Tag Archives: cheryl jameson

Another week of Edmonton fun, mostly theatrical!

There’s lots going on in Edmonton this week too.  Yesterday, for example, the choices included the Folkfest ticket lottery at Telus Field (popular and well-organized and a sell-out again), the Edmonton Pride Festival parade (Pride events continue throughout the month), Sprouts New Play Festival for Kids (continuing this afternoon) and Nextfest, the emerging artist’s festival continuing until June 14th with music, theatre, dance, comedy, improv, film, visual arts, and more.

Most years I’m out of town for all of July and I spend June getting ready, so I’ve been missing out on lots of the Edmonton June events.  But this year I’m going to be around in July, which also means I get more of the fun of the long days of June.

Thou Art Here, the local troupe doing site-sympathetic versions of Shakespeare’s work, had a remount of last year’s successful Much Ado About Nothing at Rutherford House, the historic site preserving the residence of the first premier of Alberta .  The audience followed the actors around outdoors and indoors, upstairs and down, as the banter, schemes, betrayals and amends of the story took place.  Director Andrew Ritchie said that this play was a great choice for their company because the whole play takes place at Leonato’s house (Kris Joseph, recently seen in Vigilante).  They did some clever things including all the audience members in the story – guests at a masquerade, deputized citizens assisting the officers Dogberry (Amy Shostak) and Verges (David Barnet), wedding guests – and they also had individual audience members standing in for some of the minor roles which they hadn’t cast.  This was fun and not embarrassing.  It was an easy play for me to enjoy, because unlike some of Shakespeare’s comedies this one had the sharp-tongued woman (Beatrice, played by Gianna Vacirca) happily ending up with a man who appreciates her and gives as good as he gets (Benedick, played by Ben Stevens), and because nobody was killed to make a plot point (I’m looking at you, Winter’s Tale …).  Conflict was provided through the machinations of Don Joan (Alyson Dicey) and her henchman Borachio (Mark Vetsch), and eventually there was a happy ending for the other couple Hero (Marlee Yule) and Claudio (Hunter Cardinal).  I thought Neil Kuefler was particularly good as Don Pedro, Don Joan’s good-guy brother, although I was a little confused about why the character was using sitcom tricks to manage his friends.

Teatro La Quindicina has moved into the Arts Barns renovated Backstage space until the Varscona renovations are complete.  Their production of Anthony Shaffer’s Sleuth, with Mat Busby and Julien Arnold, directed by Stewart Lemoine, is the start of their 2015 season.  It runs until June 13th.  Blarney Productions’ season is wrapping up with A Steady Rain, by Keith Huff, directed by Wayne Paquette and performed by Jesse Gervais and John Ullyatt.  It closes today (Sunday June 7th) with a 1:30 show.  Tickets for both are available at Tix on the Square.

This week I also attended Let There Be Height, the Firefly Theatre performance of circus/aerials students and teachers.  It was enchanting and impressive, with different turns set to music and strung on a storyline of dreams and a dreamer.

I also attended the Mayfield Dinner Theatre’s production of Cabaret, which I saw on Broadway last year.  This production included some local familiar faces, Cheryl Jameson (Helga), Benjamin Wardle (Bobby), Lucas Meeuse (Hans), Chelsea Preston (Angel), Pamela Gordon (Sally Bowles) and Jeff Haslam as Ernst Ludwig, the ingratiating small-time smuggler whose unveiling as a Nazi serves as unavoidable demonstration of the perilous chasm looming before all the characters in 1930s Berlin.  The viewpoint character Clifford Bradshaw is played with convincing awkwardness and wistfulness by Aiden Desalaiz, and the Emcee is Christian Goutsis.  I thought the shocking ending was particularly well done, in a polished performance.

Pageant, down home style, second try.

Last year I didn’t manage to see Best Little Newfoundland Christmas Pageant Ever at the Varscona, because I left the ticket-buying too late and the only performance I could get to was sold out and I didn’t make it up to the top of the waitlist.

This year I got closer.  I actually saw the first half of the show before looking at the clock at intermission and realizing I’d mis-calculated the time of my later-evening commitment, so I wouldn’t be able to stay til the end.  So I’ve seen half of this show, and next year it is definitely going on my booking list earlier.

Like the Christmas Carol, I got the impression that many of the patrons at this show had seen the production in previous years and were anticipating the jokes, whereas my only familiarity was with the source material.  And I suddenly realised partway through the show that the fussy little girl Alice (Lindsey Walker), the one who gets ousted from her perennial pageant role as Mary by Imogene Herdman’s (Cheryl Jameson) and her brothers’ (Graham Mothersill, Corbin Kushneryk) threats, was missing the point complaining constantly about the way their story wasn’t sticking to the traditional telling of the Nativity, so I had better throw out the little list in my head of all the ways in which this adaptation deviated from the original Barbara Robinson novel since I was missing the point in the exact same way.

Fortunately, I had this realization, or generally got caught up in the show, early enough to be enjoying it.  There was a cast of only seven, including a piano player (Jeff Black), and a little bit of amusing double-casting.  That meant that not all the canonical Herdmans were on stage, just Ralf (“with an F”), Leroy, and Imogene. But it worked out fine.

In written fiction, I am always a little slow to recognize unreliable narrators or other quirks of a first-person point-of-view character.  In the stage version, then, I was surprised to find the narrator character Beth (Kayla Gorman) a bit of a caricature, with distinctive child-like can’t-stand-still and seeming to side with Alice’s disapproval of the Herdmans.  It wasn’t at all inconsistent with the source material; I was just caught by surprise.

Compared to the novel, then, Beth’s mother the pageant director has a bigger role.  Mrs. O’Brien is played with appealing earnestness, bewildered but coping, by Natalie Czar-Gummer.  She incorporates the audience in the story as kids showing up for auditions, and then has each section sing one of the carols as shepherds, wise men, or angels.

The adaptation was originally done by  a company in Newfoundland, with a few changes to the original story like the usual director having collided with a moose, and the church being Catholic.  The performers’ accents are credible and not overdone.  It felt like an affectionate tribute to a culture where lots of Edmonton residents have roots.

Note to self:  if this plays next Christmas, buy a ticket early and block off the whole evening.