What's HOT In Toronto: A Quick Look at What's On Stage
Toronto loves its theater and always has a diverse selection available throughout the year. This winter theatergoers to Broadway's north is no exception with such musicals as "Sweeney Todd" (an international Tour featuring Judy Kaye alongside revival cast member's Lauren Molina and Benjamin Magnuson), Queen's jukebox spectacle "We Will Rock You", Dirty Dancing" and the holiday appropriate, "White Christmas" which features several well-known New York based performers such as (married in real life) leads Kate Baldwin and Graham Rowat.
Time is running short to see "White Christmas" and see it you must! This all-out old style musical is an adaptation of the movie. I say adaptation because it's not a direct translation from the original source - using songs from the beloved movie, writers David Ives and Paul Blake worked in a few of Irving Berlin's other chestnuts into a tight book. And while Walter Bobbie's direction keeps the show moving effortlessly, credit (and nightly thunderous applause) goes to choreographer, Randy Skinner who stops several times - most notably in one of what I think is one of the longest tap numbers ever on stage - "I Love A Piano" which entertains for a little over 8 minutes at the top of Act II. An intense workout for the ensemble, Shannon O'Bryan and Tony Yazbeck (as Judy and Phil) are in top form leading the gang in this showstopper. Dance numbers aside, if you're in Toronto before January 5th, you also won't want to miss Kate Baldwin sing the torchsong "Love, You Didn't Do Right By Me." Fantastic and talented performers, Irving Berlin's wonderful songs and big production numbers - this is a treat for the whole family. For photos from this production, click here and to purchase tickets to "White Christmas" before it's gone, click over to: http://www.sonycentre.ca/
Next up is "Dirty Dancing" which has the subtitle "The Classic Story On Stage." With some minor exceptions, this is a direct transfer from movie to stage. The dialogue, the plot and the score (soundtrack). Soundtrack is an appropriate phrase as"Dirty Dancing" isn't truely billed as a musical despite it's over 50 songs used in the production. Of those 50+ songs only a few are sung live by cast members - the rest are recordings from the original artists - including many songs originally planned for the movie. As said above the show is, in short, watching the movie - but on stage thanks to its original screenplay author, Eleanor Bergstein. All your favorite lines are there including the infamous "nobody puts Baby in a corner." And the audience eats it up as if it were candy! The cast sells the show and embody their parts well - most notably Britta Lazenga. Vocally, Ben Mingay (Billy) and 2005 Canadian Idol winner Melissa O'Neil (Elizabeth/Ensemble) tear the house down as well. If you loved the movie and couldn't get enough - this show will entertain. For tickets to "Dirty Dancing", visit: http://www.dirtydancingtoronto.ca/
Lastly for this brief round-up is "We Will Rock You" - an original jukebox musical featuring the music of Queen and both written and directed by Ben Elton. The show has been selling out in London's West End for 5 years and has had several extensions in Toronto. The plot (according to press notes) "Set 300 years in the future, in a time when live music is banned on earth, "We Will Rock You" is about the rebellious kids, fighting against the all-powerful Globalsoft Corporation that controls their lives and feeds them a diet of synthesized pop. Could the young Galileo and Scaramouche be the heroes needed who will help them "break free" of their chains to rediscover themselves and live music? If a bit light on the book, the performances in Toronto's production are well worth the price of admission (and then some.) Singing all of the well-known ("Crazy Little Thing Called Love", "Radio Ga Ga", "Under Pressure", "Another One Bites the Dust", "Bohemian Rhapsody", "We Are The Champions", and of course the title song, "We Will Rock You") - the cast are all in stellar form. Yvan Pedneault as Galileo can rock out like nobody's business and seems to be having the time of his life on stage. In fact, the whole cast looks like they are having a blast which is always refreshing to see. Erica Peck (Scaramouche) and Alana Bridgewater (Killer Queen) are top-notch as well. With tongue-in-cheek humor and not too-over-the-top winking at the audience, this is a great production to see if you're a fan of Queen. Kudos should also go to the band - which gets their moment on stage to bow during the curtain call as well. A friendly warning - this show is HIGH ENERGY and LOUD. But what would you expect from a rock musical? The audience is encouraged to "live it up" with a concert like feel by purchasing glow sticks to wave around during the show. To get tickets to "We Will Rock You" click on: http://www.wewillrockyou.ca/ Photo credit for White Christmas: Cylla Von Tiedemann