Category Archives: Theatre

A Rollicking Good Time

Winnipeg Free Press reviewer Jill Wilson said she just couldn’t help using the word ‘swashbuckling’ to describe the performance of The Three Musketeers currently on the John Hirsch mainstage at the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre.

The word that came to mind for me was rollicking. It means exuberantly lively and amusing and the play was certainly that.

I was entertained thoroughly. I don’t think I closed my eyes once, even though I’d put in 12,000 steps of walking in a cold wind before the matinee performance, something that usually sets me up for a nice long winter nap in the afternoon.

I LOVED the costumes and the cool explanations about them in the program by costume designer Michelle Bohn. I learned what a panache, a baldric and a virago were.

Photo from the MTC website by Dylan Hewlett

I thought the set designed by Brian Perchaluk was clever and allowed for so many different scenes to be played out at different heights on the stage.

I admired the way most of the actors took on three or four roles and were convincing in all of them.

The Four Musketeers- Athos played by Rodrigo Beilfuss- Aramis played by Darren Martens- D’Artagnan played by Melissa Langdon and Porthos played by Emilio Vieira – photo by Dylan Hewlett from the MTC website

The four musketeers were funny and had great chemistry and if I would have to quibble with anything it wouldn’t be the way they acted their parts, but with the script itself which portrayed the adventurers as rather shallow in their relationships with women.

D’Artagnan pledges his deep love for his landlord’s daughter Constance and tries to save her when she is arrested. But when she is poisoned by Lady De Winter, D’Arganan despite his dramatic show of sorrow after the death seems to recover just a little too quickly and is ready with a smile on his face and spring in his step for another adventure.

Lady de Winter we find out is the former wife of the musketeer Athos, and although he appears to be devastated about the end of their passionate relationship he manages to twist her neck and kill her when he is afforded the opportunity.

And finally, Porthos who is enamoured with a new widow quickly abandons his vow to marry her when a heroic mission emerges for the Four Musketeers to tackle at the end of the play.

Sharon Bajer as Cardinal Richelieu

This rather shallow treatment of women by the men in the play was balanced for me by the fact that director Christopher Brauer chose to cast women in a number of the major male roles. I thought for example that Sharon Bajer did a great job in her role as Cardinal Richelieu.

If you are interested in a fun couple of hours of rollicking entertainment the current production of The Three Musketeers at the Royal Manitoba Theatre’s John Hirsch Mainstage is for you.

Other posts……….

Ten Reasons Why I Loved Christmas at Pemberly

Why Do We Still Like Dickens’ A Christmas Carol?

Come From Away- A Musical For Our Time

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Chicago! What A Showstopper!

Walking up to the Festival Theatre in Stratford

Yesterday we were in Stratford Ontario to see the musical Chicago. It was a definite show stopper! Everything from the dazzlingly costumes, eye-popping choreography, jazzy musical numbers, stellar vocalists, multi-levelled set and gritty storyline had me riveted throughout.

Although Chicago is set in the 1920s I kept thinking how relevant it was for our present day. The story revolves around a group of women who are in prison for murdering the men in their lives who were abusive, or lied to them or were unfaithful to them.

Jennifer Rider-Shaw (left) as Velma Kelly and Chelsea Preston as Roxie Hart are two of the women accused of murder. Photo by David Hou from the Stratford website.

A sleazy lawyer is preparing to defend them and he cooks up stories about each woman to make the judge and jury and the press feel sorry for them. Some of the elements of these sob stories are outright lies.

It reminded me of how politicians, evangelists, media influencers, royals, Hollywood stars and sports personalities often spin a kind of fairy tale narrative about their lives to make people like them or support them despite their ethical and moral failings and even sometimes despite their criminal activity.

R. Markus plays the journalist Mary Sunshine who is particularly adept at writing sob stories to generate public sympathy. – Photo by David Hou from the Stratford website

Although there was no Twitter or Facebook or Instagram a century ago to spread these often sensational and less than truthful narratives the press in the roaring twenties was happy to do so.

Sandra Caldwell played the warden at the woman’s prison who certainly wasn’t above being bribed. I just loved her rich, sultry voice. -photo by David Hou

The musical Chicago also leads us to believe that almost everyone in a position of power is corrupt in some way. From prison wardens, to journalists, to judges and lawyers.

And of course there are people who would have us believe that everyone in positions of power today are corrupt too.

The story of Chicago really is a dark and cynical one, but there was one musical number that provided a ray of hope. It was called A Little Bit of Good and some of the lyrics were………

For in this tense and tangled web
Our weary lives may weave
You’re so much better off
If you believe…
That there’s a little bit of good
In everyone

There certainly was lots that was good about the musical Chicago!! I am so glad we went to see it.

Post Chicago dinner with our sister-in-law Julie and Dave’s brother Bill

Other posts………

Come From Away- A Musical For Our Time

Ten Things I Learned About Carole King

Marc Chagall and the Fiddler on the Roof

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Love Them and Love Their Purpose

I have seen a number of plays at the Winnipeg Fringe Festival already but the one that is a definite standout is Chase Padgett- Lucky Break. During sixty thoroughly entertaining and engaging minutes, the veteran fringe performer tells the audience about two experiences that dominated his pandemic years.

One was caring for his mother in Arizona after she breaks her hip and the other is being a contestant on a singing competition reality show called Alter Ego.

Chase and his mother don’t see eye to eye on many things. She is a professional golf instructor and avid Trump supporter who doesn’t really understand her son’s love for the stage and screen. But during the time they spend together as his mother’s hip heals and Chase has a fairly successful run on the Alter Ego show, they come to understand each other better and begin to appreciate and respect one another’s life purpose.

By the end of the play, Chase had me in tears as he talked to the audience about loving ourselves and our purpose in life and learning to love others and their purpose in life as well.

Note: Chase, who is such a talented actor and musician turned to videography during the pandemic and I just watched a beautiful little story he filmed called Grim and Gran.

Other posts………

Oh to Be A Kid At the Fringe Festival

A Personal Winnipeg Alphabet

My Talented Friends

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Much Ado About Something Lovely

Last night we attended the Shakespeare in the Ruins performance of Much Ado About Nothing. It was a delight from start to finish! The acting was first-rate, and the music composed especially for this rendition of the play was charming. I liked the way some of the male parts in the original script had been given to women and the way the cast of characters was racially diverse.

Photo from Shakespeare in the Ruins website

Anyone who thinks a Shakespeare play is hard to understand or its ancient words don’t relate to our modern times would have to think again if they saw this version of the play. The way the actors used their voices and their faces and indeed their whole bodies made the text come alive.

As the audience moved from spot to spot on the scenic grounds of the old Trappist Monastery, each carefully chosen to suit a particular scene of the play, it was as if we became a part of the play ourselves.

Photo from the Shakespeare in the Ruins website

Much Ado About Nothing made me think about the double standard we have when it comes to judging the character and worth of women, the way misinformation can spread so easily and cause such harm and whether it is ethical to tell a lie in order to achieve what we believe is a worthwhile end.

It was such a pleasure to spend a perfect warm summer evening with friends watching great outdoor entertainment. Due to the pandemic, we have not been able to attend a Shakespeare in the Ruins performance for two years.

Perhaps that is why as the final scene played out while the evening sky turned into a stunning tapestry of sunset colours I felt overwhelmed with the feeling that ‘life is good.’

Other posts…….

I Messed Up

There’s More to Shakespeare in the Ruins Than I Thought

Shakespeare in the Ruins Presents Henry V- Just About Perfect

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5 Things I Liked About The Rez Sisters

Yesterday I saw the matinee performance of the current Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre production The Rez Sisters by playwright Tomson Highway. Here are five things I liked about it.

1. I thought the set was absolutely stunning. That round orange circle in the back with a prairie grass image in it became a place to showcase various actors and scenes. In one scene a woman hangs her wash on a line strung across the circle. In another, the trickster spirit Nanabush does a haunting silhouetted dance in the circle and in still another, the circle fills with stars to escort a character into the next life.

The cast of The Rez Sisters. Set, Prop & Lighting Designer: Andy Moro, Costume Designer: Jeff Chief. Photo by Dylan Hewlett.

2. The cast of seven main female characters each had such interesting and unique personalities. Whether it was a sense of humour, a palpable vulnerability, an optimistic attitude, a busy- body nature, an appreciation for the little things in life, a quick temper or an acceptance of the inevitable, each woman stood out from the rest and endeared herself to the audience in a different way.

3. My favourite scene was when the women are participating in various fundraising activities to earn money to make a trip to Toronto to play the biggest bingo game in the world. They did a highly choreographed sequence of activities that reminded me of an intricate dance as they made items for bake sales, babysat, took in laundry, carried out a bottle drive, did home repairs, washed windows, picked and sold blueberries and performed music in order to earn the funds they needed. It must have taken endless hours of practice to get that scene to flow so effortlessly and engagingly.

The cast of The Rez Sisters. Set, Prop & Lighting Designer: Andy Moro, Costume Designer: Jeff Chief. Photo by Dylan Hewlett.

4. I really liked the props in the play too. They weren’t real and many were two dimensional. They were so artistically created out of cardboard and other materials. I’d love to learn more about how they were designed and made.

The cast of The Rez Sisters. Set, Prop & Lighting Designer: Andy Moro, Costume Designer: Jeff Chief. Photo by Dylan Hewlett.

5. I liked the way we slowly found out about each woman’s unique personal back story as the play proceeded. Each story was unbearably sad but learning about their pasts helped us to understand each woman better in the present and empathize with her.

I really enjoyed The Rez Sisters as did the friend who attended the performance with me.

Other posts…………

Come From Away- A Musical For Our Time

Three Strong Women

Winnipeg’s Palace Theatre

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Remote and Without Universal Appeal

We are avid Manitoba Theatre Centre fans and have been since our university days nearly half a century ago when we volunteered as ushers at MTC because that was the only way we could afford to see the plays. We’ve had seasons tickets for decades.

MTC is almost right in our backyard

During the pandemic, we donated our season ticket money back to the theatre because it was important to us that MTC survive. The theatre is actually our neighbor. We can see it from the rooftop of our Exchange District condo.

Image from the MTC program

So you can imagine how excited we were to be going back to attend our first play in almost two years last week. But……….. I’m afraid we were quite disappointed. Yes, the current production Orlando is a feast for the eyes, is wonderfully staged, delightfully costumed, and performed by excellent actors. But where was a story to even remotely engage the audience?

Photo by Dylan Hewlett from the media gallery on the MTC website.

The couple who accompanied us to the play was much better prepared than we were. They had waded online through the plot details beforehand but even with all their studying, these two highly-educated friends had a hard time understanding the storyline or explaining it clearly to us. The Free Press reviewer dubbed the plot of the play “remote and without universal appeal.” I would agree.

Photo by Dylan Hewlett from the media gallery on the MTC website.

I understand that the play addresses important current issues but there are plays that concern themselves with important issues and still tell a relatable story or at the very least offer some lines of meaningful and interesting dialogue.

Over our many years of attending MTC, there have been other plays that we didn’t like. As a regular theatre-goer, you know and accept there are times that will happen. But I admit it was hard for me to do that last week.

This is after all the holiday season when we all want so desperately to be happy and forget about the challenging times we are living through. We are feeling nostalgic about the way things were prior to the pandemic. And… this is the first MTC play we have seen in person in nearly two years. So perhaps it wasn’t the best time to stage a drama the Free Press reviewer so aptly called “a strange bird.

I will continue to support MTC and look forward to future productions, but this season’s debut just wasn’t the right play at the right time in my humble opinion.

Other posts……..

Ten Reasons Why I Loved Christmas at Pemberly

Come From Away- A Musical For Our Time

The Godfather of Winnipeg Theatre

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Winnipeg’s Palace Theatre

I took this photo of the theatre in 2013

I go by the Palace Theatre every week when I go down Selkirk Avenue to volunteer at a thrift shop. The theatre building is all boarded up but it looks like it was a grand place once. 

palace theaterI found out the Palace was designed by Max Zev Blankstein a Jewish architect trained in Odessa, Russia who emigrated to Canada in 1904.  He drew up plans for a number of Winnipeg theatres. The theatre was built by Jacob Miles whose family would become one of the biggest movie theatre operators in Manitoba. 

The Palace Theatre in 1930- photo by Jim Fustey from Silver Screens on the Prairie by Russ Gourluck

The Palace Theatre in 1930- photo by Jim Fustey from Silver Screens on the Prairie by Russ Gourluck

The Palace opened in 1912 and was initially a venue for vaudeville performances. According to Russ Gourluck the author of Silver Screens on the Prairie it was also used for meetings of the Ukrainian community as well as the viewing of motion pictures. 

exterior palace theater selkirk avenue

Detailed design on the theatre’s exterior

An addition was built in 1927 adding a balcony and increasing the capacity of the theatre to 800. 

Michael Koster in the Palace Theatre -photo by Raymond Koster- from Silver Screens on the Prairie by Russ Gourluck

Michael Koster in the Palace Theatre -photo by Raymond Koster- from Silver Screens on the Prairie by Russ Gourluck

Michael Koster worked in the projection room and it was sometimes so hot in the room that he wore only underwear, socks, and shoes.

the-green-hornet-serialJack Baturin a North End resident recalls kids attended Saturday shows that began at 10:00 am and many kids sat twice through the cowboy movies, mysteries, serials, and cartoons bringing lunches that consisted of chunks of bread and kubasa sausage from home. The Green Hornet was a favorite serial. 

The theatre was apparently a haunt of the Dew Drop gang who liked to run a variety of scams to avoid paying for their movie tickets. Sidney Katz talks about Winnipeg’s Dew Drop gang in his 1950s Macleans article It’s a Tough Time to Be a Kid. 

Photo of the Palace Theatre I took September 15, 2020

The Palace Theatre closed in 1964 and was, in turn, an auction house, furniture warehouse, and bargain store. Now it stands empty- a reminder of a time when the North End of Winnipeg was a very different place.

Currently, the building is owned by the University of Manitoba and a July CTV news article claims there is interest from the North End Renewal Corporation in buying it and turning it into a community arts performance space.  Perhaps the old Palace Theatre has a chance of coming back to life again. 

Other posts ………

The Beatles As A Sound Track For Life

I’m a Shop Girl and I Love It

5 T0-Do List Alternatives

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The Beatles As a Soundtrack For Life

Last month we watched the highly entertaining version of Shakespeare’s As You Like It at the Manitoba Theatre Centre. I was intrigued with the way they had woven tunes by The Beatles into the storyline of the script. It got me thinking about the possibility of linking lines from Beatles’ songs to events and stories from my own life.

Drinking snake wine with my sister-in-law Shirley on a boat in the Li River in China

Picture yourself in a boat on a river.

My son holding my hand in a family photo

I wanna hold your hand.

My son with his grandma

And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.

Kissing my husband on the Great Wall of China

Close your eyes and I’ll kiss you

My husband at the John Lennon Wall in Prague

You say you want to change the world

Celebrating Christmas with good friends

I get by with a little help from my friends.

Snorkelling in the tropical waters of Fiji with my sister

I’d like to be, under the sea.

My parents with their family in 2008

All you need is love.

My husband and friend walking in Gross Morn National Park Newfoundland

It’s a long and winding road

With my first son

You were only waiting for this moment to arrive

What photos from your life might go with a Beatles song?

Other posts………..

Crossing Abbey Road

Words of Wisdom on a Wine Bottle

Seeing the Movie Yesterday

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Ten Reasons Why I Loved Christmas at Pemberly!

Delightful and charming!  Those are just two of the adjectives I would use to describe the current Manitoba Theatre Production of Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberly. I am a huge Jane Austen fan but that isn’t the only reason I enjoyed the play. My husband wanted to know why I had liked it so much.  Here are ten reasons.

1) Mary Bennet, the heroine of the play is admired by her suitor not for her looks or money but…… for her brains. Arthur de Bourgh is enchanted with Mary’s ability to engage in interesting conversations about all manner of things whether it be history, science, geography, literature or the meaning of words.
2) I liked the idea of a minor character in a famous book being plucked from its pages and put centre stage so we can get to know her in a whole new way. Mary Bennet has a very secondary role in Jane Austen’s novel Pride and Prejudice. 

Photo Winnipeg Free Press

3) They played handbells. I was at the Canadian Mennonite University Christmas concert last Saturday and one of the things I enjoyed most was the talented handbell choir directed by Verna Wiebe. So it was lovely to see the handbells being played on the Manitoba Theatre stage during a carol singing scene. 

Photo- Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre

4) There is a real bond between the sisters in the play. Even though they sometimes make each other angry and frustrated they stick together as siblings no matter what life brings their way.
5) The set is beautiful and has many small details that caught my eye as the play proceeded. The windows outside were often the scene of a gentle snowfall.

Photo – Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre.

6) I learned that even though a Christmas tree is an important prop in the story of Christmas at Pemberly it was considered something unique during the time period in which the play is set. Christmas trees were not popular in England till some fifty years after Jane Austen wrote Pride and Prejudice.

Photo – Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre

7) There is real chemistry between Mary and Arthur the couple at the heart of the play’s romance. Arthur proposes to Mary by giving her a map of the world as a symbol of the adventures he plans for them to have together. How romantic is that? 
8) I thought the dresses the different Bennet sisters wore really suited their personalities and I loved them.
9) The play has some genuinely funny scenes and dialogue that had me laughing out loud. 
10) One question in the script that got me thinking was- “Can you live large in your mind alone?” 

Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberly runs till December 21, so you still have time to see it.

Other posts………

Jane Austen Overload

Why Do We Still Like Dickens A Christmas Carol? 

High Drama At the Christmas Family Gathering

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The Color Purple- God in Every Living Thing

God not some gloomy old man like the pictures you’ve seen of him.
God, not a man at all.
God is inside you and everyone else
That was or ever will be.
We come into this world with God.
But only them who look inside find it.
God is the flowers and everything else
That was or ever will be.
And when you feel the truth so real,
And when you love the way you feel, you’ve found it
Just as sure as moonlight bless the night.
Like a blade of corn,
Like a honeybee,
Like a waterfall,
All a part of me.
Like the color purple,
Where does it come from?
Open up your eyes,
Look what God has done.

We saw the musical The Color Purple at the Manitoba Theatre Centre on Wednesday night.  The signature song The Color Purple brought tears to my eyes and as soon as I got home I looked up the words and purchased the music. Then I scrolled through photos I’d taken to find the color purple in nature. 

I keep thinking what a different world it would be if we all believed as the song says that God is in us, in other human beings and in every living thing. 

Other posts………

Two Poets on Prayer

Go To The Park

Living Beings Just Like Us?

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