Win Two Tickets to the Opening Night of Bring it On: The Musical!

Posted in Uncategorized on April 29, 2012 by broadwaybabyto

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I’m giving away two tickets to the upcoming Mirvish presentation of Bring it On: The Musical to one lucky Twitter follower! The winner will receive a pair of tickets to opening night in Toronto at the Ed Mirvish Theatre.

The brand new musical is loosely based on the popular film franchise, and brings together musical theatre and competitive cheerleading.  The production has a team of heavy hitters behind it, including Tony Award®-winning composer Lin-Manuel Miranda (In The Heights); Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award®-winning composer Tom Kitt (Next to Normal) and Tony Award®-winning director/choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler (In The Heights).

While the show is billed as a musical, the cast is split 50/50 between theatre performers and professional cheerleaders, creating a unique blend of fantastic music and eye-popping acrobatics.  Sure to be unlike anything Toronto has seen before, Bring it On promises to leave you cheering in your seats!

To enter to win tickets, simply follow @broadwaybabyto on Twitter and post the following update anytime between 12 noon on Sunday, April 29th and 5PM on Wednesday May 2nd:

“I want to cheer, lead and act like I’m on speed with @broadwaybabyto at the @Mirvish opening night for Bring it On!”

The winner will be selected at random and notified by 8PM on Wednesday, May 2nd.  Winners are responsible for their own transportation to and from the event and must pick up their tickets before 7:30PM on Thursday, May 3rd 2012.  Only one entry per Twitter account.

For more information about Bring it On please visit the Mirvish website at www.mirvish.com

Revisiting Les Miserables after 25 Years – The 25th Anniversary Tour stops in Detroit

Posted in Uncategorized on April 6, 2011 by broadwaybabyto

Les Miserables was my introduction to musical theatre, and has held a special place in my heart for twenty five years.  I was fortunate enough to see the Original Canadian Cast in 1987, and have returned to the show that ignited my love for all things musical many times over the years. So naturally I was nervous when I heard that the latest “25th Anniversary Tour” was actually a new production, with changes to my beloved show.  For me, Les Miserables was a perfect piece of musical theatre – one of those shows where, as an audience member, you could easily forgive obvious problems because the production as a whole was so powerful and special.  I couldn’t fathom it being changed without ending in disaster, and I know many people were concerned that the show would somehow lose the magic that has kept it alive for a quarter of a century.

These concerns are completely unwarranted.  The new production is simply stunning, and breathes new life into the classic tale.  For those who don’t know, Les Miserables is based on Victor Hugo’s classic novel about right and wrong, good versus evil and ultimately, the survival of the human spirit.  The 25th Anniversary Tour features new staging, scenery and costumes largely inspired by paintings of Victor Hugo.

A musical doesn’t last a quarter of a century without a spectacular score, and the score to Les Miserables is virtually untouched in this new production.  Instead, the creative team focuses on changes to the set that serve to accentuate the story.  I don’t want to give away any of the changes as the surprise was part of the joy of the production, but suffice it to say they work extremely well, and serve to further flesh out the story.

The show begins with a gorgeous backdrop painting of Victor Hugo’s, and just the first few notes of the Overture will sweep you up in the magic of Les Miserables.  Ron Sharpe plays the convict Jean Valjean, with Andrew Varela playing his nemesis – Police Inspector Javert.  Both men rise to the occasion in difficult roles and give outstanding performances.  Their voices complement each other well, and when they square off in songs like “Confrontation” it’s a joy to listen to.  Both men also act their roles with panache, as they struggle with questions of morality and the internal conflict both deal with throughout the story.  These two roles are challenging because they span decades and the characters go through intense transformations.  The new staging further helps the actors accomplish this goal, so that by the end of the show the audience feels they have grown along with the characters. In the end, you are left to question your own beliefs of what is right and what is wrong, and the issue of who the real “villain” of the story is becomes properly muddled, adding to the power of the story.

As Valjean, Ron Sharpe shows us just how powerful this role can be when done right.  Jean Valjean carries the story of Les Miserables, and it also happens to be the most vocally demanding role in the show.  Mr. Sharpe did a wonderful job of showing the growth of Jean Valjean from a jaded and emotionally confused convict on the run to an established father, friend and man of moral integrity.  During the show’s pinnacle number “Bring Him Home” Mr. Sharpe seemed to struggle to hit some of the higher notes; however, the raw emotion he conveys throughout the song more than made up for the minor difficulty he was experiencing.  By the end the audience is genuinely invested in Valjean and his plight.

On the other side of the law is Inspector Javert, played by Andrew Varela (who played the role of Jean Valjean on Broadway before stepping into the role of Javert).  Mr. Varela delivers a consistently strong performance, and does a fabulous job of showcasing the internal conflict Javert experiences.  The role is one that I have too often seen played one-dimensionally, with Javert simply being a man of the law who we, the audience, root against because of his conflict with Valjean.  However, Mr. Varela makes excellent use of some of the directorial changes to expand on the character of Javert and make him more human.  In his Act I show-stopper “Stars” he convinces us that this man feels his way is the ONLY way, yet by the time “Javert’s Suicide” comes in Act II we can see a man who is broken down and extremely conflicted. 

There isn’t a weak link in the entire cast; in fact there are more than a few stand-out performances in addition to Mr. Sharpe and Mr. Varela.  John Rapson went on in place of Michael Kostroff as Thenardier, and brought a new level of contempt to a role that too many actors play as simply comedic relief.  Some of the subtle changes made to this particular role delighted me – Mr. Rapson and Shawna M. Hamic (in the role of Madame Thenardier) both handled the material brilliantly.  These characters are meant to be downright despicable but also get many of the biggest laughs in the show, and the pair had the audience eating up every word during “Master of the House.”

The female leads were equally strong, delivering heart-wrenching performances.  In particular, Chasten Harmon stood out as the tough-as-nails and tragically over-looked Eponine.  In her Act II solo “On My Own”, Ms. Harmon was vocally outstanding while also conveying the heartache and difficulty that Eponine experiences as she realizes that she truly is alone in the world.

Finally, the male leads did an excellent job.  A large portion of the show centers around the student revolution that took place in France prior to the French Revolution, and the young men portraying the students who rise up to fight against the social injustices they are faced with were outstanding.  Both Jeremy Hays as Enjolras and Justin Scott Brown as Marius had beautiful voices and were attractive to boot – which goes a long way towards tugging at the heart strings when they begin fighting upon the barricades.  A special mention should go to Joseph Spieldenner as Grantaire, a role that is often over-looked despite being integral to the story.  Mr. Spieldenner ensured that Grantaire was not only noticed but actually stood out amongst the group of students; at no point was this more noticeable than during Gavroche’s death.  It was at this point in the show that any remaining doubt I may have had about the various changes fell away.  I don’t want to say how the scene plays out, but I will say that the staging and lighting is used in an ingenious and powerful way to accentuate the relationship between Grantiare and young Gavroche, packing his untimely demise with a greater emotional punch than it did in previous incarnations.

Overall this was a wonderful production, one well-suited to grace The Great White Way again sooner rather than later.  In the end, Les Miserables is a story of the triumph of good over evil, told through beautiful and timeless music that the world has thoroughly embraced.  The 25th Anniversary Tour succeeds in making the production fresh and giving it new life, something which I hope will ensure that Les Miserables gets to celebrate a 50th Anniversary still going strong.  

For more information on the 25th Anniversary US Tour please visit the official website at www.lesmis.com/us-tour

Toronto’s Cabaret Star Sharron Matthews Gets Ready for World Domination!

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on April 14, 2010 by broadwaybabyto

 Sharron Matthews is getting ready to take over the world CABARET STYLE! Well-known in Canada as one of the country’s greatest Cabaret artists, Sharron has been wowing Toronto audiences with her unique Cabaret evenings and amazing vocal styling for years, and now she is getting ready to take her show on the road with her World Domination Tour.

When Sharron decided that she wanted to take her show on the road, she applied for multiple government grants only to get denied funding because her show was deemed too commercial and too “cabaret.” Instead of giving up, she has decided to try and do it on her own, which is why she needs help raising money! The best thing about the fundraising events is that they promise to be a fun and exciting night out for everyone involved!

Sharron is about to depart Canada for her first ever Cabaret in NYC at the infamous Joe’s Pub. New York Magazine has raved that “you never know what you’ll find next at Joe’s Pub, but you can count on the fact that it will be very very good.” Sharron had lots of support from Broadway veterans such as Sutton Foster and Louise Pitre in securing the gig at Joe’s Pub, which promises to be a treat for all those in the NYC area. After that, she heads to the world’s LARGEST arts festival The Edinburgh Festival in Scotland from August 16th to the 28th.

The goal of these events is not simply to promote Sharron’s show, but also to promote awareness of Canadian artists in the worldwide theatre community and to expose young Canadian talent to the possibilities that are out there for them. Ultimately, Sharron would love to have her show picked up through one of these events, but they will also serve to do so much more in that they will showcase and highlight some of the amazing talent Canada has to offer.

The Toronto fundraiser is going to feature seven up and comers to the Canadian Cabaret scene, as well as music by Nirvana, Kiss, Britney Spears, Rod Stewart, Donna Summer and many more. In addition, there will be a silent auction, 50/50 draw, t-shirts and swag!

Come on out and join Sharron’s Army! Anyone who helps support her cause becomes a part of her Army, as this truly is going to be a group effort for the many people who have supported Sharron over the years and the many new fans she is bound to pick up along the way!

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When and Where?

The Sharron Matthews Superstar World Domination Tour
Tallulah’s Cabaret, Buddies in Bad Times Theatre 12 Alexander Street, Toronto, ON
April 16th and 17th – Doors at 7:30PM, Show at 8PM

Tickets are $30.00 ($20 with a Student and Arts Worker Discount) and can be purchased by phone through the Buddies Box Office at 416.975.8555 or online at www.totix.ca

For more information please visit the following websites:

Sharron’s World Domination Facebook Page

Sharron’s Blog

Sharron’s Joe’s Pub Page: http://www.joespub.com/component/option,com_shows/task,view/Itemid,40/id,5106

Edinburgh Venue Site: http://www.thespaceuk.com/edinburgh/venue53-info

Edinburgh Fringe: www.edfringe.com

Sharron’s World Domination Official Video:

And her favourite monologue – this video is a great example of what great Cabaret can be…and I hope everyone gets a great chuckle out of it:

Finally, I really hope to see some people get out to support Sharron on the 16th or the 17th (or both!) If you want more details there is plenty of contact information here, but people can also feel free to email me at broadwaybabytoronto@gmail.com  And of course, if you see me, feel free to say hi and introduce yourself.  I always love meeting new theatre lovers and am happy to chat with people, so don’t be shy, come say hello! And for what it’s worth, if anyone wants to send me to NYC to watch Sharron have her Joe’s Pub debut, I might not turn you down…this Broadway Baby is ready to hit the bright lights, big city once again.  As Carrie Bradshaw once said…”Bright Lights, Date City!”  Yep, I need a date…and a flight.  A gal can dream.  Look at Sharron, proof positive of what dreaming big can accomplish.  She is a true role model.

UPDATE: I just received details on what items Sharron will be auctioning off for her silent auction! There are some great packages up for grabs, so get your wallets ready!

 

Lot 1“Sharron’s Official Tour Companion”Package

2 tickets to “Sharron Matthews Superstar” in TORONTO Buddies in Bad Times May 8th or 9th 2010
* 2 tickets to “Sharron Matthews Superstar” in NEW YORK Joe’s Pub June 5th or 6th 2010
* 2 ticket to “Sharron Matthews Superstar” in EDINBURGH theSpace@Surgeon’s Hall
1 Picture with Sharron that will be featured on her Website declaring you her OFFICIAL TOUR COMPANION! for 2010
* 1 “Sharron’s Official Tour Companion” TShirt
Est Value: $200.00

Lot 2 “Rock of Ages” Package

2 Tickets to “Rock of Ages” at the Royal Alex June 1st 2010
1 Official CD Soundtrack of the Original Company of “Rock Of Ages”
1 poster for the Canadian production of “Rock of Ages”
EST VALUE: $250.00

Lot 3 “Toronto Theatre Lovers” Package

2 Tickets to the July 12th, 2010 Performance of “Jitters” at Soulpepper at the Young Centre
2 Weekday 3 Night Season Subscriptions to Buddies in Bad Times Theatre
2 tickets to the October 30th, 2010 Opera Atelier production of Handel’s “Acis and Galatea”
2 Tours of the Winter Garden Elgin Theatres
Est. Value: $450.00

Lot 4 “Sharron Did a Kid’s Show?!” Package

Family Four Pack (4 tickets) to any show in the Lorraine Kimsa Theatre For Young People 2010/11 Season
1 Framed Photo of Sharron in her Dora nominated performance of The Wicked Witch in Lorraine Kimsa Theatre For Young People production of “The Wizard of Oz”
1 Photocopy of Sharron’s Dora nomination to prove it!
Est. Value: $80.00

Lot 5 “Bruce Dow’s Package” Package

2 Tickets to “Two Gentlemen of Verona” at the Stratford Festival in which Bruce Dow stars
2 Signed copies of Bruce Dow’s CDs “Lucky to Be Me” and “Keepin’ Out Of Mischief”
1 Backstage tour after “Two Gentlemen of Verona” conducted by Bruce Dow HimSELF!!!
Est. Value: $200.00

Lot 6 “Come See and Drink with Sharron in Edinburgh” Package

*2 tickets to “Sharron Matthews Superstar” at theSpace @ Surgeon’s Hall in Edinburgh between August 16th and 28th 2010
*2 Drinks (total!) after the show with Sharron!!!
*2 Edinburgh 2 Day Passes (Bus Passes, Airport transport passes, Free entrance to most attractions in Edinburgh
*2 “Sharron’s Army” TShirts
Est Value: $310.00

Lot 7 “Come See and Drink with Sharron at Joe’s Pub in NY” Package

* 2 tickets to “Sharron Matthews Superstar” at Joe’s Pub June 5th or 6th 2010
* 2 Drinks (total!) after the show with Sharron!!!
2 “Sharron’s Army” TShirts
Est Value: $200.00

Lot 8 “Bird on Head on Field of Red” Painting by Toronto’s PattyZee
Est Value : $300.00

Lot 9 “Cat on Head with Butterflies” Painting by Toronto’s PattyZee
Est Value : $300.00

Lot 10 “Toronto Cabaret Lover’s Cd Package”

* 6 CDs, one by each of these fabulous artists George Masswohl, Patricia Zentilli and Patti Loach, Jean Stilwell and Patti Loach, Gabi Epstein, Michael Hughes and Thom Allison

NOTE: There are two of these packages. One for each night
Est Value : $120.00

Lot 11 “Be Your Own Superstar” Package

$150.00 Worth of mineral make up from Daniel Thompson Beauty ( Sharron’s Fave Make UP!)
Jewelry from Just For You by Alex (Sharron’s Fave Jewelry Designer)
1 Styling session and a $25.00 Gift Certificate from Sharron’s Fave Clothing Designer and clothing sponsor “Pam Chorley’s Fashion Crimes”

Lot 12 “ I Wish Sharron Had Sung…” The Last Song of the Night Package

Purchasing this package entitles you to choose the LAST SONG of the night TONIGHT!!!

From this list:
Bohemian Rhapsody * Hotel California * Don’t Stop Believin’
Creep * Material Girl/Diamonds Are Forever * Hanging By A Thread * How Deep is Your Love * I’ve Never Been to Me
Last Dance* Slave 4 U * True Colours * Brandy

AND IF YOUR BID is over $2000.00 you will recieve an appearance by Sharron at the event of your choice! (Anywhere within 75 Kilometres of Toronto)

Toronto Gets Ready to Rock with Canadian Premiere of “Rock of Ages”

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on April 9, 2010 by broadwaybabyto

For anyone who doesn’t already know, the smash-hit 80’s rock musical Rock of Ages is about to make its Canadian debut in Toronto on April 20th, 2010.  Rock of Ages is a “jukebox” musical in that it is based around popular songs that people already know, similar to the very popular Jersey Boys which is already into its second successful year in Toronto.  On Broadway, Rock of Ages has been very successful, selling well and nominated for five Tony Awards in 2009, including Best Musical, Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical for Constantine Maroulis, Best Direction of a Musical for Kristin Hanggi, Best Costume Design for Gregory Gale and Best Sound Design for Peter Hylenski.  It didn’t win any Tony Awards; however, it’s strong selling record on Broadway speaks to its popularity.  At a time when many shows are closing shortly after they open and (in some cases) failing to recoup their  investment, Rock of Ages seems to be proving that with the right formula, people will still pay to go to theatre (sometimes over and over again).

Rock of Ages is built around classic rock hits from the 1980s and features songs from artists such as Styx, Journey, Bon Jovi, Pat Benatar, Poison and more.  It is known for being a very light-hearted show but it has received a very warm reception on Broadway.  Unlike a lot of shows it often breaks the “forth wall” and will directly address the audience. In addition, audience members can look forward to a lot of interaction due to the popular nature of the songs.

It is always exciting when Toronto gets a new show.  Lately we have been blessed with many outstanding tour productions; however, we haven’t had a lot of sit-down productions that are compromised of Canadian talent.  It is the Canadian talent that makes me so excited for Rock of Ages. In addition to the fact that this production will give Toronto a chance to showcase local talent, it is also exciting as additional productions of Rock of Ages are currently in the works (including Melbourne, Australia and a US National Tour) yet Toronto is the first city to produce its own show outside of Broadway.  Since the days of our long-running sit-down productions seem long gone (think back to Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserables, Miss Saigon, Beauty and the Beast, Tommy and more) I think that the unveiling of the Canadian Rock of Ages is a milestone event.  Hopefully the show will prove a huge success and there will be more opportunity for us to create our own productions instead of simply inviting in US National Tours. 

Time will tell – this Broadway Baby suspects that the future of Toronto musical theatre may largely rely on how successful these new productions are financially.  But with the Toronto Cast of Jersey Boys still going strong and the advance buzz on Rock of Ages extremely positive, I am nothing if not optimistic.

And so, I bring you a sneak peak at the musical’s Canadian Cast! On April 5th, the cast and crew opened up the doors of their rehearsal hall to the media and performed a special 20 minute segment of excerpts from the show.  Roger Cullman was on hand and took some beautiful photographs which can be seen below:

The Canadian Cast of Rock of Ages features (among others): Yvan Pedneault as Drew, Elicia Mackenzie as Sherrie, Peter Deiwick as Stacee Jaxx, David W. Keeley as Dennis and Aaron Walpole as Lonny.

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In addition, NewsTalk1010 posted exclusive video of the cast performing “Here I Go Again”  I’m very curious to hear what people think of the performance.  Please before making comments remember that the cast is still in rehearsal stage.  Personally, I think its good fun and love the funky choreography, and am looking forward to seeing more when the show officially opens!

For more information, check out the official Rock of Ages Website at www.rockofagesmusical.com

For more information on the Toronto production or to purchase tickets, please visit the Mirvish website at www.mirvish.com

Belated World Theatre Day Post (how I fell in love with musical theatre and writing)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , on April 6, 2010 by broadwaybabyto

First, I should apologize for my tardiness in getting this entry posted, perhaps due to the fact that it was World Theatre Day on March 27th, the theatre scene and therefore my workload was particularily busy.  That being said, I couldn’t let the holiday pass without a blog entry dedicated to the occasion, and therefore I bring you my belated WTD2010 post – how I came to love musical theatre:

People often ask me how I came to review theatre, and why it is that I spend so many hours slaving over blog posts, Twitter conversations and attending many nights out watching various productions.  The answer is not very exciting – to put it simply, I love it.  Always have.  In honour of World Theatre Day 2010, I decided to try and put into words just how this Broadway Baby was born.

It goes back a long way – best I can tell, my love for theatre was sparked when I was a mere five years old, and my Mom would play the Original London Cast Recording of Boubil and Schonberg’s Les Miserables in the car when she would pick me up from daycare and bring me home.  I still remember crying during “Come To Me” and tearfully asking my Mom to explain to me what happened to Cosette after Fantine died.  My Mom would simply shake her head and switch to something a bit more upbeat (usually Amy Grant or the soundtrack to Dirty Dancing – I was afterall a child of the 80s) but always promised that one day she would take me to see the musical and I would understand.  Of course, I was a stubborn child who had already been bitten by the musical bug, and “someday” wasn’t cutting it for me.  So I borrowed the Original Broadway Cast Recording from a friend and listened to it over and over again, trying to make sense of the story and understand exactly what was happening behind the music that I was falling in love with.  I would sit in my room and sing along, generally alternating between being either Eponine or Gavroche.  With a natural flair for the dramatic, seems only fitting I would gravitate towards characters who met a more devastating demise, perhaps I always knew a storybook ending wasn’t likely to be in my future.

Later that same year, my Mom finally made good on her promise.  The Canadian Premiere of Les Miserables took place at the Royal Alexandra Theatre in 1987 courtesy of Mirvish Productions, and I remember my parents got us third row seats.  They dressed me up in my fur coat and patent leather Mary Janes, as this was back in the day when people still deigned to dress up when going out to the theatre.  My Mom wore a beautiful dress and my Dad looked handsome in his suit, and I remember we ate at Ed’s Seafood (which sadly no longer exists) before trekking to the theatre.  It was the most magical night of my life.  The music that had been playing in my head over and over again for many months came alive in front of me, and these characters were solidified as permanent fixtures in my life.  I can still remember almost every detail – the costumes, the voices, the tears.  Suddenly, the music made sense.  The story was so powerful it broke my heart, and exposed me to a whole world I never knew existed.  That first performance of Les Miserables didn’t just expose me to my love for musical theatre, but also to general theatre, to history, to French studies and the French language, culture and of course, writing.

At curtain call the actress playing Mme Thenardier winked at me, and I remember feeling like I was on Cloud 9.  My parents could barely get me to go to bed that night as I wanted to listen to the recording “one more time”!  It continued to be played regularly for years, much to the chagrin of my parents and my friends.  I dressed up as Gavroche for Halloween one year, and every night would go to sleep in my ratty grey Les Miserables t-shirt that was about five sizes too big. 

When World Theatre Day 2010 was approaching, there was much discussion on people’s first experiences at the theatre.  Some of the most popular responses certainly reflect my generation (CATS, Phantom of the Opera, RENT, The Lion King) as well as geographical location (the Canadian Classic Anne of Green Gables).  Strangely, I was one of the few people who listed Les Miserables as their first theatre experience.  I am however extremely grateful that it was this show that introduced me to my love for Broadway, because I think that falling in love with this production helped shape and mold me into the person I ended up becoming.  Eventually I saw all the shows listed above (some many times over) but the one that always kept me coming back, and the one that is always nearest and dearest to my heart, is the French classic that is now regarded as the world’s most popular musical.  It’s nice to be in good company.

As for how I came to review theatre, it was largely the result of that initial experience with Les Miserables.  Once I saw the musical I quickly got my hands on a copy of the Victor Hugo classic novel, and then read more French classics and other great literature from the same time period.  Suffice it to say not many children my age were reading such books, and because I found it alienated me a bit from my peers, I began to write as a creative outlet and a way to pass my time. 

Gradually I began to write more and more, and as much as I loved it, I was always repeatedly drawn back to the theatre.  I would try and see every new production that came to Toronto, always in the hopes that I would get to experience that same magic one more time.  So far, I have not had an experience quite like that first time watching Les Miserables; however, I have been able to see many wonderful and touching productions that have affected my life in more ways than I could ever hope to write down.  Seemed only natural to try and find a way to fuse my passion for writing with my love of theatre, and the desire to review shows was born. 

It is an amazing thing, when you basically get to live your dream.  I’m able to do something I love and (hopefully) contribute in some small way to the theatre experiences of other people.  I get to see many shows that I otherwise wouldn’t get the chance to see, and then I get to write about them.  And sometimes, I even find myself looking at the children in the audience, watching closely and hoping to catch a brief glimpse of the magic that can only come once – that very first time a musical touches your soul.

TOUR INFORMATION:

For anyone who is interested, the UK production of Les Miserables is celebrating 25 years on stage in London by launching a worldwide tour with an all-star cast.  As of right now there have been no dates announced for Toronto but the tour is making a stop in Detroit, and this Broadway Baby certainly plans on attending.  For more details, check out the Broadway in Detroit website: http://www.broadwayindetroit.com/index.cfm

How a Woman in a Clown Nose Helped Restore my Faith in the Opposite Sex

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on March 26, 2010 by broadwaybabyto

 

I wrote the following review for the Toronto page of BroadwayWorld, but I felt it was appropriate to post it here as well.  While this blog will focus primarily on Broadway related shows in the Toronto area, Toronto theatre has a ton to offer in the way of smaller productions that often do not get the attention they deserve.  Rebecca Northan’s amazing Blind Date is a perfect example of one of these shows.  A unique mix of comedy, improv and romance, it was one of the finest nights out at the theatre this Broadway Baby has had in a long day.  And it was exactly what my jaded and cynical heart needed – something to lift me up and remind me that hope is not lost, that there are still wonderful, kind and unique men out there.  Granted, perhaps one needs to attend theatre in order to meet them, but that is hardly a downside as far as I’m concerned.  I have high hopes that Ms. Northan will get a shot to take her show to NYC, as I feel that jaded and cynical New Yorkers would definitely benefit from a dose of her healthy and wonderful comedy. 

I am in love. After seeing Rebecca Northan’s Blind Date, I now believe in a new and profound kind of love. I believe in the possibility of a love without borders, prejudice or games. I say this because while at this wildly entertaining show, I found myself falling in love with the lovely Ms. Northan as well as her blind date. I felt honoured to be a part of this unique piece of theatre, and by the end of the evening felt connected on a deep and meaningful level to Ms. Northan’s character Mimi, as well as to the brave gentleman who stood up and became her date for the evening.
Blind Date just wrapped a sold-out three week run at The Brigantine Room in Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre, and after seeing the show, it is easy to see why it was so popular. The premise is actually quite simple – Ms. Northan stars as Mimi, a Parisian woman stood up while waiting for her blind date in a French café along The Seine. When she realizes her date won’t be arriving, she turns to the audience and plucks a young man out of the crowd to fill in as her suitor for the evening. What ensues is a hilarious and touching piece of improv theatre, which is both terrifying and enlightening at the same time. Credit must be given to the brave men who partake in the show each night – these guys have no idea what they are getting themselves into when they go up on stage to be romanced for ninety minutes in front of a crowd of 250 people.
When I interviewed Ms. Northan prior to the show’s opening, she told me about how she always finds something to love about each and every guy she does the show with, and I remember scoffing at the very idea. Perhaps I have become pessimistic due to the dreary dating scene with which I have become accustomed, but I found it hard to believe that she legitimately found something to love about all these different guys who are complete strangers to her at the beginning of the night. Moreover, I found it impossible to believe that the guys themselves lasted the whole ninety minutes and that she had never been turned down.
Perhaps it was the French setting, or the beautiful lights, or the accordion player dancing around the room – but within five minutes, I realized that my pessimistic outlook was going to be put to the test. And indeed it was. Ms. Northan is so careful, charming, respectful and funny – you can’t help but fall in love with her. She “bobs and weaves” along with her suitor to keep the date going, all the while drawing the selected man out of his shell and getting him to share personal details about himself. And it is in these moments that the audience has the chance to truly fall in love with the guy. When he lets his guard down and finally opens up to “Mimi” he is in fact, opening up to himself and the entire audience, and it is a beautiful thing. It is also a true testimonial to Ms. Northan’s comedic ability and sense of personal interaction, as not many people would be able to keep a frightened man on stage for a “date” for ninety minutes and have it turn out positively in the end.
Blind Date was truly the most fun I have had at the theatre in a very long time, and to an extent, it restored my faith in the opposite sex. The vulnerability that these men exhibit and the truth and honesty that comes out when they do finally let “Mimi” in goes to show that there really is something to love about everyone out there. Each person is unique and has something to offer, something to teach, and something to love.
It is my humble opinion that this show is going to be one to watch, and I sincerely hope that we soon see Mimi lighting up the Great White Way with her unique blend of humour, wit and bravery. If that is the case, I urge New Yorkers to consider making a date with Blind Date. Ms. Northan could end up being Canada’s Carrie Bradshaw.

Additional Information:

Follow Mimi’s adventures via her facebook page. She updates the page each night after the performances: facebook.com/blind.date.mimi

For more information on Harbourfront’s WorldStage programming, visit their website: http://www.harbourfrontcentre.com/worldstage0910/

Stephen Sondheim Turns 80, and this Broadway Baby Says “Thank You”

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 23, 2010 by broadwaybabyto

My blog officially launches today, so thank you for coming to check it out! Given that today marks the 80th birthday of legendary composer Stephen Sondheim, it seemed the perfect day to launch a blog named after the song from his show “Follies.”  Sondheim has been described many times as the greatest composer of the last fifty years, and the Broadway community is showing their appreciation for his wonderful talent in many ways today.

I’m celebrating by listening to songs from many of his wonderful shows over a hot cup of coffee, marveling at his contributions to musical theatre.  Stephen Sondheim opened my eyes and showed me the musicals could be more than just song and dance numbers strung together. Every show the man has ever done has been so special, so touching and so smart.  After all, we are talking about a man who was able to put a show about a revenge filled demon barber to music and have it become a huge success on Broadway and also a major motion picture (Sweeney Todd).  On the opposite end of the scale, he gave us the wonderful musical Company which takes a close look at relationships, love and marriage and really asks all the right questions.  That show helped me examine my own life and what I was looking for out of love, and helped me ascertain what I knew I didn’t want.

For this Broadway Baby, musical theatre has always been a wonderful thing.  Theatre is my favourite thing in the world, it is my escape, my entertainment and my joy.  One amazing thing about musicals is how often they relate directly to real life, I have rarely gone to a show without overhearing people in the audience commenting about something they were able to take away from the show that directly related to them.  More often than not, musicals are happy go lucky and leave you feeling better about things, and their message is generally obvious and hard to miss. 

The magic of Stephen Sondheim is that his musicals aren’t always so obvious.  They don’t always relate directly to real life (I for one do not know many barbers killing people and turning them into meat pies).  Sondheim shows often have shorter runs on Broadway, with less rabid fans than some of the large scale, longer running shows such as Wicked or RENT.  And, in my opinion, it could be because the messages are more subtle.  Sondheim is a truly gifted composer who, in a way, expects a bit more from his audience.  His shows challenge you to think beyond what is directly in front of you, and in subtle and nuanced ways, you find yourself questioning many of life’s bigger issues.

I could go on at length about all the messages and lessons that I have personally learned through various Sondheim shows, but I fear that it would go on all day.  Instead, I will focus on one in particular, as my personal tribute to a composer who helped me re-examine one of the most contentious issues in life – relationships and love.

I’m willing to bet most people would not think of relationships or love when first asked their thoughts on Sondheim, but if you look closely at his pieces over the years, a lot of them examine this topic very closely and with an impressive amount of clarity.  Company, for example, is dedicated almost in its entirety to looking at issues surrounding relationships, and the magic of that show is that it gives you an inside glimpse into various relationships and takes the brave step of showing the audience that marriage does not always equal happiness.  Of course, it ends on an optimistic note – but in my mind there is nothing wrong with that.  What I loved about the show was that it took the time to explore the various problems and challenges married couples have, instead of just trying to shove “happily ever after” down the audiences’ throat.

In addition to Company, many of the lyrics in other Sondheim songs also take the viewpoint that love is something to be taken very seriously, and a partner is someone to be chosen very carefully.  And this is why I love Sondheim’s work so much.  Too many musicals push towards the “happily ever after” too quickly, making the hasty (and incorrect) assumption that once a woman settles down, she will be happy and all life’s problems will disappear.  As a single woman who often has to deal with the pitiful looks from strangers when attending shows or meals alone, I appreciate the fact that someone out there is writing music that speaks to the fact that couple-dom does not always equal happiness.  Sometimes, being alone is the wiser choice, until you find that right person that you are truly meant to be with.  And if you don’t’ find that person, there is also nothing wrong with being alone, and learning to be happy on your own is truly one of the greatest gifts anyone can find in their life.  The music of Sondheim subtly teaches this message, or at the very least, that is the message this Broadway Baby took from many of his fantastic songs.

In honour of his 80th birthday, I’m going to share lyrics from a few of my favourite songs that examine relationships closely, and I hope the lyrics give other people the chance to interpret this man’s wonderful music for themselves, and possible make a discovery such as my own.  Today I hope that at least one person will discover the genius that is Stephen Sondheim, and another musical theatre geek will be born! And for those still scared off by musical theatre, I feel it my duty to point out that Sondheim also composed the bulk of the music for the hit movie Dick Tracy, including the Oscar nominated song Sooner or Later, performed at the 1991 Academy Awards by Madonna

“Getting Married Today” from Company

Listen, everybody, look, I don’t know what you’re waiting for,
a wedding, what’s a wedding, it’s a prehistoric ritual
where everybody promises fidelity forever, which is
maybe the most horrifying word I ever heard of, which is
followed by a honeymoon, where suddenly he’ll realize he’s
saddled with a nut, and wanna kill me, which he should

“Live Alone and Like It” from Dick Tracy

Live alone and like it
Why is that such a crime?

Free to call the tune,
Free to say if you’re
Gonna work or play
You can have the moon
But you don’t have to have
It night and day

Anyway,
On your own with only
You to concern yourself
Doesn’t mean you’re lonely
Just that you’re free
Live and alone and like it
Don’t come down from that tree.

And finally, because I feel it is important to attempt to end on a positive and optimistic note, “Being Alive” from Company.  This song may just sum up exactly how I currently feel about love and relationships, and what I think everyone should strive to find.  Too many women these days are being taught to settle for fear of being alone, and this song for me encapsulates exactly what people should strive for, instead of settling for what is easy.

“Being Alive” from Company

Somebody hold me too close
Somebody hurt me too deep
Somebody sit in my chair
And ruin my sleep
And make me aware of being alive, make me alive

Somebody need me too much
Somebody know me too well
Somebody pull me up short
And put me through hell
And give me support for being alive,
Being alive,
Make me alive, make me confused
Mock me with praise, let me be used
Vary my days, but alone is alone, not alive!

Somebody crowd me with love
Somebody force me to care
Somebody make me come through
I’ll always be there

As frightened as you to help us survive,
Being alive, make me confused
Mock me with praise, let me be used
Vary my days, but alone is alone, not alive!

Somebody crowd me with love
Somebody force me to care
Somebody make me come through
I’ll always be there
As frightened as you to help us survive,
Being alive,
Make me confused
Mock me with praise, let me be used
Vary my days, but alone is alone, not alive!
Somebody crowd me with love
Somebody force me to care
Somebody make me come through
I’ll always be there
As frightened as you to help us survive,
Being alive, Being alive

In honour of Sondheim’s 80th birthday the Broadway community is celebrating with features on his music and his shows, and below is a sampling of sites I recommend checking out:

Sondheim – A History in Poster Art

My Favourite Sondheim – Broadway Songwriters Choose Their Favourite Sondheim Songs

Kevin Daly’s Blog: Good Thing Going – Tribute to Sondheim on his 80th

Sondheim at 80 – 30 Songs in 9 Minutes

And for those readers currently in NYC (or able to get there) you can check out two Sondheim shows running right now.  First is the revival of A Little Night Music starring the incomparable Angela Lansbury and Catherine Zeta Jones.  Second is a tribute show entitled Sondheim on Sondheim, starring Barbara Cook, Vanessa Williams and Tom Wopat.

In the future, this blog will be mostly dedicated to bringing you all the news on Toronto’s thriving theatre scene, with an emphasis on Broadway news as well.  Toronto has a great theatre scene with many wonderful productions, and we aren’t that far from NYC and other places that also put on wonderful shows.  So if you love musicals, watch this space for updates, news and reviews, interviews and maybe even the odd giveaway – and make sure you don’t miss out on any of the wonderful theatre love Toronto has to offer.