Tag Archives: stewart lemoine

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.

Die Fledermaus – a very fun opera!

The Edmonton Opera is currently performing Die Fledermaus, the light comedy written by Johann Strauss Jr.  The music is very waltzy with catchy almost-familiar tunes, as you might expect.  The story is silly, the characters are clever, funny, and not too complex, and the sets and costumes are delightful.  In this production, all the singing and spoken dialogue is in English.  The song lyrics are displayed on the supertitles the same way they are for operas in other languages.  All of this makes it a very accessible opera experience.

I was fortunate to be offered a chance to attend a dress rehearsal with members of the media and with a lot of school children.   The children sitting near me seemed to love it, laughing at the physical comedy, cheering at the curtain call, and even making “rock on” signs with their fingers.  There was a lot of snickering when one character sang that she hoped the party would be gay.

The part that had me slapping my thighs and laughing til I had to take my glasses off, though, was something that probably went over the heads of some of the younger attendees at least in part.  See, apparently there’s a tradition that one particular monologue gets enhanced for local audiences from the Strauss book.    In this production, it was written by local playwright Stewart Lemoine, and if I hadn’t known that ahead of time from the press release I think I would have guessed.  It was exactly the same kind of topical humour that makes me laugh at the Varscona Theatre, and I had to fumble with my media package in the dark to see who was performing because it seemed so much like Jeff Haslam lines.  (It wasn’t Jeff Haslam; it was Julien Arnold, another local actor.)

The story is full of complications and cheerful deceits.  It has all the elements of a successful farce – a chambermaid with social and theatrical aspirations (Jacqueline Woodley, whom I saw as Miliça in Svadba last year), a marriage with both partners restless (Gordon Gietz and Betty Waynne Allison), an incompetent lawyer (Aaron Ferguson), a bed to hide under, and lots of doorways to pop in and out of.  It also has lots of music, about equally mixed between catchy singable waltz rhythms and what I think of as classic opera solos without significant rhythm, rhyme, or repetition.  The plot is full of broad dramatic irony and sarcasm.  Count Orlofsky (Gerald Thompson) was a counter-tenor with an astonishing vocal range and spot-on comic timing.

There are two more performances, Tuesday and Thursday evenings this week.  Tickets are available on line, and parking at the Jubilee Auditorium garage is free.

Scene from first act of Die Fledermaus

Scene from first act of Die Fledermaus

Die Fledermaus curtain call

Die Fledermaus curtain call

Choris members stroll towards the stage at intermission before party scene.

Choris members stroll towards the stage at intermission before party scene.

Nutcracker – unplugged, unleashed, unhinged.

I kept blanking on the title of Teatro La Quincidina’s current Christmas show at the Varscona Theatre.  I called it “Nutcracker Unplugged” when a friend asked about my plans for last evening.  I had “Nutcracker Unleashed” written in my calendar.  But now that I’ve seen the show, I’ll remember that the actual title is “The Nutcracker Unhinged”, because that fits in a clever playful way typical of the show.

I was about to write that some other short entertainments preceded the Nutcracker story on the program, but that reminded me that there did not seem to be any printed programs.  I might have been the only one bothered by this, in an audience who all seemed to recognize all the performers immediately and like them already, especially Jeff Haslam, Leona Brausen, and Kendra Connor.  I got the impression that many of the audience members were subscribers or longtime supporters who immediately recognized every allusion to an old production.  Since I’m relatively new in Edmonton and much newer as a follower of live theatre here, much of that was not only lost on me but a bit discouraging.  Anyway, a little application to the internet this morning has sorted out one of my sources of confusion, which was that I had Stewart Lemoine mixed up with David Belke, so that whether I had enjoyed David Belke’s work The Minor Keys at the Fringe wouldn’t have anything to do with whether I was going to enjoy Stewart Lemoine’s works last night.  (Well, except that both of the performances featured Kendra Connor, who I liked in both.)

Before intermission, there was a reading of A Visit from Saint Nicholas, some amusing reminiscences of toy commercials of my childhood, some singing, and a short play by Lemoine called Christmas in Patagonia.

At the intermission, some of my concerns about being an outsider in a group of friends were alleviated when the theatre provided tasty seasonal beverages in the lobby, and I found myself in conversations with some interesting people I hadn’t known before, talking about why young people do and don’t go to live performances and whether it’s a problem.

The second half of the evening was the new work “Nutcracker Unhinged”.  It was full of shared-culture jokes but you only needed to know a bit of the Nutcracker ballet story and a few things about Old Strathcona to be guessing and giggling about where the story was going – Block 1912 café, Bulk Barn, K and K Foodliner, and the Justik Clinic (now called Strathcona Health Centre) were all involved in the plot.

A reference to the very sad building fire in a pet store about ten years ago, which I had heard about at the time despite not living in Edmonton yet, seems to have been long enough ago and tastefully enough done to be a suitable tribute.  All over the theatre you could hear people sighing as they worked out that allusion and then murmuring as they explained to their neighbours or discussed what they remembered.  It was the setup for a portrayal of the ghost of a snake, which was a marvel of costuming and body language with the woman’s arms being neither obviously bound-up nor visibly separate from her body, drapey mottled clothing and sinuous movement that totally avoided the predatory sexuality usually inherent in anthropormorphic serpents.  If I knew the names of the performer and the costume designer I would tell you, because it was possibly the best thing about the show.

On the whole, the play was silly and fun.  The evening ended with the performers all singing “White Christmas” and the audience joining in, evoking memories of singing in community in Advent seasons all my life, when people set aside their to-do lists for long enough to relax together before heading back out into a cold night.

Last performances this afternoon and tonight at the Varscona Theatre, tickets available at the door.