Strictly Ballroom The Musical - Theatre Review

Strictly Ballroom The Musical - Theatre Review

Baz Luhrmann is one of those directors whose aesthetic is immediately recognizable – and not to everyone's taste. Personally, I love the technicolour glossiness of a Luhrmann film. I love the staginess taken to extravagant lengths, the lush visuals and golden light, the swooning romance and sneering villians. Clothes are never just clothes, but costumes. Places have a feeling of unreality about them. In Luhrmann's world, everything is fake, but that doesn't mean it's not true. He makes movies where we know everything is artificial. Everything has been designed, chosen with care, for the single purpose of showing us an emotional truth. In other words, the more unreal it seems, the more it resonates in the heart. 

When it comes to competitive ballroom dancing, think of the athletically choreographed steps, the illusion netting, the million-watt smiles. A good dancer never lets the audience see her bleeding feet or his bad knees. Yet the grace and fluidity they bring to the stage is breathtaking. Their bodies tell a story and become part of the theatrical experience. In fact, the only thing I can think of that's more stagy than competitive dance is a musical. So the creation of a stage musical using Baz Luhrmann's 1992 film Strictly Ballroom as source material is a pretty natural progression. In fact, Luhrmann adapted the movie from his own stage play – a rare example of a story going from stage to screen to stage again. The show has its North American premiere run right now in Toronto.

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Dixonlicious: A Taste of Community

Dixonlicious: A Taste of Community

What’s better than a night out with great food, great wine and great people? How about raising money and awareness for a great cause while you’re at it? Recently, I had the opportunity to participate in such an event. Dixonlicious: ATaste of Community is a culinary celebration in support of vital food programs and was held at the Daniels Spectrum Auditorium. It is an annual fundraiser for Dixon Hall Neighbourhood Services, an organization that provides a range of services and programs for residents of Regent Park, Moss Park and surrounding neighbourhoods.

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The Second City's Everything is Great Again - Review

The Second City's Everything is Great Again - Review

Comedy, I've learned, is more complicated than it looks. It's not just a question of throwing a few one-liners in the air and walking away. Comedy takes a lot of different forms and techniques. There's standup, which can be very personal and intimate; improv, which really benefits from the chemistry of a group of players; and sketch comedy, which combines the relentless practice and fine-tuning of the first with the playful spontaneity of the second. Cast members workshop a scene together, improvising and riffing and adding and subtracting until a bright shining sketch emerges. The Second City's latest mainstage production is on now and if you've never seen sketch comedy, it's a great introduction to the genre. And if you are familiar with sketch, go anyway. It's a fantastic evening out. You'll laugh, you'll cry . . . but mostly, you'll laugh. 

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The Bodyguard - Theatre Review

The Bodyguard - Theatre Review

I’ve always loved the Academy Awards. Even as a kid I would watch them every year, from the red carpet pre-show to the very last thank you speech. When the nominations for this year’s Oscars came out, the category for Best Song prompted a conversation with a friend about the best movie songs of all time. We both agreed that, even though it wasn’t eligible for the Oscars, our favourite movie song was Whitney Houston's version of “I Will Always Love You” from The Bodyguard soundtrack, which we both loved. It got me thinking about how good that entire soundtrack is. I vividly remember listening to it – on cassette! – and dancing around to all the songs. Given that it’s still the best selling soundtrack of all time, clearly I’m not the only one who loved it. So of course when the trend of adapting popular movies into Broadway musicals proved to be successful, adapting The Bodyguard for the stage seemed like a no-brainer. 

The story of The Bodyguard centers around the character of Rachel Marron, a six-time Grammy winner who has just received Academy Award nominations for Best Actress and Best Original Song and is determined to do whatever it takes to fulfill her childhood dream of winning. Unfortunately for her, a mysterious stalker is hell-bent on doing whatever it takes to stop her. When a sinister letter appears backstage during one of Rachel’s concerts, her management team hires expert bodyguard, Frank Farmer, to protect Rachel, her son Fletcher and her sister Nikki. While Rachel and Frank’s relationship starts out as contentious, they quickly grow on each other as romantic feelings begin to develop.

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Kim's Convenience - Theatre Review

Kim's Convenience - Theatre Review

If you haven't guessed by the last name on my byline, I come from an immigrant family. 

It's nothing unusual in Toronto, of course. I think the majority of kids in my elementary and even high schools were first- or second-generation Canadian. It wasn't until I was in university that I got an inkling that maybe everyone's family wasn't quite like mine, that I and other children of newcomers carried different identities and stories with us. The TV series Kim's Convenience tells the story of just such an immigrant family and their hilarious, sometimes campy, often profoundly truthful lived experiences. I really got into Kim's this fall. I wasn't expecting to, but the show won me over with its slow build, its gradually unfolding story of family relationships and everyday milestones. When I found that Soulpepper was staging a revival of the original Kim's Convenience, Ins Choi's one-act dramedy, I jumped at the chance to see it. 

So how does the play compare to the TV series? It's an interesting counterpoint, the same and not the same. The play has a darker, more dramatic slant than the sunny TV show but the humour and the strong sense of place are unchanged. It's a very Toronto piece of theatre and well worth seeing. 

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