Reviews: HEART OF STEEL, URBAN MYTH, FROM JUDY TO BETTE, The Stars of Old Hollywood

by Lynn on January 11, 2016

in The Passionate Playgoer

All part of the Next Stage Theatre Festival

At Factory Theatre.

Heart of Steel

Book, music and lyrics by Wesley J. Colford
Directed by Luke Brown
Musical direction by Marion Abbott
Choreography by Amanda Nuttall
Set and Lighting by Joe Pagnan
Costumes by Amy Marie Wallace
Starring: Daniel Abrahamson
Vicktoria Adam
Ducolon Banville
Kenyon Blythe
Benjamin Camenzuli
Greg Campbell
David Difrancesco
Rosie Dykstra
Courtney Fiddis
Hilary June Hart
Richard Lam
Mercedes Morris
Toshi Murohashi
Rose Napoli
Nicole Power
Eliza Jane Scott
Hilary Scott
Jan Smith
Amy Marie Wallace
Sam White
Geoff Whynot

An ambitious effort by the prolific Wesley J. Colford

The Story. It’s 1943 in Cape Breton. The war is going on in Europe and many of the men are going overseas to fight. The women take over the men’s jobs, especially in the Sydney Steel Plant. The plant is a dangerous place, especially to one’s health. The head of the MacPherson clan got sick and died because of his working in the plant.

Amelia MacPherson is the oldest daughter of the family. She has saved her money to leave home, unbeknownst to her mother. But then a prospect of a job at the plant comes up that pays good money, money that’s needed to pay off the mortgage on the house. Again, unbeknownst to her mother, Amelia takes a dangerous job at the plant, and not the office job that her mother thinks she has.

Mrs. MacPherson is a proud, angry woman who tries to keep a strong hand on her family. She clashes with Amelia. Finances become desperate. Secrets are revealed.

The Production. Wesley J. Colford has taken on the task of writing the book, the music and the lyrics. His music is beautifully evocative of Acadian, Cape Breton music. His lyrics are full of longing; wanting to soar like an eagle and fly away; dreaming of a better life; and being true to oneself yet wanting to help.

While the story is familiar—girl with dreams wants to leave her small town and go to the big city for better opportunities, but family obligations are pressing and she stays to help—you have to admire the ambition of Colford’s efforts.

Director Luke Brown stages his large cast with efficiency. And while it’s tempting to use lots of props and staircases to suggest different locations, sometimes all the moving and clanging of moveable set pieces gets in the way. Less is best.

As Emilia, Nicole Power has grit and determination. She also has a pleasant voice. As Georgie MacDougall, one of the women bosses in the plant, Rose Napoli, has a formidable toughness that can stare down the men who are still there. While the part of Maureen MacPherson seems always negative, Eliza Jane Scott shows us the human side of her. She is the head of the family. She knows the family is in trouble and she’s worried. It’s good to see Jan Smith as Edie MacPherson, another formidable woman of that MacPherson clan. Jan Smith has been missed on our local stages.

Some concerns. I appreciate the hoe-down concert as the audience walks in but it’s a concern when we can’t hear the lyrics of such beautiful songs as “Farewell to Nova Scotia” and “The Song for the Mira.” I’m not talking about the lack of odious microphones. I’m talking about an inability to project. It’s a smallish theatre. The voices have to fill the place.

Other times with the acting,the same problem occurred. Either the actor was not up to the job and enunciation was muddy, or often the actor couldn’t be heard. These have to be addressed regardless of this being a fringe show. We have to hear you, folks.

Still Heart of Steel is a brave effort.

Urban Myth

Choreographed by: Mariano “Glizzi” Abarca
Caroline “Lady C” Fraser
Amadeus “Primal” Marquez
Anthony “Illz” Put
Caitlin “Cady” Superville
Raoul “Jin” Wilke

Emcee: Amadeus “Primal” Marquez

This is a vibrant, joyous, energetic program of dance pieces using various forms of dance. These elastic-bodied dancers take hip-hop, break-dancing and the like to new levels and names. “Krump,” “Breaking,” “Popping,” “Locking,” “House,” “Waacking.” Who knew stuff like this existed?

That’s the beauty of The Next Stage Theatre Festival. You are introduced to forms of theatre and dance you might not have known about otherwise.

Emcee Amadeus “Primal” Marquez is a loose-limbed artist who glories in and appreciates all his dancing colleagues in the show. The artists are wonderfully accomplished. You are invited to learn more and get involved with the various companies. Terrific hour well spent.

From Judy to Bette: The Stars of Old Hollywood

Written and performed by Rebecca Perry
Directed by Michael Rubinstein
Musical director, Quinton Naughton
Lighting by Chin Palipane
Costumes and props by Patricia Whalen
Set by Edward George

A smart, sharp portrait of four women who changed Hollywood performed by a smart, sharp performer named Rebecca Perry who sets the standard for such shows.

For Rebecca Perry four stars stand out as movers and shakers in the man’s world of old Hollywood. They are: Judy Garland, Bette Davis, Betty Hutton and Lucille Ball. Each woman did things her way, carved out their careers in a way that no others did, and paved the way for other women to do it their way as well.

In her short (30 minutes) show, Perry devotes a short time to each star, pointing out the highlights of each woman’s career and what made them each such trailblazers. Her props are simple—a picture of each woman she deals with in turn, and a bit of costume that suggests the star.

When she sings signature songs of each woman Perry sings in her own strong voice. She does not impersonate, she encapsulates. From Judy to Bette: The Stars of Old Hollywood is a charmer of a show. Perry does it with respect, reverence and humour.

At Factory Theatre until Jan. 17, 2016.

Leave a Comment

Respectful comments are accepted on this site as long as they are accompanied by a verifiable name and a verifiable e-mail address. Posts that are slanderous, libelous or personally derogatory will not be approved.