Toronto February Stage Highlights

News   Toronto February Stage Highlights
 
WIT'S END, at the Winter Garden Theatre, last week posted its second hold over notice, now till March 6. Sandra Shamas' new "lone woman show" (her internationally-known first solo effort was My Boyfriend's Back & There's Going To Be Laundry) has delighted sell-out audiences of all ages and diverse social levels since Jan. 14, despite extremely low temperatures and record-setting snowfalls. Shamas' personality reaches every ticket buyer in the 1,000-seat, former vaudeville palace as she recounts her real-life search for love and sanity, through divorce, leading to her -- yes -- wit's end.

WIT'S END, at the Winter Garden Theatre, last week posted its second hold over notice, now till March 6. Sandra Shamas' new "lone woman show" (her internationally-known first solo effort was My Boyfriend's Back & There's Going To Be Laundry) has delighted sell-out audiences of all ages and diverse social levels since Jan. 14, despite extremely low temperatures and record-setting snowfalls. Shamas' personality reaches every ticket buyer in the 1,000-seat, former vaudeville palace as she recounts her real-life search for love and sanity, through divorce, leading to her -- yes -- wit's end.

With philosophical humor, one chair and dressed in black casual clothing, Shamas travels a difficult route to self-sufficient single female, creating a new existence by learning the relatively primitive ways of rural life. As one of the Second City Comedy Workshop's more illustrious graduates, Shamas' self-mockery is constant, mixed with a determination in overcoming seemingly insurmountable odds by a vulnerable but independent woman. Even elderly patrons don't seem unfazed by the occasional profanity. A North American tour is in the works. Till March 6, Thursdays to Saturdays at 8 PM Tickets: $15-35, (416) 872-5555. Press: John Karastamatis (416) 593-0351, ext. 519.

CHICAGO at The Princess of Wales Theatre for a four-week engagement starring Chita Rivera as Roxy with Stephanie Pope as Velma, Michael Berresse as Billy Flynn, Marcia Lewis recreating her Tony nominated Broadway performance as Matron Mama Morton, and Ernie Sabella as Amos.

Ben Vereen has been rehearsing in New York for the role of celebrity making defense attorney Billy Flynn and will join the Las Vegas-bound company in mid-February. It's due to open the desert resort's newest hotel, The Mandalay Bay for an indefinite run. The production's appearance in Toronto is an encore engagement after an SRO six-week run exactly one year ago at the same theatre. This time, however, the new company comes to town under the auspices of Mirvish Productions. Performance schedule: Feb. 2-14: Tuesdays-Saturdays at 8 PM, Sundays at 7 PM with matinees Sat. and Sun. at 2 PM; Feb. 15-20: Mon.-Sat. at 8 PM, matinees Wed. & Sat. at 2 PM; Feb. 22-26: Mon.-Fri. at 8 PM, matinee Wed. only at 2 PM. Tickets: $20-$93. Thirty rush seat tickets per performance for $22, cash only, 2 tickets per person at the box office, open daily at 10:30 a.m. Seats are in the first two rows of the orchestra.

The Princess of Wales is located at 300 King St. W. Regular reservations via TicketKing at (416) 872-1212, or (800) 461-3333. Press: In house (416) 593-0351, fax: (416) 593-9221.

SHOPPING & FUCKING at the du Maurier Theatre Centre for a limited run, graphically -- including frank sexual imagery -- depicts the self defeating lifestyles of London's lost youth. Drugs and sex are interchangeable commodities in a world where sexual orientation is not an issue. Despite the controversial street slang title, Mark Ravenhill's seamy drama made the leap from sensational fringe theatre success to critical acclaim and box office bonanza in London's mainstream West End, before going on national tour and a New York production last year.

This Canadian premiere, produced by Crow's Theatre, one of Toronto's leading alternate theatre company's and directed by founding artistic director Jim Millan, received mixed reviews from the city's mainstream press with the influential weekly print media still to deliver their verdicts.

The cast includes Damien Atkins who recently received critical and public raves for his Toronto stage debut in Miss Chatelaine, his solo outing; Alex Poch-Goldin (whose versatility is familiar to local audiences); Matthew MacFadzean (recent National Theatre School graduate making his Toronto stage debut); Canadian film and TV actress Natalie Radford (in her professional stage debut), and Julian Richings (multi-Dora Award winner, also often appearing in major roles in Canadian-made feature films and Canadian TV series, including the recent 'War of The Worlds").

The du Maurier Theatre is located at Harbourfront, 231 Queen's Quay West. Performances scheduled to Feb. 20, playing Tuesdays - Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sundays at 3 p.m. Tickets: $15-$30. (416) 973-4000. Press: FLIP Publicity, (416) 533-7710.

PROPOSALS at the Royal Alexandra Theatre for a six week run, following its Canadian premiere in January at the co-producing Manitoba Theatre Centre in Winnipeg.

Neil Simon's 30th Broadway play makes its Toronto debut starring Al Waxman, popular Canadian actor who gained national renown playing the affable title role in "The King of Kensington," one of CBC-TV's first successful sitcoms. Since, Waxman became internationally known on "Cagney & Lacey" and other US cop dramas. He received critical kudos as Willy Loman in Death of A Salesman at the 1998 Stratford Festival.

As patriarch Burt Hines, Waxman heads a family which finds itself having to respond to a series of proposals which will effect each of their lives. During a summer in 1950, the action takes place in the family's summer country home in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. Cleamma (played by Patricia Idlette), devoted housekeeper and maternal figure for more than 30 years, recalls one day when nine people converged on the tranquil abode to sort out their less than tranquil lives. Maida Rodgerson plays Annie Hines, Jennifer Gould is daughter Josie with Graham Abbey, Ari Cohen, Duncan Ollerenshaw, Lisa Ryder and Alvin Sanders helping to evoke the emotions Simon allows each of his vulnerable characters.

John Lee Beatty designed the intricate house and garden set; Brian Perchaluk created the costumes and Michael J. Whitfield designed the lighting under the direction of Steven Schipper, MTC's artistic director.

Playing till March 20, Mondays - Saturdays at 8 PM with matinees Wed. & Sat. at 2 PM. Tickets: $26.50 to $66.50. via the box office or TicketKing at (416) 872-1212 or 1-800-461-3333. Press: In house (416) 593-0351, fax 593-9221.

TONY 'N' TINA'S WEDDING at Tim's Playhouse, as many of us already know, is an "environmental" play in which audience members are the invited guests to a realistic but make-believe Italian wedding. Dinner is served amid the interactive mixing members of the cast with the playgoers. Everyone is free to participate in or just watch such matrimonial traditions as the papal blessing, the dollar dance, and the strip tease by the girl friend of the groom's father. These faux nuptials and wedding celebrations have been going on all over the world, with long runs still going in four major American cities.

The all-Canadian cast is headed by Sarah Meltzer as the tough-talking bride Tina Vitale and Billy Khoury as Tony Nunzio, the sauve Italian stallion-proud groom. Jay Leggett, TV and Second City alumnus, brings his experience directing "weddings" in London, Chicago and San Francisco.

It all takes place place at Tim's Playhouse, adjoining the new Second City home, 56 Blue Jays Way (aka Peter Street), running indefinitely Weds. - Fridays at 7 PM, Saturdays 5 & 9 PM, Sundays at 5:30 PM. Tickets: $55-$60 via TicketMaster (416) 872-1111 Press: FLIP Publicity (416) 33-7710. Email: shows@flip-publicity.com.

THE DRAWER BOY by Michael Healey, directed by Miles Potter, a world premiere at Theatre Passe Muraille for a limited run.

This comedy-drama takes place on a rural Ontario farm and tells of how a young actor from the big city moves into the rural home of two aging bachelor farmers. Intrigued by the puzzling Angus who suffered brain damage during World War II and gently tormented by Morgan because of his ignorance of country living, Miles attempts to integrate himself into farm life with varying results. The line between life and art, truth and fiction becomes blurred as the trio embark on trying to put on a farm show which first was developed by a group of actors who lived on the farm 28 years ago.

Previews Feb. 23-24, opening Feb. 25, playing till March 21 Tuesdays to Saturdays at 8 PM, Sundays at 2:20 pm. Tickets: $14-$28, Sundays Pay-What-You-Can, via the box office, (416) 504-PLAY.

THE STONE ANGEL, adapted for the stage by well-known Canadian playwright James W. Nichol from Margaret Laurence's Canadian classic novel, opens at the Bluma Appel Theatre of the St. Lawrence Centre for a five-week run. This popular Canadian play is presented by The Canadian Stage Company as a co-production of The Grand Theatre of London, Ontario.

This production stars Nora McLellan as Hagar Shipley, a 90-year old woman facing a move into a retirement home by her son and his wife. Confronted with this fearful prospect, Hagar relives her life in the small Manitoba farming town of Manawaka. Recalling the dysfunctional relationships with her strict father, an alcoholic husband and two troublesome sons, Hagar realizes she must come to terms before she dies with the events which shaped her life.

McLellan is a veteran member of the Shaw Festival company and has appeared in major regional theatres across Canada. She is joined in Stone Angel by Elizabeth Brown, Shaw and Stratford veteran Barry MacGregor, Christine MacInnis, Robert Persichini, and Brett Porter along with Michael Spencer-Davis and Glyn Thomas, all of whom appear in multiple roles.

Director Janet Wright -- who originated the role of Hagar in a CBC Radio version -- returns to CSC after critical acclaim during the 1998 summer season of the Stratford Festival where she staged Juno and the Paycock and The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. Sets and costumes are designed by Charlotte Dean, lighting by Kevin Fraser, and the original incidental music is composed by Don Horsburgh.

The Stone Angel plays till March 20, Mondays - Saturdays at 8:00 PM, with matinees Wednesdays at 1:30 PM and Saturdays at 2:00 PM. Tickets, $29-$55, are available through the box office, (416) 368-3110, or TicketMaster (416) 872-1111. Rush seats are available half an hour before each performance with a limited number of PWYC tickets available on Mondays. The Bluma Appel Theatre, at the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts, is located at 27 Front St. East, one block east of Yonge Street in downtown Toronto.

THE 21st RHUBARB THEATRE FESTIVAL, at the Buddies In Bad Times Theatre, opens with a fresh crop of Canadian theatrical explorations where anything goes in content and form. Three weeks of performances and lectures by "artists who have devoted their careers in developing new work and, in some cases, reinventing established works."

Guest speakers: Daniel Brooks, an accomplished director and theatre creator considered at the forefront of Canada's next generation of theatre artists, and his sometime collaborator Guillermo Verdecchia, writer of drama, fiction and film, a recipient of the Governor General's Award for Drama and a four-time winner of the Chalmers Canadian Play Award, talk about their specialties.

Iris Turcott, company dramaturge of The Canadian Stage Company together with Robert Wallace, current chair of the Robarts Centre for Canadian Studies at York University, speak on new play development.

Christopher Newton, in a 30-year Canadian career, has been arstistic director for many major regional theatres, and artistic director since 1979 of Thed Shaw Festival. In 1995 Newton was named a member of the coveted Order of Canada and in 1996 became a recipient of the prestigious M. Joan Chalmers Award for Artistic Direction.

Neil Munro, currently resident director at The Shaw Festival, is a multi- Dora Award recipient for Best Director and playwright. The National Theatre School graduate has appeared at many of Canada's leading regional theatres including Shaw, Stratford. and Toronto' s premiere theatres. All lectures are followed by a question and answer session.

The inaugural Under 21 Series provides a more prominent voice for new works from young playwrights through Toronto's Supporting Our Youth project sponsored by the Community Foundation For Toronto For Good, the Toronto Coalition for Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Youth, the Laidlaw Foundation, the Canada Council for The Arts, and the arts councils of Ontario and Toronto.

Single evening tickets at $15 good for all the shows you can see and a Week Pass at $20 for all as many stagings you can catch throughout the festival. Reservations and all information via (416) 975-8555. Tue.-Fri. l0 am to 6 PM, Sat. & Sun. Noon to 6 PM.

-- By Alan Raeburn, Canadian Correspondent

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