Ugly Duckling Looking Good

The Watermark Theatre in North Rustico will host Cat’s Pajamas Theatre Company’s production of “The Ugly Duckling” on August 3rd and 5th at 11:00AM.

The Cat’s Pajamas is a theatre for young audiences company created by Rebecca Griffin, a Holland College Theatre Performance alumni (2014). To this date, the company has produced three shows at The Guild theatre in Charlottetown. With the help of actors Kaitlyn Post and Jacob Durdan, and director Sarah MacPhee (all Holland College alumni as well), The Cat’s Pajamas Theatre Company is slowly, but surely moving up.

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The Ugly Duckling is an adaptation of the classic tale written by Pamela Campbell and Nancy Beck. This quick production is jam-packed full of music, comedy, and a plethora of barnyard characters. Sure to be fun for all!

Kaitlyn Post is originally from Sussex, New Brunswick. You can also find her performing in Feast Dinner Theatre’s production of Scandalous at The Rodd Charlottetown. Becca Griffin is a mainland native, but an islander at heart. She’s worked with various theatres across the Island, especially the Victoria Playhouse, appearing in a few of their Norm Foster pieces. Hailing from Saint John, New Brunswick, Jacob Durdan has performed in many Island productions, including Cinderella: A Fairly Tale, Aladdin: Another Fairly Tall Tale, and Ladies and a Gent.

The Watermark Theatre is thrilled to be able to host this classic family show and help support a local theatre company.

August 3rd at 11:00AM
August 5th at 11:00AM

All tickets are $10.

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Dylan Menzie Up Close and Personal

Harbourfront’s new Backstage Pass Series offers a unique format with the entire show, audience included, happening on the stage. Seating will be cabaret style in a cozy and interactive setting with a panoramic view of the theatre in the background. Featuring a number of musical genres, expect to see some new faces to Harbourfront as well as some past artists returning for this series.

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With his compelling, sprawling vocal range, a striking mix of familiar yet sophisticated musical lines and adept guitar skills, Dylan Menzie is quickly becoming one of Prince Edward Island’s prime exports. Hailing from Belle River, PEI, Menzie has been compared to Joel Plaskett and was highly praised by Canadian singer-songwriter, Ron Sexmith, when he opened for Sexsmith at the PEI Jazz n’ Blues Festival, 2014.

His recently released sophomore album, Adolescent Nature (2016), recorded with Juno nominated and ECMA award-winning producer Daniel Ledwell, was released on the heels of Menzie’s top 4 placement in the CBC Searchlight Competition. The lead single, “Kenya,” secured Menzie’s high standing in this national, juried competition.

Dylan Menzie appears at the Harbourfront Theatre on Wednesday, July 20, at 7:30 PM.

 

Blithe Spirit Transcends Time and Space

Director Alan Kinsella could help a cucumber sandwich achieve its fullest theatrical potential. I know this because I played witness to the managerial marvel at the Watermark Theatre in North Rustico Friday night. What he was able to do with a misbehaving wooden table during a séance was pretty impressive as well. With such direction, it is no small wonder the cast and crew of Blithe Spirit by Noel Coward pulled off a transcendent performance on opening night, July 15th.

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The show was written in 1941 but the set, lights, and music were done in such a way the show could have been set in any decade. The play is no doubt British but, with some imagination and talent, it could take place in any village or city. That’s the joy of life, death and jealousy. The themes transcend both time and space.

Watermark stalwart Gracie Finley set the standard in her exuberant portrayal of Madame Arcati, a vivacious medium who unwittingly turns Mr. and Mrs. Condomimes’ lives upside down by granting Mrs. Condomine the Former, Elvira, a visit of indeterminate length. Mr. Charles Condomime is at first rattled by the sojourn of the free-spirited spectre and quickly becomes comfortable with the idea of being an ‘astral polygamist’. Charles is played marvellously by Daniel Briere who has a wide repertoire of facial expressions, reminiscent of Rowan Atkinson of Black Adder fame. Briere and Suzanne Roberts Smith (Elvira) play off each other nicely and make the relationship between Charles and Elvira quite believable and, oddly, not creepy.

Enter Ruth, Mrs. Condomime the Current, played by PEI native Bryde MacLean. Understandably, Ruth is not happy with the new living arrangement but she keeps a stiff upper lip. For a little while, anyway. MacLean’s portrayal of Ruth was fun to watch. It was exquisitely executed and made more visually arresting by MacLean’s resemblance to Anne Hathaway. Her presence was made ever more magnetic with the outfits put together by costume designer Kathryn Sherwin. MacLean’s absence for part of the show was very remarkable as I was excited to see what she would be wearing next.

Joshua Browne makes the most of his time on stage, as Dr. Bradman, who takes Madame Arcati’s jabs like a champ. I’m anxious to see Browne play Tom in The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams on July 16th.

Leah Pritchard returns to the Watermark this year to work double duty in this piece; first as Edith, the ready-to-serve maid who may be more than she appears and, second, as Dr. Bradman’s chatty better half. I very much look forward to Pritchard’s portrayal of Laura in The Glass Menagerie. With Pritchard’s easy beauty, light complexion and nuanced performances, Laura may be the role she was born to play.

Robert Tsonos had a very successful first opening night as the new artistic director. Tsonos is no stranger to the Watermark stage and seems very eager to take on new responsibilities. In addition to his artistic director duties, of which I’m sure there are many, Tsonos will be directing The Glass Menagerie. Tsonos is making great strides in making the Watermark a community-integrated space. The theatre acts as a fine gallery for local artisans, serves local beer, and hosts a mentorship theatre program and teenage conservatory to foster the next generation of theatrical professionals.

Bottom line: If you’re looking for some cerebral comedy with a splash of slapstick, Blithe Spirit is the show for you. It’s playing now until August 27th at 7:30 p.m. on selected dates with one matinee on August 10th starting at 1:30 p.m.

Review by Kimberley Johnston. Used by permission. Originally posted on http://www.onrpei.ca.

A Matter of Heart

Canadian music legend, Stan Rogers is known for the incredible stories of fishing, farming, and rural Canadian life he told through his music. Stan Rogers: A Matter of Heart is a tribute and theatrical ceilidh-style celebration of the late Canadian folk artist, featuring over 20 of his songs, including hits like Barrett’s Privateers, Northwest Passage, and The Mary Ellen Carter.

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The show has performed to critical acclaim across the country over the past two decades, and now takes the stage at The Guild for the first time. Directed by Geordie Brown, this all-new production features the best in Canadian and PEI talent.

With its life-affirming themes, and its passionate songs of determination and optimism, this is a show that resonates powerfully with every Canadian.

Stan Rogers: A Matter of Heart is presented with the generous support of The Guild and the Van Wart Young Artists Fund, under CAEA’s Artists Collective Policy. The show plays Tuesdays and Wednesdays at The Guild July through September.

 

Buzzing About the Melville Boys

“The sell-out crowd clearly and audibly enjoyed the show and was hugely appreciative. After the performance, I walked past little groups of theatre-goers happily strolling through the streets of Victoria. Conversations I eavesdropped on were all positive.”

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“The Melville Boys is already looking like a hit.”

Ivy Wigmore for The Buzz

The Melville Boys by Norm Foster plays at the Victoria Playhouse through July 30.

 

Step Right Up to TD Under 30

People under the age of 30 will now have access to special discounted theatre and concert tickets thanks to a partnership between TD Bank and Confederation Centre of the Arts.

“TD understands that investing in the arts can give back significant returns to the communities where we live and work,” says TD Branch Manager Deborah Mercer. “That’s why we believe that supporting ticket access programs with arts organizations such as Confederation Centre will help encourage young audiences to participate, and give talented emerging artists – such as musicians, dancers, and visual artists alike – the opportunity to flourish here at home.”

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The new program, TD Under 30 Tickets, will offer youth 30 years and under a year-round $10 discount on tickets for select shows at The Charlottetown Festival and Sobeys LIVE @ the Centre.

“TD’s sponsorship of this special program will make ticket prices more affordable for people 30 and under, encouraging more youth to experience and enjoy the arts,” says Confederation Centre CEO Jessie Inman. “With TD’s generous investment we will continue to enrich the lives of Islanders and visitors through the performing and visual arts, arts education, and heritage.”

In addition to supporting this new ticket access program, TD Bank has been a long-time sponsor of the Confederation Centre Young Company, sponsoring The Charlottetown Festival production since 1999.

TD Under 30 Tickets must be purchased in person at the Box Office and ID is required for proof of age. Individuals 30 and under are allowed one discounted ticket per person and one discounted ticket per show. For more information on this new program, contact Kim Devine, director of development, at kdevine@confederationcentre.com or 902.628.6139.

Spoon River Haunts the Mack

In an anthology of character sketches, the poetry by Edgar Lee Masters, & music composed by Mike Ross, the simple folk of a time long forgotten were immortalized by stirring southern stories that delved into old time trials & tribulations with a whole gamut of Victorian sins. For Kimberley Johnston & I this was 1st time back at The Mack, known for its well put together theatre in a small intimate setting since Dear Johnnie Deere 2 years ago as a reviewer team.

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The press release about Spoon River gives a very detailed description about the concept & journey of this peice: In 2015, Spoon River (produced by Soulpepper Theatre in Toronto) won Canada’s prestigious Dora Award for Outstanding New Musical. Now in 2016 Spoon River makes its first appearance outside Toronto, at Confederation Centre’s Mack theatre in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. The musical is based on the classic Spoon River Anthology, written 100 years ago by Edgar Lee Masters. In this rendition, poems of the dead are brought to life and set to music by PEI’s own Mike Ross. Albert Schultz directs the 11-member cast, as they raise their voices in song, telling of loves, losses, and hard-earned truths. The Charlottetown Festival produced this mystical, dream-like musical in association with Soulpepper Theatre.

First off, we would say music was on point, incredibly talented Spoon River composer Mike Ross talked a little bit in an interview recently about the trend of Music Theatre: a place where concert & theatre meet. Ross, who has spent some time working in Toronto has been very successful, we’re glad to have him back on PEI teaming up with director Albert Schultz of CBC’s Street Legal & Side Effects (a quote someone who might’ve seen that show might remember was, “people die, it’s a side effect of living”) for Spoon River. Poetry in song is beautiful, so rhythmic.

Brendan Wall (Spoon River world premiere; War Horse for Mirvish and London’s West End; Mirvish’s Once) who is making his Charlottetown Festival debut this year caught my attention early in the show with a song that had a bit of a Tom Waits ring to it. His animated swinging of the mandolin with a tic-toc rhythm standing next to a beautiful, vailed, & very ghostly Susan Henley (‘Rachel Lynde’ in Anne of Green Gables-The MusicalTM; Evangeline; Hairspray! 1st U.S. National tour) with a barrage of instruments including 2 pianists joining in on chorus, jumping back & forth from intimate to blown up musical experience with haunting melodies & saloon-type music would’ve been the musical highlight for me on the 4th or 5th song (I should mention we were a little late getting in so, of course we failed to get a program & missed the introduction). Another honorable mention has to go to Alicia Toner (Evangeline; lead in the Centre’s Cinderella; Mirvish’s Once) for her solo piece on violin with the in-coming train featuring a deer in the headlights look which left me absolutely spell bound.

Actors did amazingly well & were very animated. Characters had distinct facial characteristics which the perfect lighting accentuated. A trip back in time with this play, at least I felt like I was in another time & that, to me, is the power of theatre. Their recitals gave an impression of what the epic poems of Homer’s era might’ve been like. Dialects were great, the Scottish & Southern accents especially. The importance of the way the voice executes a monologue is instrumental. According to Stuart Pearce, Voice coach from Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, “Your voice is your identity in sound. It is far more than just a means with which to communicate your thoughts & feelings; it is the expression of your integrity & individuality in the world!

Passion is what the actors put into the poems. In the opening monologue, Jonathan Ellul (Forever Plaid; King Lear and Oklahoma! at Stratford Festival) had to look & delivery of a genuine southern playboy. His accent & demeanor actually reminded me a lot of Robert Downey Jr.’s character in Tropic Thunder (a true comedic tour de force in that picture, by the way, for Downey who also shined in the DVD commentary as well).

Fantastic set design convincingly turned the stage atmosphere into a graveyard! Great use of realistic trees & a surprisingly realistic full moon on stage, you could see the craters & everything. All characters were well used & the props were just as well used. In the 1st song, Soulpepper Theatre Company regular, Daniel Williston (Soulpepper’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead and Death of a Salesman; Mirvish’s Kinky Boots) made poignant use of a casket for drums which might actually have been very cathartic. I loved the scene when those caskets were standing up. There were 2 boards standing upward with couples lying next to each switching pairs each time the lights dimmed. It took a couple of minutes for me to realize, but I got the impression we were watching from a horizontal instead of vertical angle looking down at an open graves. This part quite possibly used old illusionist lighting tactics from the days before Tesla & Edison came on the scene which would’ve been quicker than eyes of those townsfolk seeing as how our more recent generations are so used to the flickering screens of TV, computer, & handheld devices.

Another highlight for me, Matt Campbell, (lead in The Full Monty and Hockey Mom, Hockey Dad; Canada ROCKS!) I am happy to report, is back at The Mack! He’s an old pro of the Charlottetown Festival & he’s someone I’ve gotten a chance to see on stage every year since I started doing reviews. Whenever we see him perform, we want to see more of him, especially in these ensemble pieces. Kimberley’s need to see him this time, however, was sated, he was really well used. His boyish charm is an asset that is right up there with his musical ability, he’s versatile yet he sticks to his niche & he always seems to play roles that suit his style. The extremely gifted vocalist Alana Bridgewater (Hairspray; Mirvish’s We Will Rock You; Gemini-nominated vocalist), Mary Francis Moore (co-writer of Bittergirl and Bittergirl-The Musical; lead in TPM’s The Thing Between Us), Sandy Winsby (four seasons as ‘Matthew’ in AnneTM; Jesus Christ Superstar on Broadway; Mirvish’s Kinky Boots), Amanda LeBlanc (lead in Dear Johnny Deere; 2016 National Arts Centre Ensemble), & Richard Lam (Spoon River world premiere; The Crucible and Of Human Bondage (Soulpepper) rounded off the cast of 11 with some shining moments of their own, showing off their singing, acting, dancing, & musical talents.

Some big names were in the house for this special night including Director Albert Schultz, cultural patron of the arts Mike Duffy, Spoon River Composer & former Jive King Mike Ross, reps from the corporate sponsors, & of course, Confederation Centre of the Arts Chair & 2015 Order of Canada recipient Mr. Wayne Hambly.

It was surprising to us (again, we missed out on getting programs) that it was only 1 Act, which was a jam-packed 90 minutes, if it wasn’t mentioned in the intro or program, it would be good to take note. Nice little encore as well.

Other than 2 or 3 songs toward the end that weren’t quite my cup of tea, the show surpassed my expectations & Kimberley said she would see this show again & again & again & that this is the most uplifting thing about the dead she’s ever seen (and Kimberley has seen a lot of stuff from all genres). Kimberley would also like to thank the ushers for their professionalism & stealth. Props to everyone! To put it gingerly, we were not disappointed with Spoon River & to paraphrase actress Susan Henley, who we met after the show: “even though it is set in a graveyard, it isn’t dismal or sad. Our culture should take a second look at death. Only through death can we celebrate life.”

Review by PL Holden and Kimberley Johnston. Used by permission. Originally posted on http://www.onrpei.ca.