It’s January, and it’s cold and kinda blah: we need a reason to party! With that in mind, head on down to the Harbourfront Centre to ring in the traditional Asian Lunar New Year with a two-day LunarFest Celebration. Equine-themed to reflect the Year of the Horse, the event will include theatre productions, performances by Ho Deng Music Ensemble, dumpling and tea samples, a giant rocking horse, gorgeous lanterns, games, crafts, and much more for attendees of all ages.
You know what they say—Saturday night’s all right for fighting. Particularly when it’s a (mostly friendly) all-female battle, and roller skates are involved…Not sure what we’re talking about? It’s Toronto Roller Derby‘s eighth Season Opener! Two bouts see Chicks Ahoy! take on the Gore-Gore Rollergirls, followed by Toronto Junior Roller Derby versus the Alliston Junior Rollergirls.
Virginia Woolf once remarked that “on or about December 1910, human character changed.” Whether it actually did is debatable, but the curators of “The Great Upheaval: Masterpieces from the Guggenheim Collection 1910–1918” use that year to start their exhibition of works from a tumultuous decade of innovation in European fine art.
“Photography is truth,” Michel Subor’s young draft-dodger announces in Jean-Luc Godard’s Le Petit Soldat, “And cinema is truth 24 frames per second.” Though that statement is often misattributed to the French filmmaker himself rather than to his character, the sentiment seems to hold true enough for Godard. On the strength of his wide-ranging, by turns playful and socially committed, and equal parts aesthetically and politically revolutionary filmography, one might even say that Godard’s life’s work has been dedicated to elevating the cinema to the esteemed status in which philosophers hold first principles like truth.
That effort to haul the cinema out of its infancy and into a kind of artistic maturity is the subject of TIFF Cinematheque’s newest and fullest retrospective in some time, a two-season programme entitled Godard Forever, which is intended to span the length of the filmmaker’s remarkable, varied career—from the jazz-infused improvisation of Breathless to the Marxist montage of recent work like Film Socialisme. The first half of that retrospective, a fifteen-film programme dedicated to what most consider Godard’s golden age—the period from 1960’s Breathless to 1967’s apocalyptic, decade-capping Weekend—runs this season, highlighting the period in which Godard famously moulded existing genres like Hollywood gangster pictures and musicals into his own unique creations.
A week-long visual art and design bonanza taking place at venues across the city, the Toronto Design Offsite Festival features exhibitions, screenings, parties, talks, and tours—all of which showcase “the best in Canadian design.” It’s a not-for-profit festival, so most of the programming is free; you’ll want to check out the festival schedule for a full list of events, locations, and participating artists, companies, and galleries.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Last year’s Big Smoke Festival was a little too successful: the combination of craft beer and buzz-worthy local bands drew packed, noisy crowds, and fest producer Tallboys Craft Beer House ended up with a few irate neighbours. So for the third annual edition, Tallboys has teamed up with live music venue the Garrison to present two nights of rock ‘n’ suds. The afternoons (from 5 p.m. onward) will feature tastings of nine different Ontario brewers (a ticket includes a tasting glass and two drink tickets), and from 9 p.m. onwards both nights, bands like Cai.ro, Army Girls, and Warm Myth will take the stage.
Glendon College presents the second stage production to come out of its newly formed drama club, Lionheart Productions Coeur de Lion. Written by Justin Ruttan, Dark Lady: The Musical is a fantastic romp through the life of a drag performer, set to the music of Cher. More than just a theatrical glitterbomb, the story sees the protagonist grapple with loss, love, and self-discovery.
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.
It’s time to lace up! Harbourfront Centre has brought back its weekly DJ Skate Nights at Natrel Rink, overlooking the lake. Make the best of winter, and get your skate on to the sounds of some of Toronto’s premiere DJs and party-makers, like Skratch Bastid (Dec 14), Cherry Bomb (Feb 1), and DJ Starting from Scratch (Feb 22).
The producers of Riverdance have spawned yet another on-stage extravaganza. With a talented cast of 38, Heartbeat of Home is a high-energy show, combining Irish, Latin, and Afro-Cuban music and dance. Torontonians get the honour of seeing the production’s North American debut—take it in before it’s gone!
There’s a lot going on in this city, but we bet this is the only clown and chamber music fusion event you’ll find. Arlecchino Allegro, a cabaret presented by the Toronto Masque Theatre, is best described as “a glittering musical fête gone awry.” Exploring themes of love, laughter, and celebration, the show is a peculiar but amusing mixture of improv, clowns, dance, and music.
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.
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.
In 2006, the quiet town of Ipswich, England, was turned upside down by the discovery of five dead women. During this time, playwright Alecky Blythe recorded extensive interviews with the nearby residents. Set to music, these audio clips form the script to London Road, a raw piece of theatre illustrating tragedy’s ability to fortify a community.
The Acting Up Stage Company brings the French Antilles to Toronto audiences with its new musical, Once On This Island. Set to an exuberant Caribbean score, we see the gods test the dark-skinned Ti Moune by sending her on a quest after she falls in love with a higher-class, light-skinned man.
In Tarragon Theatre’s current mainstage production, Flesh and Other Fragments of Love, there are both a marriage and a body on the rocks, and the prognosis isn’t good for either of them. While the human figure appears pale, cold, and lifeless, the marriage is slightly more alive, and the play chronicles its last dying breaths. Surprisingly, though, the young female cadaver is by far the more interesting of the two.
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.
Witness the birth of new dance pieces at the Series 8:08 Choreographic Perfomance Workshop. This event allows emerging and professional choreographers to experiment with new ideas, give sneak peeks of works in progress, and show off newly completed pieces to the general public. Attendees will be welcome to share their opinions and ask questions during the post-performance meet and greet.