Some Outstanding Shows I Saw This Year
I took a look back at 2019 and picked some favourites.
Outstanding musical – Come From Away – Canadian Cast, Royal Alexandra Theatre, Toronto, (moving to the Elgin Theatre, Toronto, in February 2019). OK, so Come From Away was also my pick for best musical in 2016, when it opened with the cast the ultimately went on to continuing success on Broadway. But it was a very special treat to go to the opening this past February with a new all-Canadian cast. And even though I’ve seen it four times now, this show continues to make me laugh, and cry – tears of sorrow, tears of joy, tears of pride. If you haven’t seen it yet, you must! Read review here.
Outstanding comedy – The New Canadian Curling Club, Blyth Festival, Blyth. My favourite comedy playwright, Mark Crawford, does it again. The New Canadian Curling Club kept the audience roaring with laughter, while holding its Archie-Bunker-like character, with his potentially racist and sexist comments, in check. A hilarious story of immigrants learning the joys of this strange Canadian sport. Read review here.
(Note: In 2016, I commended Mark Crawford for his The Birds and the Bees, which played at the Blyth Festival and Port Stanley Festival. There was also an excellent production of it at Victoria Playhouse, Petrolia in 2017. Then there was a hilarious production of it at Playhouse II, Grand Bend this year, which deserves honourable mention. Read review here.)
Outstanding drama – Coriolanus, Stratford Festival, Stratford. This production also rates outstanding creativity for its use of projections and unusual scene changes. A fascinating story of hubris, this production took the audience into the 21st century, showing its timelessness. From text messages to back room deals, Stratford’s Coriolanus was completely captivating. Read review here.
Special mention goes to A Thousand Splendid Suns, Grand Theatre, London, for its gripping story of women in Afghanistan. Read review here.
Outstanding performance in a musical – Hannah Levinson, Sara Farb, and Laura Condlln, the three Allisons in Fun Home, CAA Theatre, Toronto. Fun Home (short for funeral home) took us through the years with a family that lives at a funeral home. From the very young Levinson, to college-aged Farb, and adult Condlln, the three actresses created one compelling character. Read review here.
Outstanding performance in a comedy – Nora McLellan as Shirley Valentine in Shirley Valentine at Victoria Playhouse, Petrolia. Nora McLellan was brilliant in this one-woman show. We recognize McLellan’s Shirley; there is some of her in all of us. McLellan was absolutely captivating in this comedy, and she deserves credit for memorizing all those lines, and giving her all to the performance. Read review here.
Outstanding performance in a drama – Tom McCamus as Gennaro in Napoli Milionaria! McCamus took us on a journey in this fascinating World War II story. He started out as a bit of a clown, providing the comedy, to become the one character with substance. Credit goes to McCamus for making that journey completely believable. Read review here.
Outstanding cast in a musical – Rocky Horror Show, Stratford Festival, Stratford. What a show! Rocky Horror Show was completely outrageous and perhaps not every Stratford-goer’s cup of tea. But it cultivated its own sell-out crowds and was extended to become Stratford’s longest running show, thanks to the superior cast. Dan Chameroy as Frank N. Furter was outstanding, with excellent entertainers surrounding him. Among my favourites were Jennifer Rider-Shaw as Janet, Erica Peck as the Usherette, Steve Ross as the Narrator, and Robert Markus as Riff Raff. Read review here.
Outstanding cast in a comedy – Out of Order, Playhouse II, Grand Bend and St. Jacobs Country Playhouse. A hilarious British farce by the great Ray Cooney, featured an excellent cast, all contributing to the laughter. This comedy took us back to the Margaret Thatcher years, when politicians had to avoid sex scandals. Credit goes to Lauren Bowler, Jacob James, Darren Keay, Amanda Leigh, Dan Payne, Glynis Ranney, Andrew Scanlon, Sarah Lynn Strange, David Talbot, Kristian Truelsen, and Director Sarah-Jeanne Hosie for all the laugh-out-loud moments. Read review here.
Outstanding cast in a drama – The Glass Menagerie, McManus Stage, Grand Theatre, London. This heart-wrenching dysfunctional family story was outstanding thanks to the cast: Alexander Crowther, Stephen Jackman-Torkoff, Amy Keating, and Sarah Orenstein. Credit goes to Director Megan Watson for making her characters so compelling. As a bonus, they worked very well with the round staging. Read review here.
Outstanding choreography – Holiday Inn, Drayton Festival Theatre, Drayton; Huron Country Playhouse, Grand Bend; and Hamilton Family Theatre, Cambridge. Drayton Entertainment brought us this show of superb dance with a cast who made all the fancy footwork look easy. Especially outstanding were the big tap dance numbers. Credit goes to Director and Choreographer Michael Lichtefeld. Read review here.
Outstanding children’s production – The Little Mermaid, Huron Country Playhouse, Grand Bend. A favourite Disney movie came to life on stage, enchanting children and adults alike. Fun costumes, great singing, and lots of action made this show a favourite of the younger generation. Read review here.
Outstanding musical revue – Rocky Mountain High, Victoria Playhouse, Petrolia. I was always a fan of the late, great John Denver, and this revue took us back to his music. Alex Baerg and Geordie Brown were both outstanding in creating Denver’s memorable songs. As always, VPP’s musical revues are the best. Read review here.
Photo: Steffi DiDomenicantonio as the Rogers TV Reporter with the cast in Come From Away. Photo by Matthew Murphy.