Alabanza

david william
Sad news comes out of the Stratford Festival today.
“It was with great sadness that the Stratford Shakespeare Festival learned of the death of David William on Wednesday, July 28. Artistic director from 1990 to 1993, Mr. William was a highly respected and beloved member of the Festival family.
“David made an enormous contribution to the Festival that spanned many decades,” says General Director Antoni Cimolino. “He joined our team of directors in the 1960s and directed many memorable productions that featured a pantheon of Canada’s greatest acting talents. He directed a great deal of Shakespeare at Stratford, and became Canada’s go-to director for Shakespeare’s contemporaries, the Restoration and the Greeks. His work was characterized by a precision and intelligence that made the most challenging classical text enjoyable to all audiences. David had an international career and he chose to make Canada and the Festival his home. We are richer for his choice.”
“As well as being a former artistic director of the Stratford Shakespeare Festival, David William was among the most distinguished masters of Shakespeare and the classics in the long history of our institution,” says Artistic Director Des McAnuff. “In addition, his leadership style with our company of actors had an impact that is still felt almost two decades after he stepped down as our artistic director. He will be sorely missed.”
Mr. William was part of the Festival’s artistic company for 17 seasons. As a director, he worked with many young performers who would become stalwarts of the Canadian stage. His first production was Twelfth Night, presented at the Festival Theatre in 1966, featuring Martha Henry as Viola. In 1977 he directed Richard Monette and Marti Maraden as Romeo and Juliet. His 1985 production of She Stoops to Conquer featured Seana McKenna as Kate Hardcastle and Colm Feore as Marlow. Mr. Feore also played Hamlet in Mr. William’s 1991 production, and Dionysus in his production of The Bacchae in 1993. That same year, Mr. William directed Lucy Peacock as Gwendolen Fairfax in The Importance of Being Earnest.
His mentorship of young performers continued long after his tenure with frequent visits as a guest instructor at the Birmingham Conservatory for Classical Theatre. This season he directed a class for the members of the Michael Langham Workshop for Classical Direction. It had been hoped that he would participate in these programs for years to come.
“My first season at Stratford I was a proud part of David William’s cast for T.S. Eliot’s Murder in the Cathedral,” says Mr. Cimolino. “What an enormous growth experience for a young actor – to work with a director with such a brilliant mind and a vast experience in the theatre.”
During his career, Mr. William drew brilliant performances from key members of the Festival company. Witness his 1967 production of The Merry Wives of Windsor featuring one of the Festival’s finest Falstaffs, Tony van Bridge, along with Alan Bates as Ford, Zoe Caldwell as Mistress Page, Frances Hyland as Mistress Ford, and Roberta Maxwell as Anne Page.
“The very first professional Shakespeare I ever saw was David’s production of The Merry Wives of Windsor, which I attended after travelling to Stratford from Scarborough on one of those yellow school buses,” says Mr. McAnuff. “That production changed my life, and I have little doubt that his work had an equally powerful effect on many other audience members over the years.”
In 1971 Mr. William directed William Hutt in the title role of Volpone. The following year he was at the helm when Mr. Hutt first tackled the role of King Lear. The stellar cast of that production included Edward Atienza as the Fool, Mervyn Blake as Kent, Eric Donkin as Oswald, Pat Galloway as Goneril, William Needles as Albany, Elizabeth Shepherd as Cordelia, Powys Thomas as Gloucester and Kenneth Welsh as Edgar.
“As artistic director, Mr. William broke important ground in expanding the commissioning of new work and producing Canadian playwrights on the Festival’s larger stages,” says Mr. McAnuff.
In Mr. William’s first season, three Canadian dramas were presented within the standard repertoire as acknowledged contemporary classics: John Murrell’s Memoir; Sharon Pollock’s One Tiger To A Hill; and Michel Tremblay’s Forever Yours, Marie-Lou. He continued to program the works of Tremblay and others and to commission new Canadian works, including Pollock’s Fair Liberty’s Call and Homeward Bound by the Festival’s then literary manager, Elliott Hayes.
As an actor, Mr. William first appeared on the Festival stage in 1990, playing an absolutely unforgettable Jaques in As You Like It. His other Stratford roles included Johan Andreas Altenburg in An Enemy of the People in 1991, in which he appeared with Bernard Hopkins; and Serebryakov in Uncle Vanya in 1992. His final Festival performances were in 1994, as Lodovico in Othello and Malvolio in Twelfth Night. The image of Mr. William in yellow stockings and cross garters will live in the memories of all who were lucky enough to see Twelfth Night.
Mr. William’s tenure as artistic director fell during the severe recession of the 1990s. As the Festival celebrated its 40th season in 1992, struggling to balance the books, he reflected on the role of the Festival in such difficult times, writing:
“When uncertainty, cynicism and false witness seem to preoccupy the media and dismay the public, we can, if we will, find in the arts a last resort from where we can hear the unflinching voices across the centuries remind us that the struggle is endless and that each man’s reach should exceed his grasp or what’s a heaven for?”
Mr. William died of a head injury suffered in a fall. His life is being honoured quietly by family and friends. He was 84.

Jersey Boys: Oh, What A Night!

michael lomenda, jeff madden, quinn vanantwerp
and daniel robert sullivan.
I’ve developed a bit of a reputation in the musical theatre community for my strong aversion to “Jukebox” musicals. Their cheesy overblown plots and cartoonish characters both bore and infuriate me, especially since intellectually satisfying musicals with original scores seem to be the casualty in this ever-growing and increasingly frightening trend. Mamma Mia boasts of being the first musical I ever disliked (when I saw the production here in Toronto at seventeen, despite the fact that I freely admit my love of ABBA), I found We Will Rock You offensive to my heart (again, despite my love of Queen) and I had to change the channel during last year’s Tony Award Broadcast when the cast of Rock of Ages was performing. I’ve come to accept that Jukebox musicals just aren’t my thing. What I did not adequately realize before Tuesday night, however, is that Jersey Boys, the smash hit DanCap musical that has been playing at the Toronto Centre for the Arts for nearly two years, is not a Jukebox show.
Jersey Boys, which was written by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, with music by Bob Gaudio and Bob Crewe, and opened on Broadway in 2005, going on to win four Tony Awards including Best Musical (2006), is actually at its heart a play. On the surface, Jersey Boys is about the rise to fame of the 1960s Rock n’ Roll Group The Four Seasons and their songs pepper the musical to draw their fans to the Broadway show, and to allow them to revisit their past and to immerse themselves in an evening of nostalgia. Yet, ultimately Jersey Boys is a story about a rich and complicated friendship between four men, Bob Gaudio, Nick Massi, Tommy DeVito and Frankie Valli, whose loyalty to one another and to their music was continually strengthened and tested in the face of celebrity, success, addiction and life on the road.
The Four Season’s songs are not feebly forced into this musical to advance a makeshift plot like puzzle pieces that don’t quite fit, but rather are used predominately as diegetic music, that is, music that realistically belongs in the world of the play. Unlike in most musical theatre productions where characters burst into song because words can no longer capture the height of their emotions and their singing belongs in a special musical fantasy world that the audience accepts to be a convention of the genre, in Jersey Boys the music belongs in the real world of the characters, as these are songs that they literally rehearse and perform as Rock n’ Roll stars. The music is also used cleverly by the writers as a commentary on the action of the play and it is brilliant how songs originally conceived as love songs can shift within the context of the musical to reflect the friendship and the business partnerships of the boys.
What distinctly elevates Jersey Boys as something of more substance than the average Jukebox musical is its four specific, vivid and strong lead characters. It is in the portrayal of these four men that the musical is entirely hinged and Toronto’s cast is absolutely exquisite. Michael Lomenda plays Nick Massi, the self described Ringo Starr of the group, with a unique combination of quiet gruffness and a sullenness akin to Brad Garrett’s constantly overlooked Robert Barone from Everybody Loves Raymond. Lomenda’s Nick transitions nicely between seizing specific moments in the spotlight and then fading entirely into the background. Quinn VanAntwerp is boyish charm personified as the modest pillar of decency and musical genius Bob Gaudio. His voice is absolutely delicious and his beautifully nuanced portrayal of Gaudio pulls the audience resolutely to his side. Daniel Robert Sullivan is pure magic as Tommy DeVito. Truly, he is New Jersey incarnate in this role, with an incredible accent and this unmistakably American command of not only himself, but of the three other boys and the American language itself. It is fascinating to watch this character evolve and how brilliantly Sullivan is able to convey such subtlety, and even traces of vulnerability, in a character with such a larger than life intensity that is so reliant on a reputation for toughness to survive. Jeff Madden is utterly delightful as the charismatic Frankie Valli who grows from a bashful boy with the voice of an angel to the self possessed and fiercely loyal singing sensation who would emerge as a successful solo star with Gaudio’s hit tune “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” in 1967. Madden is truly a revelation in this role. He has perfectly captured Valli’s unique voice and his falsetto is simply to die for as it soars dreamily through the theatre for the entire show. Together, Lomenda, VanAntwerp, Sullivan and Madden’s voices unite in musical bliss that induce genuine Goosebumps. Also noteworthy in the cast are Cleopatra Williams as Valli’s hilariously brazen first wife Mary Delgado and Bryan Hindle whose comic timing is flawless as eager beaver Joey Pesci (yes, *that* Joe Pesci).
Des McAnuff directs the musical with a brilliant energy that captures the essence of The Four Season’s music, although he also makes a few unexpected and interesting choices, such as a number of instances when the performers have their backs to the audience, which gives the Jersey Boys’ world a specific three-dimensionality. There are also elements of signature star power, such as the moment when Lomenda, VanAntwerp, Sullivan and Madden rise up from an elevator beneath the stage, whilst singing in perfect harmony. Sergio Trujillo’s chorography is sharp and minimalist, but thoroughly dynamic and brilliantly executed by the cast.
Jersey Boys is ultimately a fun evening at the theatre. The music has the power to sweep the audience away and the performances have had the ability to floor, awe and invigorate one million audience members in the past 22 months. Yet, for me what makes Jersey Boys so captivating is the arc of the story and characters that I feel are genuinely compelling and interesting to watch. In this way, as a musical and as a play with music, it is clear that Jersey Boys has the best of both worlds.
DanCap’s Jersey Boys is enjoying an open-ended run at the Toronto Centre for the Arts (5040 Yonge Street). For more information about this show and the rest of DanCap’s Season please call 416.644.3665 or visit http://www.dancaptickets.com/.

Alabanza

lindsay thomas
It has been a sad day for the Canadian Theatre Community as so many of us mourn the passing of a dear friend, a colleague and a ray of sunshine who has touched so many lives across the country and in New York. Lindsay Thomas passed away Wednesday of lung cancer at the age of 31. She grew up in Edmonton, Alberta where she danced for 18 years with local dance studios, was a member of Edmonton Musical Theatre and Dance Nouveau. She moved to Toronto in 2001 to pursue a career on the stage. Here is a beautiful statement from The Stratford Festival: “It was with great sadness that staff and artists at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival learned of the death of Lindsay Thomas. She was beloved by her fellow company members and all who came in contact with her at the Festival for her vivacious spirit, infectious smile and tremendous talent. Lindsay died Wednesday of cancer, at the age of 31. Audiences will remember Lindsay as the diminutive powerhouse who portrayed Ado Annie in the 2007 production of Oklahoma! That same year, she donned her tap shoes and danced up a storm, playing Anchovie in My One and Only. In 2008, Lindsay played Gracie Shinn in The Music Man and gave a moving performance as Jacinta in Fuente Ovejuna. Lindsay made her Stratford debut in 2006, appearing in Oliver! and Don Juan. “This is very sad news for the Festival family,” said General Director Antoni Cimolino. “Lindsay had so many friends and they stayed close to her throughout her illness. “She had a vibrant talent. In addition to being a gifted dancer and singer, Lindsay was an outstanding comedienne with both energy and wit. Her performance as Ado Annie in Oklahoma! drew not only great laughter but warmth and affection from the audience. She will be missed by all who knew her.” Lindsay’s career took her throughout Canada and to Broadway, where she appeared in the original production of Hairspray in 2002. She was a member of Hairspray’s original Canadian company, as well as the first U.S. tour. Lindsay also played Francine in the original Toronto production of Jersey Boys, directed by Stratford Artistic Director Des McAnuff. “I became friends with Lindsay at the Stratford Festival,” said Mr. McAnuff. “I was thrilled to hire her for the original Canadian Jersey Boys company in Toronto, in which she excelled as an electrifying performer. “Lindsay had more than simply abundant talent; she had a huge heart. Everyone that she came in contact with benefitted from her generous spirit. She will be greatly missed by both companies and many, many others.” Lindsay performed in Anne of Green Gables and Somewhere in the World at the Charlottetown Festival; in Grease at Edmonton’s Citadel Theatre; in Aladdin at the Stirling Festival; and in The Boy Friend, City of Angels and The Crucible at Theatre Sheridan. She was a graduate of Sheridan’s music theatre performance program. Lindsay is survived by her partner, actor Gareth Potter, her parents, Marilyn and Derek Thomas, and her brother, Gareth Thomas.
A memorial service will be held at Parkview United Church, 470 Ontario Street, Stratford, on Monday, February 8. Visitation at the church begins at 2 p.m. The service will begin at 3 p.m. Friends and family will gather afterwards at the Paul D. Fleck Marquee in the Festival Theatre, 55 Queen Street.
It was once written that Lindsay “looks like the happiest person in the Festival Theatre.” That is how we will remember her.
Rest in peace, sweet angel.

Happy Birthday Jersey Boys!

Today I stumbled upon this little Jeff Madden jem on youtube. It’s from Acting Upstage’s benefit concert The Sound of Silence last Spring. It is fantastic and addictive, so I thought I would share.
Also, there is Jersey Boys news to share:
JERSEY BOYS TORONTO
CELEBRATES ONE YEAR ON STAGE AT THE
TORONTO CENTRE FOR THE ARTS
WITH A NEW BLOCK OF TICKETS!
On Sale Now for Performances through November 29, 2009

JERSEY BOYS is the story behind the music of Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons: Frankie Valli, Bob Gaudio, Tommy DeVito and Nick Massi. It tells the story of how four blue-collar boys from the wrong side of the tracks became one of the biggest American pop music sensations of all time. They wrote their own songs, invented their own sound and sold 175 million records worldwide – all before they were 30.
JERSEY BOYS stars Michael Lomenda as Nick Massi, Jeff Madden as Frankie Valli, Daniel Robert Sullivan as Tommy DeVito, and Quinn VanAntwerp as Bob Gaudio. The company also comprises: Gabriel Antonacci, Matthew Brown, Matt Cassidy, Jennifer Copping, Jade Elliott, Élodie Gillett, Bryan Hindle, Victoria Lamond, Aaron MacKenzie, Adrian Marchuk, W. Joseph Matheson, Timothy Sell, Alison Smyth, Grant Tilly and Shawn Wright.
Directed by two-time Tony Award® winner Des McAnuff, JERSEY BOYS is written by Academy Award winner Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, with music by Bob Gaudio, lyrics by Bob Crewe and choreography by Sergio Trujillo.
JERSEY BOYS is the winner of the 2006 Best Musical Tony Award®, the 2006 Grammy Award® for Best Musical Show Album, and the 2009 Olivier Award for Best New Musical.
The Toronto production of JERSEY BOYS is the winner of two 2009 Dora Mavor Moore Awards; Outstanding Direction of a Musical for Des McAnuff and Outstanding Performance by a Male in a Musical for Jeff Madden, as well as the Audience Choice Award.
The Canadian production of JERSEY BOYS is produced by Dancap Productions Inc., Dodger Theatricals, Joseph J. Grano, Tamara and Kevin Kinsella, Pelican Group in association with Latitude Link and Rick Steiner.
JERSEY BOYS TORONTO
Toronto Centre for the Arts, 5040 Yonge Street
On Sale Now for Performances through November 29, 2009
Tuesday-Saturday at 8pm; Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday at 2pm
Tickets range from $25 – $110 and can be purchased in person at the box office of the Toronto Centre for the Arts, by calling 416.644.3665 or online at www.JerseyBoysToronto.com
Limited same-day RUSH SEATS are available for $20 in person only at the Toronto Centre for the Arts box office for all performances on sale two hours prior to the performance only. For groups of eight or more, call 416.644.3666 or toll free at 1.866.950.7469.Three-course Prix Fixe fine dining is available pre-show at the Toronto Centre for the Arts,Meals start from $39.50 per person. For details and to order, call 416.644.3665or visit DancapCatering.com. Some conditions apply.
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