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On Stage Toronto - an eclectic performing arts digest

An eclectic digest of what's taking the stage this fall in Toronto.

Sure, you've got your Jersey Boys, your Virginia Woolf and your Cirque with Ovo still playing in town. I don't pretend to offer an exhaustive listing of what's hitting the boards in Toronto this fall - that would take me all week to compile! - but here's my look at some shows that seem particularly interesting and sometimes off beat.

October 14 - Support the arts and charity too at the 8th Annual Spotlight! Cocktail Reception & Silent Auction for Fife House, featuring live performances by some of Canada's bright lights in the worlds of jazz, opera and musical theatre.


Now on stage to October 10 - Jerry Springer - the Opera returns to Toronto to offend and delight with the gleeful lack of taste of its namesake in a three week run at Hart House Theatre. It was a hit last time around, and looks to repeat its success this fall.

October 1 to November 1 - After getting rave reviews in the U.K., Canadian playwright Brad Fraser's True Love Lies comes to Toronto's Factory Theatre for a month long run. Like much of Fraser's work, it takes a brutally funny look at modern life, this time in the form of a family with deep, dark secrets. It's in previews September 26-30.

October 6 to November 15 - Tarragon Theatre brings you The Drowning Girls, a Toronto premiere of what looks like an interesting and inventive work. A hit at Edmonton Fringe, the award winning show looks at three brides emerging from their daily bath to tell the tale of a whirlwind romance - all with the same guy.

September 28 to October 24 - Canstage opens their fall season with Rock 'N' Roll, a play by world renowned playwright Tom Stoppard and starring Fiona Reid, Shaun Smyth and Kenneth Welsh in a story about love, revolution and the end of communism with a rock 'n' roll theme. Pre-show talks with Professor Rob Bowman October 7, 14 & 21 at 7:15pm in the theatre lobby.

Opens October 31 - Cheer for Melvin Ferd the Third in the stage version of The Toxic Avenger, based on the hit cult movie of the same name by Troma Studios. Turned into a 7' mutant freak with superhuman strength after he's dumped into a vat of radioactive toxic waste, Toxie becomes New Jersey's first superhero, out to save NJ, end global warming, and perhaps find love in the process. Stars Dora Award winner Louise Pitre, along with Evan Smith, Brittany Gray, Jamie McKnight and more. Opens on Halloween, October 31, with previews from October 20 at the Music Hall.
(image of opera from backstge by Peter Goyette of Chicago)


October 4 - The Elmer Isler Singers team up with the renowned Nathaniel Dett Chorale, (probably best known for their command performance at US President Obama's inauguration,) in an evening of Afrocentric choral music at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church. The programme features the timeless works of Byrd, Tallis, Gibbons and more.

October 17 to November 5 - The Canadian Opera Company looks to have a great season lined up, but if you can only catch one show, you might want to hone in on The Nightingale & Other Short Fables, a World Premiere of short pieces by Igor Stravinsky as directed by artiste extraordinaire Robert Lepage. The pieces will combine singers, acrobats and nearly 100 beautifully costumed handcrafted puppets in a dazzling display - just what we've come to expect from both Lepage and the COC. After this Premiere, the show will tour the world, so you'll be among the first to see it.

October 31 to November 7 - Opera Atelier is a company unique in North America, producing opera, ballet and drama from the Baroque period (17th & 18th centuries) using original instruments along with sumptuous stage sets and costuming for a truly unique experience. This fall, they bring Gluck's rarely heard 1779 opera Iphigénie en Tauride to life, telling the story of the Greek princess who was abandoned on the Island of Tauride for the entire Trojan War. Once she's reunited with her brother Orestes (who just murdered their mother, Clytemnestra - oh those Greek tragedies!) her courage gets them back home safely. Stars Croatian tenor Kresimir Spicer as Orestes and Peggy Kriha Dye as Iphigénie, with music from Tafelmusik Orchestra.

December 2 - Tapestry New Opera is a company dedicated to the creation, development and performance of new opera works via a collaborative process. They have a number of interesting projects underway for 2010, including the World Premiere of Dark Star Requiem, an operatic oratorio on the history of HIV/AIDS featuring the Elmer Isler Singers, but in the meantime you can catch their 30th Anniversary Celebration one night only featuring a trio of sopranos - Patricia O'Callaghan, Jean Stilwell and Theresa Tova at the Fermenting Cellar in the Distillery District.

October 9 to 11 - Shen Yun Performing Arts bring the classical music and dance of China to the Canon Theatre for a three day run only. Audiences and critics alike have marveled at their physical mastery and brilliant choreography, which combine with dazzling costumes and staging for what sounds like a spectacular show.

October 14 - Catch preview excerpts from Ballet Jorgen's new works with Ballet in the Studio, including introductions from the choreographers, refreshments, and a chance to meet with the dancers after the performance.

Harbourfront - this venue needs a category all of its own when it comes to supporting dance in Toronto, and the Next Steps Series this coming season's no exception, featuring 23 companies and 10 World Premieres, no less. Of special note:
  • October 14 to 17 - ProArte Danza's performances are noted for their dynamic athleticism and style, and this show features a World Premiere of a piece by Artistic Director Roberto Campanella.
  • October 27 to November 1 - The Chimera Project returns with Blood, a piece with goth/punk/rebel sensibilities from Artistic Director Malgorzata Nowacka. On October 29, you'll see Fresh Blood, an evening of works by young choreographers.
October 18 to 24 - the Toronto Flamenco Festival heats up the Lower Ossington Theatre featuring Rafael Campallo, who the New York Times describes thus: "..a stylish, authoritative young flamenco dancer.. He is good at flamenco’s sudden yin-yang shifts of hot and cool, substituting casual for cool to potent effect." (And you can read more on that here.)

November 25 to 29 - The National Ballet has a season of classics and more lined up, including this exciting programme that features an evening of new pieces, one of which being a World Premiere by Canadian choreographer Aszure Barton (fresh from the début of her work with the American Ballet Theatre at the Lincoln Center in October.) Also on the bill will be Balanchine's The Four Temperaments, and Glass Pieces, a modern dance work by Jerome Robbins set to the music of Phillip Glass.


What Else Is Hot This Week?

Esmeralda Enrique Spanish Dance Company Spring 2013 Toronto Performances

From a media release:

The new season brings
Esmeralda Enrique Spanish Dance Company
to new heights and new audiences

March 20-24, 2013 - A Night in Madrid
April 25-28, 2013 - Annual Toronto Season - World Premiere of Portales

TORONTO : Following on the heels of Esmeralda Enrique Spanish Dance Company's (EESDC) 30th anniversary year where its production Aguas/Waters was named one of the top five dance shows of 2012 by NOW Magazine, the early months of 2013 are full of excitement and possibility for Esmeralda and the company, which brings the finest flamenco and Spanish Classical Dance to Toronto stages.

March 20-24, 2013 - A Night in Madrid
Company dancers Esmeralda Enrique and Paloma Cortés perform Spanish Classical dance with the celebrated Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and Chamber Choir for A Night in Madrid featuring the Iberian flavoured music of composer Luigi Boccherini who made his home in Spain. His work is infused with the sounds of Spanish and gypsy folk music.

March 20-24 …

Polina Semionova to Appear as Guest Artist with American Ballet Theatre

From a media release:


New York - Polina Semionova, a principal dancer with Berlin State Opera Ballet, will debut as a Guest Artist with American Ballet Theatre for the 2011 Metropolitan Opera House season, it was announced January 14, 2011 by Artistic Director Kevin McKenzie. With ABT, Semionova will perform Kitri in Don Quixote at the matinee on Saturday, May 21, opposite David Hallberg as Basilio, and the dual role of Odette/Odile in Swan Lake on Saturday evening, July 2, opposite Hallberg as Prince Siegfried.

Born in Moscow, Semionova studied at the Bolshoi Ballet School before joining the Berlin State Opera Ballet as the company’s youngest principal dancer. Her repertoire with Berlin State Opera Ballet includes Odette-Odile in Swan Lake, Nikiya in La Bayadère, Marie in The Nutcracker, Princess Aurora in The Sleeping Beauty, Swanilda in Coppélia, Kitri in Don Quixo…

Lithuanian Rock: Robertas Semeniukas - Backstage Stories (Independent / November 20, 2019)

Robertas Semeniukas - Backstage Stories
(Independent / November 20, 2019)
Stream it on Spotify
The Album "Backstage Stories" 2xLP & CD

Robertas Semeniukas is a great find if you like your rock with a hard edge and a strong groove. Naturally, guitar reigns supreme, with a sound that ranges from snarly to fluid and melodic, and virtuosic chops to keep everything interesting. You don't have to understand Lithuanian to enjoy the well-crafted songs and polished musicianship.

Of the 20 tracks, 8 are instrumental. This is rock in what you'd call a classic vein, heavily influenced by 1980s and 1990s bands, but with a modern gloss to it, and a sense of musical experimentation that isn't often associated with that era in Western pop music. Robertas wrote or co-wrote all the tracks except for one cover, the blues composition You Gotta Move by Mississippi Fred McDowell.

Within the rock/metal genre, the prolific composer, singer and musician mines a variety of moods. So…

So You Can't Go: Six Ways To Travel Virtually

So You Can't Go:
Six Ways To Travel VirtuallyTravel is limited for most of us in the world these days. For Canadians, it depends on the province you live in, but with the border to the US still closed, and other options limited at best, virtual travel from the couch can provide at least a view with a difference at a time when you may well need it most. Google Cardboard – VR On A BudgetYou don't need a lot of cash to get into travel via virtual reality. Google Cardboard is a line of VR viewers that are, well, made of cardboard, and are priced starting at $12CAD.If you check out this link, you'll find out how to download the software to your smartphone.At this link, you can get yourself an actual Google Cardboard for a hands-free VR experience. Google Cardboard apps offer a variety of ways to experience our beautiful planet, including Google Earth itself, which can take you anywhere, along with apps to view museums and cultural artifacts, and more.Ascape VRAscape has a huge l…

Blues/Rock: The Cole Patenaude Band - Are You Happy Now? (Independent / 24 July 2020)

The Cole Patenaude Band - Are You Happy Now?
(Independent / 24 July 2020) Buy the CD Big vocals and infectious grooves make up this release from The Cole Patenaude Band. It's modern blues with a classic sensibility, anchored by solid musicianship and upbeat songwriting. 
Keyboard player Dean Thiessen and Patenaude on guitar trade off solos and melodic lines to keep it interesting through a range of bluesy style, incorporating rock and country, with a pop song sheen on songs like For the Money. Would You Be Mine is more Elvis-esque rockabilly, while How To Love is an acoustic song with folky storytelling lyrics and feel. 
Compromise is a standout track, with a snarly guitar line and a churchy organ swelling underneath a nice bluesy beat. Horns aren't credited in the notes, but I swear I heard some on this and a couple of the other tracks. 
As a husband, father, and full-time mechanic based in Langley, British Columbia, finding the time to make his music was a challenge…