The Way Back to Thursday

Rob Kempson and Astrid Van Wieren star in The Way Back to Thursday. Photo by Michael Cooper.

Rob Kempson and Astrid Van Wieren star in The Way Back to Thursday. Photo by Michael Cooper.

  • Theatre Passe Muraille Mainspace (16 Ryerson Avenue)
  • 7:30 p.m.

Cameron and his grandmother share a special tradition: every Thursday night, they escape into the golden age of film together. A musical about unconditional love, The Way Back to Thursday takes us through the changes in this relationship as Cameron grows older and more distant.

Details: The Way Back to Thursday

Ongoing…

TIFF’s First Major Original Exhibition Traces David Cronenberg’s Evolution

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While the Toronto International Film Festival may have shifted into a more relaxed mode, it’s still offering plenty of opportunities to gawk at movie stars—they’re just a little more spread out. Midweek, fans could catch the premieres of Good Kill (Ethan Hawke as a drone pilot), Maps to the Stars (David Cronenberg’s new bit of oddness), The Imitation Game (Benedict Cumberbatch as World War II cryptographer Alan Turing), Jauja (Viggo Mortensen, and we don’t know much else really), Laggies (Sam Rockwell and Keira Knightley in a comedy about people taking their sweet time to grow up), October Gale (Patricia Clarkson and Scott Speedman in a thriller/drama set in a remote cabin), Pawn Sacrifice (about the chess duels between Boris Spassky and Bobby Fischer), The Cobbler (Adam Sandler’s latest) and Escobar (Benicio Del Toro is the famous drug kingpin).


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Details: TIFF 2014 Scenes: Tuesday–Thursday Nights, Featuring Good Kill, Maps to the Stars, The Imitation Game, Jauja, Laggies, and More

Ali Eisner: “Favourite Things”

Rose Cousins performing at Dakota Tavern. Photo by Ali Eisner.

Rose Cousins performing at Dakota Tavern. Photo by Ali Eisner.

  • Gladstone Hotel (1214 Queen Street West)
  • 12 p.m.

Ali Eisner is already known for being a puppeteer, composer, and performer. Now she adds another line to her resumé with her debut photography exhibit, “Favourite Things.” As one might expect, each photo in the show depicts a cherished moment, person, or item in her life—you’ll find shots of everything from travelling and architecture, to puppets and musicians such as Kathleen Edwards, Ron Sexsmith, and Serena Ryder.

Details: Ali Eisner: “Favourite Things”

Go Hear the People Sing in Les Misérables

Ramin Karimloo will make you weep, or at least want to give him a hug, as Jean Valjean in Les Miserables. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

Ramin Karimloo will make you weep, or at least want to give him a hug, as Jean Valjean in Les Miserables. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

  • Princess of Wales Theatre (300 King Street West)
  • 7:30 p.m.

Every revolution needs a leader. And though the movement to bring the classic 1980s musical Les Misérables back to Toronto is markedly different than the quest for political accountability and social equality, it has its hero just the same. After the official opening performance at the Princess of Wales Theatre, the audience likely would have followed London-based, Richmond Hill-raised performer Ramin Karimloo (as the story’s golden-hearted protagonist, Jean Valjean) anywhere he would lead.

Details: Go Hear the People Sing in Les Misérables

Getting to the Pith! of Play (and a Play)

Left to right, Amy Matysio, Ron Pederson, and Daniela Vlaskalic. Photo by Farrah Avivia.

Left to right, Amy Matysio, Ron Pederson, and Daniela Vlaskalic. Photo by Farrah Avivia.

  • Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace (16 Ryerson Avenue)
  • 7:30 p.m.

You can surmise a couple of things from the title of Stewart Lemoine’s play, receiving its Toronto debut 18 years after its Edmonton premiere. Like The Exquisite Hour, which producing company the Theatre Department launched with in 2012, Pith! is not much more than a hour—brevity being the soul of wit, after all. Pithy does in part mean concise, but “pith”? Well, it can mean “the essence,” and this play is concerned with getting to the essence of play, and by extension, a play.

Jack Vail (Ron Pederson) is a sailor and adventurer who, on a whim, decides to see what sort of adventures can be had in Providence, Rhode Island, in the summer of 1931. He’s just disembarked from a long sea voyage, and craves more genteel company, which he decides he’ll find at a Sunday church service and social. His attention is quickly drawn to a woman in mourning cloth and to her slightly less subdued companion, whom he finds sobbing over a plate of pie outside after the service. She introduces herself as Ms. Nancy Kimble (Amy Matysio), and shares the sad tale of her employer Mrs. Virginia Tillford (Daniela Vlaskalic), who has held out hope for a decade that her husband will return from a trip to South America, where he vanished.

Details: Getting to the Pith! of Play (and a Play)

As You Like It

  • The Storefront Theatre (955 Bloor Street West)
  • 8 p.m.

Rarely Pure Theatre brings Shakespeare’s As You Like It to the Storefront Theatre, one of the city’s new alternative presentation spaces. The company gives the story, which sees love and friendship complicated by sexual tension and gender confusion, a distinctly Canadian twist by moving the action to a wintery wonderland.

Details: As You Like It

Avenue Q’s a Cure for the Blues

Princeton, Rod, and Lucy the Slut are some of the characters you'll meet on Avenue Q. Image courtesy of Avenue Q.

Princeton, Rod, and Lucy the Slut are some of the characters you'll meet on Avenue Q. Image courtesy of Avenue Q.

  • Lower Ossington Theatre (100 Ossington Avenue)
  • 8 p.m.

Let’s face it: being a twenty-something can kinda suck. Pumped full of confidence and aspirations, we flee the family nest…and fall flat on our faces. Avenue Q uses songs (written by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx) and puppetry both to lament and poke fun at this difficult time. Much like Sesame Street, it has a cast made up of human actors who interact with a variety of furry creatures, who themselves have hands up their butts. Think that description is tasteless? This might not be the show for you—these puppets are crude and lewd, and have a taste for alcohol and porn. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

Details: Avenue Q’s a Cure for the Blues

The Keith Richards One Woman Show

Deanna Jones stars in The Keith Richards One Woman Show. Photo by Lauren Garbutt Photography.

Deanna Jones stars in The Keith Richards One Woman Show. Photo by Lauren Garbutt Photography.

  • Fixt Point Studio (1550 Queen Street West)
  • 8 p.m.

With a minimalistic set, some vintage guitars, and a rock n’ roll soundtrack, Deanna Jones takes on the persona of one of music’s most notorious figures. Humourous and introspective, The Keith Richards One Woman Show leads audiences through the highs and lows of the Rolling Stones guitarist’s often ridiculous life.

Details: The Keith Richards One Woman Show

The Ugly One Plays Both Faces Well

Naomi Wright and Hardee T. Lineham discuss the drastic facial reconfiguration of David Jansen's Lette in Theatre Smash's production of The Ugly One. Photo by James Heaslip.

Naomi Wright and Hardee T. Lineham discuss the drastic facial reconfiguration of David Jansen's Lette in Theatre Smash's production of The Ugly One. Photo by James Heaslip.

  • Tarragon Theatre (30 Bridgman Avenue)
  • 8 p.m.

German theatre has gone over really well in Toronto in recent years. Playwright Roland Schimmelpfennig’s contribution to Volcano Theatre’s Africa project was widely praised, and twinwerks//zwillingswerk’s production of Felicia Zeller’s Kaspar and the Sea of Houses earned the company an outstanding production award at the 2011 SummerWorks (and a trip back to 2012′s festival). Now, Theatre Smash returns with Marius von Mayenburg’s The Ugly One, a clever slice of absurdism that works well on several levels. There’s light humour when the titular character discovers that everyone finds his face repugnant, and darker tones when his new, beautiful face becomes coveted obsessively by those around him.

Details: The Ugly One Plays Both Faces Well

The Wedding Singer Evokes ’80s (and Sandler) Nostalgia

Isaac Bell as Robbie and Ashley Gibson as Julia. Photo by Scott Gorman.

Isaac Bell as Robbie and Ashley Gibson as Julia. Photo by Scott Gorman.

  • Hart House Theatre (7 Hart House Circle)
  • 8 p.m.

It seems like the 1980s are an odd, distant time here in the middle of the second decade of the 21st century. It also feels like it’s been almost as long since Adam Sandler was making good comedies, instead of recent dreck like the Grown-Ups films or Jack & Jill. Films like The Wedding Singer and Happy Gilmour were sweet (and only slightly profane) comedies where the screw-up always gets the girl.

Hart House Theatre’s production of The Wedding Singer is set a year shy of 30 years ago in Ridgefield, New Jersey, and trades on the nostalgia for a film that was already trading on nostalgia with neon lighting (plenty of purple wash), retro fashion, and familiar songs—the ones created for the film, anyway. (Classics like “You Spin Me Right Round” and “Love Stinks” would have made the licensing astronomical.) The 2006 musical adaptation came up with some similar (and period) sounding numbers that, in some cases, actually improve on the original. It also streamlined some of the characters: for instance, the most memorable supporting characters in the film, sleazeball Sammy (Matt Pilipiak) and keyboardist George (Scott Farley), are now both Robbie’s best friends and bandmates.

The musical also does a better job of balancing out Robbie (Isaac Bell) and Julia’s (Ashley Gibson) scenes, as she gets some songs to sing too, instead of being just a love interest. Julia’s scenes with her cousin Holly (Romina Cortina) and her mother won’t pass film’s Bechdel test, but then the boys only talk about women as well—save for a few throwaway lines about their band and an act-two number where Julia’s jerk fiancé Glen (Howard Davis) tries to sell Robbie on the world of finance.

The ensemble is spirited and, despite some persistent sound tech issues relating to the body mics, the show sounds all right too. Of course, a show likes this succeeds on the charisma of its leads and character roles: Bell, Gibson, and especially Farley are all likeable and on-point with their comedic timing. The book dutifully checks off all the memorable moments (and lines) that people are likely to recall from the film, which is, we suppose, sort of the point. You’re more likely to leave the theatre humming one of the songs from the pre-show or intermission music than from the score, but you probably will leave humming rather than grumbling.

Details: The Wedding Singer Evokes ’80s (and Sandler) Nostalgia