Monthly Archives: March 2010

Carleton University’s Sock N Buskin Keeps it Simple With Urinetown

Musicals are always a risk for university theatre companies. The casts are huge and finding people who can sing, act and dance is always challenging. I was curious to see if Sock N Buskin’s production of Urinetown (at Carleton University) would live up to the challenge. I’m very pleased to report that director Matt Minter and the Sock N Buskin theatre company (in association with Erudite theatre) totally pulled this production off. Urinetown is a lot of fun to watch and everyone in the cast is clearly having a good time.

The original production of Urinetown (music and lyrics by Greg Koktis, book and Lyrics by Mark Hollman) is a well known Fringe success story. The show premiered at the New York Fringe Festival, then it went on to be produced Off Broadway, eventually making it to Broadway itself– Not bad for a little Fringe show.

Koktis and Hollman’s musical tells the story of a world in drought. The water shortage is so bad that in an effort to conserve water a small town has chosen to charge people to use privately run “amenities”. Any other means to relieve oneself is punished by shipment off to “Urinetown”. People sent there are never heard from again. The play is satyrical examination of capitalism and socialism in times of scarcity (with lots of catchy song and dance numbers). Hollman and Koktis script is quite funny and pokes fun at the musical genre itself while delivering its political satire.

In my opinion, the script is a little bit repetitive with its gags and probably would be more effective if it was a little bit shorter. I wonder if the original Fringe production was as long as the Broadway version? Or if Hollman and Koktis felt the need to stretch it a bit; nevertheless, Urinetown was unquestionably a roaring commercial success.

Director Matt Minter and Sock N’ Buskin have done marvelous job with this one and the secret to their success is they have kept it simple. The set design is minimal but highly functional and the dance numbers are choreographed into simple movements with a few highlights. For example, Tim Oberholzer (Officer Lockstock) and Dave Rowan (Officer Barrel) have to be complemented for their billy club juggling. Trust me. It’s well worth seeing!

The cast is quite strong all around, but on Friday evening I felt that Ryan Anderson (Caldwell B. Cladwell), Tyler McClure (Bobby Strong) and Julia Walmsley (Hope Cladwell) stood out. Also, all the actors in the chorus are clearly committed to their roles. The audience was onside all the way with this one and definitely having a good time.

In short, this is fantastic university/community theatre. Go check it out!

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Haunted By A Performance

Here’s my latest review up at (Cult)ure magazine. It’s been up for awhile but I got to distracted by my open stage performance at the Laff to post it last week. blood.claat haunted for me for days after it was finished and provoked several great discussions between Kelly (a good friend),  Nadine Thornhill and myself about the play’s themes and politics. These conversations are always fascinating and I really enjoy hearing different perspectives on a play.

This play certainly brought up some issues for me. I believe an artist is certainly under no obligation to create art that is empowering. It is fine to write simply from your experience and put that out into the world. Express yourself however you choose. I do have a problem with the idea that this act alone is somehow political. I have heard the phrase “the personal is political” used often to justify/support this claim. While I believe that relating/recounting a personal experience can be political, it can only do so if there is an attempt to to frame a broader ideology/ objective around the experience.  Any thoughts?

Better Late than Never: Last Night at the Laff

Well it took me over  a year but I finally got up the courage to play the open stage at the Laff. I can’t really say what motivated me to actually follow through on it this time. I’ve had good intentions for awhile but in the end The Fear usually won out. Something snapped in me yesterday and I decided to give it a go. I wasn’t sure whether to let people know or not (since it was a last minute decision) but in the end I’m glad I did tell a few people.  It was fantastic to be surrounded by friends before, during and post-show.

I had four songs prepared and from this repertoire I intended to play the two that I thought best fit the crowd. I began with a “38 years old” by the Hip (Always a crowd pleaser). Then I switched gears with “Black Boys on Mopeds” by Senead O’Connor. I was willing to let it go there but the host encouraged me to go on. My third song was obscure: the Kaiser Chiefs “Love’s not a Competition but I’m winning”. I kind of blew this one but I doubt anyone there had heard it before. Still I decided to let it go at about a third of a way through it –A minor setback.

I finished with Radiohead’s “Fake Plastic Trees”. This is an old chestnut for me, brought out at many cottage parties since the late 90s. It was a strong finish.

It feels really good to be playing again.  It feels even better to be doing so with the support of friends.

They Can’t All Be Gems

Well another review is up. Re-reading this one, it is quite honestly not my best work. I’m happy with what I said, but not happy with the way I said it. Lots of awkward sentences, it doesn’t “flow” very well and on the whole it feels unpolished (link). My perfectionist self is not at all pleased with my creative self for producing a piece of work that I feel is not up to my usual standard.

However, I’m trying something new and will instead try to focus on the positives rather than the negatives:

1. I went to a play with a friend and had a great time.

2. I made a little beer money.

3. I took advantage of the free food at intermission.

4. I enjoyed “playing writer” at Bridgehead

5. Got a blog post out of it.

6. I reviewed a show that really didn’t get much coverage aside from my review.

Ultimately, I have to come to terms with the fact that occasionally I will fail.  My new maxim with my review writing will be “they can’t all be gems” in an attempt to avoid my old creative maxim “quit at the first sign of adversity”.

Though the other demon lurking in the shadows of my mind (possibly the reason for my failure) is that I haven’t been in the reviewing mood recently. This is a concern, as I have one last one to write. Clearly, I need to find some way to make it fresh again. Any thoughts or suggestions?