Haley McGee in her solo show Oh My Irma.
Haley McGee's solo show Oh My Irma continues to reap accolades as it tours to festivals around the world.
The piece, about a socially awkward, imaginative young woman obsessed with an old man and his dog, began as a five-minute performance at a Theatre Passe Muraille cabaret. In fuller form, it played the Edmonton Fringe before premiering at Passe Muraille in January 2011.
During 2012, McGee has been taking the show to festivals in Amsterdam, Brighton, Stratford, New York, London and Kiel, Germany.
Along the way, she picked up a jury commendation in the international performances category at the Amsterdam Fringe, where the show also won an award as the highest-selling show at its venue.
It also copped a best encore prize at New York's United Solo Festival (she won the best overall production last year) and tied for first place at the Thespis International Monodrama Festival in Kiel.
There's more to come, with plans to tour to other festivals.
How about a remount of Oh My Irma here, first?
But before McGee can think about that, she has to get through the holiday season. She's repeating her role as Mary in the revival of Martha Ross's The Story, presented by Theatre Columbus. The fine site-specific show, a family-oriented version of the Nativity story complete with a modern touch and a live choir, begins next week at the Evergreen Brick Works. See theatrecolumbus.ca.
Canadian Rep ramps up
Now that Factory Theatre is behind him, director Ken Gass is revitalizing Canadian Rep Theatre, which he established in the 80s, and planning a season of projects.
As Gass says in a release, the company has "the long-term goal of building a major repertory company predicated on both classical and innovative approaches to the contemporary Cana-dian canon."
Canadian Rep will return next spring with Wajdi Mouawad's Pacamambo, translated by Shelley Tepperman and directed by Gass. Written by the author of Scorched and Forests, Paca-mambo is described as a "life-affirm-ing play for children about death."
It'll be followed by two works that were withdrawn by their authors from the current Factory season when Gass was fired by the board: George F. Walker's Dead Metaphor, directed by the playwright (winter 2013), and Judith Thompson's solo show, Watching Glory Die, helmed by Gass (spring 2014).
Working with producer André du Toit, Gass's plan is to stage shows initially on a project-by-project basis and then launch a full rep season, employ-ing a resident company of diverse artists. Also in the works, beginning in January, is a series of monthly staged readings of major Canadian plays as well as a program of educational workshops and professional master classes.
Guys as Dolls
... and vice versa. That was the concept behind Talk Is Free Theatre's gender-bending production of Guys And Dolls, the classic 1950 musical about gambling, salvation and relationship commitments. It wrapped up its run at Barrie's Mady Centre for the Performing Arts last weekend (November 24).
Director Richard Ouzounian, our counterpart at the Toronto Star, came up with the novel idea of reversing genders, and it made us look at the show in a new way, with towering "female-" Salvation Army workers and showgirls pitted against slighter "male" gangsters.
The contrast - enhanced by being performed in an intimate cabaret setting - was palpable, perhaps suggest-ing the evolving role of the sexes in postwar America, with the women assuming increasing power and the men spending their time at trivial games and wagers.
Not everything worked, mind you. While Ouzounian wisely didn't ask the actors to alter their voices (no low-voiced grumbling for the women or falsetto for the guys), the musical's yin and yang felt a bit off. This seemed especially clear during the guys' ensemble numbers.
Still, what an opportunity to see singing -actors take on parts they normally wouldn't get.
Gabrielle Jones, a standout in Stratford's recent 42nd Street, made a fine, fast-talking Nathan Detroit, while Judy Marshak, sporting a Movember-certified stache, was always watchable as Benny Southstreet.
The real revelation in the cast was Steve Ross, who made Adelaide, Nathan's long-standing fiancée, into a fierce, intelligent and resourceful woman. His Adelaide's Lament was one of the best we've seen (or heard), and his reprise of that same number, performed quietly, actually tugged at the heartstrings.
James Smith's musical direction felt lively and fresh, and Amanda Nagy's choreography was fine, especially in the amusing scenes set in Cuba.
There's talk of a Toronto remount soon. And next April, consider making the trip to Barrie for Mitchell Cushman's (Terminus, Mr. Marmalade) production of John Mighton's metaphysi-cal play Possible Worlds.
So keep up with TIFT productions at tift.ca.
Cornering the Queen streetcar
Theatre Passe Muraille's latest exploration of our city - part of the fall season's Theatre Beyond Walls - is The 501: Toronto In Transit, a look at what is reputedly the longest streetcar line in the world.
Yup, that would be the 501 car, tra-velling east-west in Toronto.
Creator/performers Bob Nasmith, Donna-Michelle St. Bernard and Justin Many Fingers have spent the past six months riding the car, talking to those travelling with them, researching its history and piecing together a look at the line and its passengers.
Performances begin tonight (Thursday, November 29) in the Passe Muraille Backspace.
Grimm at 200
This year marks the 200th anniversary of the classic collection of fairy tales by the Brothers Grimm, and the Canadian Opera Company celebrates with Grimm-fest, a five-day event aimed at children and adults.
Key to the festivities are performances of The Brothers Grimm, an opera for families by Dean Burry, which the COC has toured to schools for years. In fact, Grimmfest will mark the show's 500th performance (shows December 7 and 8).
There's also a party for the Burry opera (December 7), a free concert of melodies associated with fairy tales (December 4), another free event featuring vocalist Maryem Tollar presenting fairy tales and legends from around the world (December 5) and a talk by Burry about the creation of his opera (December 6).
See listing and coc.ca.