the faded maroon of old blood and worn-out formality.   It was funnier than I expected, and the unhappy characters made me intrigued rather than restless.  Kevin Sutley directs.

The Exquisite Hour – I don’t usually manage to see the Teatro la Quindicina show at the Fringe, but this year I made time to see Jeff Haslam and Belinda Cornish in an older Stewart Lemoine two-hander.  Cornish’s luminous self-possessed presentation works well in this gentle tale of a socially-awkward bachelor (Haslam) getting a visit from a mysterious stranger.

Ain’t True and Uncle False – Paul Strickland, another touring solo artist, comes from Covington, Kentucky.  He launches headlong into a set of affectionate tall tales about characters in a trailer park, one unfolding into the next and calling back to a throwaway comment earlier, the kinds of stories that would be funny enough on a page but are even more entertaining with guitar accompaniment and dialect and the physicality of his bowlegged uncle rocking back and forth licking his teeth.

Another couple of days at the Fringe

One of the things I do at the Fringe each year is watch for the little improvements that make things run more smoothly and more fairly.  Like at Folkfest, another 30+ year tradition in Edmonton, the tweaks are small but always done to make things more fair, more convenient, and more fun.  Last year one new thing was a spinning postcard rack in the Arts Barns lobby for artists to leave their handbills on display.  It wasn’t designed ideally for that high-traffic activity, so the handbills often fell out of it, and festival director Murray Utas spent a lot of time picking up spilled handbills and sorting them to return to the rack.  This year, the rack is back, but it has been rebuilt with Plexiglas shields to allow the postcards to be seen and not fall out.  Little things like that.

This year the Playwrights Canada Press booth will be open all week, with staffing help from Concrete Theatre.  And the beer tents take debit and credit including tap, which speeds things up for the ticket sellers and for the patrons.  Little things, but little things that keep improving my favourite festival.

Marv ‘ n Berry Presents: Imagination is a sketch-comedy show performed by members of Rapid Fire Theatre, Nikki Hulowski, Quinn Contini, Mike Robertson, and Sam Stralak.  It’s very funny and occasionally surreal/weird – not quite as odd/eerie as Gossamer Obsessions was though.  Although I had heard many of their punchlines while sitting in on part of their tech rehearsal, I still laughed hard during the show, because good sketches are all about quickly conveying characters and situations which become funnier and funnier.  Not sure what was my favourite – the suburban couple auditioning to be gangsters, the fishing-trip participant with safety concerns, the board-game store …

Mormonic, the Musical  Sister Pratt, Sister Olsen, and Brother Bradshaw have turned the El Cortez basement into a meeting room to host an information session and potluck for people curious about the LDS church, complete with bad Power-Point and excellent songs.  The touch of having the slides be skewed and distorted on the screen as in pre-digital-projector days delighted me with nostalgic detail.  The script and lyrics were written by performers Amanda Neufeld and Jaimi Reese, and the music was composed by performer Daniel Belland, who plays the piano during the show but also sings and acts, which I have not seen him do before.  It is cleverly funny watching the characters’ personalities become revealed and unravelled during their presentation, and the music is appealing and sometimes catchy.

Pompeii, LA This play by Declan Greene is produced by Cardiac Theatre, with Harley Morison (director) and Jessica Glover (stage manager).  The familiar names on stage include Cody Porter, Elena Porter, James Hamilton, Nikki Hulowski, Morgan Grau, and Sam Stralak.  It’s a drama about Hollywood life, switching between scenes to show the challenges and unhappinesses for various characters, from an aging Judy Garland to a former child star trying to succeed in a disaster movie (Pompeii, it’s a metaphor and not) and a make-up artist trying to live her dream.

Prophecy This is another take on Greek tragedy written by Jessy Ardern and directed by Corbin Kushneryk, the creative team behind last year’s award-winning Fall of the House of Atreus, a Cowboy Love Story.  This one focuses on a smaller part of the stories, and on a few women characters:  tormented Cassandra, gifted (under dub-con circumstances) to see the truth and cursed not to be believed, Hecuba the proper queen and the mother of Cassandra, Paris, and Hector, and Andromache the timid and modest wife of Hector.  All characters are played by Carmen Niewenhuis, with clever smooth clues to character change in her costuming, voice, and posture.  And this one is not a funny play, although some of the design and acting is inherently funny.  It is disturbing and provocative and surprisingly topical, gory only in our imaginations, with content/trigger warnings offered in an envelope on the door rather than in a way that lessens the surprises for people who are willing to be surprised.

Shadowlands is a solo show written and performed by Savanna Harvey.  I saw a reading of this script at NextFest in June, before the performer left on her CAFF-lottery tour of five Fringe festivals, so I was excited to see it properly staged.  It’s told in alternating voices of several characters – maybe four, maybe five or six depending on how one counts.  A different prop represents each character, as in the puppetry genre referred to as object theatre – only this show is performed in the dark, with each character being represented by a different kind of light.  I don’t want to tell you much about it, because for me part of the fun of this kind of play is figuring out who/what each character is and how they are going to connect.

With Glowing Hearts:  A Canadian Burlesque Revue is just what the subtitle promises, a revue-style burlesque show with each act based on a woman or women from Canadian history.   The host is Ellen Chorley dressed as Famous Five activist Nellie McClung, and the panty zamboni (stagecrew) is Kiki Quinn dressed as a very cute beaver.  I never know whether to refer to burlesque performers by their stage names or by the names I’ve seen them listed by in other genres, but in this case both are in the program so you can figure out who is who.  Sweet Lady Night is a particularly strong singer, Scarlett Von Bomb is a great dancer, and Violette Coquette and LeTabby Lexington are experienced and talented burlesque performers.  The costumes are fabulous, the choreography is fun, and … and it was not only educational but inspiring, acknowledging the flaws of the historical characters by today’s higher standards of intersectional feminism and challenging the audience to take action.  The finale included a speech by Chorley that made me cry, and a Famous Five transition-to-the-present group dance number that had me clapping and cheering and fist-pumping.

Start of Edmonton Fringe 2017

Here are a few notes on shows I’ve seen so far, in alphabetical order by title.

Bash’d:  A Gay Rap Opera

Two talented local performers, Jezec Sanders and Kael Wynn, do a powerfully moving version of Chris Craddock and Nathan Cuckow’s 2008 rap musical.  The beats are slick, the rhymes are fine, the show-within-the-show about Dillon, the small-town boy kicked out when he comes out and Jack, the urban party boy who never expected to fall in love and settle down is charming, the context is Canadian and unfortunately not dated, and parts of it made me cry so hard that a stranger offered me a hug after the show.


Louise Casemore and Vern Thiessen perform a script written by Casemore which fits perfectly into the basement bar space of El Cortez, using the flaws of the space (noise from upstairs, odd lighting, heat) to develop the mood and characters, showing how a sarcastic bartender and a grouchy overbearing customer get to know each other and care about each other as time passes.

Gordon’s Big Bald Head

This Fringe improv tradition, with Jacob Banigan, Chris Craddock, and Mark Meer, builds a long-form story every night out of one of the other show descriptions in the program book.  The one I saw included a plucky orphan (but not the Cockney one), a coffee shop next to a copy shop, some mobsters, a secret pope, an amulet (not as common nowadays as talismans), and other unlikely elements, all meshing into a convincing and ridiculous story.

Interstellar Elder

This new solo show from Ingrid Hansen (Little Orange Man) is original and delightful.  There is enough narration that we understand what’s going on, but Hansen’s on-stage character Kitt demonstrates her story mostly through movement.

How I Lost One Pound, The Musical

I’m working on this show as local crew for Toronto touring artist Lesley Carlberg.  There’s a performance every day in the Rutherford Room of the Varscona Hotel.  Lesley’s story has many familiar-sounding aspects, but is told in a charming, unassuming manner full of asides and tangents.

Urinetown, The Musical

Grindstone Theatre tackles the cynical and self-aware Broadway hit with a cast of 14, a small musical ensemble led by Vicky Berg, and a multilevel scaffolding set that manages to change the beautiful brick and wood worship space of Holy Trinity’s sanctuary into the depressing underbelly of a near-future dystopic city.   I loved the asides from Officer Lockstock (Bob Rasko) and Little Sally (Carol Chu) which made fun of the tropes of musicals at the same time as providing them.  Paul Morgan Donald was particularly strong as Cladwell P Caldwell, but the cast includes many experienced actors and talented singers.  Likely to sell out.

So that’s a start – some improv, some solos, some scripted drama, some musicals, and the busy schedule ahead of me includes more of the same as well as some comedy, some burlesque, some unplanned viewing, and some shifts selling drink tickets.  I love Edmonton Fringe!


Vignettes of Artstrek

Artstrek is a theatre camp for teenagers, run through Theatre Alberta at Red Deer College every July.  Today I had the opportunity to observe part of an Artstrek day, and I came away even more impressed by the program and the team than I had been beforehand.

A group of students tumbles out of a vocal-improvising class for a short break before the next session.  Some of them leap onto a bench in the hallway and start creating another song together.

A first-year Super (Super is short for Supervisor, the camp-counsellor equivalents of Artstrek, former campers who lead activities and support the teens through their camp week) tells me that she’s learned so much through Artstrek that she is now studying to be a drama teacher, and the Artstrek leaders are her role models.

Glenda Stirling, Artstrek Curriculum Director, shows the visitors the curriculum chart in the instructors’ office, so all the teachers can see on one wall what every class covers each day, which parts of the play texts they will be focusing on and what kinds of activities they’ll be doing.  This helps them make connections between classes and keep in touch with what the students need each day.

A  movement teacher gives her class lively warmup activities “Show us your sassiest pose! Your Toddlers & Tiaras smile!  Now the Charleston!” and then quietly gestures them into respectful listening for exercises evocative of movement in trench warfare.  The students shift gears immediately and follow the exercises with commitment and compassion that brings tears to my eyes.

In a design class, groups of students are given a few minutes to arrange props, set, lighting, and sound for an assigned scene of the play.  Each group then acts as audience for the other group’s creation, and responds to instructor questions like “Where is the focus of this scene?  What is the mood?  What has been happening?” and “Why did the groups make different choices?”

After lunch, students bus their cafeteria dishes and rush outside to play organized games with the Supers.  Super-Super Sarah (the Super-Supers are the lead supervisors, also acting as extra administrative helpers for the program) challenges the teenagers to pick up three pieces of litter each, and the resulting whirlwind scours the courtyard in a few minutes.  Then there are a few rounds of lost-and-found, reminders of which groups are heading to which classes next, and attendance-taking in small groups.  Nobody has cell phones out at all.

Acting class takes place on the main stage in the beautiful arts centre auditorium.  Exercises include everything from text work on a monologue with a partner, to (optional) playing with simulated vomit.

In another class, the students are given a series of exercises to work towards creating original monologues in the world of the play.  An instructor reminds them to trust the step-by-step process given, with idea-clustering, sense descriptions, and other stepping stones coming first.  While the students are writing, he sketches stepping stones in a river which look a little like Pac-Man ghosts.

A design teacher asks students how it felt to have awkward prop, set, and costume elements to deal with while reading dialogue.  Students comment that it’s distracting, yet also helps them to understand what their characters would be feeling.  The instructor relates this to the limitations of realism as a design choice.  I have never quite understood this – and now I do.

Every summer, the Artstrek curriculum team chooses a “play of study” to focus on – not to perform, but to use as a starting point for exercises in every aspect of theatre that summer.  The play of study might be a musical, a classical work like a Shakespeare play, or a contemporary work. Each week of the camp, from Exploration 1 for 12-14 year olds to Exploration 3 for 17-18 year olds, covers the same play, with age-appropriate exercises.  A student or an instructor who returns to the program for multiple years will get all new experiences.  Today I watched groups who were part of Exploration 2, kids around 15 or 16 years old, some of them at Artstrek for the first time and some who had been coming every summer since they finished Grade 7.

This year, Vern Thiessen’s play Vimy, about Canadian soldiers and a nurse at the Battle of Vimy Ridge (1917), is the Artstrek play of study.  As a companion piece, Thiessen also contributed an additional short play, Bluebirds, about Canadian nurses in World War I, to add more diversity of women’s experiences along with the characters in Vimy.  He wrote this play specifically as a commission for Artstrek 2017.  My paternal grandfather was in the Canadian Expeditionary Force Signal Corps.  He did not talk about his wartime experiences, but we believe he was at Vimy Ridge.  And today I learned about the frightening isolating agonizing experience of that war from Artstrek exercises in an unfurnished studio classroom, in ways that I did not grasp when I toured the restored trenches and the tidy monuments and cemeteries of the Vimy Ridge National Historic Site.  That was another demonstration, for me, of how realism isn’t necessarily the best or only way of sharing emotional truth.

Trench entrance at Vimy Ridge

Restored trench entrance at Vimy Ridge National Historic Site, July 2003. Sign says “Canadian Front Line”.

Over three hundred teenagers experience Artstrek every summer.  Kids whose families cannot afford the registration fee can request scholarship assistance.  The scholarship budget of $15,000 is still in need of donations to support this year’s campers, and you can make a tax-deductible contribution through CanadaHelps.

Follies performers dancing, 1941 and 1971 characters

Follies, and other celebrations of theatre

Walterdale Theatre’s production of Follies, the 1971 Sondheim musical, opens tonight.  I was able to see a preview last night, and I found it touching, sometimes sad, and sometimes so funny that I couldn’t stop giggling.   As suits a show about retired showgirls, it has interesting music (under the direction of Michael Clark) a large ensemble cast, production dance numbers (choreography by Barb Mah and Alyssa Paterson), sparkly festive costumes with headpieces (Karin Lauderdale), and some beautiful solos.

The premise of the show seemed not unusual to me, the idea of middle-aged former performers reuniting before an old theatre is torn down, and reminiscing about past life.  What seemed more original about this story is the concept of the characters having shadows or ghosts or echoes of their former selves, living their 1941 lives around and in between the returnees living their 1971 lives.  In 1941, there were eight showgirls and a couple of young sailors, each identified as the earlier self of one of the 1971 characters.  As the reunion visitors catch up with each other about their lives and play out current conflicts, we see the shadows of their past selves dancing and singing and speaking about their dreams and romances and ambitions in 1941.

I can’t readily say what was my favourite part of this show.  I loved the song “Who’s That Woman”, led by Stella (Joyanne Rudiak), in which the 1971 women make it look hard to reproduce a tap number of their youth, blended with the 1941 women making it look easy.  I loved how the blue-grey playsuits of the 1941 dancers and the cold blue-tinged lighting (Brad Melrose) showed them to be memories, while the warmer palettes for the 1971 characters were often present at the same time.  I laughed hard at the over-the-top costumes for the fantasy sequences starting with “Loveland”.  I was moved by Carlotta Campion’s (Kristen M Finlay’s) triumphant solo about her existence and persistence, “I’m Still Here”.  And I was deeply disconcerted watching Ben’s (Gavin Belik’s) brash confidence in “Live, Laugh, Love” gradually crumble into a complete breakdown, while the spirits of chorus dancers flutter gaily around him as if nothing is wrong or he is a figure of fun.  Leslie Caffaro is a strong actor in the lead role of Sally and Aaron Schaan has an amusing cameo as Kevin the Waiter.

Same-day tickets are available at the door, and advance tickets through Tix on the Square.  Follies plays until Saturday July 15th.

follies 2

Monica Roberts and Leslie Caffaro play Phyllis and Sally, former roommates and rivals and friends.  Photo credit Barb Mah.


Last week the Edmonton theatre community celebrated the 2016-2017 season at the Sterling Awards Gala.  Productions taking home multiple awards included the Citadel’s Crazy for You, Edmonton Actors’ Theatre’s Stupid Fucking Bird, Theatre Network’s Irma Voth, and Impossible Mongoose’s The Fall of the House of Atreus: A Cowboy Love Story.  But as usual, the night reminded me of the wide breadth of talents and passions and visions in the Edmonton theatre scene, amateur as well as professional, and I look forward to watching and discussing many more delightful and challenging performances in the future.   As usual at the Sterlings, the script was entertaining and the tech and stage-management invisible, making the evening go quickly and amusingly.

After Found Festival was over, I was still thinking about some of the productions I’d seen, and wanted to make some additional notes.

In the Admit One show In Shoes, the viewer is guided on a quick walk around a popular block of Old Strathcona, encountering various characters who all connect in ways that become clear.  Although I had seen all the performers in other roles in the past, I was never aware of any of them until the moment at which they figuratively stepped on stage to take over from the previous actor.  It was as if they were non-playing characters on Whyte Avenue, part of the streetscape, until that moment.  This fascinated me.  It reminded me of the TV show Being Erica, and how Erica often encountered the therapist Dr. Tom on the street, appearing as a hot dog vendor or bartender or pedestrian just as she needed him.  It also reminded me of some video game – I don’t know if it’s World of Warcraft or if it’s a common custom – where everything in the environment that the player can interact with has a sort of halo outline that’s lacking in other parts of the background.

On the last day of Found Festival, I was able to attend a performance of Before The River, a roving performance along the pathways by Mill Creek. Colin Matty, Shannon Hunt, Katrusia Pohoreski, Jameela McNeil, and Liam Coady performed an eerie folkloric tale from Ukrainian tradition.

And now it’s summer!  Time for Freewill Shakespeare and the rest of the summer festivals and looking forward to Fringe.  Enjoy!


Opera Nuova’s Carousel

Opera Nuova’s two mainstage productions this year are The Cunning Little Vixen, an opera composed by Leoš Janáček, and Carousel, the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical. 

Carousel is set in a coastal village in Maine (Wikipedia says in 1873).  In the opening scenes, a touring carnival has set up outside the town, with various circus-style performers (a strong-man, dancers, a fortune teller, a juggler), carousel barker Billy Bigelow (Justin Kautz in tonight’s performance), and manager Mrs Mullin (Emily Stewart tonight).  The set includes three lovely carousel-horses, turned on a revolve during the opening waltz by members of the chorus.  (Apparently one can bid on the horses by contacting Opera Nuova before the end of the run).  Local mill girls Julie Jordan and Carrie Pipperidge (Krista Paton and Brittany Rae) visit the carousel, but the carnival manager gets jealous when Billy Bigelow pays too much attention to Julie, banning Julie from the carousel and firing Billy.  Both Paton and Rae have lovely soprano voices in the solos and duet setting up their friendship and the story.  Kautz portrays Billy as a cocky flirt, confident in his charm, but with foreshadowing of physical threat in the way he grabs Mrs. Mullin’s forearm and threatens Carrie in the first scenes.

The larger ensemble then gathers on stage for clambake preparations, and the enthusiastic “June is Bustin’ Out All Over”, featuring Olivia Barnes tonight as Nettie Fowler.   This piece is echoed later by “That Was a Real Nice Clambake”, again with delightful choreography.  In between are important scenes advancing the tragic story – Julie and Billy lose their jobs, get married, and discover Julie expecting a baby before they have any money, so Billy agrees to help his no-good friend Jigger Craigin (Nolan Kehler tonight) with a robbery scheme.

After Billy’s death (with a spectacular fall off a pier by Kautz, one of the founders of Toy Guns Dance Theatre), the scenes 15 years later focus on Billy trying to make amends to his daughter Louise (Emily Steers tonight).  Louise’s barefoot dance piece explores solitary childhood joy on the shore with hopscotch, innocent celebration with local boy Enoch Snow Jr (Jordan Sabo of Man Up dance troupe), being picked on by a group of local children and taking petty revenge by snatching one girl’s hat, and then being swept up in a group of performers, the carnival workers of the opening scenes, particularly being drawn to a young man among them.   Later, she confides in Enoch Jr that after graduation she plans to run away with them and become an actress.

One of the most disturbing scenes of the musical is when Billy, granted visibility by the heavenly guides in order to help his daughter, gets frustrated when she won’t take his gift and slaps her hand.  Louise flees to her mother, who comforts her and seems to reminisce almost wistfully about a hit that feels like a kiss.  The underscoring music hints at this being sweetly nostalgic, which is jarring against the horrifying but realistic thought that Julie’s good memories of her abusive husband might be encouraging Louise to expect no better.   The more hopeful ending is that Billy’s spirit enables Louise to take in the graduation speech about not being limited by one’s parents’ failures and not being alone.  We can’t tell whether her happy ending will continue with running away to be an actress, marrying Enoch Jr, or perhaps something better than either.

The lighting and costumes for this production create a muted palette for the modest village and mists off the sea.  Vernacular dialects (slightly different for the carnival workers and the villagers) add to the vintage down-home atmosphere.

There is one more performance of Cunning Little Vixen tomorrow night (Friday 29 June) and one more of Carousel Saturday June 30th, both at Festival Place in Sherwood Park.  Julie

carousel 1

Julie Jordan and Carrie Pipperidge at the Carousel