The 35th Annual Jessie Richardson Theatre Awards: almost brutally efficient, but lots to celebrate

Sereana Malani and Kamera Pazendeh appeared in Pericles, which won Jessie Awards.

The Bard on the Beach production of Pericles did well at the Jessie Awards.

The Jessie Awards rolled out tonight (Monday, June 26) at The Commodore Ballroom. Sometimes the ceremony went by so quickly it felt a little heartless, but there were still plenty of touching—and funny—moments.

In this post, I’m going to give out some awards of my own, I’ll list some of the multiple winners, and then I’ll list all of the prizes. Yep, the whole shootin’ match. Every last one of them.


Best Use of the F-Bomb: “As my granddad used to say, ‘Participation is important, but winning is fuckin’ mighty.’ (Ashley O’Connell, accepting his award for Supporting Actor, Small Theatre for Flare Path, The Slamming Door Collective)

Outstanding Mimicry: Donna Soares imitating lighting designer Itai Erdal as she accepted an award on his behalf (Lighting Design, Small Theatre for O’Wet/Lost Lagoon: Alley Theatre)

Most Age-Appropriate Thanks: “I’d like to thank McDonald’s for the Oreo McFlurries at 11:30 p.m.” (Valin Shinyea, accepting the Supporting Actor Award for his work in Billy Elliott: The Musical: Arts Club Theatre)

Most Precise Aiming at the Heart: “If you’ve ever been led astray by humiliation…keep trying…Good things come to those who make the effort.” (Actor Aaron Roderick accepting the Significant Achievement Award, Small Theatre, for the Ensemble Performance in Creeps, Realwheels Theatre) [Read more…]

The Winter’s Tale: hits and misses, but the hits will send you reeling

Bard on the Beach is producing Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale.

Let’s all move to Bohemia and dance with Perdita and Florizel (Kaitlin Williams and Austin Eckert).

There are two worlds in The Winter’s Tale. In director Dean Paul Gibson’s take, only one of those worlds works consistently—but that world is gorgeous.

The Winter’s Tale is wildly difficult to pull off. On virtually no evidence, Leontes, King of Sicilia, decides that his wife Hermione has been “sluiced” by his best friend Polixenes, King of Bohemia. Ignoring his advisors and even the Delphic oracle, Leontes puts Hermione on trial and humiliates her. Traumatized by the conflict between his parents, their young son dies of shock and grief. Hearing this news, Hermione also appears to expire. As part of his rampage, Leontes has the baby girl that Hermione has just borne cast into the wilderness. Enter the bear.

Then the story jumps forward 16 years and the infant, Perdita, has grown into a beautiful young woman who lives in the Bohemian countryside with the old shepherd who found and raised her.

The Winter’s Tale is a comedy, so you know that things are going to turn out okay, more or less. It’s also a fairytale that contains elemental imagery: the abandoned baby and, later, a statue that comes to life. If you can massage all of the play’s disparate elements into a coherent whole, The Winter’s Tale can be fantastic. [Read more…]

Bittergirl could be so much better, girl!

Bittergirl: The Musical is playing at the Arts Club's Granville Island Stage.

Cailin Stadnyk and Josh Epstein are having fun in Bittergirl: The Musical. (Emily Cooper photo)

Bittergirl: The Musical is aiming itself at a very specific demographic: drunk straight women—especially those who are single and unhappy about it. Anybody who is less personally engaged—and less forgiving—is far more likely to see how artistically lazy this jukebox musical is. And the weakness of the material is a shame, because there is talent to burn in this production.

Three Canadians, Annabel Fitzsimmons, Alison Lawrence, and Mary Francis Moore, wrote the book for Bittergirl: The Musical to extend their Bittergirl brand. bittergirl (lower case), the play, which grew out of their painful break-ups, enjoyed three sold-out runs in Toronto. Cashing in on that, the trio wrote a self-help book, Bittergirl: Getting Over Getting Dumped. Now they’ve built the musical out of pop songs from the 60s and 70s. Why not? The tunes were already there. [Read more…]

FRESH SHEET 7: happy tears, stupid protests, local boy makes good

FRESH SHEET: This week’s theatre recommendations and news from Colin Thomas

In Fresh Sheet 7, you can weep in solidarity with Guinevere, feel superior to the right wing’s lack of sophistication, and cheer on a local artist. Go Kevin Loring!


Neworld Theatre are presenting King Arthur's night at Canada Scene.

Niall McNeil is Arthur in King Arthur’s Night.


 We’ve all felt excluded, right? That’s probably why inclusion is so moving. And videos don’t get a lot more moving than this one about Neworld Theatre’s King Arthur’s Night:

In this clip, Marcus Youssef, who co-wrote the script with Niall McNeil, recalls talking to the mom of Tiffany King, who is playing Guinevere. King is one of the four actors in the project who live with Down Syndrome. “Thank God we found you,” Youssef recalls her mom telling him, “because Tiff’s been doing this alone in her room for 10 or 15 years.” McNeil, who also plays Arthur, touches his heart and adds, “Tiffany is Tiffany in here, but Guinevere is also in here. She’s really, really good.”

King Arthur’s Night played at Toronto’s Berkley Street Theatre as part of the Luminato arts festival. It goes up again at the National Arts Centre June 24 to 26 as part of Canada Scene. [Read more…]

Cinerama: as the tide comes in, the oceanic experience gets literal


Fight With a Stick is presenting Cinema at Spanish Banks.

The site-specific Cinerama gets wet.

Fascination, apprehension, delight, boredom, boredom, boredom: sequentially, that pretty much captures my experience of Cinerama.

This new show from Fight with a Stick is audacious. It begins way out on the flats at Spanish Banks at low tide—so start times vary. A maximum audience of 30 sits on chairs that have been placed on a sandbar. (You can also stand.) And, as the 55 minutes of performance unfold, the tide comes in—over your feet, your ankles, and then up your calves. By the time Cinerama had ended and I was walking back to shore, the water, at some points, was over my knees. (The water is warm, so temperature is not a concern.) [Read more…]

Much Ado About Nothing is about something: the perilous terrain between men and women

John Murphy's adaptation of Much Ado plays at Bard on the Beach until September.

Amber Lewis and Kevin MacDonald make a glamorous Beatrice and Benedick in Bard’s Much Ado About Nothing.

Let’s be clear: Much Ado About Nothing is about something. Director John Murphy’s production accesses the play’s depths, but only when it’s not being distracted by its own inventive surfaces.

Shakespeare sets his comedy in Messina, Italy, and Murphy updates the time period to 1959. In Murphy’s version, Benedick and the other men don’t return from battle; instead, they kick back after a film shoot.

The basic story stays the same, of course: the witty Beatrice and Benedick mock marriage and exchange insults until their friends trick them into acknowledging the underlying passion they feel for one another. And, in the darker trickery of the subplot, Dona Johnna (Don John in the original), convinces Claudio that Hero, his bride-to-be, is wanton, and Claudio publicly humiliates her at the altar.

In lots of ways, setting Much Ado in the golden age of Italian cinema makes sense. The supposed war in the original always feels like a bit of a toy battle anyway. The script is obsessed with artifice and role-play. And, like the world of Shakespeare’s story, the period is both glamorous and sexist. Shakespeare unmasks the cruel dynamics of status and public image in Much Ado, and, in one of the most potent moments of this adaptation, the humiliated Hero is set upon by paparazzi. When her father, Leonato, says that she is ruined, he holds up a tabloid and declares, “She is lost in a pit of ink.” [Read more…]

FRESH SHEET 6.1: Orange Julius: Trump as Caesar

FRESH SHEET: This week’s theatre recommendations and news from Colin Thomas 

I usually just publish Fresh Sheet once a week, but this story is blowing up, so here you go.




Calpurnia becomes Melania at the Public.

In the Public Theatre’s production of Julius Caesar, the Slavic wife of the power-hungry politician dresses well.

The New York Public Theatre’s production of Julius Caesar, which opened last night and runs until June 18, presents a Trump-like central character—who is, of course, assassinated.  

In his review of the production, Jesse Green of the New York Times wrote: “Its depiction of a petulant, blondish Caesar in a blue suit, complete with gold bathtub and a pouty Slavic wife, takes onstage Trump-trolling to a startling new level.”   [Read more…]

FRESH SHEET 6: invent new Jessies categories, celebrate diversity, celebrate weirdness, and think about hot guys

FRESH SHEET: This week’s theatre recommendations and news from Colin Thomas


The Jessie Awards will be at the Commodore Ballroom on Monday, June 26.

Your table is waiting at the 25th Annual Jessie Richardson Theatre Awards—but don’t forget to buy a ticket.


As we brace ourselves—and dress ourselves—for the 35th Annual Jessie Richardson Theatre Awards, which will take place at the Commodore Ballroom on Monday, June 26, it’s worth perusing this piece from The New Yorker, which includes suggestions for new Tony Awards categories, including, Most Disappointing Onstage Nudity and Best Ill-Conceived Revival of a Racist Musical: 

What new Jessie categories do we need? Most Original Accent? Ongoing Achievement in Deceptive Marketing? [Read more…]

Relentless classism, anyone? The house has fixed the rules in The Game of Love and Chance

Nicolas Billon has adapted Pierre Marivaux's The Game of Love and Chance.

Linda Begg’s costumes are lovely to look at in The Game of Love and Chance. (Nancy Caldwell photo)

Holy Karl Marx! What a steaming pile of classist crap.

For some reason, accomplished Canadian playwright Nicolas Billon, whose work includes the crisply intelligent Iceland, has decided to translate and adapt Pierre Marivaux’s mouldy 1730 farce, The Game of Love and Chance.

In the story, a marriage between Sylvia and Dorante has been arranged. They’ve never met, but their liberal fathers have agreed that the union can only proceed if the two fall in love. The supposedly worldly Sylvia—“Are not all men, especially intelligent men, hypocrites?”— wants to find out what Dorante is like when he’s not on his best courting behaviour, so, when she hears that he will be visiting her home, she swaps places with her maid, Lisette. Unbeknownst to them, Dorante has come up with the same plan for himself and his servant Arlequino.

Some of this might have been funny if the comedy didn’t all spring from the idea that rich people are inherently superior. The first time that Sylvia lays eyes on Dorante and Arlequino, she muses: “Fate is so strange. Neither of these men is in his right place.” In other words, how could a vulgar person possibly be wealthy? That’s never happened! And how curious that a handsome, intelligent fellow could be a servant! [Read more…]

These Are The Songs That I Sing When I’m Sad: why blue notes hurt so good

These Are The Songs That I Sing When I'm Sad is a Nightswimming production from Toronto.

In “These Are The Songs That I Sing When I’m Sad”, Jane Miller sings and explains the neuroscience behind weepy tunes.

These Are The Songs That I Sing When I’m Sad feels like a hip, friendly music appreciation class. That’s more important than it sounds.   

Performer Jane Miller, who created the show with Brian Quirt, the artistic director of Nightswimming, plays a keyboard and sings some of her favourite sad songs. Citing scientific studies, she also explains why we all keep going back to sad songs like rats licking at a cocaine drip.

Apparently, we’re wired to like them because they release dopamine in our brains. And the songs that really flood our systems share specific characteristics including, most fascinatingly, the blue note, which is a note that deviates from the melodic norm long enough to create tension. After the blue note, the tune resolves melodically, allowing release. Adele’s “Someone Like You” is so full of blue notes it could be a starry night painted by Van Gogh. [Read more…]