You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown

11224720_10153519593850792_7327743942089334355_nYou’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown (1967) is a musical adaptation of Charles Schultz’s comic strip that beautifully captures both the humour and the heart of these beloved characters. The Side-By-Side production of this musical, which plays at the Bus Stop Theatre as part of the Atlantic Fringe Festival, is joyful and heartwarming and showcases real musical theatre talent in this city. 

Anders Balderston plays Charlie Brown with beautiful earnestness, oscillating from pure hope to vulnerable heartbreak. Becca Guilderson shines brightly as Sally Brown, capturing with gusto and hilarity the erratic emotions of preschoolers. Marietta Laan nails Lucy’s renowned crabbiness, but is best in the moments where she finds her nuance and humanity. Cat McCluskey brings Snoopy to life with panache and silliness. Dylan Coutts has great musicality as Schroeder and absolutely captures his ego, while Stephen Lando Lahaie brings great sweetness to Linus. Both have room here to play more with their characters being kids and allowing them more moments in which they can let go and have fun. 

The show’s greatest moments are when every moment is milked for its ultimate in playfulness and there is an equal balance between the characters’ roles as Philosopher and Child. The direction by Guilderson has a nice sense of arc and concept. A lot is directed immediately to the audience, which can be great for engaging the kids (and big kids) watching, but there’s room here to develop the characters’ interactions with one another. Despite their large, and often manic emotions, these seven characters are best friends and family members, and they are children (and a dog personified as a child), so there is a level of intimacy and comfort and unconditional love that roots them at all times, even when they are being bratty to one another. When this is apparent, as in the songs “Beethoven Day,” and “Happiness” this production soars perfectly. There are also a few issues of pacing, especially with movement, that on Opening were still coming together, but the heart and the energy of the piece is solid, and I think that is what will win over audiences, especially children.

You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown plays at the Bus Stop Theatre (2203 Gottingen Street) at the following times: 

Sept 9th : 8:10pm
Sept 10th : 9:50pm
Sept 11th : 8:50pm

Up In The Air: A Circus Love Story

I love sitting on the grass on a warm night in Halifax just as the sun is about to set watching incredible feats of aerial acrobatics, break dancing and fire dancing, woven together in a touching arc about falling in and out of love and finding connection, trust and (literal) balance.

This is exactly what Up in the Air: A Circus Love Story is and it plays at St. Matthew’s United Church as part of the Atlantic Fringe Festival. The performance from Kristin Langille and Alex Smith is awing and beautiful and engaging and it is one of those shows that is meant to be seen and experienced and doesn’t benefit from much more being said by me beyond, “just go see it.”

Just two more shows at St. Matthew’s Church (1479 Barrington Street) tonight: 

Tues Sept 8th 8pm and 9:30pm

Divine Intervention

Divine_poster__final___22the_girl_22Most of the time the most obvious aspect of the theatre for its audience members is the reason why the artists felt compelled to share it. Often the answer is that the play has a good story, it’s easy to connect to, sometimes the piece is politically motivated or seeks to comment on an aspect of the human experience in a creative and original way. Divine Intervention, which plays at the Museum of Natural History as part of the Atlantic Fringe Festival is a new musical that doesn’t yet have a clear reason for being.

The conceit of the show is that humans have ruined the world and Greek Gods Apollo and Dionysos have come down to Earth to attempt to help us. Yet, instead of addressing concrete examples of how we have ruined the Earth and providing relevant solutions to these specific examples, Apollo and Dionysos spend fifty five minutes debating whether it is more prudent to be 100% focused on work, responsibility and seriousness all the time or whether it is more productive to be 100% creative, daydreaming and passionate all the time. To further help prove that they are able to handle the Earth’s current vague crisis, Apollo and Dionysos call on a string of witnesses, who either speak about times they were hardworking, or times when they relaxed, most of whom were born over two hundred years ago. There is also a character named Sophia who is awkwardly woven into the mix who finally comes to the realization that one can not be just diligent or just fun loving, but that in order to succeed one must do a mixture of both. The solution to the quandary that has been set up here is far too obvious to warrant a musical being built around it. It’s like writing a fifty five minute show about one plus one equalling two. Mentally, the audience is already at the end of the play moments after it has begun.

Dionysos and Apollo are much more complex in their values and their deeds than their representations here, as were all the witnesses, who are portrayed as mere shells of their Wikipedia entries. Divine Intervention would benefit from figuring out what it wants to say to its audience and why this message is important, and from grounding its characters in some three dimensional depth and specificity. That would, at least, given them a stronger foundation upon which to build their show.

Divine Intervention plays at the Museum of Natural History (1747 Summer Street) at the following times:

Tuesday September 8th at 6:45pm

Wednesday September 9th at 9:25pm

Thursday September 10th at 6:45pm 

Saturday September 12th at 1:40pm. 

Happy Hobo In Moonland

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rhys bevan-john and dragon

At a time when many children lack the opportunities to play unstructured games and the freedom to use their imaginations both at school and at home comes a beautiful show for children from Rhys Bevan-John called Happy Hobo in Moonland. Bevan-John, with the help of beautiful masks and puppets, plays a multitude of characters, from a Grandpa Wizard Hobo, to a dragon and even the moon, but mostly he guides his audience into helping him create their magical words through harnessing their own creative minds. We get to play and engage with the characters, as opposed to simply watching something created for us by someone we can’t see.

The story is clear and tightly constructed. Happy Hobo, with the help of his friend Crow, must go to Moonland to help his Grandpa Wizard Hobo rescue Pan, the spirit of nature, from the evil aynrynd, who steals dreams and fosters laziness and unhappiness. There are some beautiful messages woven into the story, but Bevan-John firmly roots his tale in fun, silliness and a full hearted love for play. Adults will leave uplifted. Children will relish in the permission to do what is most natural for them- use their imaginations.   

The Happy Hobo in Moonland plays at the Waiting Room (6040 Almon Street) at the following times:

Saturday September 12th at 1:30pm

Sunday September 13th at 3:25pm

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