Go On A Blind Date at The Arts Club BMO Stage

Just like a true blind date, with Blind Date at The Arts Club Theatre Company BMO Stage what’s about to unfold is a mystery.

The premise of the mainly improvised Blind Date is a blind date between a couple, who don’t know each other.  In this case, they really do not know each other, the male partner is selected from the audience to go on the date with Mimi (played in this performance by Tess Degenstein).   During a pre-show mingle the cast; Degenstein, Lili Beaudoin, Ali Froggatt (who all play Mimi on different nights) and Jeff Gladstone, get to know the audience.  People putting themselves (or being pushed) forward to participate in Blind Date.  Starting out a small cafe the date progresses through the course of the evening.

On this night, recently-married Ben, a 30something construction manager, has been selected, after prodding from wife Megan. The uncomfortable awkwardness that Ben feels makes for some nervous laughter and outright hilarity.  While Mimi asks him about himself, Ben loosens up and shares more about his life, which allows a seasoned improvisor like Tess Degenstein to grab tidbits to keep the play humourously moving along on its loose outline.

As skilled as she is, her scene partner is the key to the success of the show, I’m sure in the 700+ performances the troupe has completed there have been more than a few ‘dates’ that have gone awry.  Anything can happen in improv and in this performance, the quantity of beer that Ben consumed, smartly used to avoid answering or to allow himself time to think of an answer, became part of the show.  Late in the play Ben was forced to make a trip to the washroom, a first amongst Blind Date performances according to Degenstein.

The skill of the cast to improvise and roll with the punches ensures that each night is a fresh and unique performance. Check out Blind Date more than once to find out how different guest performers and different Mimis influence the outcome of your blind date experience.

Blind Date plays until December 30, 2018 at Goldcorp Stage at the BMO Theatre Centre, 162 East 1st Avenue. Showtimes and Tickets available online at artsclub.com

 

Arts Club Theatre Company : Once

Gili Roskies & Adrian Glynn McMorran
photo: Emily Cooper

Once is definitely not enough when it comes to seeing Arts Club Theatre Company’s Once, now playing at the Granville Island Stage.  The final show of the season, and for Artist Director Bill Millerd’s 45 season reign as the guiding force of the Art Club, certainly makes a memorable impact.

The heartwarming and heartbreaking story of Guy meets Girl, based on the 2007 film of the same name, takes the audience on a journey filled with music, laughter, melancholy, romance and inspiration.  Known only as Girl (an ‘honest’ Czech aspiring pianist, played by Gili Roskies) and Guy (a struggling Dublin musician, played by Adrian Glynn McMorran), our leads’ meet cute involves busking and a Hoover.  That oddball scenario, foretells the unique show that’s to come.  While Girl struggles with her feelings for Guy and loyalty to her estranged husband, she champions Guy to never give up on his heart and music.  Once would be nothing without that music, written by Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglova (the original film’s leads) the heartfelt songs stand-out like a third lead; moving the story along, connecting the characters and allowing Guy and Girl to sing what they can’t say.

To help bring the duo’s musical aspirations to a fruition, a company of colourful characters gather; both Czechs and the Irish play multiple instruments, dance, and sing often all at the same time.  While all the company are solid; stand outs include Chris Cochrane as Billy the music shop owner and admirer of Girl, who plays well off of the always solid Caitriona Murphy.  There are a couple moments when the Irish accents sound a bit like their protecting their Lucky Charms, but it’s not enough to distract from the feeling that the audience is a Dublin pub with the company.  Set designer Ted Roberts makes the most of the small Granville Island stage to recreate the feeling of an Irish Pub, which is open to the audience for on stage drinks and a kitchen party style opening jam session that leads into the show.  From this lively opening to the emotional Academy Award winning song “Falling Slowly”, Once moves us and makes us cheer for Guy and Girls’ relationship and leaves us fulfilled but wanting to know the rest of their stories.

See it once or often but definitely see it before it’s gone.  Once is playing at The Arts Club Theatre Company’s Granville Island Stage until July 29, 2018.

Blood Brothers – Arts Club Theatre

Now playing at The Arts Club Theatre Company’s Granville Island Stage, Blood Brothers is a tale of nature vs nurture told in a musical retelling of the Alexandre Dumas tale, The Corsican Brothers.  Set initially in the working class industrial slums of 1960’s Liverpool the first act centers around single-mother of 7, Mrs Johnstone who, barely able to feed her family, works as a cleaner for the wealthy but childless, Mr & Mrs Lyons.  Finding out she is pregnant with twins, she is distraught at the prospect of two more mouths to feed, so reluctantly she agrees to secretly give one twin away to Mrs Lyons. This begins the diverse upbringing of the two boys, one in poverty, the other in privilege. However, different their circumstances they still manage to find each other and become “blood brothers” and best friends. Their live intertwine for the next 20 years until they meet a tragic and fateful demise brought about by their mothers; one in an attempt to separate them and the other to bond them.
The Willy Russell musical was first brought to the stage in London in 1983 when the poverty of 60’s and recession of the 80’s, as represented in the play, were still fresh in people’s memories. This production’s stage design well represent these eras and the cast do a valiant job of keeping their accents authentic to the region and class. Leads Terra C. MacLeod as Mrs Johnstone and John Mann (Spirit of the West) as Narrator provide  anchors to the production, each contributing strong vocals and presence when onstage, which is most of the time.  Adam Charles and Shane Snow play separated twins Eddie Lyons and Mickey Johnstone both doing capable jobs as they age from 7 to 20.  With the entire cast made up of just 12 players they almost all do double duty playing multiple parts of the ensemble.  While the staging and eras are no longer up to date the story is timeless and told in a timeless manner and provides an enjoyable evening out.

Blood Brothers runs until December 31, 2011 at The Arts Club Theatre Company’s Granville Island Stage. Tickets can be purchased online or by phone 604.687.1644