This is my first On the Boards column for eatdrink magazine. I will be writing about all things related to the myriad of regional professional and amateur theatre companies in the London area.
Some of you may know me as Richard Young, the former publisher/managing editor of The Beat Magazine, an independent print and online arts publication that covered the local arts scene from 2009 until 2014. I am a retired secondary school History and English teacher, professional musician, freelance writer — and avid theatre patron.
Before I begin with my preview of holiday theatre offerings, I want to acknowledge the fine work of my eatdrink predecessor, Donald D’Haene, in covering the local theatre scene and for all of the selfless contributions he has made to raising public awareness of the efforts of local thespians in The Beat Magazine, his website DISHing with Donald and through The Beat DISH Awards which he staged for 4 years. His columns and reviews were always entertaining and enlightening — and a tad irreverent, as only Donald can be. Thanks Donald!
A smorgasbord of theatre …
As the holiday season approaches, there is a smorgasbord of regional theatre offerings, with something for everyone and every age. So let’s take a look at what’s on the boards.
The Grand Theatre (www.grandtheatre.com), offers up Shrek the Musical on its main stage from November 19–December 28. Sure to please parents and children alike, the production is based on the highly popular 2001 animated feature film. Downstairs in the more intimate McManus Theatre, the Western Department of English presents Dr. Faustus, November 5–8 while Mark Kileen’s By The Book Theatre presents A Few Good Men November 25–December 6, a courtroom drama made famous by actor Jack Nicholson’s infamous line, “You can’t handle the truth” in the 1992 movie.
In the heart of the Old East Village Entertainment District, the Palace Theatre (www.palacetheatre.ca) offers up the classic Broadway musical Mame, directed by John Gerry and starring Deborah Mitchell in the lead role, December 4–14. Gerry promises a leaner, pared down interpretation of the musical which will feature two baby grand pianos on the stage. In the smaller Procunier Hall, Donald D’Haene and Dave Semple present the two-man show Hosanna, Michel Tremblay’s raw depiction of love between a transsexual drag queen and a homosexual biker November 6–15.
“The love story makes the story universal,” says Donald D’Haene, who plays the drag queen. “Tremblay depicts characters we rarely see on the London stage.”
D’Haene is thrilled to be back on stage. “Besides being the role and challenge of a lifetime, when you’re ‘dancing’ on stage with an actor as brave, open and honest as Dave Semple, it certainly raises your game. Dancing with someone you trust makes the process indescribable.”
The ARTS Project (www.artsproject.ca) presents Jayson McDonald’s detective fantasy The City That Eats You, featuring Meghan Brown and Valerie Cotic, November 5–8, while Neil Simon’s Fools is brought to the stage by The King’s Players November 27–29.
London’s Original Kids Theatre Company (originalkids.ca) offers up several productions including Crazytown November 7-9; Disney’s Winnie the Pooh for Kids November 13 to 16; Bye Birdie Young Performer’s Edition November 20-23; Shout The Mod Musical November 27-30; The Wedding Singer December 4-7; The King & I December 12-21; capped off by the perennial family favourite A Charlie Brown Christmas December 13 and 14. Tickets for OKTC productions tend to sell out quickly, so get yours early to avoid disappointment.
Moving outside of London, we drop in on the Elgin Theatre Guild (www.elgintheatreguild.ca) which is presenting James Barry’s Snow White and The 7 Dwarfs done up in British pantomime or panto style December 4–14. For the uninitiated, panto is a participatory style of musical comedy designed specifically for family entertainment and usually performed during the Christmas season. Audience members are encouraged to sing along and to shout out responses to the performers. Perfect fare for families this holiday season.
Stratford’s Alternative Theatre Works’ (alternativetheatreworks.com) holiday season production is A Wind in the Willows Christmas which runs December 18–30 at the Stratford Masonic Concert Hall.
Theatre Woodstock (www.theatrewoodstock.com) brings Rogers & Hammerstein’s South Pacific with its legendary score featuring songs like “Some Enchanted Evening,” “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair” and others to The Market Centre Theatre November 27–30 and December 3–6.
Over in Theatre Tillsonburg’s Otter Valley Playhouse (www.theatretillsonburg.com), theatre-goers can catch the British farce Sex Please, We’re Sixty, November 6–9 and November 13–16.
In a nutshell, there is a rich selection of live theatre on the boards in our area this holiday season, and much of it is family fare. Get out and support your local artists!
Rick Young, whose work has been published in local, regional and national print and online publications, was the Managing Editor, Publisher and founder of The Beat Magazine, an independent London arts magazine, from 2009 to 2014.