Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Theatre: Beautiful - The Carole King Story

As I have stated before, I usually don't like biographical jukebox "musicals", which for me are actually dramas interspersed with the songs made popular by the subjects of the biographies.  I consider them to be sub-standard to what I consider "real musicals" where original songs are written that convey or advance the plot.  I brought this bias with me when I watched Beautiful - the Carole King Story but surprisingly ended up being totally charmed by the performance.  It helped that I was familiar with and liked most of the songs, which are considered to be standards or classics today.

The show follows the life and career of singer/songwriter Carole King from age 16 when she sells her first song "It Might As Well Rain Until September" until age 29 when she plays Carnegie Hall after winning multiple Grammy awards for her hit album Tapestry.  At 17, King becomes pregnant by and marries her writing partner Gerry Goffin, and for the next decade they produced hit after hit including "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?", "Take Good Care of My Baby", "Up On the Roof" and "Locomotion", which was sung by their babysitter who took the stage name Little Eva.  Working at Dimension Records for Don Kirshner, King and Goffin became best friends with and competitors of fellow song writing duo Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil.  Equally prolific, Mann and Weil wrote such gems as "On Broadway", "Walking in the Rain", "You've Lost That Loving Feeling" and "We Gotta Get Out of This Place".

Reprising her role from Broadway, Canadian actress Chilina Kennedy gives a great performance as Carole King, singing gloriously, playing the piano with vigour and displaying a wide range of emotions.  She makes you chuckle as an insecure yet spunky teenager who can't believe that her secret crush is actually interested in her, then breaks your heart as she reacts to the disintegration of her marriage due to Goffin's infidelities.  The hypochondriac Mann and sassy Weil provide further comic relief with their competitive banter.  In the end, I found myself caring about all these characters, which is a necessary requirement for me to enjoy a show.

It was interesting watching as songs like "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow" and "Some Kind of Wonderful" are sung twice.  Initially while the composers are working on the music and lyrics, the songs sound fresh and raw.  By the time the tunes are sung by artists like the Shirelles or the Drifters, the songs are slick, polished, and orchestrated, and the performances are professionally choreographed.  This was explicitly referred to when Barry Mann first sings "You've Lost That Loving Feeling" in a much higher key and a faster tempo that sounded just strange and foreign compared to how the song eventually ended up.  Cynthia Weil notes that "the problem is the key .. it needs to be lower".  We then hear the version made famous by the Righteous Brothers that we know and love, or at least that was what was supposed to happen.

Unfortunately, at our performance there seemed to be something wrong with the sound system.  Every time one of the singers tried to belt part of a song, the sound came across as harsh and squeaky and even slightly out of tune.  This was especially pronounced when the two actors playing the Righteous Brothers came out to sing.  Instead of the deep, velvety tones expected for the beginning of this classic hit, the notes sung by the actor playing Bill Medley actually made me wince.  All I could think was that "they've ruined my favourite song!".  This must have been a one-time issue since it has not been mentioned in any of the other reviews that I've read about the show. 

Although most of the songs in Beautiful are sung as "stage performances" or as examples of works composed by one of the two writing pairs, the lyrics of a couple of the songs were actually integrated into the plot and because of that, they carried larger emotional impacts.  After singer Janelle Woods performs their song One Fine Day in an upbeat, peppy manner, Gerry Goffin informs Carole King that he is having an ongoing affair with Woods and does not intend to stop.  Devastated, King sings the refrain to One Fine Day in a heart-wrenching manner that seems so much more appropriate for the lyrics being sung than the way Woods sang it--"One fine day, we'll meet once more, and then you'll want the love you threw away before...One fine day, you're gonna want me for your girl".  When King finally decides to divorce Goffin and move to Los Angeles, she comforts her friends who she is leaving behind with the song "You've Got a Friend".  Although from a chronological perspective of the biography, King did not write this song until a couple of years later, it was the perfect song to advance the plot at this point of the show.

Watching this musical gave me new appreciation of the writing genius of Carole King.  I had not realized the wealth of hits that she has writing credits on until I heard one famous standard after another being performed throughout the evening.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Fringe 2017

This year for the Toronto Fringe Festival, my husband Rich and I planned to watch 10 shows together.  We each bought a 10-show pass for $85, which provides significant savings from the single advanced ticket price of $12 per show.  The only issue with the pass is that there is a chance that a popular show will sell out via advanced ticket sales before we have a chance to redeem tickets using our passes at the venue.  It used to be that Fringe would reserve a portion (up to 50%) of the tickets for walk-up ticket sales, which become available 1 hour prior to the start of the show.  But in recent years, the Fringe Festival decided that if they could sell out a show in advance, they should take the sure thing.  You can hardly blame them.

We ran into an issue on our very first show, a dystopian comedy called Lemons, Lemons, Lemons, Lemons, Lemons (henceforth referred to as merely "Lemons" for brevity).  We arrived a few minutes before the start of the sales window to find that all advanced tickets had been sold, but that we could go on a wait list for unclaimed "comp" tickets that would become available 10 minutes prior to the start of the show.  These tickets are reserved for friends and family of the cast, crew and reviewers related to the show, but often they go unused.  Our names were added to a written wait list which was good since it meant that we did not have to stand in line to keep our positions (#7 and #8) on the wait list, unlike rush lines at the Toronto International Film Festival.  We went across the street to grab a quick snack and returned in time to secure our tickets from the list.  We were lucky this time, but thought that if this continued to happen to us, we may have to reconsider buying the volume passes in the future and just purchase advanced tickets to the shows that we want to see.  As it turned out, this was the only time that the show we chose was sold out, so by the time it came to our final shows, we stopped arriving so early to try to buy tickets.

The premise of "Lemons" could have been a script for the dark and intellectual near-future science fiction drama series "Black Mirror", since it takes a seemingly innocuous technology-related aspect of our present, and takes that concept to its disturbing extremes.  Using the absurdly random restriction of Twitter's 140 character limit for tweets, "Lemons" examines a world where a law is about to be enacted that restricts each person to saying only 140 words per day.  Political activist Oliver and his divorce lawyer girlfriend Bernadette deal with this impending reality, with small vignettes that shift the action back and forth in time to periods before and after the law has come into existence.  Their conversations are a bit obscure and confusing at first as you try to understand why they keep throwing out numbers (42, 5, 138, ...) and the significance of the loud "ping" sound that signals the end of each vignette.  By the end, all becomes clear as the play reflects on issues such as freedom of speech, the art of communication, and the importance of not wasting time or words by saying what really matters to you.  I thought the performances and timing of the two actors were excellent and the premise to be relevant and intriguing.

I love musicals, but I was a bit hesitant to select "Seeking Refuge" since the plot of this musical tragedy sounded so dark and sad.  But since the play won the prize for Fringe 2017 best script of a new musical, I had to give it a chance.  Two sisters attempt to flee from civil war after their house is bombed and the rest of their family is killed.  All they have in their possession are a few family jewels, enough to pay for just one of them to board a boat that will smuggle refugees to the safety of a neighbouring country.  The story follows the trials and tribulations of both the sister fleeing towards freedom, and the one left behind.  This play should be appreciated for its ambitions but lacks depth in character development as conveyed through snippets of singing that were so short and ended so abruptly that initially the audience was slow to clap because they did not realize the "songs" were over.  I also found the music too operatic for my tastes, but the show has potential if it could be further developed.

After two heavy, dramatic plays dealing with relatively depressing topics, it was time for some lighter fare.  We struck comedic gold with Hands Down, about an endurance contest where contestants have to keep in physical contact with an automobile and the last person would win that car.  Contestants must be 18 or over and are not allowed to eat, sleep or use their cell phones.  The wheeling and dealing, negotiations and plots hatched by the remaining 5 contestants lead to a very entertaining plot, as you learn more about the backstory of each person and his/her motivation for winning the contest.  In addition to a clever script and crisp dialogue, the most impressive part of the play was the stagecraft involved in creating and manipulating the car, which consisted of four sections that could be separated, rotated and put back together to form a very realistic looking vehicle that even includes real seats.  As the car is spun around, the conversations between various groups of contestants are featured.  This was my favourite show of all the ones we watched this year.

Our next couple of shows highlight the fact that humour is very subjective and a matter of taste.  We had high hopes for the comedy Special Constables about a TTC police task force trying to crack a Metropass theft ring, since it received rave reviews across the board.  For some reason, even though the audience roared with laughter throughout the show, we did not find any of the jokes to be even remotely funny.  It did not help that I could not hear some of the lines due to soft voices or poor enunciation.  Watching the show at 10pm after a long day probably dulled my sense of humour and concentration skills as well.

I typically don't like sketch comedy, preferring a play with one overarching story line, but we agreed to watch Sketch Betch at the urging of our friend.  As expected, the sketches were hit and miss for us as we found some to be very funny but other ones just didn't appeal to us.  Considering that the laughter in the audience never rose above a mild chuckle, I'm assuming that others agreed with us. My favourite sketches included monks having difficulty maintaining their vows of silence, and a Monty Python-esque bit involving a waiter who offered innumerable choices for each part of an order.  

Having never watched Twin Peaks, I was not prepared for the weird characters and events portrayed in Murder in the Cottonwoods, which is heavily inspired by the strange and campy TV series that featured elements of horror and the supernatural.  Like Twin Peaks, the plot revolves around a murder of a popular prom queen in a small town.  Following a strange dance intro in the opening scene (apparently referencing an equally strange dance scene in the TV show), the murderer is revealed covered in blood, but all is not as it seems.  The dialogue and interactions become more and more bizarre as no one in the town seems to want to investigate the murder or accept the confession of the would-be killer.  The sheriff in the play has a fondness for eating pretzels, whereas in Twin Peaks it is cherry pie that is constantly consumed.  Instead of the iconic catchphrase "The owls are not what they seem", Murder in the Cottonwoods uses two phrases"The Cottonwoods are whispering" and "Do Not Disturb".  Not having any knowledge about the Twin Peaks references, this play completely bewildered me and I had no clue what was going on.  Subsequently learning more about the source material, I can now appreciate what the play was attempting to do, but I can't say that I enjoyed it.  I doubt I would have enjoyed Twin Peaks either.

One of the shows that we enjoyed the most and found the most entertaining was A Peter n Chris-tmas Carol, a spoof not only on the classic Dickens Christmas Carol story, but also other Christmas classics including the words to Jingle Bells, Frosty the Snowman and the movies Home Alone and Die Hard (both set in the Christmas season).  Comics Peter Carlone and Chris Wilson had the audience howling with laughter right from the beginning, and this time, we joined along.  These two lovable goofs were quick with the repartee and adept at physical comedy.  This was Rich's favourite show.

We were a bit ambivalent about our next two shows, neither loving them nor hating them.  We are usually a bit wary about one-woman shows involving journeys to self-discovery which often tend to be either maudlin or narcissistic.  We decided to give Am I Pretty Now? a try since it was advertised as a musical.  This was an autobiographical story about what led an aspiring actress to undergo major plastic surgery, the physical tolls of these surgeries and the end result of better self esteem and more acting roles.  The story was compelling enough and was well delivered but there was not enough singing for my taste.  By contrast, there were plenty of songs in Shirley Gnome: Taking it Up a Notch, the raunchy, over-the-top one woman comedic show where Gnome gleefully and lewdly sings about topics including sex (oral and otherwise), female body parts, and male hygiene and tries very hard to be shocking.  Gnome has a good singing voice and we found many of her songs to be funny, but her spoken patter felt forced.  And there is something off-putting about a comic laughing continuously at her own jokes (whether the audience laughs along or not)

For once, we ended Fringe on a high note with the psychological Sci-Fi thriller Recall.  Set once again in a dystopian future (just like Lemons, our first show), rowdy, misbehaving or aggressive youth are monitored for potentially sociopathic or murderous natures so that they can be either reconditioned or eliminated before any harm is done to society. Two potential subjects for these investigations include the moody Lucy, who seems to be on the run and hiding in a safe house with her flighty but caring mother Justine, and Quinn, the boy Lucy meets at school who has authority and anger issues.  Tension is ratcheted up from the very beginning and the entire cast gives mesmerizing performances with a plot full of twists that touches on some interesting themes.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Ryerson Imaging Centre: Max Dean - As Yet Untitled

Max Dean's robotic exhibit, which he ironically calls "As Yet Untitled", was not functional when we went to the Ryerson Imaging Centre to see the Suzy Lake exhibit last month.  But it sounded so interesting that we made a point to return the next time we were in the area.  The installation works on a motion detector that turns on the lights and starts up the robot once you enter the room.  The robotic arm swivels to the right and selects a 4x6 paper photograph from a box, then turns to the centre and presents it to you.  If you like the photo and want it to be kept, you press one of the metal hands attached to the robot and it will pivot and place the photo into a second "keep" box.

Otherwise if you do not intervene, the arm will push the photo into a shredder, destroying the image.  The shredded paper is moved along a conveyor belt until it falls off the end and adds to a pile accumulating on the ground below.  In addition to being fun manipulating and watching the robot in action, this installation seems to comment on several themes regarding the transient nature of memories as well as the diminishing industry of printing physical paper photographs.  Dean indicates that the viewer bears the responsibility of deciding which memories are preserved and which are lost.  On a previous visit, during a curator's tour of the Suzy Lake exhibit, the curator described the Max Dean exhibit and explained that the artist got permission to print photos that he found on Flicker, so that the robot is not really permanently destroying anyone's real photos.  The Max Dean and Suzy Lake exhibits are on display until August 13.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Ryerson Imaging Centre: Suzy Lake

The Ryerson Imaging Centre (RIC) is an institution for research, teaching and exhibition of photography located in the heart of downtown Toronto that surprisingly few people know about.  Many of the rotating exhibits are sourced from the massive collection of over 80 years of historical photos donated by the Black Star Photo Agency in New York.  Earlier this year, RIC received another donation of 25,000 photos from the Canadian collection of the New York Times, which will make for even better exhibitions in the future.  Admission is free and an excellent curator tour is given daily at 2:30pm.  I find the tours essential to understanding the nature or history behind the photographs on display, the process used to create them and the message that the photographer is trying to convey.

Most recently, we toured the works of Suzy Lake, an American/Canadian photographer, videographer and performance artist, who creates conceptual art focused on female identity and the politics of gender, body image and beauty, usually using herself as the subject in her works.  The exhibition includes over 50 items covering her portfolio between 1976 and 2014.  There is often a physicality in her photos that blends performance art with still photography.  The focus of this exposition is to highlight Lake's methodologies and processes in coming up with the final photo image, by showing all the interim attempts as well.  Not only does Suzy Lake set up the environment for her photos, but she also constructs all the props used in the images, as well as all the frames used to display the pieces.

The Suzy Lake exhibition begins in the lobby of RIC with a video depicting Lake rolling on the floor, wrapping and unwrapping herself with a long sheet with a dotted line up the middle that reminded me of a two-laned road.  Watching this, I wondered if she was portraying herself as road kill?  Entering the main space that presents her works, we see more photos of this 1977 series titled "ImPosition" (a play on the term "imposition"?) depicting a trussed up Suzy Lake bound from her neck down to her feet.  Lake varied the background of the photos, starting with a blank wall before settling on a room with scuffed up walls and wooden floor boards.  She also set some of the negatives of fire, causing a curled up, elongated effect when the subsequent photos were developed.  In her words, "the bound or restrained figure becomes a metaphor to question notions of control".  Lake was perhaps using the physical restraints to symbolize the social, political and economical constraints faced by the female gender.

According to our tour guide, Suzy Lake's series of 1976 "Puppet" studies explored a similar theme—that the traditional roles of a woman (wife, mother, fellow breadwinner) makes her feel like she is being pulled in all different directions.  Lake indicates that the works raise the question of "who pulls the strings?".  She began by posing for photos while simulating the motions of a puppet with her body.  To further clarify her intention, after developing the photos, she added actual lengths of white string to the images to represent the puppet strings.  Taking it one step further, she built an apparatus that allowed her harnessed body to be manipulated like a puppet, engaging two helpers to randomly pull her arms and legs while a third assistant snapped photos of the process.  In 2014, the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) held a Suzy Lake exhibition where they actually displayed this contraption.

In the 1978 series called "Are You Talking To Me?", (in reference to Robert Deniro's iconic line in Taxi Driver) Lake took multiple photos of herself as she conversed out loud to herself about an undisclosed subject.  In an exploration of identity, these self-portraits (precursors to the selfie?) convey a myriad of emotions.  Some of the images are distorted by heating and stretching the negatives.  Lake then subtly painted parts of the portraits including the mouth and neck areas to further enhance the photos.  The installation instructions indicated that the set of framed photos had to be hung so all the mouths aligned at the same height.  Lake repeated this experiment dressed in various styles of wardrobe before deciding on the collared shirt featured in the final product.

A set of coloured photos from 1983/84 titled "Pre-Resolution" depicts Suzy Lake using a sledge hammer to demolish a wall that she had previously painted scarlet red.  Dressed in a bright yellow sweater and blue jeans, the photos reflect saturated primary colours.  We are told by our tour guide that these photos were created during a period when Lake was going through a divorce, so creating these works might have been therapeutic for her.  We are told to look carefully at the main photo and note that it is set in a 3-inch deep cedar frame, where the photo is angled so that it leans back at the top.  The surrounding frame is hand-painted so that it appears that the photo extends onto the frame.  A black and white photo from this series is annotated to describe exactly how the main work should be mounted.  Next to the main photo, a pair of photos form a diptych.

In 2014, at the age of 67, Suzy Lake's provocative series called "Beauty at a Proper Distance" takes an unflinching look at aging and the concept of beauty, in a set of closeup shots of her face from her nose down to her neck.  Displaying a total lack of vanity, the photos show every wrinkle, wart or blemish, stained teeth and facial hair.  She even purposely let her hair grow for months in order to capture the photos that she titles "Pluck", which shows her using tweezers to pull out what she calls "post-menopausal facial hair" from her chin.

The series that I found most fascinating from a technical standpoint was Suzy Lake's 2013/2014 set of long-exposure photos that she called "Extended Breathing in Public Places".  To achieve these cool photos with the "ghost-like" images in the background, she used an extremely long exposure and tried to stand as still as possible for up to an hour while people passed by behind her. Her photo in front of Diego Rivera's famous Detroit Industry mural at the Detroit Art Institute features her son-in-law standing to her left.  You have to look closely to see the transparent images accompanying Lake in the black and white photo taken in Trinity Bellwood Park, including a person sitting on the bench and some people sitting on the grass and under a tree.  The longer the people stay in the frame of the camera during its long exposure, the clearer and more defined they become.

When we made our first pass through the Suzy Lake exhibit prior to taking the tour, I found her portfolio interesting, but did not really understand what she was attempting to achieve or convey with each series.  After taking the very informative tour, I now appreciate even more Lake's sense of experimentation and creativity in pushing the boundaries of photography to create her works.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Theatre: Little Shop of Horrors

My only previous exposure to Little Shop of Horrors was the campy 1986 musical film directed by Muppets puppeteer Frank Oz, starring Rick Moranis as Seymour, the schleppy assistant at Mr. Musnik's flower shop, who purchases what turns out to be a talking-plant from out of space that feeds on human blood.  Seymour is smitten with his coworker Audrey who is dating a sadistic dentist (played with gleeful malice by Steve Martin).  Seymour names his plant Audrey II after his beloved but finds it more and more difficult to satisfy Audrey II's growing need for more blood.  I had not watched the original 1960 black comedy/horror movie directed by Roger Corman, nor the 1982 off-Broadway musical written by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman (known for Disney animated movies), so I was not aware of the differences between the three versions.

It was therefore of great interest to me when I watched the live musical production of Little Shop of Horrors for the first time.  Playing at the Lower Ossington Theatre, a smaller venue with a lower budget than the shows that I am used to watching with Mirvish productions, I was not expecting much in terms of stagecraft.  I was pleasantly surprised by the clever use of a very limited space, and by the masterful puppetry involved in portraying Audrey II at its various stages of growth.   In order to accommodate the many changes in set locations, a round turntable is used as part of the stage, in a similar vein to the one used in Les Miserables, but on a much smaller scale and controlled by man-power as opposed to electrically operated.  In some scenes, you can catch sight of two stage hands dressed in black, squatting on the ground manually rotating the stage.

In terms of the different versions of the plant, we counted at least four. There was the initial inanimate, tiny plant in a pot that Seymour held in his hand when he first purchased it.  Then after feasting on a few drops of blood from Seymour's accidentally cut finger, Audrey II had grown to a big potted plant that Seymour grasped with both arms.  This version of the plant moved and talked!  If you looked closely, you could see that one of the arms holding the plant was fake and the actor's real arm was actually under his jacket manipulating the puppet.  The illusion was very effective.  The next version of Audrey II was significantly bigger, consisting of a single seated puppeteer manipulating the plant's head and arms.  A final version of the plant was so large that it was capable of actually "swallowing" its victims whole and sucking them into itself.  This last giant plant required two puppeteers to control all the moving parts, probably the same two acting as "stage-hands" to rotate the turntable.

Comparing the 1982 live musical to the 1960 original movie and the 1986 movie remake that was based mostly on the musical, the basic plot and Skid Row setting is the same for all three but the tone and some major plot points differ between them.  Shot in black and white and not being a musical, the original 1960 film plays more like a mix between a Film Noir with dark shadows and a reluctant hero that doesn't get the girl, and a schlocky horror flick.   In this version, Seymour accidentally causes the death of a railway man and a call girl, and kills the sadistic dentist in self-defense, feeding each of the bodies to the plant.  The only moment played for true comic relief comes in the role of a masochistic patient who wants pain inflicted upon him.  The cameo is especially memorable since it is played by a young and then unknown Jack Nicholson in one of his first movie roles.

The two musical versions are both more lighthearted, irreverent and goofy.  The off-Broadway musical cut out many of the extraneous characters from the original movie and limited the "plant-food" victims to core cast members.  It turned the sadistic dentist into Audrey's abusive boyfriend to give Seymour a stronger motivation for killing him.  It also made Mr. Musnik more sinister and threatening to justify his being fed to Audrey II as well.  Finally a trio of street urchins double as a "Greek Chorus", providing background information and commenting on the gruesome situations that they witness from the sidelines.  While the Off-Broadway show cut out the cameo by the masochistic patient, the 1986 movie played up the camp even more by casting Bill Murray in the role opposite Steve Martin's dentist.

As expected, the 1986 movie cut out multiple transitional songs from the Broadway musical score, handling the plot points via dialogue instead.  But it was in the endings where the starkest differences between the two versions could be found.  The musical is much darker, with Audrey II consuming all the principal characters and then achieving world domination when clippings of its floral buds are spread across the planet.  While the movie originally filmed a similar ending that played out like a Godzilla movie, it did not test well during trial screenings and the director was forced to tack on a happy ending where Seymour and Audrey defeat the plant and get married.  Since this latter ending was the only one that I knew about, it was a bit shocking to watch the musical's denouement, although there was a lighter, wacky sequence at the end where the principal characters show up dressed like newly flowered plants, singing the finale song "Don't Feed the Plants". 

I am really happy to have now watched all three versions of Little Shop of Horrors and have appreciated each one in its own right.  But witnessing the Audrey II plant grown before my eyes was really special and made me enjoy the live version most of all.  After watching this musical, I have newly gained respect for the productions presented at the Lower Ossington Theatre and look forward to watching more shows at this venue in the future.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Theatre: Assassins

It takes effort to embrace some of the works of Stephen Sondheim, since his themes, concepts, musical scores and lyrics are sometimes too sophisticated, different or just down-right weird to be appreciated by the general audience.  One thing that can definitely be said about the extremely prolific composer is that he is never repetitive and he does not settle for the normal tropes of musical theatre.  Very seldom is the typical romantic "boy meets girl" storyline used as the central plot of a Sondheim musical, and "Happily Ever After" rarely seems to be part of his vocabulary.  Instead Sondheim is always searching for the next new twist.  His eclectic body of work includes an operatic kabuki-styled show set in 19th century Japan, a story that is told backwards chronologically, a story-less series of vignettes about relationships and commitment that brought the "concept musical" into the mainstream, and a musical inspired by a famous 19th century painting where the first half of the show magically brings the painting to life.

Sondheim's 1990 musical Assassins is no less ambitious in terms of theme or music.  The titular characters are nine would-be assassins of US Presidents spanning over 100 years from John Wilkes Booth who assassinated Abraham Lincoln in 1865 for political reasons to John Hinkley Jr. who tried to kill Ronald Reagan in 1981 in order to appear important to then child actress Jodie Foster.  In addition to Booth, three others successfully accomplished their goalsCharles Guiteau killed James Garfield in 1881, Leon Czolgosz shot William McKinley in 1901 and of course, Lee Harvey Oswald assassinated John F. Kennedy in 1963.  The show also features four other unsuccessful assassination attempts, made by Giuseppe Zangara (Franklin D. Roosevelt 1933), Samuel Byck (Richard Nixon 1974), and the pair of Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme and Sara Jane Moore, who each made separate attempts on Gerald Ford in 1975.  Assassins the Musical explores the back-stories of these down-and-out losers  and the motivations that propelled them to commit these brazen and heinous acts, all in warped pursuit of the "American Dream".  In an interesting twist, all these assassins from different time periods interact throughout the show, goading, commiserating with and feeding off of each other.

We watched a production of Assassins put on by U of T's Victoria College Drama Society.  The musical opens to the backdrop of a carnival scene, where a red and white pin-striped barker encourages passersby to "C'mon and shoot a President" to win a prize. The prize could be recognition and infamy, a regained sense of purpose or accomplishment, revenge or justice depending on the perpetrator.  One by one, the assassins enter the scene and the barker provides a gun to each of Czolgosz, Hinkley, Guiteau, Byck, Zangara, Fromme and Moore.  Then John Wilkes Booth arrives and is revered as the "pioneer" who set the precedence for everyone else by being the first to successfully kill a President.  By the end of the song, the entire group is singing the titular line of the song "Everybody's Got the Right to Dream".

The show proceeds to delve deeper into the psyche and motivations of the assassins.  In particular, the three successful ones (Booth, Czologosz, and Guiteau) each gets his own ballad, sung in story-telling fashion by an anonymous "balladeer".  Sondheim made a point of writing each of these songs as a pastiche, mimicking the music of the era of each assassin.  Hinkley and Fromme sing a duet "Not Worthy of Your Love" each declaring devotion to the object of his/her obsession--Jodie Foster and Charles Manson respectively.  Based on just to the melody, this sounds like a traditional romantic love song contradicted by lyrics that convey a chilling psychotic infatuation"Tell me how I can earn your love".  Zangara's song is interesting because it is not told from his point of view and it does not describe the attempted shooting of Franklin D. Roosevelt.  Eschewing exposition, Sondheim instead writes a song about the reactions and aftermath of the shooting, sung by five witnesses who each claimed to have played a part in "saving" Roosevelt by interrupting or distracting him as he stood on a chair in a crowd aiming his gun at the President.  Sara Jane Moore's character is played mostly for comedic effect with her bravado and bumbling clumsiness with her gun.  Dressed like a suburban soccer mom, she even brings her child and dog to an attempted assassination.  Byck spends the show dressed like Santa Claus in reference to an outfit that he wore during a political protest.  Instead of a song, he is given several verbal rants reflecting actual attempts that he made to contact public figures including Leonard Bernstein.  Watching this show really gives you a great lesson in a sordid part of American History.

By now the show is almost over and we were wondering what happened to the most infamous assassin of recent history, Lee Harvey Oswald?  Apparently this was a deliberate and debated choice by Sondheim and his co-creators.  Originally Oswald was to appear in the opening with the others but it was suggested to Sondheim that it would be more impactful to save him for the finale.   The musical has undergone a few iterations since its inception.  While it was not originally the case, in the version that we watched, the innocent, fresh-faced looking balladeer turned into the character of Lee Harvey Oswald.  It was a bit shocking and maybe points to the adage that you can't really judge a book by its cover.  Oswald appears as a depressed and confused young man who originally intended to kill himself.  Instead he is urged by the other assassins to shoot JFK as a means of validating their joint purpose—"With your act, we are revived and given meaning... People will hate you with a passion.  Imagine people having passionate feelings about Lee Harvey Oswald!! ..".  The powerful song "Something Just Broke" again does not directly refer to the assassination but instead soulfully portrays the feelings of the Nation after losing their President.

When we first saw the group of young actors who would play these historic roles in Assassins, I was worried about whether or not they could pull it off and make me forget that they were students acting in a musical.  In particular, the two performers who played Zangara and Guiteau looked like they were barely out of grade school with Guiteau wearing the most obviously fake beard that I have ever seen.  But once the show started, this talented group sucked you into the story with strong acting and singing abilities. I particularly enjoyed the comedic timing of the actress playing Sara Jane Moore, who was goofy, endearing and hilarious.  I was very impressed with the quality of the show, especially with the sound system and musical accompaniment.  Often in these community-theatre type performances, the sound quality is poor and you cannot hear what is being said.  In this case, it was actually the opposite where it sometimes felt like the performers were shouting and the volume got too loud. 

As usual, Stephen Sondheim created an innovative musical unique not only from what any other composer has written, but also different from any of his own works.  His creative songs span many styles within the same show and integrate in an interesting fashion with John Weidman's book.  Even though it took a bit of historical homework for me to fully appreciate the musical Assassins, this was an enjoyable experience for me.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Theatre: The Bodyguard The Musical

When a mediocre "B-movie" known more for its phenomenal soundtrack than its plot or acting is turned into a live musical, it is not surprising that the resultant stage show exhibits similar traits.  The Bodyguard Musical, which originated in London's West End follows a similar story-line to the 1992 Kevin Costner/Whitney Houston film with a few minor changes.  Former secret service agent Frank Farmer reluctantly agrees to become the personal bodyguard for superstar singing diva Rachel Marron, who is being harassed with threatening notes from an unknown stalker.  Following the typical romantic movie cliches, Frank and Rachel initially dislike each other but eventually fall in love, only to be torn apart by their different worlds and Frank's need to stay detached in order to effectively protect Rachel and her young son Fletcher.

As expected, the musical features stellar singing from the two female leads who play Rachel and her sister Nicki, doing justice to the slew of movie soundtrack songs such as "Run to You", "I Have Nothing", and the signature "I Will Always Love You", augmented with other Whitney Houston hits including "Saving All My Love For You" and "I Want to Dance With Somebody".  But for me, this was not a true musical but rather a melodrama interspersed with various characters singing Whitney Houston songs for a variety of reasons.  I much prefer the sung-through musical where all "dialogue" is sung as opposed to spoken, or at very least, a musical where songs are written specifically for the show and the lyrics advance the plot.

I felt very little chemistry between Frank and Rachel, making their sudden romance abrupt and unbelievable.  There seemed to be a stronger connection between Frank and Nicki, making me wonder for a moment whether the plot intended to stray completely from the movie.  That might actually have been interesting, but no such luck.  Even so, the excellent voices of the female stars would have made this musical sufficiently entertaining for me, had it not been for the extremely cheesy staging.  This included the use of strobe lighting, smoke and fog, and clumsy use of slo-motion with sound effects reminiscent of the TV show The Six Million Dollar Man.  The climatic scene in the first act where Frank rescues Rachel from a mob scene by sweeping her up in his arms was done in such a corny fashion that I actually gasped and then laughed out loud.  And the final climatic scene in the last act happened so quickly (even though the goofy slo-mo effect was used once again) that I almost missed it.  Each dramatic sequence seemed almost incidental other than being used as a bridge between another Whitney Houston song.  A final onscreen video showing flashback scenes from Frank and Rachel's "romance" felt cringe-inducingly awkward.  It was obviously added in order to allow the Rachel character enough time to make a costume change in preparation for her eleven O'Clock number "I Will Aways Love You", which she sang while covered with swirling fog(?!?)

If you are a big fan of Houston's music or The Bodyguard movie or just want to appreciate this show for the singing, then you may love it, as many people actually do.  For me, I prefer to watch a real musical with non-generic songs written so as to be integral to a good story.  I guess others agreed with me, since there were many empty seats on the night that we attended this show (which is part of our Mirvish subscription series).  In fact, a special "sing-a-long" event featuring the cast of The Bodyguard was hosted as a marketing promotion that gave away free tickets to the show for each attendee.  You don't see such gimmicks needed for Come From Away.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Theatre: Come From Away

It's difficult to imagine a "feel-good" story coming out of the horrors of the September 11th, 2001 attacks, let alone being able to create a musical out of such events.  Come From Away is this unlikely musical, dealing with the aftermath of 38 planes containing over 6700 passengers that were diverted to and grounded in Gander, Newfoundland when the North American airspace was closed.  The people of Gander (at the time with a population just over 9000) opened their hearts to the stranded travelers, providing them with food, change of clothing, shelter, compassion and friendship.  Impromptu sleeping areas were created in schools, town halls, churches, community centres and even in townspeople's  homes. Attending the 10th anniversary reunion in Gander, Canadian husband and wife composing duo David Hein and Irene Sankoff  (who also wrote the autobiographical "My Mother's Lesbian Jewish Wiccan Wedding") interviewed passengers, flight crew and locals to gather their stories and experiences.

The result is a heart-warming tale that perfectly captures the feelings of initial confusion and fear from the plane people and the daunting but determined call to action from the residents of Gander. The same 12 actors play all the roles with chameleon-like ease, using on-stage quick change of simple wardrobes as well as accents, lingo and mannerisms to portray both the locals and the ones who have "come from away", as they say in Newfoundland.  The songs and dialogue in the show include the perfect mix of humour and emotion to illustrate how two disparate groups of strangers bonded and made the best out of very traumatic circumstances.  Stranded indefinitely in a foreign land without access to their luggage, most of the people on the plane had no idea where they were or what to expect.  The unconditional warm welcome that they received must have been overwhelming and lasting friendships have developed as a result.  Hein and Sankoff heard so many wonderful stories about the 5 days that the planes remained grounded in Gander that their initial draft was over 5 hours long before distilling a manageable subset to represent the overall experiences.  

A gay couple is concerned that they will be persecuted for their sexual preferences but find that it is no big deal.  A Muslim chef who was aboard one of the grounded flights feels the fear and suspicions from his fellow passengers. A mother worries as she is unable to contact her fire fighter son based in New York.  One of the locals is an animal lover with the SPCA who works tirelessly to try to rescue the pets on the flight who are trapped with the checked luggage on the planes, including dogs, cats and even some rare monkeys headed for a zoo.   Amongst the crew is the first female captain to fly for American Airlines and she sings about her beginnings when she was shunned by male pilots and female stewardesses alike.  Perhaps the sweetest story is the one of the Texan woman and British man who fell in love during their time in Gander and eventually got married.

A running joke involves a passenger who is convinced that he will be robbed or shot but is instead constantly offered a cup of tea by everyone he meets.  This reminds me of when Toronto had the great blackout in 2003 that took out all the power the Eastern seaboard for up to 3 days.  My husband was walking up Yonge Street with a colleague from Los Angeles and they witnessed shop owners handing out free bottles of water and businessmen in suits standing in the middle of busy streets directing traffic.  The American was amazed at these actions and asked why no one was looting the stores, as he would have expected back home.  This is just another example of how people pull together in midst of crisis.

In addition to a stellar story and good songs, I was particularly impressed by the choreography and set design.  Simply by rearranging chairs and tables, the actors are able to create scenes within the airplanes, buses, the local Tim Hortons, in the town hall and out and about in Gander.  In one particular scene, through the constant movement of boxes, the actors simulated climbing the trail leading to the Dover Fault Lookout for a breathtaking view of Bonavista Bay.  I visited this province known as "The Rock" years ago and remember having trouble understanding the heavy accents and local slangI therefore was a bit concerned about whether it would be difficult to catch what was being said in the show, but I needn't have worried.  There were just enough use of accents and jargon as well as Celtic-based Newfoundland folk music to set the tone of the locale, but not so much that it was beyond comprehension.

The cast is often accompanied on stage by musicians playing regional instruments including an accordion, fiddle, acoustic guitar, mandolin, bazooka, a bodhram, which is a round Irish hand drum and an "ugly stick", which is a traditional Newfoundland instrument made out of household materials such as a mop handle, bottle caps, tin cans, small bells and other noise makers and played with a drum stick.  Towards the end of the show, a traditional Newfoundland party is held including singing, Celtic dancing, telling stories, and the "screeching in ceremony" which makes one an honorary Newfoundlaner.  This involves dressing up in yellow rain slickers and hat, kissing a cod on the lips and drinking screech, which is a horrible tasting local rum.

After playing to sold-out crowds in La Jolla, Seattle, Washington, Gander and Toronto, this wonderful show is now debuting on Broadway.  A musical with so much heart and the message that love can triumph over hate is just what is needed right now in our turbulent political climate, so hopefully the show continues to be a smashing success.  It makes me proud to be a Canadian.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Art: Kent Monkman - Shame and Prejudice Exhibit

Kent Monkman is a half Cree, half Irish painter, sculptor and performance artist from Winnipeg, known for creating powerful, provocative works that force the viewer to reflect upon the plight of the Indigenous people throughout Canada's history.  Monkman’s alter-ego Miss Chief Share Eagle Testickle, a gay drag icon, often appears in his visual arts and the occasional film, video or live performance.  The use of a homonym (“Share”) to pop star Cher is fully intentional.  Portrayed with long flowing black hair, full-faced makeup, often scantily clad while rockin’ a pair of fiery-red platform heels or hip-length "kinky boots" and a feathered headdress, Miss Chief channels Cher in both look and attitude.  Also carefully calculated in this name are puns on the words "mischief" and "egotistical" as well as not-so-veiled reference to "testicle", alluding to Miss Chief's (and the bisexual Monkman’s) duality of sexuality and spirit as well as her penchant for being a rabble-rouser, trickster, freedom-fighter and provocateur.  Kent Monkman’s paintings are on permanent display at major art galleries such as the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) in Toronto and the National Gallery in Ottawa.  He has also taken part in many museum shows including the 2012 Fashionality: Dress and Identity exhibition at McMichael Art Gallery where we were first exposed to his work including a sculpture of Miss Chief dressed in pink, and a pair of his high-heeled “moccasins”.  We also attended the 2015 exhibition The Rise and Fall of Civilization at the Gardiner Ceramics Museum where Miss Chief made another appearance in a diorama depicting the near extinction of the American bison at the hands of the Europeans.

When Kent Monkman was asked to curate a new show in honour of Canada's sesquicentennial birthday, he decided to reflect upon the key events that occurred in Canada's history over the past 150 years from the perspective of the Indigenous people, as opposed to the Colonial perspective depicted by artists like Paul Kane.  The result is a massive show named Shame and Prejudice, on display at the University of Toronto Art Museum until March 4 before touring across Canada.  Monkman has produced a series of paintings and several large-scale sculptural installations, as well as borrowing relevant historic artifacts from museums across the country.  The show is divided up into 9 sections, moving in reverse chronological order from present day back to the arrival of the Europeans and creation of New France.  Dealing with historic themes including the fur trade, building the railway, signing of the treaties, Indian reserve systems, residential schools, Christianity, as well as generic themes of incarceration and violence towards women, each section of the exhibit is narrated in the voice of Miss Chief Eagle Testickle.  We barely made it into the over-capacity artist/curator talk for this show, which resulted in the largest crowd that the Art Museum ever experienced.  Monkman is extremely well-spoken and gave great insights into the deeper meanings and messages behind his works.

Major sculptural installations bookend the beginning and end of the show.  The opening installation depicts Monkman's version of a "Nativity Scene" with Indigenous figures standing in for Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus who is lying on a Hudson's Bay blanket. The tight, squalid quarters, and processed foods including SPAM, Kraft dinner, canned soup and bottled water highlight the poor housing and living conditions of the Indigenous people, and how far removed they are from their initial state of living freely off the land.  The ironic wearing of the Chicago Blackhawks hockey jersey by one of the figures brings to mind the whole recent debate about whether these sports teams names and logos are racist.  Look closely and you will see that each figure, including the baby, has been given Monkman's own face.  This is in reaction to his experiences visiting other museums where he noticed that all Native Indian images were portrayed with the same face.

Accordingly, every sculptural figure within the exhibition, be it man, woman or child, is adorned with Monkman's face.  The final installation of the show, called "Scent of a Beaver", depicts the power struggle between the British and the French in their attempts to woo the Native people and dominate the fur trade.  Taking inspiration from Jean-HonorĂ© Fragonard's 1767 painting The Swing, Miss Chief Eagle Testickle sits on a swing while Generals Wolfe and Montcalm vie for her attention.  Wearing moccasins and a fur-lined dress, Miss Chief swings back and forth between the two.  Each of the trio again sports Monkman's face. 

The works in the next few rooms depict Main Street, Winnipeg where many Indigenous people have gathered after being dispossessed of their lands.  The paintings "Le Petit Dejeuner Sur L'Herbe" and "Struggle for Balance" incorporate Picassoesque forms of female nudes into the urban scenes.  Monkman draws parallels between the influence of Modern art styles like Cubism that flatten and distort images, with the way Indigenous people have been squeezed out of their lands and stripped of their language and culture.  The twisted, deformed female nudes also allude to misogyny (which Monkman accuses Picasso of) and violence against women, highlighting the issue of the numerous missing and murdered Indigenous women.  There are also renderings of winged angels that look ambiguous in nature.  Are they spiritual and good or menacing and ominous?  One of the angels even sports a tattoo on his forearm.  This same ambivalence reflects the impact of Christianity upon the native people.

The piece "Death of a Virgin, After Caravaggio", reimagines the Italian Baroque painter's 1606 masterpiece, replacing the figures of the Virgin Mary, Mary Magdeline and the Apostles with Indigenous tribe members.  Monkman's version comments on the new illnesses and diseases that the North American Indians were exposed to after coming in contact with the Europeans.  The natives had no resistance to smallpox, measles, influenza and many died.  I find it interesting that Caravaggio dressed his Virgin and Mary Magdeline in red while Monkman chose to clothe his corresponding figures in blue, as both these colours are highly symbolic in Christian iconography, representing humanity vs the divine. Next to the painting is a display containing a Nurses bag, scalpels and medicines that once again exude an ambiguous tone... Should these "strange Western treatments" be seen as foreign and threatening, or helpful salvation for the sick?

As much as the "Death of a Virgin, After Caravaggio" painting references physical illness, it also relates to what Monkman terms as "sickness of the soul".  Centuries of suffering loss of lands, possessions, identity, language, culture, and finally hope, pride and spirit have led to broken homes, high rates of suicide, addictions, mental illness, violence and incarceration in prisons.  Monkman calls the Indian Reserve Systems the first form of incarceration, corralling the Indigenous people and restricting their freedom.  It is no wonder under these circumstances that Aboriginal inmates account for a disproportionate percentage of growth within the Prairies Correctional facilities.  Monkman's works "Cash for Souls" and "Seeing Red" allude to these statistics, with imagery of fighting, burning, helicopters flying, inmates in orange jumpsuits attacking women, and again the semi-ominous angels.  The positions of the central figures in "Cash for Souls" mimic various renderings of "The Rape of the Sabine Women", in particular the marble sculpture by Giambologna in Florence.  "Seeing Red" features a semi-nude, stiletto-wearing Miss Chief Eagle Testickle, acting as matador with a Hudson's Bay blanket as a cape, confronting a Picasso-like bull, the ultimate symbol of male dominance, in a classic fight against homophobia.

One of the most poignant pieces in the show deals with the travesty of the Residential School System policy, which ripped Indigenous children away from their homes and families in order to instill in them "proper Western education and culture".  Titling the painting after Edvuard Munch's "The Scream", Monkman gives a whole new horrific meaning to the designation.  His work depicts a screaming mother being held back as her child (and others) are being dragged away by priests, nuns and Mounties. The trauma caused by this callous and misguided practice has resonated through the generations.
An accompanying installation consists of two walls of beautifully decorated cradleboards, which are  traditional Native American Indian baby carriers where the infant is swaddled and strapped to a flat board.  But nothing in this exhibition is shown for aesthetics alone without an underlying message. After admiring the craftsmanship of the artifacts, you notice that some of the boards are stark and barren while others are missing all together, represented only by a chalk outline. These are in reference to the missing children who were taken away.

In another room is a long table that seems to be displaying historic examples of European Rococo dinnerware and the lavish meals served in that era.  But as you walk along the table, the food becomes more meager and scarce until the final plates are empty except for a few bison bones.  At one end is the opulent lifestyle of the Europeans while the other end represents the Indigenous people who were starved into submission.  A "Sharps Model 1874" Military Rifle sitting in a glass case against a totally blank wall is an example of the guns used by European soldiers to deliberately thin out the buffalo herd, which was a main source of food, clothing and shelter for the Natives.  The blank wall is symbolic of the near extinction of the American bison.

Kent Monkman often uses cheeky humour (pun intended) to soften the tone but not the message when highlighting some very painful topics in Canadian history. His painting "Subjugation of Truth" alludes to Cree Chiefs Poundmaker and Big Bear being forced to sign treaties giving up their lands in order to save their tribes from starving.  The iron chains attached to their legs and the firm hand of the Mountie grasping Poundmaker's shoulder leave little doubt that this was a coerced signing.  To lighten this serious subject matter, Monkman adds a portrait on the wall of Miss Chief Eagle Testickle in the guise of Queen Victoria.  When describing the impact of the railway on the Indigenous people, his work "Iron Horse", he depicts the railway as a Trojan Horse, outwardly seeming to bare gifts and bounty for the Indigenous people, but instead leading to their downfall.  In "The Daddies", Monkman painstakingly recreates Robert Harris' 1883 painting "Fathers of Confederation" depicting the Charlottetown Conference of September 1864 which set Confederation in motion, but then adds a nude Miss Chief to the mix.  The painting raises the question of why First Nations representatives were not at this meeting.

In the early days of New France and the fur trade, beaver pelts were considered trade currency and beavers were slaughtered in huge numbers.  Naming his piece "Massacre of the Innocents", Monkman compares the slaughter of the beavers to Ruben's masterpiece of the same name, depicting the Biblical account of King Herod's infanticide.  Monkman even recreates the iconic segment of Ruben's painting where a guard has lifted a baby overhead and is in midst of slamming him to the ground.  The most irreverent work in the exhibition is titled "Bears of Confederation".  It depicts
a group of white men in various stages of undress, some wearing only kinky bondage harnesses, being raped and ravaged by bears and whipped by Miss Chief.   Bears are considered to be spiritual by the Indigenous people but feared by the White Man.  Could these men be some of the Fathers of Confederation from "The Daddies" and "Subjugation of Truth" paintings, finally getting their comeuppance?

Hearing Kent Monkman talk about the meanings behind his various pieces of art allowed us to appreciate the poignancy of the messages that he was trying to convey.  It is too bad the Shame and Prejudice exhibition will not be on display for longer, and that there is not more curatory notes for those who were not lucky enough to attend the curator talk.

Sunday, February 05, 2017

Theatre: Disenchanted

 *Photo by Dahlia Katz
The hilarious off-Broadway musical Disenchanted gives a modern, feminist spin to the storybook princess tropes perpetuated by classic fairy tales and animated Disney movies.  Rather than being damsels in distress awaiting rescue from their princes, familiar characters like Snow White, Cinderella, the Little Mermaid, and Mulan, are portrayed as bold, brassy, independent women who want their real stories to be told.  The original idea for the show came to former history teacher turned composer Dennis Giacino while he was teaching the history of Jamestown Virginia and the Native Indian "princess" Pocahontas, who was actually a child and a tomboy when she first came in contact with English colonist John Smith. Giacino marveled at how these facts were distorted in the historically inaccurate portrayal of Pocahontas in the Disney cartoon, where she became a buxom young woman with long, flowing black hair.  This thought led to his first song Honestly with lines like "I was only ten but now I'm Double D .. why wasn't my story told honestly?" ¹

That first song spawned a collection of musical stories where each princess bemoans her on-screen portrayal.  Mulan ponders whether she might be lesbian since she wears pants in the movie and doesn't get the guy.  Jasmine from Aladdin complains that she is just a "secondary" princess with no plot of her own other than to support the hero. Belle is being driven insane by all the talking kitchenware.  The Little Mermaid regrets giving up her home in the sea in exchange for a pair of legs. Rapunzel laments that the images of the princesses have been commercialized and merchandised but they don't see "One Red Cent" of the profits.  Tiana, the first black princess from the 2009 Disney movie "The Princess and the Frog" demands to know why "it took so long to give a sista a song?" ¹

While each of these princesses gets her cameo moment, most of the musical is carried by the dynamic trio of Snow White, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty.  Together, they sing about female empowerment, not requiring a man for their "happily ever after", overcoming body issues ("I'm Perfect", "Big Tits") and eating disorders ("All I want to do is eat.. a Cheetos .. a Doritos .. Haagen Daaz!!!").¹

Disenchanted is a sassy, irreverent, laugh-out-loud musical that champions girl power and sends an important message to female tweens and teenagers. Yet despite the Disney princess references, the show is not appropriate for young children.  Mature topics are discussed (like the prince slipping Sleeping Beauty the tongue while she was asleep).  There are occurrences of swearing both spoken and implied.  In the song "Happy Tune", a kazoo and musical triangle are sounded in lieu of a curse word as Snow White vocalizes her displeasure at being told to stay home to cook and clean.

The show has played to rave reviews across the USA and in Toronto.  It is back by popular demand for one encore performance on Feb.14, 2017 at the Great Hall.  Discount tickets can be found on line.  For a really good time, this show should not be missed.

¹ Lyrics quoted from songs of Disenchanted by Dennis Giacino