Reviews: NEXT STAGE THEATRE FESTIVAL: Anatomy of a Dancer, Lauren and Amanda Do It, A Bear Awake in Winter

by Lynn on January 15, 2019

in The Passionate Playgoer

At the Factory Theatre, Toronto, Ont.

Anatomy of a Dancer: The Life of a Song and Dance Man

Written by Genevieve Adam

Directed by Emma Ferrante

Choreography by Adam Martino

Designed by Adam Martino

Cast: Ashley Harju

Alayna Kellet

Jacqueline Dos Santos

Luke Opdahl

Maddison Hayes-Crook

Matthew Eldracher

Micah Enzlin

Sam Black

Stéphanie Visconti

Robbie Fenton

I know everyone on this show worked hard and their intentions were honourable, but I am mystified as to what this show is. It’s billed as “Anatomy of a Dancer: The Life of a Song and Dance Man, but you had to look deep into the program to find that it’s the life of American dancer and film star Gene Kelly that was the subject.

Genevieve Adam is a wonderful writer as can be seen with two of her previous works: Dark Heart and Deceitful Above All Things. She has a sense of language, imagery, time and place and a particular way of creating characters. With such good work I was mystified as to what happened with Anatomy of a Dancer. This suggests something substantial. Alas the book of this very skimpy show is not even a sketch. We are given the barest of details about his life: born in Pittsburgh, went to New York to try his luck and came back to Pittsburgh and taught dance there. Then details get weird. It seems that out of no where he got a telegram from David O Selznick in Hollywood to come out there and work in the movies.

A quick search of Google (yes you have to do that when the script tells you so little that makes sense) indicated there were several other jobs before that telegram. His marriages are given short shrift and then so are the shows he choreographed.

For some reason there are two actor-dancers who play Gene Kelly here. Why, I don’t know. Are they alter-egos of each other? There is no explanation. The cast is not identified by the characters they play which is soooooo unhelpful. Many of the actors playing principle roles are microphoned which is unfortunate because the sound is lousy and too loud. Why does one need to be amplified in such a small theatre any way—to compete with the loud recorded music? Then lower that sound. One actress had one line to speak and was not amplified and we could hear her loud and clear. Get rid of all the mics and fill the room with your voices—isn’t that why one is trained?

It takes huge confidence for such young performers to want to depict the life and times of Gene Kelly who made dancing and singing seem effortless.

All in all, not a happy time in the theatre.

Anatomy of a Dancer: The Life of a Song and Dance Man continues until Jan. 20.

 Lauren & Amanda Do It

Personable Lauren Cauchy and Amanda Logan present a comfortable 30 minute show about sex. No embarrassment, no wink-wink-nudge-nudge. Just smart, funny, thoughtful comments about sex. They spin a large wheel with various topics on sex: Sexual health, masturbation, Sexual transmitted diseases, etc. Where ever the wheel stops is the topic they discuss. For our purposes they talked about Sexual Health, use of condoms in a long-term relationship, diva cups etc. They were ably joined by Alli Harris who provided the musical accompaniment as well as insights into her sexual activity with her partner and their special guest Jennifer Walls, musical theatre performer extraordinaire. The show is good natured, irreverent and yet serious.

It continues until Jan. 20.


A Bear Awake in Winter

Written and directed by Ali Joy Richardson

Lighting by Steph Raposo

Cast: Hershel Blatt

Mchaela Di Cesare

Andrew Di Rosa

Bria McLaughlin

Danny Pagett

Natasha Ramondino

Andy Trithardt

Woooow!!! Ali Joy Richardson has written a stunning, complex, perceptive play for our times. It leaves you breathless at the sheer accomplishment of telling this difficult story with such sensitivity and balance.

We are in Halifax, Nova Scotia in a high school music class. Mr. Hill (the wonderful Andy Trithardt) is the new music teacher. He’s just moved there from Toronto with his husband. The students know each other already. Matt (Andrew Di Rosa) plays the trombone and has a certain attitude because he fancies he’s the best musician in the class. Diminutive, impish Bari (Bria McLaughlin) plays a large saxophone. A character known as ‘trumpet’ (Danny Pagett)  is the goof of the group and he plays the trumpet (duh). “Keys” (Hershel Blatt)  is a wise, laid-back young man who plays the keyboard. A forthright young woman plays percussion (Natasha Ramondino) and is listed in the characters as ‘Percussion.” Theresa (Michaela Di Cesare) is new to the school and arrives late. She plays the flute.

It’s obvious some of these young people have issues they are dealing with and some of the others either know about the issues or have caused them. Theresa works at a fast food place with Bari and they are friends. Theresa had something happen to her at her previous school and she was forced to transfer, something she keeps to herself, but it certainly had its effect on her. Theresa is guarded and when Matt shows interest she is standoffish which irritates him. Matters build from there.

Ali Joy Richardson also directs her script and she brings out the best in her cast. The image of Theresa facing Matt speaks volumes. Michaela Di Cesare is a scrappy, diminutive Theresa and Andrew Di Rosa as Matt towers over her. The ‘visuals’ of their scenes together suggest an overpowering power dynamic. How Richardson directs the scene suggests something else.

Truths are told and characters who have locked in their angst find the ability to face their demons and confront the bullies who tormented them. It doesn’t end neatly, but it ends beautifully.

If I have a quibble it’s that there are two speeches from the adults’ point of view with their own troubles that I think are unnecessary for the purposes of the play. But as I said, it’s a quibble. Ali Joy Richardson’s play and her direction blew me away.

A Bear Awake in Winter continues until Jan. 20.


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