All posts by S. Bear Bergman

S. Bear Bergman has great faith in the power of theatre to make change, and has been putting his money where his mouth is on that one for some time. A writer, performer, and lecturer, Bear works full time as an artist and cultural worker and loves to see as much live performance as possible – making this a fantastic gig for him.

Review: Acha Bacha (Buddies In Bad Times & Theatre Passe Muraille)

TPM-17-18-Acha-Bacha_0003 Matt Nethersole and Qasim Khan Acha Bacha - Written by: Bilal Baig - Directed by: Brendan Healy - Set and Costume by: Joanna Yu - Lighting by: C.J AstronomoA new play by Bilal Baig in Toronto explores the intersections between queerness and Islamic culture

Seeing Acha Bacha on opening night at Theatre Passe Muraille was a study in contrast, from beginning to end. In moments I found it so bright and beautiful that I could barely stand to blink, and in other moments I struggled with wanting a different kind of experience. Overall I found this a promising work by a playwright who obviously holds tremendous potential. Continue reading Review: Acha Bacha (Buddies In Bad Times & Theatre Passe Muraille)

2018 Next Stage Theatre Festival Review: The Harold Experience (The Assembly)

Of course, the first thing that happened in the performance of The Harold Experience, an improvised comedy show based on true stories from the lives of audience members, playing as part of the 2018 Next Stage Festival (a sort of post-graduate Fringe experience, in theory) was director Rob Norman walking cheerfully down stage and explaining a) that he was not called Harold and b) what a Harold could possibly be. The audience mostly laughed appreciatively at his description, but I fear that we gave the cast the wrong impression about our values.

Continue reading 2018 Next Stage Theatre Festival Review: The Harold Experience (The Assembly)

Review: The Illusionists (Mirvish) Kid +1 Review

Mirvish brings all-ages magic show to the Toronto stage

With all the marketing around The Illusionists as a great show for the whole family, I was pleased but not surprised to see lots of kids hopping eagerly up the stairs with their grownups at the Princess of Wales Theatre on Friday evening. My seven-year-old companion was similarly irrepressible with anticipation for all the excitement that awaited, which – – mostly — delivered on its promise.

Continue reading Review: The Illusionists (Mirvish) Kid +1 Review

Preview: The Magic Victrola (Canadian Opera Company)

Like a much, much nicer version of hanging around schoolyards offering kids their first hit for free, our Canadian Opera Company has begun to expand its programs aimed at introducing young people to the wonders of opera early, so that their appreciation for the art form can grow and mature as they do. The Magic Victrola, this year’s specialty offering from the COC, is a magical journey assisted by an old trunk and a record player that a pair of children — Gracie and Sam — find in their grandfather’s attic. As the opera unfolds, not only do they get to hear the music on the old records, but fully-formed and dramatic operatic vignettes spring to life before their delighted eyes. Over the hour, children are introduced to a sort of Greatest Hits of operatic moments (with themes suitable for children, that is) by Bizet, Delibes, Donizetti, Mozart, Offenbach, and Puccini.

To find out what goes into making a piece like this, what to expect and what surprises there might be in store, we spoke to Ashlie Corcoran, the director, and Bruno Roy, who alternates as Papageno (the beloved everyman character from The Magic Flute):

Continue reading Preview: The Magic Victrola (Canadian Opera Company)

Review: Grease (Irregular Entertainment)

The classic rock n’ roll musical Grease takes over the Winter Garden Theatre in Toronto

There are, I discovered last night at the Winter Garden Theatre for the new Toronto production of Grease, a LOT of people in Toronto who are really excited about the classic musical. Like, dress-up-like-the-characters level stoked. I wasn’t able to poll all of them after the opening on Thursday, but the general mood of the people around me was…rather mixed. Though the show’s production values were high and the cast included some very talented people, the production as a whole never really gelled for me.

Continue reading Review: Grease (Irregular Entertainment)

Review: Backbone (Red Sky/Canadian Stage)

A breathtaking look at Indigenous dance, Backbone takes the stage in Toronto

Backbone, playing until November 12, 2017 at Berkeley Street Theatre, is a dance performance for eight dancers who could just as well be a single organism, like those stands of aspen trees that look separate and discrete but are really one very brilliant and beautiful thing with many limbs. It is vigorous, aerobic, living and breathing, shifting, rising and falling and faster than you expect. Continue reading Review: Backbone (Red Sky/Canadian Stage)

Review: Kiinalik: These Sharp Tools (Buddies In Bad Times)

Kiinalik “deserves to run forever”, now on the Toronto stage

After seeing Kiinalik: These Sharp Tools at Buddies In Bad Times Theatre, watching the interplay of languages — English and Inuktitut and the low embellishment of the cello, theatre and dance and music, folk song and throat singing, tools and weapons — I am sure that my attempts to describe this extraordinary, affecting performance in a single-dimensional medium can only fall short. If you want to experience it for yourself — and oh my stars, I believe you do — click over and get tickets this minute (the run is deservedly almost sold out already).

Continue reading Review: Kiinalik: These Sharp Tools (Buddies In Bad Times)

Preview: Centre Stage Gala (Canadian Opera Company)

Like many people, I value opera as much for the spectacle as the artistry. Canadian Opera Company, obviously recognizing this fanciful desire in many of its devotees, has for the last few years thrown a gala competition in the fall to help choose the new members of its Ensemble Studio, aka Canada’s most glamorous internship. The Centre Stage Gala gives audience members a little bit of opera’s inside baseball, letting patrons choose early favorites and savor the pleasure of following them as they launch their careers.

Continue reading Preview: Centre Stage Gala (Canadian Opera Company)

Review: Undercover (Tarragon Theatre)

Rebecca Northan unveils her new show Undercover at Toronto’s Tarragon Theatre

The opening night of Undercover at Tarragon Theatre was packed (as Rebecca Northan shows tend to be) and lively (ditto) with audience members keen to turn up and drink, mingle, and watch the proceedings as Northan – in what has become her signature play – scans the attendees for the evening’s perfect foil. In a new twist, Undercover adds a number of characters and a number of possible endings to the mix. It’s a bit of a mixed bag, as improv often is, and the result didn’t really, well, kill.

Continue reading Review: Undercover (Tarragon Theatre)

Review: Lukumi A Dub Opera (The Watah Theatre)

d’bi young anitafrika takes Toronto by storm with her new show Lukumi: A Dub Opera

As an admirer of d’bi young anitafrika‘s solo work for some time, I was excited to arrive at Tarragon Extraspace for Lukumi: A Dub Opera and see a simmering, kinetic scene already underway, scored live by a small ensemble and featuring young (as Lukumi) engaged in a dance conversation with Daniel Ellis, who plays as a variety of characters. It set the tone for an extraordinary evening at the theatre.

Continue reading Review: Lukumi A Dub Opera (The Watah Theatre)