You are reading the web archive version of On Stage Weekly for Jan 20th to 26th. On Stage Weekly is a weekly newsletter written by On Stage’s editor-in-chief, Allan Mackey, talking about what’s new, what’s hot, and what’s going on in theatre in Ottawa. If you’re not getting On Stage Weekly sent directly to your inbox every Monday, please sign up using the opt-in form to the right. We will never share your address and you can unsubscribe any time if you no longer want to hear what’s happening in Ottawa theatre. Remember that sharing is caring. Help the list grow and help Ottawa theatre shine by forwarding this list to your friends and otherwise sharing it on Facebook or Twitter.
Good afternoon, everybody.
With three show opens last week, theatre in Ottawa seems in full swing for 2014. We’ll get into that shortly, but I’m not quite ready to ditch 2013 by the side of the road just yet. Earlier this month, I posted a retrospective on Ottawa Theatre 2013 to my own website, looking back at the shows I saw over the last year.
What was especially nice is that I reviewed 90% of them, which made it easy for me to remind myself the specifics of what I liked from a time when they were still fresh in mind. Even without the reviews though, it was fun glancing at the list of titles and remembering the shows that were the most memorable to me.
That’s what we hope for most when we sit down in a theatre, isn’t it? To see a show that is memorable. A show that when you look back and think about it, you can be like, “right, that was so fun/good/awesome.” There is the other side, of course. The “that was so bad” kind of memorable. But I think even that is better than forgettable.
For me, I think the standout show was Odyssey Theatre’s Arms and The Man. An all-star cast directed by Andy Massingham that just did so many things right and was a great night under the stars. My other top highlight was actually a student production, The Servant of Two Masters at Algonquin College. It was a fun and truly hilarious bit of Commedia directed by the Catriona Leger. What do you think it says that two of my top shows from last year were mask shows?
This Week On Stage
Taking us back to the frigid winter of January 2014 in Ottawa, Sock ‘n Buskin opened RENT over at Carleton University last weekend.
It started off like you might expect from a community theatre rendering of an ambitious emotionally wrought musical with a cast filled mostly by Carleton University students. That is to say, it was a bit rocky. There were as many things that weren’t doing it for me as there were things that were doing it for me. When the staging was kept simple it worked well but when it got more complicated it felt unwieldy. Alex Brunjes’ Angel and Tim Baretto-Burns’ Benny couldn’t have been any closer to the mark but a couple other cast members seemed to be having a hard time of it. Scenes like La Vie Bohème were on fire (and there’s nothing like seeing, like feeling, La Vie Bohème done live) but there were other moments I found myself wondering if the director fully understood what the scene was about.
BUT — and this is an important but — the second act just killed it. It destroyed all of my misgivings from the first act and impressed me way more than I thought it would. Annie-King Smith was the superstar that a character like Maureen has to be, ensuring that Take Me As I Am literally gave me goosebumps. From then on, the show was one rocking number after the last. Even David Shiff – who I didn’t feel was connecting as Collins in the first act – delivered a very emotional performance for the reprise of I’ll Cover You.
RENT is A++ material (there’s a reason it had 5,000+ shows in 12 years on Broadway) and the calibre of Sock ‘n’ Buskin’s production make $15 tickets a steal.
And if you’ve never experienced RENT before, you’re in the same boat as On Stage lead reviewer Valerie Cardinal was:
RENT plays for one final weekend in Carleton University’s Kailash Mital Theatre. (onstageottawa.com/snbrent)
Plosive Productions kicked off 2014 at The Gladstone with their production of Detroit. There were a lot of laughs amidst a full house on opening night. To be sure, the performances were strong and there were some great moments in the show owing to the cast and director, Chris Ralph. I will say that Detroit, as in the play itself, didn’t fully do it for me, but it was certainly good for a few warm laughs on a cold winter night.
On Stage reviewer, Matthew Champ was also there opening night:
“Second to none was the high calibre performances given by an extremely talented cast. While I wasn’t a fan of the content (which I’ll get to), that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate a good performance when I see it. Teri Loretto-Valentik, as Mary, is just an absolute sweetheart whose emotional range and character complexities were about the only things that kept me engaged throughout the show. David Benedict Brown, as Kenny, was also delightful in creating a character who was able to bring a much needed levity [to the show.]” (onstageottawa.com/detroitreview)
Detroit runs now through February 1st at The Gladstone Theatre (onstageottawa.com/detroit).
Ottawa Little Theatre gave Ottawa the third open of last week, with Neil Simon’s rumours. I didn’t get out to this one, but from Valerie’s review, I can’t wait to check it out later in its run.
“Rumors features great performances and fantastic physical comedy from its cast. Steve Martin is the highlight, with a just-right accent and the quippiest, funniest lines. He steals the show near the end with a ridiculous monologue, delivered with a wonderful combination of confidence and bewilderment.” (onstageottawa.com/rumorsreview)
Rumours runs now through February 1st at the Ottawa Little Theatre. (onstageottawa.com/rumors)
Two shows kick off at the National Arts Centre this week: Kim’s Convenience and War Horse. We’re still a bit undermanned and there are no show pages for them on onstageottawa.com, but you can find out all you need to know at nac-cna.ca
Also opening this week is 9th Hour Theatre’s piece of verbatim theatre, Grain of Salt, about the good and ill of Christian faith and the Church. Grain of Salt plays at various locations around Ottawa for the next two weekends, including the Avalon Studio this Friday and Saturday where I’ll be in the audience. (onstageottawa.com/grainofsalt)
All of that gives you six very different shows to choose from. What will you be braving the cold to see?
ALSO THIS WEEK
If you missed the news last week, the Ottawa Theatre School recently closed its doors. This unexpected closure leaves nearly two-dozen students out in the cold as well as leaves a pretty big hole in Ottawa’s formal theatre arts education. Read the full article here: onstageottawa.com/otsclosure