Sunday, 12 February 2012

Reviews: In the Heights, Zero Hour

Heading to the theatre? Here are two reviews for you to consider when making your selection.

In the Heights: After interviewing Perry Young about achieving his dream of playing the lead character Usnavi in the touring production of this play, and sharing with him my dream of seeing the play ever since watching the opening number on the Tony Awards years ago, I had high hopes when I attended the opening night of DanCap's production. Imagine my deflation then, upon learning that Perry Young was not going to be playing Usnavi that night, and imagine my further sagging spirits as I watch the equivalent of a very enthusiastic but amateur performance unfold over the next couple of hours. I could get over Perry not being on stage: it's live theatre and the show must go on, but this was no All About Eve where the understudy becomes the breakout star after filling in. Nope, this production and its cast did not rise to the heights of Lin-Manuel Miranda's brilliant work. The script about a Washington Heights latino community has interesting characters, a wonderfully condensed set that brings these characters together, and lyrics and music that reveal the characters lives, and should get audiences dancing in their seats, but when such superb elements are undermined by inexperienced actors, and an out of control sound system, the result is vexing. Actor Kyle Carter, whose character Benny is in love with university student, Nina has a robust voice and a smooth delivery in his songs; unfortunately he is paired with actress Virginia Cavaliere whose shrill singing made me cringe every time she uttered a note. Tauren Hagans breathes life into her role as hair salon owner, Daniela, and Bejamin Perez (as Nina's father, Kevin) elicits true emotions when singing about leaving his life as a farmer to follow the American dream, but even these worthy performances couldn't save the evening from being a disappointing let-down.

Until February 19, 2012
Toronto Centre for the Arts
5040 Yonge Street (North York Centre subway)
416-644-3665 or  1-866-950-7469
Photo: courtesy of

This well-reviewed play deserves all its accolades. After the disappointment of In the Heights, I was very happy to experience the adapt storytelling of Jim Brochu in Zero Hour. Whether or not you already know that  Zero Mostel was the original Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof or as Max Bialystock in The Producers, or his life as a painter, you will enjoy actor/playwright Jim Brochu's portrayal of this fascinating man. From his early days as a stand up comedian to his days on screen and stage and the searing punishment of being on Hollywood's Blacklist during the McCarthy era, Jim Brochu inhabits Mostel's body like a bespoke suit.  At intermission, I couldn't wait for the lights to come back up on the stage to hear more. Revelations from Mostel come in the form of responses to questions from an unseen young journalist, while Mostel putters around his studio painting. The staging is pretty much centre stage, to stage left, and stage right, and I wish some multi-media had been used to include and display Mostel's artwork (after all, he bills himself as a painter who acts), but these are minor concerns in this Piper Laurie directed performance. At heart, Zero Hour, is a storytelling piece about a fascinating man worthy or remembrance. It's also pretty darn funny!

Until March 11
Bathurst Street Theatre
739 Bathurst Street (one block south of Bloor)
Tickets: or 1-855-985-2787
Discount Code: get 2 for 1 tickets by using ZERO5
Student Rush available 1 hour prior to curtain

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