Monday, 20 February 2012

Dance Immersion Honours Canadian Blacks in Dance

You might know Karen Kain, but have your heard of Len Gibson, Jeni Legon, Dindi Lidge, Zab Maboungou, Paul Pettiford, Kevin Pugh and Jean Sheen?  Whether your answer is yes, or no, you owe it to yourself to check out Dance Immersion's TRIBUTE: A Moving History of Canadian Blacks in Dance


TRIBUTE
February 23 -25, 2012
Fleck Dance Theatre
Fleck Dance Theatre
207 Queens Quay West

TICKETS
416-973-4000
http://tickets.harbourfrontcentre.com/production.aspx?id=15914

PRICES:

Regular tickets: $27−$32
Studen/Senior: $22−$27
NextSteps package price: $22-$27
Student/Senior package price: $17-$22




 

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.


IN THE HEIGHTS
Until February 19, 2012
Toronto Centre for the Arts
5040 Yonge Street (North York Centre subway)
Ticketshttp://dancaptickets.com/pages/buytickets
416-644-3665 or  1-866-950-7469
Photo: courtesy of http://www.dancaptickets.com/

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!

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

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

To Swim in His Blue Blue Eyes...

Oh, my! It has been a long time since I blogged! So, sorry, my dear followers--part busy life, part procrastination. Still pressed for time, but at least I've beat the procrastination. Here's a look at a few movies that I've seen since I last posted. What have you seen?

Carnage: why wasn't any of these lovely people nominated for Oscars?  It cast is comprised of 3 former winners, Kate Winslet, Jody Foster, Christoph Waltz,  and 1 Oscar-nominee, John C. Reilly. This satirical look at two couples discussing then battling it out over their respective son's role in a playground skirmish, is filled with deliciously scathing and witty dialogue delivered by a seasoned cast worthy of multiple ovations. If the film at some points feel stage-y, that's because Yasmina Reza has based the screenplay on her own play Le dieu du carnage, and because the entire evening takes place in one apartment. Director Roman Polansky is genius in what he brings out in his actors and how he chooses to capture their moments within this tight space. He breaks down walls as much as is possible in a one-set production, focusing attention on the players and using the set as a character that silently reveals personality and plot. His well-placed camera and character blocking relieve static and Reza's crackling dialogue make this film a merry experience.

I'm a good person/i'm a bad person: Thanks to Raindance Canada I was able to attend a public screening of Ingrid Veninger's film after having viewed it at an Industry screening at TIFF 2011. I'm a good person was one of my Top Ten Faves at last year's festival, tieing with Ralph Fiennes, Coriolanus. Oddly enough the two films screened withing days of each other!  You can see Coriolanus in theatres, but I'm a good person is intended for film festival viewing only, as the audience learned at the Indie Night at the Carlton screening. Director, Veninger, who currently teaches at York University, has decided that unless their is great demand for it, she would rather have an interested audience view her film, that navigate the uncertainties of of theatrical distribution where films with little or no budget duke it out with mega-Hollywood films with astronomical promotion budgets.

Cafe de flore: I've respected the work of director, Jean-Marc Vallée since his film C.R.A.Z.Y., but I didn't fall in love with him until a Canada Screens event of his then upcoming Young Victoria. After listening to him talk about making films, trying to remain independent while working in a business that demands soul-sucking compromises, trying to get the music you want in your film, and the problems of distribution, I fell into his swimming-pool blue eyes while having a one-on-one conversation with him at the bar. Being a mature woman, of a certain age, I don't allow my crushes to influence my take on a film (and if I ever feel I can't I will tell you straight up that my opinion is biased), so I honestly tell you that Cafe de flore is a film worth seeing, and seeing twice. The film follows two different story lines (mother/son; husband and wives), in two different time periods ('60s/present day) and cities (Paris/Montreal) connected by themes of love and obsession. The surprising success of the film lies with strong performances by Vanessa Paradis and screen newcomer, DJ turned actor, Kevin Parent in the lead roles. I say surprising because Paradis is not an actress know for this type of working class, unglamourous role and Parent is brilliant in a first time acting role that would be demanding, even for experienced actors. Jean-Marc Vallée's hands are all over this work in terms of the casting, music, and his collaboration with cinematographer Pierre Cottereau and an outstanding special effects team.

Monsieur Lahzar: We are so luck in Canada to have such wonderful directors whose work are finally getting international acknowledgement. Like Veninger, and Vallée, I have been a fan of Philippe Falardeau  several years. My introduction to Falardeau was via his 2000 film La moitee gauche de fringo. Since then I've seen and loved Congorama, C'est pas moi, je le jure! and now the Oscar-nominated, Monsieur Lahzar. I've never managed to get an interview with him, always somehow missing the connection, but since I would just gush anyway if I did, I will encourage you instead to go and see this delicate drama about a substitute school teacher (played by Mohamed Fellag) whose personal tragedy allows him to empathize and compassionately communicate with his grade-school students. Good luck on Oscar night, Philippe!