Monday, August 27, 2012

Two Stratford Shakespeare Festival late-season winners

The Stratford Shakespeare Festival is where I spent part of my vacation last week, as I finished up my season covering the offerings at the various theatres that are part of the Festival, so over the next couple of weeks we'll wrap up the late-season openings at Stratford.

Two of the shorter, one-act plays at the smaller Studio Theatre space at the back of the Avon Theatre are The Best Brothers and Hirsch.  I was pleasantly surprised with both productions, as they both balanced substance and humour in very entertaining ways.

First up, let's look at The Best Brothers by Canadian playwright, actor and director Daniel MacIvor from Cape Breton, Nova Scotia.  MacIvor has a reputation as a creative and funny writer, but also a very thoughtful one displaying a great deal of depth.  The Best Brothers, a play dealing with the death of a loved one, has both humour and depth.  It deals with the two Best brothers, Kyle and Hamilton, who are faced with the passing of their mother and how each comes to grips with the loss and grieving process.

Kyle, played by John Beale, is the more artistic, creative soul, while Hamilton, played by MacIvor himself in this production, is the more solid, business-minded soul.  They are like oil and water, basically, yet each shares the grief at the loss of their mother, albeit in their own particular ways.  I saw a lot of myself and my brother in both these roles, dealing three years ago as we were with the loss of our father.  It was a difficult period for both of us and I identified with one of these characters very clearly, although I won't say which one it was!

A family loss can bring out the best - and the worst - in the remaining family members, as was the case for us three years ago, and so it is with Kyle and Hamilton Best.  Yet both characters are funny, touching and everything in-between in this production.  While the subject matter is rather morbid to some, it is a reality we all have to deal with at one time or another in our lives, and I doubt many in the audience would not be able to identify with either one of the brothers and what they are dealing with.

The final curtain call includes the subject of one of the sore points for one of the brothers during the play, incidentally, and I will leave it at that.  But suffice it to say the audience was pleasantly surprised with that moment at the very end of the play!

Dean Gabourie directs The Best Brothers with a great deal of care, bringing out the best in both characters, and the simple set designed by Julie Fox works well in the small Studio Theatre space.  The Best Brothers continues until September 16th and rates a strong three out of four stars.

Meantime, the one-man play at the other end of the Avon Theatre, complementing the highly-publicized A Word or Two with Christopher Plummer on the mainstage at the Avon, is Alon Nashman as Hirsch, the Hungarian-born Canadian director and head of CBC drama for English-language television in the mid-70s, John Hirsch.  He may be better-known to Stratford regulars as the Artistic Director at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival from 1981 to 1985, which included the first few years I actually started attending and writing about plays at the Festival on a regular basis.  So for me, Hirsch served as my introduction to the theatre institution known as Stratford during those - for me, at least - formative years.

Nashman, co-creator with Paul Thompson and sole performer of the play, directed by Thompson, is the first to admit this is not a bio or even a documentary of Hirsch, but rather their interpretations of some of the events in the life of John Hirsch.  There are some of his "actual" words included in the play, of course, and many of those struck a chord with audience members at the performance I attended last week.  Nashman also notes the chronology of the narrative reflects John's life as well, so it might appear at first glance to be a biography of the director.

Visually, Nashman looks a lot like the John Hirsch we remember, with a full heard and spectacles, wearing a check shirt in his rather casual, professorial way.  I never met Mr. Hirsch personally, unfortunately, but I suspect some of the physical mannerisms are rather similar to Hirsch's as well.

Nashman obviously had a great deal of respect for Hirsch, and as such this is a loving tribute to a man who was often misunderstood by some of those he worked with.  I remember the turmoil he went through as Artistic Director of the Festival in those years from 1981 to 1985, yet few would disagree with Hirsch's love and passion for live theatre in general and the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in particular.

The set is simple, making good use of the space at the Studio Theatre, with several props handed off to Nashman by the stage managers that generated a few good-natured laughs during the performance.

I liked this production quite a bit, and respect Nashman for devoting part of his theatrical life to honouring a man who gave so much to Canadian theatre for many years before passing away in 1989.  It will continue until September 14th at the Studio Theatre, and rates a strong three out of four stars.

August 27th, 2012.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Shaw Festival one-act plays present a mixed bag this year

There are two short, one-act plays at the Shaw Festival in Niagara-on-the-Lake this season, the traditional lunchtime offering at the Court House Theatre, and the Studio Theatre production, which opened just last week.  Let's take a look at both this week as we continue with our reviews of Shaw Festival offerings this season.

The Lunchtime show is traditionally lighter fare, a one-act play designed to send you out into the street for a late lunch with a smile on your face.  This year, however, a bit of a break with tradition as Artistic Director Jackie Maxwell has programmed an early one-act musical by a very young Leonard Bernstein as both composer and lyricist, Trouble in Tahiti.  The trouble with Trouble, as it were, is not really the musical's fault, per se.  We now know Bernstein as the clever and inventive writer of such musicals as On The Town and of course, West Side Story; we expect more of the same even in Bernstein's earlier works, too.  But this is young Bernstein:  he was, after all, only about 34 years of age when Trouble premiered in 1952, and although we hear passages that will suggest later successes for him, particularly West Side Story, this is a more youthful-sounding Bernstein still finding his way in the world of musicals.

The premise of the work, according to Bernstein, was to strip away the shiny veneer of suburban contentment and reveal instead the void that comes when a couple don't communicate and ultimately begin to drift apart.  The wife is bored and ignored by the husband who is an executive on the ladder to success; they are augmented by what Bernstein called "a Greek Chorus born of the radio commercial" meaning, essentially, they are singing jazzy rhythms to complement the action unfolding between the two onstage.  The wife is played by Elodie Gillett and her husband by handsome Mark Uhre.  Both are quite good, and they fit their respective roles well; together with the chorus all under the direction of Jay Turvey, this is a nice little slice of American life from exactly 60 years ago.

That being said, one would have to think this lunchtime offering will have somewhat limited appeal, being an acquired taste for some.  I quite like parts of it, actually, but it is not really one of Bernstein's best efforts. so this one scores a two out of four stars.  Trouble in Tahiti continues at the Court House Theatre until October 7th, beginning at 11:30 am incidentally.

Now, on to the riskier offering at the Studio Theatre, Helen's Necklace by playwright Carol Frechette, which opened August 11th and continues only until August 31st.  The past few seasons, the Studio Theatre offering has been one of the late-season hits of the Festival; last year, for example, Top Dog Underdog was one of the most riveting evenings of theatre anywhere.  But this year, well, close but no cigar, unfortunately.

Helen's Necklace was the first of Frechette's plays to examine the horrors of contemporary war, although she herself is quoted as saying she really didn't write about war itself but rather the losses felt by those affected by war.  At any rate, it is pretty grim, as was the Beirut of the 90s Frechette experienced first-hand while living there for a few short weeks.  The play premiered there in 2002 and was received warmly, she says in the Playwright's Notes in the programme at Shaw; the English premiere of the work was at Tarragon Theatre in Toronto in 2003, directed by Eda Holmes and starring Susan Coyne and Sanjay Talwar.  Talwar reprises his role here at Shaw, playing opposite Tara Rosling as Helen.  Sanjay plays several roles, primarily the cab driver in war-torn Beirut taking Helen on an adventure first to look for the necklace she has lost, but ultimately to discover much more about the people she is living amongst and indeed, herself.

The play is short, only an hour long with no intermission, and is a bit of a tough go given the grim nature of the storyline.  But there is humour as well, and a musical score that brings back memories of exotic locales, courtesy of John Millard.  Rosling and Talwar deliver great performances, but even so, you might be tempted to ask at the end of it all, "What in the world happened here?"

Helen's Necklace won't have the powerful impact of last year's Top Dog Underdog to be sure, but it is an interesting sidelight to the rest of the Shaw season.  It clearly won't appeal to everyone, to be sure, so I'll give it a two out of four stars.  It runs at the Studio Theatre until August 31st.

Enjoy the theatre!

August 20th, 2012.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

News and events around Niagara this month

The summer may be waning somewhat, but the number of arts-related events continues unabated as we prepare to turn the corner into September in a couple of weeks.  I thought this weekend we'd clear up a number of arts-related odds and ends that have crossed my desk the last couple of weeks and clear the decks for the remainder of my Shaw and Stratford reviews to close out the month.

The busker season is upon us, and you might remember the battle that ensued following the first annual Buskerfest in downtown St. Catharines this time last year.  Kelly Daniels and Lyndesfarne Theatre Projects, who presented the weekend-long event last year, took a bit of a financial bath on the event, even though critically and popularity-wise, it was a huge success.  After going hat in hand to St. Catharines Council earlier this year, they were turned down for a financial bailout, so cancelled the event for this summer.  But then, the City of Niagara Falls saw an opportunity to showcase the event in their downtown, so the Niagara Falls Buskerfest was born and comes up Labour Day weekend on Queen Street in downtown Niagara Falls.

That means St. Catharines was free and clear to present their own Buskerfest this weekend, which they have done, presented by a local group, Valuemedia.  Called Niagara Buskerfest 2012, it is on now on James Street at King Street in downtown St. Catharines through to Sunday evening.  I walked through the event site this morning and while it was well attended and everyone seemed to be having a good time, it is certainly smaller than last year, with only one stage that I could see for buskers compared to about three last year.  But it is the first year for the new group, and if things go well they will likely expand the event next year.  There is lots of food available on site and other displays and shopping kiosks set up, so there is something for everyone.  It looks to be a good time for most downtown this weekend, so if you have some free time you might like to head down and check it out.  Just remember driving and parking are both restricted in the area.

Speaking of Lyndesfarne Theatre Projects, they of course moved their theatre operations to downtown Niagara Falls earlier this summer as well, moving into the nicely renovated Seneca Theatre on Queen Street.  This week they announced the lineup for season eight, and they include three plays:  The Woman in Black by Stephen Mallatratt, directed by Kelly Daniels, and running October 12th to the 28th; It's A Wonderful Life, adapted by Barbara Worthy and Jon Osbaldeston and directed by Barbara Worthy, running November 23rd to December 16th; and Criminal Genius by George F. Walker, directed by Karen Wood and running February 22nd to March 10th.  Of course, there will be a couple of preview performances for each of these productions prior to the official opening.  I'll be writing more about these shows as the dates draw closer, but for more information go to the Lyndesfarne website at

To help fund and generate interest in the Niagara Falls Buskerfest, there will be a Busker Blast Charity Gala coming up Thursday, August 30th in Vineland, with a ticket price of $ 125.00.  Again, information will be found on the Lyndesfarne website.

This week I attended a media conference at one of my favourite places in all of Niagara, the Mount Carmel Monastery in Niagara Falls, where I have spend many a quiet moment on retreat in the past.  They have partnered with Belinda Anderson and Torena Gardner-Durdle and a team of enthusiastic volunteers to organize The Carmel Fine Art and Music Festival, coming up the weekend of September 7th to 9th on the grounds of Mount Carmel.  I will be writing more about this event and what you can expect closer to the date, of course, but suffice it to say if you have never visited Mount Carmel you are in for a treat.  It is a glorious space overlooking Niagara Falls, and I never fail to have a good feeling whenever I visit.  Sadly, the outside labyrinth for walking that was next door on the grounds of the Christian Life Centre is no longer there, but I walk the grounds regularly and find peace not many steps from the tourist area of the Falls.  For more information on the festival in the meantime, go to

Speaking of art, remember the Downtown Night of Art in St. Catharines in October each year, organized by the late and lamented St. Catharines & Area Arts Council?  The organization may now be long gone and with it the Night of Art in October, but a new initiative known as Niagara Nights of Art will be presenting Art City in St. Catharines September 15th, starting at 12 noon and going well into the night.  There will be art-making workshops, street performances, live music, theatre readings and dance, and it is all free.  More on this when the date approaches, too, but for now there is a call out for volunteers who want to take part.  You can email if you are interested in helping out.  Just be sure to include your phone number and age.

Finally, Sunday September 16th will see the 10th anniversary of the Willowbank Jazz Festival, although this year the event has been moved off the grounds of the Willowbank Estate and over to Ravine Vineyard Estate Winery in St. Davids, a lovely setting we have enjoyed visiting for dinner and performances in the past.  It really is an idyllic setting with rolling vineyards and great scenery to go with the music.  Tickets are available by calling Willowbank at 905-262-1239, ext. 21.  I will write more about this with the lineup planned closer to the event, but you might want to mark it on your calendars now as it promises to be a big event.

Enjoy your weekend!

August 18th, 2012.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

A Word or Two about the Stratford Shakespeare Festival

I just got back from a day trip to Stratford on the weekend, just after the opening last week of Christopher Plummer's celebratory one-man show, A Word or Two, and I'll have more than a word or two to say about it momentarily.  But first, the latest news from the Festival came yesterday with a release announcing the completion of the changing of the guard at the top of the Festival for the coming season.

I wrote in this space earlier this season when it was announced Artistic Director Des McAnuff would be leaving at the end of this current season, and General Director Antoni Cimolino had been appointed as the new Artistic Director effective November 1st of this year.  Having seen the work Antoni has done in the past with the Festival, I think this is a good fit for all concerned, and we can expect some good things in the coming years at Stratford.

Now it has been announced Anita Gaffney will take over as Executive Director of the Stratford Shakespeare Festival as of November 1st of this year.  Anita has been with the Festival for 21 years now, most recently as Administrative Director and previous to that as Marketing Director, designing the Festival's customer relationship marketing system, which has proven to be a very successful model.  In the release that came out yesterday, Mr. Cimolino noted the family ties run deep at the Festival for Anita, saying:  "It seems most fitting that Anita's father, Oliver Gaffney, literally built the Stratford Festival auditorium.  He passed on to her a profound love for the Festival and a desire to see it flourish and aspire to reach new heights.  This is a passion we share."  We'll see where that combined passion takes us starting next year!

Now, speaking of passion, it is no secret Christopher Plummer has a passion for words.  They are his life and have been for the better part of eight decades.  It should come as no surprise that Plummer, celebrated on both stage and in film for many years now and an Academy Award winner to boot, wanted to help celebrate the 60th Anniversary season of the Stratford Shakespeare Festival as well.  He has been at the Festival off an on for many years now, almost from the beginning.  So, he teamed up with Artistic Director Des McAnuff to revamp his long-running one-man show for the Avon stage, where it continues only until August 26th.

Director McAnuff has helped to bring the words to life along with Plummer and set designer Robert Brill, who has created a staircase of books as a backdrop to the otherwise sparse and simple stage design.  The overall effect is breathtaking when you walk into the theatre, as you immediately sense you are in for something special.

When the lights come up and Plummer appears onstage, sitting at the base of the book 'staircase', the applause is immediate and genuine.  There is a connection between Christopher and the audience almost from the first words he utters, and it never wavers throughout the 90 minute show.  He appears almost frail at first, walking the stage and arranging the props just as he likes them, wearing about the most sensible walking shoes imaginable.  But as the show goes on the words invigorate him - and us - as he breathes new life into passages that have touched him over the years from the likes of Shakespeare, Shaw and Wilde to A.A. Milne, Rostand and MacLeish, and even a friendly nod to famed Canadian storyteller Stephen Leacock among many others.

Christopher Plummer has lived life well over the years, some of his exploits being documented in the show, as well as some snippets of his early years and family life in his native Montreal.  You never find out too much about his early years, just enough thank you very much.  The audience didn't care, of course; they were there to celebrate the written word right along with him and with them, his life as well.

There is alway a danger a show of this nature could veer towards the self-indulgent, but Plummer and McAnuff wisely and carefully choose their course and keep things informative yet light, pleasant but not too probing.  The balance works well.  Oh sure, it would be nice to hear even longer passages than the short snippets we hear; that is natural in a case like this.  But Plummer and McAnuff keep things moving at a good clip and the show never lags.

One of the most gratifying aspects of the show, I found, was the genuine love for Canada and for Canadians he displays throughout.  It celebrates Canada as well as Canadian theatre along with his strong associations with both.  How can you not appreciate and respect him for that?

Criticism?  Not much.  Perhaps wearing a belt when his jacket is undone might be nice.  But other than that, there is not much to dislike about A Word or Two.  Christopher Plummer is a national treasure by now and he could stand on stage and read the proverbial phonebook while they are still around, and the audience would be happy.  He doesn't of course, and we're all the better for it.

The run is unfortunately very short for A Word or Two; it closes at the Avon Theatre August 26th.  But if you are one of those lucky ones to have already bought your tickets, you will be richly rewarded with a loving tribute to the written word from a man who loves them as much as he loves life itself.

The show may not be perfect, but this is Christopher Plummer all alone onstage, for heaven's sake!  When might we have the pleasure of that experience again, you have to ask.  As such, a very strong four out of four stars for A Word or Two from this corner.

Enjoy the show!

August 15th, 2012.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Summer music continues throughout Ontario in August

It has been a few weeks since I last wrote of some of the music festivals underway in Ontario, and there are some still going strong as we head to the mid-way point of August.  First of all, though I wanted to write a few words of thanks about the Elora Festival, which concluded last weekend in the picturesque little town north-west of Guelph.

Sophie and I always look forward to our visits to Elora every season, and last weekend we made our annual pilgrimage to Elora for a concert at the Gambrel Barn Saturday night for a concert titled A Summer Evening on Broadway.  Hosted by theatre critic and broadcaster Richard Ouzounian, the concert featured the Elora Festival Singers backing up soloists Adam Brazier, Ma-Anne Dionisio, Adrian Marchuk and Blythe Wilson.  David Warrack was the pianist/conductor along with his wife, pianist Lona Davis, and instrumentalists Tom Hazlitt, bass; Bill Bridges, guitar; and Lorne Grossman, percussion.

The weather was not very cooperative, but the rain did hold off until after the concert, but boy was it stinkin' hot Saturday night!  The music was, too, and the soloists were all great.  Marchuk, incidentally, is best-known for playing Frankie Valli in Jersey Boys for three years.  Dionisio was Kim in Miss Saigon for many years; Adam Brazier is currently the Artistic Director of Theatre 20, an artist-led Musical Theatre company in Toronto; and Blythe Wilson is well known for her musical roles at both the Shaw and Stratford Festivals over the years as well as two years with the national tour of Mary Poppins.

Elora is celebrating their 33rd successful year this season, and each year they manage to produce a wide variety of exceptionally varied programs at several venues around town.  Going to Elora is always one of the highlights of the summer season for Sophie and I.  But one thing I do each year as an add-on is to attend the Sunday morning service at the Elora Festival Singers' home base, St. John's Anglican Church in Elora, where a number of the smaller concerts are held each year.  The service is mostly music, and what glorious music it is!  The choir is always magnificent, directed by Noel Edison, Artistic Director for the Festival, and the organist each time I have been there has been Michael Bloss, who knows how to bring every nuance out of the organ at St. John's.  This is one of the most exhilarating experiences you can have on the weekend, and it only takes an hour and a quarter of your time!

The sermon last week was by the retired Bishop of Niagara, Ralph Spence, who always offers a nicely balanced sermon of humour and knowledge, this time reflecting on his time spent recently in London taking part in the big celebratory barge procession on the Thames for Queen Elizabeth.  He is such an engaging personality, and always entertains whenever he speaks in a public forum.

Elora was great again this year, but it is by no means the only musical event this summer.  In fact, our local Music Niagara concert season winds up tonight in Niagara-on-the-Lake with a concert titled A Haydn Spectacular, featuring Edwin Outwater conducting the St. Mark's Orchestra and the Vocalis Chamber Choir from Buffalo.  The concert, at 7:30 at St. Mark's Church in Niagara-on-the-Lake, will feature Haydn's Mass for Troubled Times and his Farewell Symphony.  Tickets are available at the door or in advance by calling the box office at 1-800-511-7429.  You might also want to stick around after the concert tonight for the final Jazz on the Patio concert at The Epicurean Bistro starting at 9:30, tonight featuring Drew Jurecka on violin and vocals along with his trio.  Again, tickets are available through the box office or tonight at the concert.

The Sunset Music Series continues at The Rotary Shell at Charles Daley Park in Lincoln every Tuesday evening at 7 until the end of August.  This week there is a Johnny Cash Tribute Show with special guest Bill Culp, and a blues concert August 21st with Steve Burnside and The Marquis, and August 28th the series wraps up with Party Band, featuring Sandy Vine and The Midnights.  All concerts are free of charge, food is available on site for a nominal charge, and you can bring your own chair or blanket for the event.

The Stratford Summer Music Festival continues for another couple of weeks in Stratford, and it is a great sidelight to the Stratford Shakespeare Festival or as a destination concert on its own.  Still to come, you can take in a Harry Somers lecture & music event on Wednesday morning; The Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra next Saturday morning, August 18th, and the regular Jazz at The Church event on August 24th featuring Jane Bunnett & the Spirits of Havana.  Many more concert events are planned, so for complete listings go to, and for tickets you can purchase them through the site or by calling 1-866-288-4313.

There are many more musical events to come before the summer ends, many of which will be listed on the Calendar page of my website, at  Enjoy some great music this summer!

August 11th, 2012.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Two more winners at the Shaw Festival

So far this season has seen many more positives than negatives at the Shaw Festival in Niagara-on-the-Lake this season, and today we'll look at two of the popular winners you can catch this summer.

French Without Tears by Terence Rattigan is at the Royal George Theatre until September 15th, and it is an interesting piece.  Unless you are fluent in French, which I unfortunately am not, you may find yourself a little lost in the early going with this one.  One of my friends in fact started looking for the exits in the first half-hour or so, but eventually as things picked up he was glad he stayed, as indeed I was.  It is, to be honest, a little difficult to get into in the first half-hour or so as some of the characters in the play, especially Michael Ball as Monsieur Maingot, speak some of their lines in French and you are left to translate yourself through the English lines of other characters.  Not too difficult, really, but it is something to keep in mind while considering if you will go to this play or not.

Once you get beyond that, the play picks up and you find yourself watching a real gem of a play by Rattigan that dates from 1936 when it premiered at the Criterion Theatre in London.  That would have been a play to see, incidentally, as the first production featured a young Rex Harrison and Jessica Tandy.  Here, we have a good, solid cast of Shaw regulars such as Martin Happer as Lieutenant-Commander Rogers and Julie Martell as the beguiling Jacqueline Maingot.  Both are great in their respective roles, with Martell especially so as she is sexy in a very honest sort of way, if that makes sense.  Of course, Ball as Monsieur Maingot is a delight to watch, showing his bilingualism to great effect along the way.

Others to watch for are Robin Evan Willis as a very sexy and tall Diana Lake, who catches the eye of most of the other men at some point or another in the play, and Billy Lake as Kenneth Lake.  Lots of Lakes in this play, I know...

The play is a funny yet affectionate look at a collection of young Brit men studying French to help them launch diplomatic careers and thereby assume positions of power in the still-thriving British Empire.  Worldly they are; in areas of women, romance and yes sex, well, decidedly not.  This sets the scene for some very funny moments that will make you forget the early going in short order.

Kate Lynch directs and William Schmuck designed the lovely set, and both handle their duties in exemplary fashion.  It may not be for everyone, but for most, this will be a bit of a sleeper at the Shaw Festival this season.  French Without Tears is a solid three out of four stars and plays at the Royal George Theatre until September 15th.

Over at the Festival Theatre, the hot ticket this season, aside from Ragtime of course, is His Girl Friday, adapted by John Guare in 2003 from the well-known play The Front Page by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur and the film version of the play, which also came to be known as His Girl Friday.

The original play, The Front Page, was a big success on Broadway when it opened in 1928, running for 258 performances.  Several stage revivals and movie remakes have come along since then, bringing us to this more recent updating by Guare, which premiered at the National Theatre in London in June of 2003.

The time period has been updated from the 1920s of The Front Page to 1939, so there are many references to Hitler and his march on Europe, which while not detracting from the fun of the play per se, appear to be handled rather clumsily at times.  The two main protagonists, newspaper dictator Walter Burns and his ace reporter were also changed from two men to man and woman, with Hildy, the reporter, being Burns' ex-wife who has found a new guy and wants to leave the business.  It takes a skilled director and cast to pull it all together and pull this thing off, and Shaw has a spectacular cast lined up for this production that makes it a bona fide hit.

Where do you begin with this all-star cast?  Start with Kevin Hanchard, Jeff Meadows, Guy Bannerman, Neil Barclay and Kevin McGarry as the hard-nosed newspaper reporters from competing newspapers, add in Peter Millard as the oddly eccentric Woodenshoes, and mix in Ric Reid as the kindly newspaper reporter and frustrated poet Bensinger and Thom Allison as the money man Diamond Louie and you have a recipe for a great comedy.  All these characters are fabulous, with Ric Reid as Bensinger especially so in the second act.  But when you top if off with Benedict Campbell as Walter Burns and his ex-wife Hildy played by Nicole Underhay, the comedic mix just explodes from the stage like a team of unbridled horses.

Campbell and Underhay are simply great together, reacting to each other like the proverbial oil and water.  They are perfectly matched and keep pace line for line throughout this hectic, epic farce.  Campbell, especially, has so many lines and directions to go in, it boggles the mind he manages to keep  it all together.

The rest of the supporting cast is certainly up to the task as well:  Lorne Kennedy as Pinkus, Thom Marriott as The Mayor and Krista Colosimo as Mollie Malloy as a few more examples of the comedic gold you find in this production.

The Shaw production of The Front Page in 1994 was a huge hit that season, although I was not a great fan of that production, as I recall.  This new updating, even with the racist and sexist comments flying about that seem somewhat appropriate to the era depicted here, just seems to work better for me.  Even with the Hitler reference.  I have no idea why, it just does.

His Girl Friday continues at the Festival Theatre until October 5th, but I wouldn't be at all surprised if the run is extended.  It rates a very strong three out of four stars.

Enjoy the theatre!

August 4th, 2012.