All posts by Jen Norman

Review: The King and I (Mirvish)

The King and IToronto audiences get to know musical classic in a surprisingly thoughtful revival

It is 2018 in Toronto, one of the world’s most multicultural cities, and we are watching The King and I, an American musical about an Englishwoman in Siam (now Thailand), onstage at the Princess of Wales Theatre. For a Mirvish-presented blockbuster-musical, that’s a lot of cultural lenses to gaze through. However, it actually does the show a favour by enriching its themes of overcoming prejudice, friendship and unity — ideals which matter now more than ever.

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Movin’ Melvin Brown (Melvin Brown) 2018 Toronto Fringe Review

Though it appears a saccharine, nostalgic romp at first glance, Movin’ Melvin Brown‘s self-titled revue is a genuine adventure through memory and music. Perhaps an unorthodox choice when the Toronto Fringe Festival offers shows considered more cutting-edge, but Brown’s performance is more layered and stimulating than it first appears.

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The Last Minute Slam (Definition of Knowledge) 2018 Toronto Fringe Review

In The Last Minute Slam, looks can be deceiving. Comedy duo Definition of Knowledge step onto a bare, black-curtained stage at the St. Vladimir Institute Theatre in sneakers, jeans and t-shirts. Though modest in appearance, they spend the next 55 minutes slaying the audience with a gut-busting sketch-slam extravaganza that tackles real-life issues like racism, bullying, and patio remodelling. This is what the Fringe Festival was made for, dear readers.

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Review: bloom (Modern Times Stage/Buddies in Bad Times)

bloom blends poetry and theatre in a play on memory, at Buddies in Bad Times in Toronto

bloom, put on by Modern Times Stage Company at the Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, is a quasi-memory play set in a dystopian future ravaged by endless war. In this world — or what’s left of it — the past cannot be buried, but whether or not that’s a good thing depends on your perspective.

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Review: Jerusalem (Outside the March/Company Theatre/Starvox Entertainment)

Jerusalem is a “a fable for a gentrified generation” on the Toronto stage

The Canadian premiere of Jerusalem, written by English writer Jez Butterworth, took a lot of blood, sweat, and tears, both on stage and off, to produce. This is apparent from two things. The first is (are) the numerous companies that collaborated to make the Toronto production happen, namely Outside the March, The Company Theatre, and Starvox Entertainment. The second is the immaculately-crafted, unrelenting, coo-coo-bananas-craziness in every moment of this performance.

The play takes place throughout the course of nine hours in the woods of Wiltshire, a county in the south-west of England. In these woods lives Johnny “Rooster” Byron, ex-daredevil and local troublemaker, who is about to be evicted from his caravan so that condos can be built on the land.

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Review: Tap Ex: Forbidden (Tapestry Opera)

Toronto’s Tapestry Opera fuses opera with Persian music for a new experimental opera

“You’ve probably never seen anything like this before,” says Tapestry Opera‘s general director Michael Hidetoshi Mori, also the director of Tap Ex: Forbidden, the latest in the company’s series of new, experimental operas. Although it’s uncommon for a director to appear on stage prior to a performance to explain their creative rationale, it’s an unusual show, and a little bit of encouragement makes it more accessible and rewarding.

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Review: IMP (Filament Incubator/Epigraph Collective)

IMP, at the Tarragon Theatre in Toronto, is an occult-driven play that leaves you “breathless”

Created by Epigraph Collective and produced by Filament Incubator, IMP is a drama that weaves together social justice and the occult in a narrative that is both emotionally raw and stylistically disciplined. I can’t think of the last time a theatrical performance rendered me motionless and breathless for the duration of its run time, but by god, this play did it.

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Review: Evil Dead: The Musical (Starvox Entertainment)

The cult-classic horror/comedy musical dazzles Toronto audiences again

Currently touring across North America, Evil Dead: The Musical is currently on its stop in Toronto. This marks a triumphant return to the city in which the musical first debuted in 2003, and it’s hardly slowed down since. As much fun as I had at this show, it makes me wonder if my job as a theatre critic isn’t a wee bit redundant. I am supposed to unpack this production, and explain its quality in layman’s terms, and whether you, dear readers, should see it. The thing is, this show speaks pretty well for itself.

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Review: Flashing Lights (Bad New Days/Ahuri Theatre)

Photo of Dan Watson by Francesca ChudnoffFlashing Lights delivers a heavy dose of theatre realism on stage in Toronto

Science fiction is a very tricky genre to pull off in a sphere such as independent performing arts. This is something that the creators at Bad News Days and Ahuri Theatre must have been aware of, given their bold, “challenge accepted” attitude in the concept and execution of Flashing Lights.

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