Category Archives: Canada is the Greatest Nation on Earth

Musical Review of The Wedding Singer at Hart House

The Wedding Singer is a musical adapatation of the 1998 movie of the same name. Because most of you have seen it, and are familiar with the plot (even if you’re not, it’s a predictable rom-com) I’ve decided to skip to the good stuff. This is a review of Hart House’s ongoing production of The Wedding Singer, set to the music of the main theme/opening number of the show. Enjoy!

I saw this play 3 hours ago
I’m still humming some of the songs
‘Decided to write a review
Of what went right and what went wrong.
Now indulge me a moment, if you please;
I have a lot to say about this show,
and the actors I thought were good
and bad.
Here it goes:

Isaac has that “X-Factor” –
an accessible actor.
But his pitch control could
use improvement.

Ashley Gibson wasn’t bad,
and her singing really had
a lovely quality
that makes us all love her.

Cortina was a great, strong crooner
even when her mic went berserk.
But she couldn’t bring the humour
to her lines – they needed some work.

Horsman was a delightful dancer,
and her songs really brought
us to the moment.
Cattel was a rapping grandma –
what can I comment?

The ensemble was quite strong,
even in the weaker songs,
and their dancing was all
This show is just lots of fun
(‘cept for those who’ve seen it once).
I would recommend
you see it sometime soon.

(L to R) Ashley Gibson as Julia and Isaac Bell as Robbie. Photo credit to Scott Gorman.


Note 1: Yes, it’s not perfect. Considering the constraints – a review deadline and an imposed rhyme scheme and working in people’s names and accurate descriptions of their performances – it’s really not that bad. Seriously, if you’re looking for someone to write the opening for the next Tonys…

Note 2: Apologies to Mr Bell, who is treated with undue familiarity for the purpose of meter.

Note 3: There is some precedent for the moment/comment rhyme, imperfect though it may be. See Shakespeare’s Sonnet XV. I take full responsibility for the mangled syntax.



Win Free Tickets to See Evil Dead – The Musical!

When I introduce a show or event to you, my dear readers, I often begin with some sort of context, like a comment about the writer or my expectations for the show. I don’t need to do that in this case, though, because all I need to tell you is that Evil Dead – The Musical is a musical with a splatter zone. A zone, where you can get splattered.

Yeah. Do I actually need to say anything else about it? If so, I could tell you that it is a musical based on the Evil Dead movie franchise, and that it won the Audience Choice Dora Award in 2007. I could refer you to the praise that Toronto critics have sung of it, or even link you to a video of one of the numbers. But I don’t need to do that, because you already know that Evil Dead – The Musical is a musical with a splatter zone. And frankly, if that doesn’t make you want to see it already, I don’t what possibly could. (Descriptions of a clever plot and an awesome score might be helpful for some people, but did you see the bit about THE $&%#ING SPLATTER ZONE?!)

We at blogUT are all about the altruism, which is we why we are giving away two free tickets to the show. All you have to do is comment or tweet a micro-review of the best musical you’ve ever seen. We won’t give you a word limit, but we’ll say that brevity gets extra points. The best – cleverest and most informative – micro-review wins a pair of tickets to see Evil Dead – The Musical.

Evil Dead - The Musical is "Bloody hilarious!" - Toronto Star

 Evil Dead – The Musical

begins October 24 at the Randolph Theatre (20 minute walk from campus)


The (UofT) Student’s Guide to the Stratford Shakespeare Festival

In a Nutshell

The Stratford Shakespeare Festival is an annual theatre festival in Stratford, Ontario. Although it is primarily dedicated to the works of William Shakespeare, the Festival also produces musicals, contemporary classics, and new plays. The Stratford Festival has an international reputation for the high quality of its productions. Each show, from the largest musical to the smallest comedy, is the result of the talent and work of dozens of accomplished, gifted artists and producers. The Festival runs annually from April through October, and is the highlight of the summer theatre in Southern Ontario.

Choosing a Show

The Festival programme includes 12 different and diverse plays, but unfortunately, I’ve only had the chance to see 2. That hasn’t stopped me from making this handy-dandy guide as to which of those 2 shows – Tommy and Waiting for Godot is right for you.

I like plays to be…
  • Loud
  • Raucous
  • Exciting
  • Subtle
  • Clever
  • Thought-provoking
I want to talk about the play with…
  • Parents (& other nostalgic folks)
  • Music geeks
  • Professors and classmates
  • Theatre geeks
I go to the theatre to be… Entertained Educated
My ideal souvenir is… A soundtrack A mug with a witty message
I prefer… High-brow pop culture Accessible high culture

I want to see…


Waiting for Godot

Or both!

Of course, you could also go with any of the other ten.

Buying Tickets

As you may have noticed, we at blogUT are really all about the green. That doesn’t end when it comes to theatre tickets – we’ve got the goods on getting the best (and most dramatic) bang for your buck. Play On tickets go for an even $25, but are available only for select performances and not always in advance. Don’t worry – there are plenty of Play On shows left before the festival ends. And if even that’s too much, Play On tickets are available for only $20 when you’re seeing Othello. All you need to do is prove that you are 16-29 years old with photo ID.

Getting There

Road trips and voyages out of town are often seen by students as too costly to be worth it, but the Stratford Festival has that covered. Tickets are only $10 each way on the Stratford Direct, and the bus drops you off at any of the four Festival theatres (pick-up is at Front and Simcoe at 10:00AM and 3:30PM). The buses are comfortable and roomy, and have wi-fi, a bathroom, and undercarriage storage for large bags. An added bonus: riding back into the city in a bus full of people to talk to about your experiences at the Festival. My perfect day at Stratford ended yesterday with a lovely conversation with some other festival-goers, who were sitting behind me. We traded reviews and recommendations for almost an hour.

Other Things to Do in Stratford

Only 30,000 or so people call Stratford, Ontario home, but there’s still plenty to do there. In addition to myriad book and antique stores, the best shopping prospects are the warm, inviting candy and chocolate shops that line the town’s quaint streets. A terrific place to sit down for a hot or cold drink after or before a show is Balzac’s coffee, a small chain with a few locations in Toronto as well. I had dinner at Boomers Gourmet Fries, a small burger shop with a big menu and fantastic prices. And, obviously, delicious gourmet fries. For dessert, you can head next door to Scooper’s Ice Cream, which also serves shakes and frozen yogurt at excellent prices. If you’re more of the picnicker type, I recommend staking out a bench by the water on Lakeside Drive and watching the swans and ducks go by.


Louis Goes to Stratford: Waiting for Godot

Like so many others with an interest in the theatre, I’m no stranger to Waiting for Godot. The now legendary play, which took the world by storm in the 1950s, deals with the hollowness of a life spent waiting for meaning and redemption. I’ve read Godot both for pleasure and for study, in high school and in university. I’ve seen amateur productions and professional ones; interpretations that adhered strictly to the original text and others that veered sharply towards the avant-garde. But none has compared to what I saw tonight.

The Stratford Festival’s production of Waiting for Godot is staged in the Festival’s lesser-known Tom Patterson theatre, a relatively small space adjacent to a community centre. The theatre’s most interesting feature is not its size but its structure: the seats are located in shallow rows along three sides of the stage, putting audience members closer to the action and giving each of them a different angle from which to view the play. This was perfectly suited to Jennifer Tarver’s direction of Godot. She made brilliant use of the show’s slapstick comedy and the stage’s layout to maximize the visual, physical element of the play and, with it, she truly brought out the piece’s humour. The audience often laughed out loud at the jokes and gags, although they were soon abruptly hushed by the show’s darker elements, which were captured with intensity by all members of the cast. This balance ideally represents why Samuel Beckett chose to label his masterpiece a “tragicomedy”.

It is impossible to summarize Waiting for Godot in terms of plot – all two hours and thirty minutes consist of men waiting, alone except for the occasional interaction with a passing traveller, for a mysterious man named Godot. Vladimir and Estragon are certain that Godot will arive soon, and with him, redemption from their meaningless, painful lives. But by the evening’s end, Godot is nowhere to be seen, and Vladimir and Estragon must prepare for another day of waiting.

Some plays deal with personal, emotional issues that their playwrights have experienced but other people have not. Some playwrights try to tackle broader societal problems, but in doing so become products of their generation and nothing but relics for the future. Waiting for Godot, which is personal and cultural, and also philosophical and psychological, is extraordinary because the themes it addresses are universal; international and timeless. There will never be a generation of people who don’t ask the questions that Beckett asks, and I hope, never a generation that isn’t stunned by the horror and humour of Beckett’s attempts to answer them.

from the Stratford Festival website:

Waiting for Godot

by Samuel Beckett
Directed by Jennifer Tarver

Tom Patterson Theatre
to September 26
Approximate running time: 2 hrs 40 min, including one interval

Louis Goes to Stratford: Tommy

I had no idea what to expect when I sat down to watch Tommy, the musical by Pete Townsend of The Who, at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival this afternoon. I didn’t have time to do much expecting, however, because before long the excited buzz of the eager audience was broken by a deafening riff on the electric guitar as the show began. Originally billed as a “rock opera,” Tommy is a musical narrative told almost entirely through rock and roll. It began as a concept album by The Who in the 1960s and, due to its popularity and creativity, enjoyed life as a movie and a concept concert before it was adapted into a Broadway musical in the 1990s by Townsend and director Des McAnuff. Yes, that Des McAnuff – the legendary director of musicals right here in Stratford  also directed this production of the show he helped to create decades ago. This time, he assures us in the programme, is different; this time he’s made use of all the technological innovations that have been developed since the show’s first production. And boy, he keeps that promise.

Tommy is, in a word, overwhelming. The music, by nature of its composition, is loud even when the volume is turned down; this afternoon it was cranked up to 11. The visuals, which range from actors suspended by wires to blinding light displays, make it impossible to turn away. At any given moment something is happening, singing, shouting, flying, preaching, dancing, murdering, or shattering

But this is not an accident – an excess of stimuli fits in perfectly with the plot of Tommy. The titular character, who is depicted at various ages from childhood to his 20s, witnesses an horrific murder through the reflection of a mirror when he is a child. Traumatized by what he has seen, Tommy stops communicating with the outside world, seemingly blind, deaf, and dumb. In fact, the only things Tommy seems to do are look at himself in the mirror and play pinball, at which he has a peculiar talent. Tommy comes to block out the sights and the noises of his life, the sights and noises that the audience experiences in supererogatory amounts.

Tommy is overwhelming, but not for no reason and certainly not for waste. The music, which is known to millions of people as a rock classic, is exciting and breathlessly paced. The visuals are stunning; the performances enthralling. The show is, from start to finish, a piece of theatre with so much energy, passion, and skill that it will dominate your every thought and action at least until you leave the theatre and possibly for long after. Or, in a word, overwhelming.


from the Stratford Festival website:


Music and lyrics by Pete Townshend
Book by Pete Townshend and Des McAnuff
Additional music and lyrics by
John Entwistle and Keith Moon
Originally produced on Broadway by Pace Theatrical Group and Dodger Productions with Kardana Productions
Directed by Des McAnuff
Approximate running time: 2 hrs 3 min, including one interval
Avon Theatre
to October 19


Louis Goes to Stratford: The Prelude

On Friday, August 16, at about 3:45 PM, I punched in the last period of the last sentence of my last summer exam and, in doing so, granted myself my first moment of freedom since summer school began. It was exhilarating, walking out of the Exam Centre and along College without worrying about assignments or exams. But it also raised a new question: What’s next? What do I do in my paltry two weeks of freedom before Frosh Week? What activity could be so entertaining, so holistically enjoyable and relaxing, that it could make me feel like I had a proper summer vacation?


S – T – R – AT – FORD.

Or, more specifically, the Stratford Shakespeare Festival.

When I was a kid, my family went every year. It was our one big cultural outing, and we all piled into the minivan for the two-hour drive to the distant land where everything seemed to have something to do with theatre, where everyone seemed to know exactly why we were there. We usually saw musicals, but occasionally – and often only at my insistence – some of us would also check out a Shakespeare play. Always a comedy, of course. When I read an abridged version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in grade 5, I begged my father to take me to see it at Stratford that summer. He agreed, and in the months before the outing it I was perpetually giddy with anticipation, as if every night were the night before Christmas.

I am not ashamed to say that I am exactly that giddy right now, over-zealously typing this and worrying for the safety of my poor, abused keyboard. I should be asleep, resting up for a big day, but I’m simply too excited for tomorrow. I started writing this hoping that it would be therapeutic, that if I could shout out to the blogosphere about how excited I am, I could get it all out of my system.

I haven’t.