NSTF: Keep calm & sing along with the timely, funny, moving Pearle Harbour’s Agit-Pop!

Steven Conway & Pearle Harbour. Lighting design by Logan Raju Cracknell. Photo by Michael Cooper.

 

Pearle Harbour pops onto the Factory Theatre Mainspace stage for Next Stage Theatre Festival with her timely, funny and moving pre-apocalyptic multimedia drag cabaret Pearle Harbour’s Agit-Pop! Written by Justin Miller and directed by Rebecca Ballarin, with music direction and live accompaniment by Steven Conway, and video design by Adam Miller, Pearle brings her wartime tragicomedienne song stylings and storytelling to explore our deepest fears.

Climate change is at a crisis point, the Doomsday Clock is at two minutes to midnight, and Australia’s on fire—but keep calm and laugh, sing, and even scream and cry, along with Pearle as she treats audiences to some music gems by the likes of David Bowie, Judy Garland, Tom Waits and more, including a different special guest artist appearance with every performance. Examining our deepest existential fears, the storytelling and song stylings switch between funny and poignant, with Pearle living up to her reputation as a wartime tragicomedienne and including some gentle, consensual audience participation.

The 1950s Bert the Turtle PSA bit on how to protect yourself in the event of a nuclear blast (duck and cover) got a bit too close to home this morning when that Emergency Alert went out to folks across Southern Ontario around 7:30AM. The vague warning, directed to folks living withing 10km of the Pickering nuclear power plant, turned out to be sent in error, but loads of questions remain as I write this.

There’s some truly frightening stuff happening out in the world right now—but, ultimately, Pearle’s message is one of awareness, engagement, hope and love. Let’s do better. Let’s reach out to each other. Let’s turn back that clock.

You have three more chances to catch Pearle Harbour’s Agit-Pop! in the Factory Theatre Mainspace until January 19; check the show page for exact dates, times and advance ticket purchase. The house was packed yesterday, so early arrival or advance booking strongly recommended.

NSTF: Sisters are takin’ names and kickin’ butt in From Judy to Bette

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Rebecca Perry in From Judy to Bette: The Stars of Old Hollywood – photo by Tanja Tiziana

The Toronto Fringe’s annual Next Stage Theatre Festival (NSTF) opened at the Factory Theatre last night and I kicked off this year’s festivities with Rebecca Perry Productions’ From Judy to Bette: The Stars of Old Hollywood. Written and performed by Rebecca Perry, and directed by Michael Rubinstein, From Judy to Bette is Perry’s NSTF debut – and a departure from her Redheaded Coffeeshop Girl shows – in this solo cabaret-style homage to four real-life women.

Inspired by four powerhouse performers (Bette Davis, Judy Garland, Betty Hutton and Lucille Ball) who refused to be relegated to the stereotypical female roles of the day, Perry highlights the career highs and lows of these remarkable women with anecdotes, quotes and songs. Perry is no slouch herself, taking us on a 30-minute old Hollywood history tour in a delightfully dynamic and engaging performance of a tight and entertaining script. Accompanied by music director/arranger Quinton Naughton, she gives us some sweet tastes of the tunes that made these women famous, particularly Garland and Hutton, featuring a moving performance of “Over the Rainbow,” a hilarious “You Can’t Get a Man with a Gun” and a rousing finale of “Rock-a-by Your Baby With A Dixie Melody.”

With big shouts to the design folks for this production: Edward George (set), Chin Palipane (lighting) and Patricia Whalen (costume and props).

Four talented dames take names and kick butt in old Hollywood in Rebecca Perry’s entertaining and eye-opening solo cabaret From Judy to Bette: The Stars of Old Hollywood.

From Judy to Bette: The Stars of Old Hollywood runs until Jan 17 in the Factory Theatre Antechamber; see the show’s page for exact dates/times. It’s an intimate space – and last night’s opening was sold out – so advance tix are strongly recommended. There will be a talk back following the peformance on Sun, Jan 10 at the Hoxton.

To book tickets in advance, call 416-966-1062 or purchase online; or you can purchase tickets at the box office tent, which opens one hour before the first show of the day (it’s heated and includes a bar featuring tasty warm drinks). Click here for full ticket/pass info.

Check out these great interviews with Perry from In the Greenroom blog  and Stageworthy podcast; Perry was also featured in this week’s brave, bold and beautiful Love Your Body edition of NOW Magazine.

Judy! Judy! Judy! Kimberly Roberts’ powerhouse performance in The Get Happy Hour with Judy

Get Happy HourThe late actress/entertainer Judy Garland is beloved on an international scale, and especially so among the LGBT community. And no one does Judy Garland quite like Kimberly Roberts.

I first saw Roberts appear as Garland in the The Judy Monologues at Toronto Fringe – and was struck by how much Roberts was able to convey of Garland throughout a completely silent performance.

I had the great pleasure of seeing Roberts perform in The Get Happy Hour with Judy, in the second of two World Pride 2014 Toronto opening night shows at Revival Bar last night, and it was the first time I’d heard her speak onstage.

Written by Roberts and Sephera Giron, and directed by Sarah Strange, The Get Happy Hour with Judy is part multi-media theatre/part cabaret/part TV show. Roberts plays both a Garland impersonator named Kimberly Williams and Garland herself in this largely one-woman show. Jamie Johnson plays the affable Bartender and accompanist, and Stuart Park guests as the Drunk and the Announcer. The action shifts from Williams chatting with the bartender about Garland and her cancelled TV show, and the two share an appreciation of her work even as they ponder the tabloid reports of self-destructive behaviour. Williams chooses to see the positive side of Garland, though, and imagines how successful her TV show would have been if it had been set up as a happy hour, with people talking, drinking, performing and enjoying. Complete with vintage black and white TV commercials, and a slide show of Garland family photos.

This is where Roberts really gets cooking. From there, the show launches into the TV program that never was, imagined by an actress sitting in a bar, chatting with a bartender over a martini: The Get Happy Show with Judy. Garland tells us about her early days in the business and shares stories about family, highlighted by the song choices (which Roberts expertly lip-syncs), including some rarely heard gems that will thrill Garland fans.

It’s more than the fact that Roberts is a remarkable look-alike. Every expression, from the mouth to the eyes, every gesture is nuanced and precise. The warmth and vulnerability behind the powerful voice and stage presence is palpable. And that’s why people love Judy Garland. Roberts doesn’t play Judy Garland – she channels Judy Garland.

You have two more chances to catch The Get Happy Hour with Judy during its Pride run: tonight (Wed, June 25) at 7:15 p.m. and 10:15 p.m. You can also follow and like The Get Happy Hour with Judy on Facebook.

If you’re heading over to Revival Bar, you might also consider getting there early and taking in JJ Marie Gufreda’s Left Hander in London: The Earthquake, based on Gufreda’s book about her transition from a “Joe to a Jane,” which is touring with The Get Happy Hour with Judy and has performances at 6:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. on June 25. I caught the end of the show last night – and it promises to be a funny and poignant experience.

p.s. – Love how The Get Happy Hour with Judy gang includes their favourite Judy Garland song in their bios. Mine is “The Man That Got Away.” What’s yours?

 

 

 

 

World Pride 2014 Toronto event teaser: The Get Happy Hour with Judy

Get Happy PicHere’s another World Pride 2014 Toronto event I’m really looking forward to: The Get Happy Hour with Judy, directed by Sarah Strange and featuring remarkable Judy Garland look-alike Kimberly Roberts – running June 24 – 25 at Revival Bar at 7:15 p.m. and 10:15 p.m.

Toronto Fringe fans may remember Roberts performing as Ms. Garland in The Judy Monologues at Toronto Fringe 2012.

Kimberly Roberts is a truly incredible performer. She’s not so much impersonating Judy Garland as channeling her. Need proof? Check out this clip of her performing:

Come have a martini and spend the evening with Judy as she tells us about the TV show she’d preferred doing.

In the meantime, you can go follow and like The Get Happy Hour with Judy on Facebook.