Michael Rubinoff really wants to reinvigorate mid-sized musical theatre in Toronto. The producer/director began last summer with a production of A Chorus Line more notable for its energy than its polish, and next August he's planning to stage Willy Russell's Blood Brothers, a contemporary musical with its roots in classical Greek tragedy.
His latest, the family musical Free To Be... You And Me, by Marlo Thomas and Friends (who include Judy Blume, Carl Reiner and Shel Silverstein), was a hit at last weekend's matinee with parents and small kids, most of whom had read the original book.
For others of us, its highlight was the work of Jonathan Surla, one of the four central performers.
The material is politically correct -- girls can play with trucks and boys with dolls, it's OK to cry -- but the writing and the emotions it's intended to generate have a marketed, calculated quality. So Surla was doubly welcome, projecting high energy and charm and creating some appealing bits of theatrical shtick.
Free To Be has closed, but Rubinoff keeps stirring the musical-theatre pot with a series of evenings featuring the work of local young performers. Cityscapes Cabaret runs in the lower lounge of the Hummingbird Centre.
Know any recently established professional theatre artist whose work deserves reward? The Tarragon Theatre is administering a $5,000 award to an emerging theatre artist of any age who's been working no fewer than two years and no more than five as a playwright, actor, director, designer, technician or critic. The artist must be a Toronto resident and have created or participated in at least one artistic work that's been presented, produced or published
You can nominate yourself or someone else. All applications must be at the Tarragon by February 17. For more info and application procedures, call 416-536-5018 ext 228 or check www.tarragontheatre.com.
Caught one of two performances of U-Haulywood, a tasty display of the talents of the Burnt Marshmallows, Christel Bartelse and Christina Sicoli.
Highlights included Bartelse's Dutch alter ego, stand-up Meep von Peep, a great faux interactive improv bit and a dark satiric look at two college girls living in a dorm room haunted by a nerd. Hosts the Rumoli Brothers practically stole the show, however, with their series of movie posters for Oscar consideration.