Italian lessonsJuan Chioran has enjoyed working with.

Italian lessons

Juan Chioran has enjoyed working with Acting Up Stage Company for the past two years, but we suspect he’s happier in this year’s costume.

In last season’s A New Brain, he was dressed as an oversized frog.

This time around, in The Light In The Piazza, he’s Signor Naccarelli, a dapper Florentine haberdasher who wears elegant Italian suits.

“Yes,” he laughs, “I finally get some nice frocks, and I can draw on the Italian culture in which I was raised. Coincidentally, it’s the second time this year that I play an Italian, following last fall’s The Madonna Painter.”

The stylishness of Signor Naccarelli comes naturally to Chioran, who brings flair to all his roles, including a Dora-winning turn as the cross-dressing Roger De Bris in The Producers.

The Light In The Piazza, with a book by Craig Lucas and music by Adam Guettel, is the story of American mother and daughter Margaret and Clara, who visit Italy in the early 1950s. Though a mature 23-year-old physically, Clara is emotionally and intellectually much younger due to a childhood accident. When she and Fabrizio Naccarelli fall in love, Margaret is at a loss about to what to tell the Naccarellis.

“It’s a romantic piece, in part about the generational differences in how people fall in love,” says Chioran, whose character knows how to charm Clara’s mother. “There’s the impetuousness, ardour and hastiness of youth attraction is different for the older people.

“But it’s also about different cultures, American and Italian. In some ways, says our director, Robert McQueen, this story couldn’t happen anywhere except in Florence, which becomes another character. It’s easy to fall in love there, with the city’s golden light shining over the Arno River and the Tuscan hills.”

He’s become the Italian expert for the company, not simply in terms of pronouncing the Italian words but also in what it’s like being in an Italian family.

“I’m the cultural liaison during rehearsals,” he says. “When I see the actors being so polite and Canadian, each waiting for someone else to finish a line, I have to remind them that everyone talks at the same time in an Italian family. That’s simply the dynamic I won’t let things get too Anglo-Saxon.”

Chioran admits that the music is difficult, but once learned it becomes “the most glorious score. It’s beautifully romantic without being sentimental, a hard thing to capture.”

The performer knows his musicals, having starred in Kiss Of The Spider Woman and Man Of La Mancha, though audiences at the Stratford Festival have seen him recently in a number of non-musical works including All’s Well That Ends Well and Three Sisters.

Next season, though, he plays leading men in two of the festival’s musicals, Kiss Me Kate and Evita.

Don’t think Chioran is always the model of elegance, though. He’s excited right now at having received an ACTRA voice work nomination for the cartoon series Grossology.

His character? An evil pimple named Lance Boil, bent on world domination.

See listings.

Dyke drama

Want to hear the work of some of our best lesbian playwrights, read by the authors themselves?

Playwrights Canada Press is launching Outspoken, a Canadian anthology of lesbian monologues and scenes edited by NOW’s senior entertainment editor, Susan G. Cole.

Hosted by Cole, the free evening includes readings by trey anthony, Mariko Tamaki, Jess Dobkin, Alec Butler, Mariette Sluyter and Lois Fine.

The launch is Monday (February 1), 7 pm, at Buddies in Bad Times (12 Alexander).

Cabin fever

Head over to the Theatre Centre to catch an international hit that’s been acclaimed at the Edinburgh Festival.

White Cabin, presented by Russian physical theatre company AKHE, blends theatre, silent film, installation and historic photos to look at loss and alienation in today’s Russia.

The clip on YouTube suggests that the wordless, surreal production, filled with striking visuals, has a touch of clown in both its humour and its pathos.

Don’t wait, though – the show’s in Toronto for only two performances before it tours across Canada.

See listings.

The last stand

The Canadian Opera Company’s (COC) finally making tickets available to those who can’t afford what’s usually an expensive evening out.

Starting next season, there will be 50 standing-room tickets for each performance. The $12 tickets are at the rear of the orchestra and the third and fourth rings of the Four Seasons Centre for the Arts.

They’ll be rush tickets, available the day of performance and in person only.

The announcement was made as part of the announcement of the 2010-11 season, which includes seven productions, two premieres and two shows new to the COC the other three operas haven’t been staged here for at least 15 years.

The premiere productions are Verdi’s Aida and Mozart’s The Magic Flute new to the COC are John Adams’s Nixon In China and Gluck’s Orfeo Ed Euridice. The remaining operas are Britten’s final work, Death In Venice, Rossini’s version of Cinderella, La Cenerentola, and Strauss’s Ariadne Auf Naxos.

The Gluck should be special. It brings home Canadian director Robert Carsen, who hasn’t staged an opera here in almost 20 years, though his work has been acclaimed abroad.

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