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

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.

Life, love & social anthropology in Confessions of a Redheaded Coffeeshop Girl

Confessions of a RedheadedCSG - Press Photo 3Rebecca Perry’s one-woman show Confessions of a Redheaded Coffeeshop Girl, directed by Michael Rubinstein, opens with song: Rivers and roads / Rivers and roads / Rivers till I meet you… The Hand and the Heart’s catchy, almost melancholy song is a fitting start for our journey with Joanie Little, 20-something barista and self-described social anthropologist, as she observes co-workers and patrons in the jungle of an urban coffeeshop (in this case, the Annex neighbourhood in Toronto).

Accompanied by Noel Thomson on acoustic guitar and vocals, weaving songs, coffeeshop characters and stories, Joanie tries to make sense of life and love, all while navigating the “real” world after graduation, as she searches for connection and self.

Inspired by true experiences, Perry delivers a performance that is funny, touching and self-deprecating, giving us a Joanie that is sassy, wry-witted and irreverent – and also lost, longing and optimistic. The highlight of Joanie’s workday is her daily encounter with the flirty and somewhat mysterious customer Marco, who provides her with moral support and life advice via notes in the tip jar (one of three that Joanie labels each day to make it fun for the customers and add insight to her social research).

The play ends as it began, with the song “Rivers and Roads,” but Joanie is not in the same place she started. The “you” she’s been longing to meet is herself – and the journey continues.

This Toronto premiere of Confessions of a Redheaded Coffeeshop Girl closes at the Storefront Theatre today (Sun, June 16) and moves into the Fringe circuit, playing Winnipeg Fringe July 17-28 and Edmonton August 15-25.