It’s been a great week off, the first week of my favourite month, leading up to Thanksgiving weekend.
Monday night was dinner at Shanghai Cowgirl (http://www.shanghaicowgirl.com/) with my friend Dee, then we moved on to Bar Czehoski (http://www.czehoski.com/) for Windbag Cabaret, hosted by Michael Bell (Twitter: @Michael_Bell_), who treated the audience to some standards, as well as some pop favourites, throughout the evening as he introduced the night’s amazing music line-up. Missy Knott (Twitter: @missyknottmusic) offered up some sweet acoustic blues-inspired folk from her For No Reason At All… CD and Missy Knott EP, with sexy vocals making love to those lyrics. Joel Parkes (Twitter: @JoelParkes) did a nice, mostly driving country set, including a song he co-wrote with Shaun Shankel and Kyle Jacobs that became a country power ballad hit when American Idol finalist Kimberley Locke recorded it on her One Love album – “8th World Wonder.” And rounding out the evening’s rotation of amazing talent was blueVenus (http://www.bluevenusmusic.com/), who blows me away every time, mostly due to singer/songwriter Andrea de Boer’s incredible vocals and lyrics – with selections from her Grin CD, a sweet combination of jazz and pop. My favourite song is still “No Time To Waste.”
Tuesday, I went to see Farewell, My Queen at the Carlton. This heartbreaking and romantic historical drama takes us behind the scenes of a monarchy under siege as the revolution takes hold in France. Sidonie Laborde (Léa Seydoux) is a servant of Queen Marie Antoinette (Diane Kruger) – the Queen’s reader who becomes the Queen’s confidant – at her mistress’s beck and call. The Queen, burdened by rank and anxious about the uncertainty of the future, appears as a fragile, easily distracted and passionate woman – the object of her passion being noblewoman Gabrielle de Polignac (Virginie Ledoyen). Sidonie’s love of and loyalty to the Queen are put to the test as the nobles flee Versailles and Marie Antoinette fears for the safety of Gabrielle. Gorgeous art direction and beautifully shot, Farewell, My Queen gives the audience a peek into two very different worlds, with Sidonie acting as a bridge, as well as our guide, between the two. Check out the trailer:
Wednesday and Thursday was a great time, spent in Niagara on the Lake (NotL) at the Shaw Festival (http://www.shawfest.com/). Here’s what I saw there:
Wednesday afternoon, I saw Come Back, Little Sheba, by William Inge and directed by Shaw A.D. Jackie Maxwell, at the Royal George Theatre. This is an intimate and heart-breaking portrait of middle America post-WWII. Of being alone and lonely in a sea of apartments. Of longing for more innocent times gone by. Of AA and the Serenity Prayer. Middle-aged housewife Lola (Corrine Koslo) longs for the joy and romance of times past, missing her lost dog Sheba and sneaking peeks at – and living vicariously through – her beautiful young border Maria (Julia Course) on dates with her bad-boy boyfriend Turk (Kevin McGarry) even as she courts nice boy Bruce (Andrew Bunker). Not the greatest housekeeper, Lola scores points with her serious German neighbour Mrs. Coffman (Sharry Flett) by fixing up the house for Bruce’s impending dinner visit. As Lola lives in fantasy, her husband Doc (Ric Reid), who she calls “Daddy” while he calls her “Baby,” struggles with sobriety as he goes about the monotonous everyday business of his chiropractic practice. Quiet lives of desperation ready to implode or explode at any moment – the reserves of rage, strength and even kindness of these characters are remarkable. Outstanding performances, especially from Koslo and Reid, as well as Course and Flett. And I loved Christina Poddubiuk’s set design, which features the family living/dining room and kitchen, surrounded by hanging window frames in the background, giving the sense of a densely packed urban neighbourhood.
Wednesday night, I wandered over to the Festival Theatre box office and managed to get a last-minute – and really good – seat for the evening performance of Present Laughter (by Noel Coward, directed by David Schurmann). I needed that infusion of Coward comedy and this production gives it up big time. The audience gets a two-hour behind-the-scenes look at the personal and professional trials and tribulations of theatre star Garry Essendine (Steven Sutcliffe) as backstage and marital/relationship shenanigans unfold in his stunning studio apartment. Featuring some hilarious – and at times sexy – turns from Sutcliffe, Claire Jullien (as his sort-of-ex-wife Liz), Moya O’Connell (friend’s wife Johanna) and Mary Haney (secretary Monica), with shouts to Corrine Koslo (housekeeper Miss Erikson), Jonathan Tan (crazed student/fan Roland) and Jennifer Phipps (Lady Saltburn). Wonderfully gorgeous set design by William Schmuck, the dominant mural inspired by a smaller version at Central Station in Cincinnati, which is now an Art Deco museum with a train line operating to Chicago. It was some big, marvelous party, pandemonium fun.
Thursday night, I was back at the Festival Theatre for Ragtime – book by Terrance McNally, music by Stephen Flaherty and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens – directed by Jackie Maxwell, with music direction by Paul Sportelli and choreography by Valerie Moore. I was fully expecting to be in tears – and I was – at the end of both acts as I watched New York City go through the birth pains of the 20th century. Interwoven stories of a wealthy WASP family, a Jewish immigrant and his young daughter, and a young educated black piano player who makes things right with the mother of his infant son only to be faced with a battle for justice and dignity when racist hooligans vandalize his car. The struggles of race, class and the hardships of immigrants, all reaching for the American Dream – or trying to keep their grip on what piece of it they already have. An incredible ensemble of performers, featuring Thom Allison as Coalhouse Walker Jr., Patty Jamieson as Mother and Jay Turvey as Tateh, with stand-out work from Evan Alexander Smith as Younger Brother, Kate Hennig as Emma Goldman, Kelly Wong as Houdini and Julie Martell as Evelyn Nesbit. Also featuring an impressive and effective set by Sue LePage – a framework of black steal girders and catwalks, with projected still photos and moving pictures in the background. An inspirational, powerful and moving work.
It was a truly enjoyable week – with thanks to my folks for always being up for a road trip and giving me a drive to NotL from Burlington, as well as the good folks at the Charles Inn (http://www.niagarasfinest.com/properties/charlesinn/), the lovely spot I stayed in at NotL.
Back with a photo blog of NotL soon.