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AHA workshops and retreats

Alison Hart & Associates (AHA) are hosting a series of workshops and retreats this fall from the [ ... ]

this town is small Residencies

Ashley Anne Clark and Jared Perry are the two jury-selected artists for the inaugural year of the Pa [ ... ]

'Stein Capsule

Annekenstein & Friends

Review by Sean McQuaid 

The quasi–legendary Annekenstein sketch comedy run (1991-1997) wasn't my first live theatrical experience; but it was my first theatre experience as a fan, a show that brought me back again and again, so it looms inevitably large in my memory and my affections.  

David Moses, Rob MacDonald, Laurie Murphy, Nancy McLure and Ed Rashed were the show's mainstays, a superb comedic ensemble. Most have since left PEI or theatre or both behind, but MacDonald endures. From Enemies to Sketch–22 to Popalopalots to Tall Hat Chronicles, he and his ever–shifting array of collaborators have kept the local comedy flame aglow until Annekenstein itself finally lurched back to life this summer. 

Well, sort of. Technically it's Annekenstein & Friends, which in proper Frankenstein fashion is stitched together from the remains of multiple departed shows, mostly bits from the Annekenstein and Sketch-22 runs. "Rob MacDonald's greatest hits" was one audience member's accurate summary of the proceedings. 

Annekenstein classics like the self–explanatory "Anne-aholics Anonymous," speed musical "World's Fastest Anne" and game show lark "Win a Waif" remain hilarious decades later, and Sketch–22 standouts like the psycho-sadistic "Pavlov's Audience" and the surreally brilliant "Stand Up Canada, Atticus Finch Is Passing By" are worthy companions to the early material. 

Veteran Rob MacDonald collaborators Alicia Arsenault, Cameron MacDonald (Rob's son), Graham Putnam and Josh Weale plus sublime new recruit Olivia King fill out the cast alongside Rob himself. All six are experienced, versatile and very funny performers, an ensemble that matches the original Annekenstein cast's depth and variety of talent. 

The great Nancy McLure's absence is oddly conspicuous, as she's still active in local comedy — it's a bit like staging a Beatles comeback tour minus either Paul or Ringo — but the new cast are all aces, so the McLure void is more of a regrettable curiosity than a serious deficiency. 

As noted, these are all accomplished, talented performers, so the premiere's occasional hiccups may be opening night jitters: a few misspoken lines, a slow cue or two, a punchline spoiled by a misplaced prop. One of the more persistent issues was Weale's tendency towards full–throated screaming during excitable moments. The frequency of that tactic diluted its impact and also left him awkwardly hoarse by the end of the night.  

Some of the sketches are modified for various reasons, but generally not in ways that undermine the original material. For instance, the addition of a literally and figuratively peripheral new character in the Atticus Finch script enables that sketch to utilize the entire company without hindering the main action; and while King has little to do in the new role, she makes the most of what she's given via her uniquely expressive face and some fun prop work. 

As with any sketch show, the quality varies — cleverly scathing dissections of PEI culture like "From Away to Eternity" and "The Boyce" fly by while less successful bits like "Samir the Tailor" and "Vulva Capella" drag on a bit beyond their freshness expiry date; but the overall quality of this all–star anthology is strong, the smartest and funniest show of its kind since the original Annekenstein run.

Glitzy, Guilty Pleasure

Mamma Mia!

Review by Sean McQuaid 

Dubbed “the guiltiest pleasure of the summer” by its director Adam Brazier, Mamma Mia! is a jukebox musical stitched together from cheesy old pop songs. Not exactly a recipe for high art, nor emblematic of the Festival’s stated cultural aspirations. 

A little crowd-pleasing fromage on the Festival menu helps pay for said aspirations, though, and there’s fun to be had in the bargain. Mamma Mia! may be a relentlessly cheesy show, but it’s also a deliciously cheesy show filled with infectious, unforgettable songs and joyous musicality. 

Swedish 70s pop super-group ABBA folded in 1982, but British playwright Catherine Johnson (aided by ex-ABBA members Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus) smooshed a bunch of ABBA’s songs together with a few lyrical tweaks in 1999, wrote a new story around them and created a smash hit musical, Mamma Mia! 

My older sister had tons of ABBA on vinyl, so a sizable chunk of my childhood came with an ABBA soundtrack—and I loved it. Can’t say as it earned me heaping gobs of street cred on the Dundas school bus, but I hummed and whistled and sang those songs a lot as a lad, and my affection for them endures. 

So I walked into the Homburg Theatre with a lot of preexisting good will for this show, and I was far from alone in that sentiment. When recognizable ABBA tunes emerged in the instrumental overture, some of the audience actually started cheering. Overtures don’t usually net ovations. 

Johnson’s script is more inventive than most of its kind, building a coherent new story around its eclectic old songs. Said story involves free-spirited single mother Donna (Eliza-Jane Scott) and her adult daughter Sophie (Katie Kerr), who’s about to get married and wants to know which of Donna’s three old boyfriends might be her biological father: dreamy American architect Sam (Réjean Cournoyer), adventurous Australian author Bill (Stephen Guy-McGrath) or button-down British banker Harry (Cameron MacDuffee). Sophie invites all three men to her wedding and wackiness ensues. 

The show unwisely pushes its smoke machine to aesthetic and respiratory extremes, but Brazier’s overall production is energetic, fast-paced and funny—there’s humour packed into every nook and cranny of the cast’s performances, both physical and verbal. An expressive, oft-hilarious Nicola Dawn Brook is the cream of that bumper comedy crop as Donna’s old friend Rosie, though an airily arch Jan Alexandra Smith also excels as wealthy divorcee Tanya. 

The production moves so briskly and brightly that the sentimental, emotional aspects of the story often get shortchanged by comparison to the showier elements. Moments with real emotional punch are few, among them Scott’s powerful “The Winner Takes it All” lament and Cameron MacDuffee’s all–around fine work as Harry. He’s funny and charming throughout as a genial stiff, but he also brings heartfelt tenderness to songs like “Thank You for the Music” and especially his poignantly bittersweet “Our Last Summer” duet with Scott. The show as a whole could stand to wear a lot more of that heart on its glittery sleeve. 

Kerry Gage’s choreography has its moments, often comedic (such as the cheerfully goofy “Lay All Your Love on Me”), though the darkly intense “Money, Money, Money” is the most strikingly memorable dance number; but the real star is the music, which the company does ample justice under Bob Foster’s musical direction. The strong principal singers are backed by a lush chorus and a small but mighty pit band to produce a satisfyingly big, rich sound. 

That sound is at its biggest and best in a string of encores at the end, during which the show turns the disco dial up to 11. The set morphs into the sparkly love child of Studio 54 and The Price is Right, the cast changes into shiny outfits and the whole company belts out a couple of choice reprises plus the rousing “Waterloo” for good measure. It’s a beautiful Saturday night fever dream. 

Reviewer Discretion

All New People

Review by Sean McQuaid

Your stuffy stenographer being eternally, unrepentantly old, I have never been a particularly hip and happening hepcat. So when theatre producers talk about doing an edgy, adult show—which tends to signify some combination of sex, violence and/or profanity—my enthusiasm typically wanes. 

Hence my initial wariness regarding ACT’s production of All New People, a dark comedy penned in 2011 by Zach Braff, longtime star of TV’s Scrubs. The key participants in ACT’s new production of the play have strong track records, though, and I’ve enjoyed Braff’s work, so I figured it was worth a try despite all the ominous promotional rumblings about adult content. 

Said content features oft-gratuitous profanity, drinking, drug use, sordid sex talk and sexual situations, including one actor getting to second base with a castmate. It’s the raciest live show I’ve ever seen in Charlottetown, and the script often tries way too hard to be naughty as Braff self-consciously sheds his network sitcom shackles. 

Still, this show largely transcends these drawbacks through the play’s subtler elements and the ACT production’s laudable quality. Braff’s dialogue leans too heavily on the profanity crutch, and his female characterizations are occasionally suspect (Kim in particular too often embodies stereotypically dim, sexually objectified wish fulfillment), but the show’s four main characters gradually reveal layers beyond their surface quirks and depravities. All four emerge as human and likeable to varying degrees, and Braff’s story is ultimately compassionate, even optimistic, despite its darkness. 

Said darkness revolves around Charlie (Cameron MacDonald), a melancholy young man who is contemplating suicide in an isolated beach house when he is interrupted by a series of oddball interlopers: drugged-up real estate agent Emma (Emily Anne Fullerton), debauched fire chief/drug dealer Myron (Tim Wartman) and high-priced hooker Kim (Ashley Clark). 

Ace character actor Keir Malone directs them all skillfully. Blocking and pacing are solid, as are the show’s pre-taped video flashbacks to the characters’ pasts featuring strong supporting players Tim Gormley, Benton Hartley and Paul Whelan. Braff’s script is chock full of jokes, which the cast delivers with keen comic timing. Fullerton and Wartman in particular make everything from quick asides to more fully constructed gags hilarious with some truly inspired line readings. 

Fullerton sustains impressively manic energy, generating many of the laughs along the way but shifting deftly into pathos as required. Wartman fully inhabits his louche, leering, larger-than-lowlife character from start to finish, alternately appealing or repellent and always interesting to watch. A scantily clad Clark supplies more than just eye candy, landing gag after gag with dimly deadpan élan as she makes a meal of the play’s most thinly sketched role, adding some artful poignancy with her lovely singing voice. 

Perhaps most impressively, MacDonald—the comically gifted, perpetually wacky living cartoon character of Popalopalots and aBigWHAT fame—is cast against type as the serious dramatic core of this show, and he is sympathetic, nuanced and entirely effective. It’s a revelation, and a happily surprising one. 

There’s an appealing comic chemistry in the easy interplay of the four leads, all of whom get to play plenty of serious dramatic moments as well as loads of broad comedy. In fact, all four give the strongest all-around performances I’ve ever seen from any of them in any show—these are talented actors in peak form, and actor-turned-director Malone can be justly proud of his ensemble’s achievement. 

The “adult” content might be a tad too spicy for some; but there’s a smart and funny show underneath all that adolescent posturing, and ACT’s superb cast & crew do it ample justice. It’s a dirty job, but someone had to do it. 

We’ll Always Have Belfast

Romeo and Juliet 

Review by Sean McQuaid 

Your incurable romantic—well, certainly an incurable something, anyway—has enjoyed William Shakespeare’s iconic 16th Century tragedy Romeo and Juliet since well-meaning educators first thrust it upon me decades ago. It may be flowery, melodramatic and occasionally implausible, but it boasts several unforgettable characters, a genuinely touching love story and some indelibly artful text.  

The play’s recent Vagabond Productions run also boasted other alluring curiosities. One was director/producer Greg Doran shifting the story’s titular doomed lovers from 16th Century Italy to late 20th Century Ireland at the end of “The Troubles.” The other unique draw was the show’s unconventional venue, the chapel at stately nursing home the Mount, formerly Mount St. Mary's Convent. Suitably intrigued, I decided to get me to a nunnery. 

The results were decidedly mixed. It’s always a great play (even abbreviated as it is here), but this is seldom a great production. The Mount’s cavernous chapel space, imposingly large yet aesthetically generic at the same time, adds scant colour and the company does little to dress it up. Doran’s varied and dynamic blocking uses the floor space well, sending actors up and down the aisles and situating action all around the audience, but the chapel’s echo chamber acoustics dog the cast. Robert Crossley’s booming Prince, for instance, has an often unintelligibly big sound, while quieter players such as Erin Mazor’s Nurse and Heather Parry’s Lady Capulet drift in and out of audibility, intermittently swallowed up by the space. 

The Irish setting turns out to be a shrug-worthy asterisk, adding little apart from replacing “Verona” with “Belfast” in the dialogue and using guns instead of swords; and the mostly unremarkable modern plainclothes costumes get randomly weird in spots. T. Noah J. Nazim’s dapper Friar Laurence looks more like a stage magician than a clergyman (give or take one rosary), and Mazor’s inexplicably overalls-clad, stripey-tights Nurse seems little more than a clown nose away from The Big Comfy Couch

The cast as a whole tend to rush through their lines a bit too quickly, though the pacing smoothes out pleasingly in spots. Dylan Gaudet and Kassinda Bulger make for a genuinely youthful, often appealing Romeo and Juliet, the former all boyish Richie Cunnigham charm and the latter a movingly earnest ingénue. Their first romantic moment together plays somewhat fast even by whirlwind romance standards, but slower pacing in other scenes better serves both their skills and the text, notably in Bulger’s fine soliloquies. 

Gordon Cobb’s Lord Montague is overblown, Mazor and Parry are both erratic, and Nazim sometimes seems like he’s in a different play than the others. He’s a talented, often compelling performer—his sarcastically skeptical attitude early on clearly and amusingly reminding us just what a starry-eyed dolt Romeo can be, for instance—but other moments get played too big or too odd or both, such that his wild-eyed Friar nets some unintentional laughs in awkwardly serious places. 

On the bright side, R. Tori Fraser’s Benvelina (a gender-flipped Benvolio) is a likeable presence, Benton Hartley’s suitably sour Tybalt brings glowering intensity to his part, and an energetic, funny, animated Ashley Nicole MacLeod nearly steals the whole darn show in the plum role of Mercutia (a gender-flipped Mercutio), though all three of these characters exit the play early. What remains thereafter, despite the setting and venue, is not exactly a religious experience.

Lamplit Laughs

Aladdin: Another Fairly Tall Tale

Review by Sean McQuaid 

As many Canadians embrace the "sunny ways" of Canada's cheerful new Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, your curmudgeonly critic concedes at least one point on the subject: tonal change is a powerful thing. 

A couple of years into his gig as Artistic Director at the Confederation Centre of the Arts, Adam Brazier has often struck a fairly sunny tone himself, a perspective that takes theatre seriously but doesn't take itself too seriously; and that sunny tone shines brightest in the Centre's annual community theatre holiday productions. 

Last year's Christmas show, Cinderella: A Fairly Tall Tale, re–imagined a classic fairy tale as a jukebox musical in a fantasy PEI setting with lots of shamelessly broad, unrepentantly silly, pantomime–style humour chock full of audience participation, pop culture references, local gags, metadramatic fourth–wall breakage and gleefully brazen sponsor product placement. 

The result may not have been high art, but it was staged with such skillful enthusiasm, knowing winks and infectious merriment that it was highly entertaining regardless—and this year's sequel, Aladdin: A Fairly Tall Tale, is cut from much the same magic carpeting. 

It's the familiar tale of impoverished youth Aladdin (played by Gabe Antonacci), manipulated into seeking a magic lamp by sinister sorcerer Jafar (Réjean Cournoyer) while courting the princess Jasmine (Maria Campbell) with the aid of the lamp's resident genie (Gordon Cobb), all fairly standard stuff. 

Writer/director Brazier sets his story in a fantasy version of Charlottetown, however, adding characters such as Aladdin's man-hungry mother Widow Twanky (Graham Putnam), Jasmine's PEI–ruling father Baron Wasteland (Dennis Trainor), Jafar's genie henchwoman Scheherazade (Melissa MacKinnon) and the ever–tearful Town Crier (Sarah MacPhee reprising her plum role from the Cinderella show).

It's all a bit repetitious in terms of how often Aladdin goes back to the same comedy wells tapped in Brazier's Cinderella, but like its predecessor this is a fun, energetic crowd–pleaser. Garnett Gallant's attractive sets combine with projected backdrops to craft a cartoony yet recognizable version of Charlottetown, and video director Jan Rudd's TV spots featuring the play's characters in comedic commercials for the show's sponsors put the "fun" in fundraising. 

Antonacci and Campbell are appealing and musically adept romantic leads, but the show's supreme scene-stealers are Putnam's wacky Widow Twanky and Cournoyer’s magnificently over–the–top Jafar, both hilarious throughout. Cobb’s low–key genie feels oddly flat by comparison, one of the least colourful performances in a show full of bigger–than–life personalities, though MacKinnon is charming as fellow genie and occasional narrator Scheherazade. 

MacPhee remains a weirdly endearing treat as the Town Crier, and assorted supporting standouts include smartly polished work in small roles by Ben Hartley, a fun running (or sweeping) gag featuring Anthony Welsh, a belly dancer played with sinuous grace by Amy Amierah, and some first–rate game show hosting by Kristena McCormack. 

Darling daughter having attended with me, she laughed a lot and said the best parts of the show were Jafar and Twanky. I couldn’t disagree, and the play left me with three wishes of my own: more scripted character work from certifiable improv genius Putnam, more roles showcasing what a spectacularly fun performer Cournoyer can be, and more of these commendably goofy Christmas shows.

Making Spirits Bright

A Christmas Carol

Review by Sean McQuaid 

Your seasonal scribe has a well–documented passion for Christmas in general and 1843 novella A Christmas Carol in particular; so when the North Shore Players staged their new theatrical adaptation of Charles Dickens’ timeless tale in December, ye olde reviewer headed for North Rustico’s Watemark Theatre like the wise men following the star. 

There’s a grain of literal light–seeking truth in that fanciful simile, since Watermark’s play was presented in conjunction with North Rustico’s Festival of Lights. The town’s rainbow–hued array of shiny Christmas displays probably helped draw people to the play and vice versa in a nice little loop of seasonal synergy, and I myself enjoyed a stroll through the lights with my good wife. 

The show inside the theatre was considerably darker, and pleasingly so. A Christmas Carol is an often–grim tale of a diabolical old sinner getting scared straight by a dead man and his ghostly accomplices, so a strong current of darkness inevitably runs through it despite the story’s ultimately joyful, hopeful redemptory message. 

Director/adapter David Bulger and his cast have many of their finest moments amidst the shadowy aspects of Dickens’ story. The best scenes and performances in this production belong to the aforementioned sinner Scrooge (played by Carl Peterson) and his ghostly tormentors, while the cheerier chunks of the story don’t always land quite as solidly. 

Shadows and light are most effectively blended here by Peterson’s Scrooge, and by the always excellent Keir Malone as Scrooge’s long-suffering employee Bob Cratchit. Malone is warm, likeable and genuine as Bob, and heartbreaking as a grieving parent. 

Peterson, meanwhile, crafts a uniquely memorable version of a classic character—not just through his distinctive voice and appearance, but also through the considerable physical energy and emotive clarity he brings to the part. Every stage of Scrooge’s emotional roller coaster is made plain. It’s tough finding an actor who can play Scrooge’s nasty and nice sides equally credibly, but Peterson meets the challenge with entertaining and sometimes moving flair. 

Fraser McCallum is smoothly charming albeit somewhat affected as Scrooge’s good–natured nephew Fred, while Richard Haines isn’t nearly merry enough as Scrooge’s jovial ex–employer Fezziwig. Part of the problem there might be the fact that the company seems preoccupied by their choreography during the Fezziwig party sequence, concentrating too hard on executing their dance steps to remember that they’re all supposed to be having a good time. 

Shifting back to the shadows, McCallum and Haines turn in solid performances doubling as the spirits of Christmas future and present, respectively, though Jan King tops them both as a genuinely spooky spirit of Christmas past, bringing an ethereal, accusatory intensity to the role; but the prize cherry atop this supernatural sundae is Rex McCarville’s creepily superb turn as Jacob Marley’s ghost, perhaps the best rendition of this role I’ve ever seen in any medium. With his haunted gaze, sepulchral tones and anguished howls, he’s equal parts sympathetic and scary. Even your jaded journalist felt a chill or two, momentarily “frighted with false fire.” 

The whole production gave me a few chills, in fact—not just the spooky kind, but strongly felt emotion in general, especially from the performances of Peterson, McCarville and King. It’s no small feat bringing fresh feeling to a story as familiar as this, and Bulger’s company achieves it. There are glitches here and there—some of the scene changes run less smoothly than others, for instance—but it’s a strong production overall, and a promising start for the newly minted North Shore Players. 

Golden Age

Of a Certain Age

Review by Sean McQuaid 

With a short attention span cultivated by 1940s theatrical cartoons, 1980s video games and semi-animated 1960s televised fever dream Rocket Robin Hood, your distractible diarist has always fancied one-act plays. So when ACT (a community theatre) mounted Of a Certain Age featuring three one-act plays, I was helpless to resist—especially since the line-up included a locally legendary play I missed out on the first time around: The Prompter, written and directed by David Moses for Off Stage Theatre in 1991. 

Also on the bill are a couple of one-act romantic comedies, Lord Byron’s Love Letter and The Pretty Trap, both 1940s scripts by Tennessee Williams. Like The Prompter, both Williams scripts also prominently feature older women, the titular unifying theme of ACT’s three shows. 

Helping tie it all together is local actor/vocalist Tamara Steele, who narrates and sometimes sings introductions to each of the plays. This nice extra gives the overall production a more distinctive, coherent identity, as well as some added musical appeal. 

First up is Lord Byron’s Love Letter (directed by Sharon MacDonald), in which a reclusive old woman (played by Kate Martin) and her spinster granddaughter (Afton Mondoux) try to impress a visiting matron (Mireille Porter) and her indifferent husband (Tim Wartman) with a love letter supposedly written to the grandmother by Lord Byron during her youth. 

Mondoux’s strong performance as the spinster is the backbone of this production, an amusingly awkward and frustrated slow burn as her domineering grandmother obsessively micromanages the whole encounter. Martin and Wartman are fun as the grandmother and the husband, while Porter is somewhat stiff as the matron but still effective. 

Next up is fascinating historical curio The Pretty Trap (directed by Ellen Carol), an early prototype version of what later became Williams’ 1944 smash hit The Glass Menagerie. The Pretty Trap features roughly the same characters in the same situation—faded southern belle Amanda Wingfield (Joscelynne Bordeaux), her troubled daughter Laura (Emily Anne Fullerton) and artistic son Tom (Aidan Gallant), all hosting dinner guest Jim (Pat Caron). 

Where Menagerie was bleakly downbeat, however, Trap strikes a tone of cheerful farce complete with happy ending. It’s not nearly as powerful or memorable as Menagerie, but it’s an intriguing divergent take on these characters; or as Anya Emerson once put it, “Alternate realities are neat.” 

Bordeaux is a treat as a southern-fried, scenery-chewing sitcom version of Amanda, playing the part with loopy flair. Fullerton plays Laura’s shyness capably, though her performance becomes much more entertaining and distinctive as the character comes out of her shell. Caron is fine as Jim, but an oft-indicating Gallant works less well as Tom, and the directorial choice of inserting a life-size glass statue into the proceedings, while funny, helps derail much of these alternate Wingfields’ already tenuous link to reality. 

The evening concludes with The Prompter (directed by Nancy McLure), which Dave Moses wrote as a vehicle for and a tribute to the late, great local actor Mae Ames. Moses has long since left PEI to write for television and Ames passed away in 2012, but I knew both of them way back when and always regretted not catching that show, so I was eager to see it now—especially with the similarly storied Barba Rhodenizer taking Ames’ place this time around.

A legendary theatre professional struggling with her part in a local community production, “the Dame” (Rhodenizer) is forced to work on her lines with a young prompter (Madison Peters), striking intergenerational sparks as the stage veteran and the starry-eyed rookie teach each other some hard lessons about life in the theatre. 

Moses’s Dame is a fun, larger-than-life yet convincingly recognizable portrait of an aging theatrical diva; Ames must have loved the part, and the always excellent Rhodenizer clearly relishes it here, playing the role with theatrically grandiose hauteur aplenty while keeping the character likeably human, vulnerable and relatable. Peters, an offstage voice for most of the show, more than holds her own as the long-suffering prompter and Rhodenizer’s commendably solid scene partner. The result is a show this reviewer of a certain age will remember fondly for years to come. 

‘Toons

Disney’s Beauty and the Beast

Review by Sean McQuaid 

As a manly journalist in the Les Nessman tradition, your tumble-down typist has always enjoyed Disney’s 1991 animated musical romance Beauty and the Beast. Hummable and lyrically nimble tunes including a couple of indisputable classics (the title track and “Be Our Guest”), one of Disney’s first quasi-enlightened animated female leads in titular beauty Belle, memorably colourful supporting characters—what’s not to like? 

Disney’s inevitable stage musical adaptation of the hit movie ran on Broadway from 1994 to 2007. Summerside-based community theatre company Fandango mounted their own version in 2012, and have remounted it with some cast modifications at Charlottetown’s Confederation Centre of the Arts this November. 

Never having seen the stage show these past 21 years, I came to it with fairly fresh eyes—two sets of same, actually, with darling daughter adding her preteen perspective. She deemed the whole shebang “awesome” come the final curtain, and her dad liked it pretty well, too. 

The stage version adds or expands a ton of songs, so there’s more musical bang for your buck—and while none of the new material quite matches the original film’s musical heights, it holds up alongside the older material and feels like part of a coherent whole. 

There are inevitable limitations. More physically constrained than animation, the stage can’t quite capture the unreal wonders of the monstrous Beast and his castle full of living household objects, though Fandango does its best on a community theatre budget with some colourful, ingenious costumes and small but effectively deployed mobile sets.  

That said, a few of the minor supporting characters are sufficiently vague in terms of visual design to obscure who or what they are (the gargoyles spring to mind since only the program clearly identifies them as such, though their eerily decorative presence is welcome regardless). 

Sometimes scene transitions seem a bit slow or uneven as well, but director Shirley Anne Cameron mostly keeps the play moving along smartly. Overall coordination is especially solid in big cast-of-dozens showpieces like the impressively grand “Be Our Guest” number, even if some of the ambulatory cutlery are more energetic or on the beat than others. 

The stage adaptation fleshes out the supporting cast nicely, revealing more about the backstories of the Beast’s transformed servants and the nature of their metamorphosis, and animated bit players like the feather duster and the wardrobe get developed into fuller, funnier characters here as the coquettish Babette and theatrical  diva Madame de la Grande Bouche. 

Rachel Mundy is a charming, sympathetic and consistently strong Belle with a lovely voice. Another strong vocalist, Popalopalots veteran Jordan Cameron is often funny as the Beast and nails the pathos of the part, though he doesn’t always sell the scary aspects of the character and seems hesitant on occasion when switching emotional gears. 

Steve Bruce revels in cartoonish villainy as Belle’s brutish suitor (bruitor?) Gaston—not the most naturalistic performance, but deliciously swaggering, hammy fun from start to finish. A funny Devon Surkan, enjoyably reminiscent of a young Danny Strong, is ideally cast as Gaston’s sniveling sidekick Lefou, as is Alfredo Campos as their sinister ally Monsieur D’Arque, both roles having expanded to good effect in the stage version. 

As in the original movie, the show is often stolen by the Beast’s transformed servants: Peter Surkan is perfect as the fussy clock Cogsworth and Adam-Michael James is charming fun as suave candelabra Lumiere. Sandra McNeill capably fills the key role of matronly teapot Mrs. Potts, though Claire Casely Smith and Charlotte Thompson land more laughs as Bouche and Babette, respectively. There are no small parts here, only small household objects seeking big laughs—and often succeeding. 

Events Calendar

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Some Upcoming Events

9th Grand Ruisseau Song Festival

September 28–30
Mont-Carmel Parish Hall The Coopérative de développement culturel et patrimonial [ ... ]

ACT to present Rainbow Valley—An Island ...

November 8–10 & 15–17
The Guild ACT (a community theatre) has announced a family musical, Ra [ ... ]

The Children Act

September 27–October 4
City Cinema PG, language warning
Dir: Richard Eyre, UK, 105 min. Emma Thomps [ ... ]

Recent News & Articles

Drawing the line

Profile: Sandy Carruthers by Jane Ledwell Retired for a year now after twenty-five years teaching  [ ... ]

Free transportation at Cloggeroo

The provincial government will sponsor free transportation at this year’s Cloggeroo festival to he [ ... ]

Charlottetown’s Historic Squares exhibit...

The City of Charlottetown Planning and Heritage Department has created an exhibit exploring the hist [ ... ]