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.

Toronto Fringe: Danger, romance & chimps in Adventures of a Redheaded Coffeeshop Girl

adventures_of_a_redheaded_coffeeshop_girl-web-250x250The adventures of our favourite coffeeshop girl continue in Rebecca Perry’s Adventures of a Redheaded Coffeeshop Girl, directed by Matt Bernard and running now at the Annex Theatre for Toronto Fringe.

When last we saw our intrepid Joanie Little (in Confessions of a Redheaded Coffeeshop Girl – and you needed have seen this to join in the fun of Adventures of a…), she’d just found the man (Marco) and job (interning with Dr. Jane Goodall) of her dreams. Bad news: the dream job is located at the Jane Goodall Institute in Tanzania!

Trekking from the urban jungle of Toronto to the actual jungle in Gombe National Park, Joanie joins Goodall, and other interns and staff, to study chimps in the wild and assist with preparing the sanctuary chimps for the wild. In addition to the challenges of the work and conditions, and navigating a long-distance relationship, being a pale-skinned, redhead has its own difficulties – and our feisty gal isn’t always sure she’s up to it. But if you didn’t know it already, you’ll soon learn that there’s nothing small about Joanie Little.

Masterfully shifting between multiple characters and dialects – including Goodall; Joanie’s male Scottish tent mate, also a redhead; and the African park security chief – Perry incorporates music (with live sound cues signalling character changes) and storytelling to take us on an entertaining and moving ride. And, just as she gave her human coffeeshop patrons animal attributes as she studied them from behind the counter in Confessions of a…, she anthropomorphizes her chimp charges, and discovers an interesting emerging dynamic between the dog-like Fetch and sanctuary tenant Cora.

Also a lovely crooner, Perry can serenade like nobody’s business, charming the sold out house with standards and Celtic roots-inspired ballads, accompanied by Da-Rell Clifton on percussion and Quinton Naughton on keys. Her performance of “Caledonia” is particularly beautiful and heart-wrenching.

With shouts to set/props designer Claire Hill and costume designer/makeup artist Ellie Mac.

Rebecca Perry has done it again, this time giving us danger, romance and chimps in Adventures of a Redheaded Coffeeshop Girl. Joanie Little is an anthropological warrior princess!

Perry is remounting Confessions of a Redheaded Coffeeshop Girl at Brampton’s Rose Theatre July 9-11, then taking that show to Edinburgh Fringe. You can support her efforts by purchasing a CD of songs from Confessions and Adventures, and more – available after each Fringe performance or on Bandcamp.

Adventures of a Redheaded Coffeeshop Girl runs at the Annex Theatre until July 12; check here for dates/times. Definitely pre-book your tix for this one – last night was sold out and it’s sure to sell out again.

You can also follow the Redheaded Coffeeshop Girl on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.