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'The Rink' at Civic Light Opera Company

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You don't want to miss Civic Light Opera's production of The Rink.

This 1984 Broadway musical show is receiving its Canadian premiere at Fairview Library Theatre courtesy of the Civic Light Opera Company. As directed by Joe Cascone, it showcases the best acting performances of any of their productions to date. Usually when a musical fails the blame is placed on the book writer, but with The Rink, Terrence McNally's powerful book is every bit as good as the score by John Kander and Fred Ebb. As noted in the excellent program notes, the show failed originally for reasons having little to do with its quality.

The setting is a dilapidated roller rink at a seaside amusement park. It is against this backdrop that McNally sets a compelling drama of love and forgiveness.  To work effectively it must be sincerely played by performers who can really act and Julie Lennick gives a richly detailed performance. Playing Anna, the mother who wants to escape the past by selling the family-owned roller rink, Lennick's every move is firmly rooted in character.

She is partnered with Ashley Gibson who beautifully captures the immaturity of Angel, the prodigal daughter who returns home after a seven-year absence determined to reopen the rink. As they battle it out, the wreckers wait to get started on the demolition. McNally uses this framework to weave in the back-story and his ingenious conceit is to have the wreckers play all the supporting characters. You always know where and when the action is taking place thanks to Sheila Lacasse's imaginative costumes and Gareth Crew's subtle lighting design. The striking set, designed by Cascone and built by David Haines, is at one moment seen as a decaying relic and the next as it was in its glittering heyday.

Derek Faulconer is particularly strong as the wrecker doubling as Dino, the troubled husband and father who ran out on Anna when Angel was just a little girl. David Haines and Garth Johnston provide amusing turns in drag playing middle-aged matrons on the boardwalk, while Bryan Wilhelm does a chameleon-like switch from the cocky construction worker to the nebbish Lenny who always had a yen for Anna. Corey Hafezi and Larry Gibbs join these four for the cleverly staged title song performed on roller skates. It's one of the high points of the show.

A high of a different type finds mother and daughter sharing a joint and coming to the conclusion that they are more alike than they would care to admit in one of Kander and Ebb's showiest pieces, "The Apple Doesn't Fall Very far From the Tree." Despite considerable humor, your heart aches for these characters. It's a show you'll remember long after the performance has ended.

The Rink plays at Fairview Library Theatre, 35 Fairview Mall Drive until Saturday March 1. For performance information or tickets visit www.civiclightoperacompany.com or call 416-755-1717.


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