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A Beauty, a Beast, and a Red-Headed Freckled Thing

Whew! Finally I have a spare moment to write. Granted, I have been traveling across the Maritimes for almost a week (which are gorgeous!), so I suppose there's really nothing to complain about.

Greetings from Charlottetown! As of today I have graced three of the four Atlantic provinces with my presence, for the first time in... ever. It's been quite a journey – literally, as I have driven here from Ottawa with my trusty Pontiac, George – and though I would love to regale you with tales of all my adventures to date (wine and Frenchys and ceilidhs, oh my!), I'm going to stick to theatre-related ones, since this is a theatre-type blog and all. Tonight, ladies and gents, I present short reviews of the two theatre productions I have watched thus far while on my trip: Neptune Theatre's production of Beauty and the Beast in Halifax, NS, and The Guild's production of Anne and Gilbert, right here in Charlottetown, PE. Going chronologically, looks like Beauty and the Beast is up first!

I'd last seen Beauty and the Beast performed back in 2008 at Edmonton's The Citadel Theatre, so it had been a while since I'd watched the Broadway version of the show. I remembered some things that stood out for me the first time I'd seen it, especially regarding the special effects, so I was curious to see how Neptune's production would handle the challenges that Beauty and the Beast poses – I mean, dancing dishes and napkins, not to mention various magical transformations, am I right? For the most part I was well pleased with the production. It was fun, bright and colourful, everything a Disney musical should be, and I was bouncing in my seat right along with the music. I loved watching the relationship blossom between Belle and the Beast (Ellen Denny and Jonathan Winsby, respectively) and listening to both their superb voices made my heart very happy indeed, though Denny did seem to rush ahead of the orchestra a tad. Kudos to choreographer, Stephen Gray, and fight director, Charles Douglas, for the stunning movement throughout the show. All the dancers were on point, and I especially appreciated Le Fou's (dammit, I didn't take a program home and can't find who played Le Fou anywhere online...) excellent physical comedy. Some of those somersaults, I tell you! Gaston (Daniel Cannis)... I'm still in awe that your muscles are real... and that I could see them from the nosebleeds. Yes, folks, I thoroughly enjoyed the show, and really my one critique has to do with the lighting: sometimes I couldn't see what was happening, not because the actors weren't where they were supposed to be, but because there wasn't enough light on stage. It really would have been nice to see the witch after she shed her hag disguise. Like I said at the beginning, however, I really did enjoy the show, top to bottom, and if you're in Halifax, I highly recommend it. It plays until October 9th so you've got plenty of time to catch it. And you never know... you might just get lucky and bump into the Beast himself at The Maxwell's Plum after the show's over (Heather and I played it cool, don't worry)!

One review down, one review to go! No one can visit Prince Edward Island and not see some sort of production about Miss Anne Shirley, beloved Canadian literary character thanks to the lovely L. M. Montgomery. Since I'd just recently seen Anne of Green Gables: The Musical this past fall, I wasn't crazy about seeing it again so soon. However, it so happens that Anne and Gilbert, the musical that covers the second and third books of the Anne of Green Gables series, Anne of Avonlea and Anne of the Island, is playing in Charlottetown during my stay. Since I'd missed the NAC production when it was in town this past December, I figured this would be my perfect opportunity to see the production, especially while on the island! Anne and Gilbert is on at The Guild Theatre, a compact black-box theatre of 144 seats that makes for a truly intimate experience; I couldn't help feeling part of the action! Tonight's performance included some understudying, with Alessia Lupiano playing Anne while Robyn Harrison took Lupiano's usual role, Diana. Though I am a bit sad I didn't get to see Holly Cinnamon play one of the title characters (we graduated as part of the same university class and it's been several years since I last saw her perform) I must say that I really enjoyed Lupiano's portrayal of Anne. Even though Anne has grown up, she still retains that effervescent energy and spunk, and Lupiano brought this across beautifully with her playful facial and physical expressions. The other title character, Gilbert, played by Cameron Kneteman (whom I believe I saw several years ago in a Foote Theatre School Young Musical Company 's production of Spring Awakening as Melchior – seriously, Edmontonians!), was every bit of the heart-wrenching heartthrob that he needs to be. Not a heartless heartthrob, mind you. No, Gilbert is the epitome of a gentleman in this show, and I believed every word that came out of Kneteman's mouth: believed he was in love with Anne, believed that he is Anne's perfect match... sigh...

Right. Moment over. The rest of the cast was similarly strong, a well-oiled machine of turn-of-the-century Avonlea. Seeing Marilla Cuthbert and Rachel Lynde (Marlene Handrahan and Catherine O'Brien) as kindred spirits in their own right put a smile to my face during their "Our Duty" duet. I was in awe of Geordie Brown's molasses-drizzled pipes as his Roy Gardner wooed the pants off Anne in "May I Offer My Umbrella," and Celia Koughan's Josie Pye stamped her feet enough times at enough unfortunate souls to make me quite content in loving to hate her character. A wonderful production, if I do say so myself. There were a few notes I noticed weren't quite sitting in the middle of their pitch, but tight, Andrews Sisters-styled harmonies elsewhere and fancy Island footwork more than made up for it. Definitely check out the show, also running until mid-October.

Phew, I'm pooped! The fun thing about writing reviews, though, is that I get to relive the performances, and luckily for me I really enjoyed both these shows. Now that I'm finished, however, it's time to hit the hay. I've got to be ready to check out Charlottetown tomorrow morning and I can't wait!

Peace and love, and check out some theatre!

Joyanne :D

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