The BEST of 2019!

It is always interesting to look back on the year and pick some favourites. 

Outstanding musicalBilly Elliot The Musical, Festival Theatre, StratfordThis musical has it all:  a gripping story, cute and funny comic relief, a good score, amazing dance, and the Stratford cast put it together perfectly. Nolen Dubuc was amazing in the role of little Billy. 
Read the review here….

Nolen Dubuc (left) as Billy Elliot and Colton Curtis as Older Billy in Billy Elliot the Musical. Photography by Cylla von Tiedemann.

Outstanding comedy Bed and Breakfast, Blyth Festival, BlythFor the third year in a row, I’ve picked a Mark Crawford comedy as the best.  What made this production at Blyth even better was the fact that Mark himself, along with his partner Paul Dunn, starred in it. A funny story with a heart-warming message, Bed and Breakfast has 22 characters, all played by 2 actors.  Read the review here…
(And a special shout-out to another Mark Crawford comedy – An excellent production of Stag and Doe in July at the Marble Arts Centre, produced by Tweed and Co. Theatre in Tweed.)

Outstanding dramaFences, Grand Theatre, London.  The story of a dysfunctional black family, struggling with relationships and racism in Pittsburgh in the 1950s, Fences tells of a domineering father, who, haunted by his past, is now destroying his sons. The Grand gave a compelling production. Read the review here…

Outstanding performance in a musicalTess Benger as Sally Bowles in Cabaret, McManus Stage, Grand Theatre, London.  Ms. Benger brought passion and energy to Sally Bowles in the unique space offered by the McManus.  The lower level was turned into a night club into which the audience was immersed.  Tess Benger was meant to have this role.  Read the review here…

Outstanding performance in a comedy Chris Wilson in Walking on Bombshells, The Second City, Toronto.  Wilson is just plain funny – add to that perfect comedic timing and talent for improv.  He dominated in this sketch comedy show, giving us funny characters, one after another. Read the review here… 

Outstanding performance in a dramaGord Rand as Jacob in The Runner, McManus Stage, Grand Theatre, London.  Rand gave a powerful performance in this gut-wrenching story of a volunteer in Israel. He left the audience drained, yet he was the one who was literally running and talking throughout this one-man show. Read the review here…

Outstanding cast in a musicalPiaf/Dietrich – A Legendary Affair, CAA Theatre, Toronto. Jayne Lewis and Louise Pitre both give outstanding performances, while backed by a strong cast.  A fascinating story of the famous chanteuses brought to us by Canada’s two grand dames of the stage.  This show continues until January 5, 2020. Read the review here…

Outstanding cast in a comedy – Art, St. Jacobs Country Playhouse, St. Jacobs.  Drayton Entertainment brought in star power for this amusing story and it worked very well.  Don Most (Ralph Malph of Happy Days fame) handled the role perfectly, along with two Canadian favourites, Lee MacDougall and Ralph Small.  The three men had perfect chemistry in Art. Read the review here…

Outstanding cast in a drama – 12 Angry Men, Huron Country Playhouse II, Grand Bend.  Director Marti Maraden gathered together an excellent cast to revive this old play.  Their performance was exceptional, transporting us back to 1957.  Read the review here…

Outstanding choreography – Newsies, Huron Country Playhouse, Grand Bend.  The newsboys flew across the stage, feet barely touching the floor.  The leaps were perfectly synchronized, as the dancers hovered three feet above the floor.  The choreography was fast and precise and the show is memorable, just for the dance. Read the review here…

Outstanding children’s production – Elf The Musical, Hamilton Family Theatre, Cambridge. A clever script in the hands of energetic performers – and you have a Christmas show that the kids will love, as well as the adults.  Heart-warming and charming, Elf offers a touching story between laughs.  The tap dance numbers are delightful.  Elf continues until January 5, 2020. Read the review here…

Outstanding musical revueYou’ve Got a Friend, Victoria Playhouse, Petrolia.  Putting together the hits of Carole King and James Taylor, VPP continues their tradition of providing the best musical revues. This one was a sure hit, building on the popularity of the Broadway show Beautiful. Read the review here…

Outstanding musical in concert – Dracula – A Chamber Musical, Victoria Playhouse, Petrolia.  Beautiful voices brought this story to life.  Seven brilliant singers with soaring voices made this an enriching experience. Read the review here…

And finally, a surpriseThe Band’s Visit, Ed Mirvish Theatre, Toronto.  I had seen The Band’s Visit on Broadway in 2018, and did not particularly enjoy it.  I was shocked when it won nine Tony awards, including best musical.  Then it came to Toronto with Canada’s own Chilina Kennedy in the lead role.  What a difference – I enjoyed it so much more this time, much to my surprise.  Chilina brought a special warmth to the character. Read the review here…

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