By Liz Nicholls, 12thnight.ca
There’s always anticipation in theatre, as there should be, about “emerging” playwrights, directors, actors. There are whole festivals devoted to them, like the upcoming 2017 edition of Nextfest.
Leave aside for another day the tricky question of when “emerging” stops if you’re a theatre artist: when can you call yourself fully “emerged”? and, for that matter, would you want to be?
What about emerging audiences?
It is a season of emergence, my winter-weary friends. And this is a great weekend for you to emerge from your homes, and see some live theatre.
The possibilities are unusually large.
“He shaved the faces of gentlemen/ Who never thereafter were heard of again….” You can catch Stephen Sondheim’s 1979 masterwork Sweeney Todd at the Westbury (through May 13), and see what the community players of Edmonton’s venerable ELOPE Musical Theatre company — led by Randy Brososky and Nicole English — make of the tale of the vengeful demon barber of Fleet Street and Mrs. Lovett, his creative companion in culinary innovation.
You may recall Mrs. Lovett’s sublimely witty song A Little Priest, in which she reviews the grisly secret ingredient that has made her failing pie shop into a bona fide London hit. “The trouble with poet/ Is how do you know it’s /Deceased? Try the priest….”
Get yourself into the mood for the macabre comic zest of the piece Sondheim called “a dark operetta” with an appetizer. Have a meat pie, courtesy of the Meat Street Pies food truck outside the Westbury Theatre before every evening show.
In this bright grisly idea ELOPE may have been inspired by the English company that set its much-awarded production of Sweeney Todd in Harrington’s Pie And Mash Shop, one of the oldest in London. Since then, the show has moved to New York. The Barrow Street Theatre in Greenwich Village has been transformed into a working facsimile of its original London venue; meat pies created by the Obamas’ former White House pastry chef are served.
Sense and Sensibility, Tom Wood’s new adaptation of the Jane Austen novel, continues on the Citadel MainStage this weekend (through May 14): comedy of the sharp-eyed sharp-eared variety, along with romance — and a deluxe design from Leslie Frankish for Bob Baker’s lavish production. http://bit.ly/2oH5dC4. Tickets: 780-425-1820, citadeltheatre.com.
Irma Voth: The title heroine of Chris Craddock’s excitingly theatrical coming-of-age adventure comedy, inspired by the Miriam Toews novel, escapes from her domestic prison by discovering a sense of possibility. The catalyst is the arrival of a film director and company in a strict Mennonite colony in Mexico. Liberation through art: what could be more exhilarating? Bradley Moss’s Theatre Network premiere production is lively, inventive, and playful. Bonus: you’ll be seeing last year’s Alberta Playwriting Competition winner. http://bit.ly/2p4IZJo Tickets: 780-453-2440, theatrenetwork.ca.
And speaking of art as a catalyst, there’s Art at the Varscona. The premise of Yasmina Reza’s elegantly written 1994 hit comedy, Shadow Theatre’s season finale, will make you smile: three old friends come to blows over a modern painting. When does that happen? John Hudson’s production stars Glenn Nelson, John Sproule, and Frank Zotter. http://bit.ly/2qqkwwj Tickets: 780-434-5564, TIX on the Square (780-420-1757, tixonthesquare.ca)
Made In Italy: Farren Timoteo follows up a spectacularly funny comic performance in Peter and the Starcatcher with the one-man play he was inspired to create when he looked more into his family history It’s funny, flavourful, and heartfelt. And since it’s in the Citadel Club you can watch Daryl Cloran’s production whilst sipping a glass of vino, just like many of the characters onstage. http://bit.ly/2oMza3B. Last show: 2 p.m. Sunday matinee. Tickets: 780-425-1820, citadeltheatre.com.
Just opened: Bonnie & Clyde the two person six-gun musical. The Depression Era bank robber celebs from another angle, in the two-person musical by the American team of Will Pomerantz (whose stuff has premiered at all the big New York Off-Broadway houses), Andrew Herron and Doug Ritchie. This Canadian premiere, directed by Trevor Schmidt, is finale of Northern Light’s three productions this season. http://bit.ly/2pJkod5. Tickets: 780-471-1586, northernlighttheatre.com