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Friday, August 15, 2014

London Theatre: Once

In 2007 I fell in love with a little Irish film called Once, starring Glen Hansard as a heartbroken musician-cum-vacuum repairman, who meets a young Czech immigrant, played by Marketa Irglova, and strikes up an intense romance, mostly unspoken and unfulfilled, except for the music they create together (which was written by the two lead actors themselves).  The song "Falling Slowly" won the Oscar for best song, but a number of tunes from the film have been in regular rotation on my playlists for years.  When Once was adapted for the stage, I was skeptical, despite the 8 Tony awards it eventually won.   I'm weary of the trend that turns hit movies into musicals.  The latest: The Bodyguard? (???)

The other night I had a hankering to see a show and I found a cheap ticket to Once, playing at the Phoenix Theatre, so I swallowed my fears and bought the ticket.  It was a great deal - I paid 19.50 but was upgraded to the 37.50 ticket - and when I got to the theatre was upgraded once again to the Dress Circle - so I ended up paying about 1/3 of the face price of my ticket.  Yay!  I figured I could suck up even a horrible show for that price.

I actually loved it.  When I entered the theatre the entire cast was on stage (which is a pub that doubles as a number of locales) jamming, playing Irish and Czech folk songs (all of the cast play instruments throughout the show - guitars, violins and even a cello), while they were surrounded by some of the audience.  The set had become a working bar.  They played a few numbers, and then as the audience was shown off the set, the music trailed off, until eventually only one actor, the unnamed male lead, credited only as "Guy" (played by David Hunter), was onstage.  He launched into the heartbreaking "Leave" as the lights dimmed, and the actual show began.   The conscious acknowledgement of the audience, and of the deliberate artifice of the performance, made the theatre nerd in me smile, but soon I was engrossed in the characters enough that I forgot it was a performance - and was caught up in the love story all over again.

There are significant differences in the book for Once, by Enda Walsh, that make it a completely different work than the film.  Supporting characters are fleshed out and given story lines - in particular Billy, the music store owner who lends "Girl" his piano - becomes an outrageous rocker and the comic relief of the show, with an unrequited crush on "Girl," and a hilarious one-night stand with "Girl"'s sexpot roommate, Reza.  We met "Girl"'s mother and Czech roommates, whose immigrant stories give a sense of what modern, post-EU life in Dublin must be like.  The romance between "Guy" and "Girl," ever-so-understated in the film, is definitive here, developed to a point that makes it clear to the audience what each is feeling, even if their circumstances mean they cannot act on the emotions.  

The music is woven into the story in a clever and interesting way - unlike a traditional musical where characters simply burst into song, and we the audience are expected to understand that they aren't necessarily aware they are singing - the characters in Once are all musicians.  They sing because they love the songs, and the music.  It's not a storytelling tool here - it's part of the characters' expression of themselves, something they consciously engage in.   

There are a few parts of the musical that I didn't think quite hit the mark.  The story is always very clear that "Guy" is talented - "Guy" is going to be a big hit - "Guy" needs to go to New York (London in the movie), not just to win back his ex-girlfriend but to be a successful musician.  He needs to be "un-stuck," as "Girl" puts it.  And all of this, is achieved.  The show ends when Guy makes it to New York.  But what about "Girl"?  Her relationship with her estranged husband, her own musical ambitions, her love for "Guy" - nothing is resolved for "Girl."  I found that to be a weakness in this story - "Girl" seemed to exist merely to admire, help and pine after "Guy."  I didn't feel that the imbalance between "Guy" and "Girl"'s story lines was so marked in the film.  In fact, there is a moment in the first jam session in the movie, where Irglova harmonizes with Hansard for the first time, where his eyes light up in recognition of a fellow artist.  It might be too subtle a moment to capture in theatre, but I felt the absence of that artistic kinship in the musical.  Yes, "Guy" is attracted to "Girl" - her sheer force of will and her drive to push him forward seem to be the attraction, though, not a musical connection.



The musicianship of the entire cast made me envious (unless my violin vastly improves, I ain't getting cast in this show).  David Hunter as "Guy" was a talented guitarist and had a fantastic pop voice, bringing his own energy and interpretation to Glen Hansard's songs.  It didn't hurt that he was kind of dreamy and had a great Irish accent.  Jill Winternitz as "Girl" played the piano beautifully (although I must admit I found her Czech accent to be a bit heavy - and she never lost it, even when singing), and brought a humour and spark to the character of "Girl" that was entirely new to the character that Marketa Irglova played in the film.  The rest of the cast doubled as band and chorus, singing and playing on chairs (a la productions I've seen in recent years of Sweeney Todd, Company, and Sunset Boulevard - this especially seems to be a thing in the West End), and were uniformly strong as singers and actors.  The set design of the "pub" - which through lighting cues became various other settings, including a seaside cliff outside Dublin - was fantastic, with strategic mirrors placed so that even when a character was facing upstage, their reactions could be seen.  I wasn't surprised at all to read in the program that the original workshop of Once had been scene-specific - in a pub - and they've managed to retain that sense of a site-specific piece nicely, even in a conventional theatre setting.  

Even though I knew what would happen, I found myself sobbing my heart out at the finale, and was so glad I had seen what really was a unique piece of theatre, that is still, like the film, about the connections we make that change our lives in an instant.


The only thing missing?  My friend Linda saw the same show on Broadway on the same night - and Glen Hansard made a surprise appearance to celebrate the 1000th performance of Once on Broadway.    I think she wins.  

UK Update - GISHWHES and Snowdon

Last week I participated once again in GISHWHES - the Greatest International Scavenger Hunt the World Has Ever Seen.  Created by Misha Collins (an actor most famous for his role on Supernatural), and raising money for the charity Random Acts, this video-and-photo hunt challenges people to move outside their comfort zone, attempt the impossible, and also perform random acts of kindness along the way.  I participated last year and this year, since I was going to be away from my team, I roped some colleagues in the UK into helping me.  It made for a fairly busy second week in Southampton, as I was arm wrestling movie theatre employees for tickets to Guardians of the Galaxy, creating art installations out of dishes (complete with artist statements), creating monuments to the founder of Rubber Gloves, Harris Packard, and dressing up co-workers as fish, the Flash and Batman for various ridiculous things.  

One of the major challenges on the list was to climb one of Table Mountain (South Africa), Mt. Fuji (Japan), Mt. Sinai (Egypt), Mt. Kilimanjaro (Tanzania), or Mt. Snowdon (Wales).  Being only a 5 hour drive from Wales, my paralegal Indy and I decided to give it a go, and got up very early last Friday morning to make the drive to Wales.

Wales (what I saw of it), was everything I hoped it would be.  Beautiful, idyllic, friendly, with sheep running everywhere...and don't forget the delicious, delicious Welsh cakes.  Snowdon was breathtakingly beautiful and we met up with several other teams at the summit, who we then walked back down the mountain with.  Without GISHWHES, I would never have gone to this beautiful place, or made new friends.  Plus it gave me like, 28,000 steps on my Fitbit for the day, which was rad.  

I wish we had stayed overnight, but instead we undertook the drive home, after getting down off the mountain at 9 pm or so.  We arrived home in the very early hours of Saturday morning, and I spent most of the weekend recovering, binge-watching Orphan Black and chilling out.  The remains of Hurricane Bertha hit Southampton last weekend, and you've never heard anything like the wind and rain that whistled around the flat all weekend. At one point the skylights in my flat, which is right on a pier, blew open and hail started pouring in.  I stumbled around the apartment on stiff-post-Snowdon legs, pushing the skylights back in with a pole, only to have them blow open again minutes later.  It was probably a comical sight, but I felt like I was in some sort of carnival game, trying to anticipate which one would blow open next.

I'm up in London now, which is obviously much more familiar turf.  I'm making a list of all the sights I was too lazy to see when I lived here, thinking I'd have all the time in the world, and am determined to check them all off before I leave in just over two weeks.  I am getting very homesick and lonely and at least this will give me something to do, rather than wallowing in those feelings.  I've also been asked to be a reviewer of submissions for some of the GISHWHES video tasks, which will keep me busy watching some of the craziness other GISHWHES teams around the world got up to.  So, lots to keep me distracted.  16 days until home.

I texted my brother to let him know I was in Wales. He made a joke about needing to get Welsh cakes and I was pleased to be able to text back this photo, saying, "Oh you mean THESE?"

Just breathtaking views on Snowdon, and so different from our BC landscape.

Indy and I at the summit of Snowdon.



Sunday, August 03, 2014

First Week...Home?

I've been back in the UK for a week now.  It feels like I've been here longer than that - and also like I haven't been away from here for that long (I was last here in February).  That's the funny, and I guess reassuring, thing about feeling like you are at home in a few different places.  Although it's sad that I don't feel that novelty of a new place when I come here anymore - that feeling of wonder and discovery - it does help with the homesickness.  If only Curriecat was more amenable to travel, I'd be set. 

I'm spending the first few weeks of my stay in Southampton, where my company has an office.  I'm staying in our company flat, which is perched above our offices on a quay in the middle of the port, literally in the ferry terminal where you can catch a boat to the Isle of Wight.  I can hear ferry safety announcements from my bed, and have glanced up a few times while in the living room to see a very large cruise ship sail perilously close to my window.  I've been up to London a few times, both for work and for pleasure, but have largely been spending time getting to know new co-workers and exploring Southampton.  I thought I'd give a little update on what I got up to this week:

This is a funny little monument I found in Southampton's High Street dedicated to some citizens who fought a fire in a local church.  Typically Victorian - desperately in need of an editor to cut out a few adjectives.

This is the monument.  The clock tower has a funny little cuckoo clock kind of apparatus, where two little male figures appear and beat a bell on the hour.

Sunset from my balcony.  Southampton is a working port, with huge shipping vessels as well as cruise ships and ferries to the Isle of Wight passing by regularly.

The Titanic sailed from Southampton.  There is a museum on the subject that I have yet to visit, but on one of my nightly strolls I found this monument to the Titanic's engineers.

I'll be going up to London once a week or so while I'm in Southampton.  This past week I took my boss (also visiting) to Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese in Fleet Street - the oldest pub in London and still an OK place to grab a pint.

I've been doing a lot of walking, because the weather has been uncommonly nice in England, and well - you make the most of that while you can.  On Tuesday I went to London and got home to the quay quite late - looked like my neighbour (Red Funnel Ferries) took my parking spot for the night.  Good thing I walked.

I found this hilarious graffiti in the women's toilets in a pub in London.  It made me giggle.  

I told you I was walking a lot.  My FitBit scores have been through the roof.

East Park in Southampton.  Right in the centre of town, and a nice place for a walk after work. 

Our office here allows dogs to come to work.  This is Chalky, who I babysat on Thursday.  He lost a tooth (baby tooth!) on my watch!

He's no Curriecat but he'll certainly do.  What a handsome and cuddly guy.

On Friday I had the pleasure of attending a dear colleague's wedding in Birdham, near Chichester, in Sussex. An English church wedding means fascinators/hats required.  Here's me, my boss Ben and his wife Jana waiting for the ceremony to begin.  Jana and I's fascinators are suspiciously similar...

St. James' Parish in Birdham.  Just what we foreigners imagine an English country parish to look like.
The Bride and Groom's getaway car.

A lovely country parish.  I didn't have a chance to walk around the little cemetery outside to see how old some of the burials were.  The church was restored in the 1860s so I suspect most of them date from after that time period.

Parts of this tower were built in 1545.

A reception followed at a converted barn, which had great indoor and outdoor space, so guests could dance inside, or relax outside and get some air.  I danced.  A lot. 

My ridiculously good looking (and delightful) pals, the bride and groom.  They threw an amazing party.

No travels ever seem complete without catching up with Pearson College folk.  Here's (from left) Dorota, Mike, and Gavin, some 17 years after we met, along with Gavin's wife Sanya and his sister Kimberly.  We caught up for a very leisurely lunch in St. Christopher's Place in London on Saturday.

I *think* I've kicked the jet lag now.

The weather has been amazing so far.  This is England people! Look at that blue sky (taken in Trafalgar Square, Saturday evening)!
I love me some movies, and I happened upon this great little cinema in Ocean Village in Southampton.  I've been twice so far - to see Richard Linklater's Boyhood (worth the hype), and Guardians of the Galaxy (not so much).

Any cinema where you can wait outside on the patio overlooking the ocean while enjoying a cider is just A-OK in my books.  In fact, I paid to become a member of the cinema, which entitles me to free tickets and discounts on popcorn, that kind of thing.

So, that just about wraps up my first week here in England.  There was quite a bit of actual work thrown into the mix as well, and today was a leisurely day of strolls around the neighbourhood and a late-night solo dance party for one.  The week hasn't been without its tribulations - the travel from Heathrow to Southampton after a red-eye flight nearly killed me (a train, then a train and train and a taxi, with a few detours just for fun), and a train cancellation last Sunday meant I missed my friend Alex's sold out show in London - but it really wouldn't be England without those weird hiccups, would it?


Saturday, July 05, 2014

On Belonging.

I've been thinking a lot lately about what makes us feel like we belong.  As a single person, it's often easy for me to fall into the trap of thinking that I need a significant other in order to not feel alone.  That I just need to belong to one person, and that'll be enough.  It's common that I find myself reflecting that "If I just had someone, I could…(fill in the blank)."  But I've had to start speaking to myself sternly about this, because there is so much evidence in my own life that this idea is incorrect.  There are so many other ways for us to belong: to our families, our co-workers, our friends; to theatre companies and sports teams and charities and churches.  I think that if I choose to feel alone (which I admit, I do often), it is because I am not actively reaching out to those communities that I actually do belong to, saying, "I feel lonely," or "What are we up to tonight," "I could use some company," or, and probably more importantly, making things less about me: "How can I help?"    "How are you doing?"  "Can I pitch in somehow?"

It's tough sometimes, though.  It's tough to always feel like I'm the only one to make the effort, that my social life is at the mercy of my much-more-important friends with spouses and/or families.  It's easy to retreat into my own solitary world, look at my phone longingly to see if someone has texted or called, hunker down with Curriecat and commit myself dramatically to a solitary existence.  This despite having wonderful friends, family and colleagues.  I can't walk two blocks in my neighbourhood without bumping into a friend to say hello to.  

So, yes -  I realize that the only reason I feel like I don't belong is me.  Because I do belong.  I care about people and they care about me. And it's up to me to reach out and ask for what I need and to more importantly ask what I can give back.

I belong to this crazy, loving, sometimes infuriating family. As the only "out of towner," I forget that sometimes, and feel left out, but it only takes 5 minutes (and a matching apron) to remember.


Vancouver has some really great community events, including the Dragonboat Festival, which I've missed since I moved to London.  I've decided next year I'll have to put a team together - I miss paddling.  Yes, even early morning winter practices where your hands can barely hold the paddle, you're so cold.  So it's definitely time to get back into it.

Events like Streetfood Fest really show that Vancouverites do have a desire for community, to get together and hang out.  Every Sunday we bask on this little astroturf "beach," play pingpong, and line up 30-deep at the food trucks circled at Olympic Village.

Even when I'm alone, I'm not really.  As I type this a grey cat is curled up with her tail on the computer screen.  

Monday, June 23, 2014

To London. Again!

Oh, life changes so much from moment to moment, doesn't it?  My life now hardly resembles itself one year ago.  I spent most of 2013 head down, in back to back shows from January to August.  It was a wonderful, exhausting, fulfilling experience.  This year, I've had the stability of working with one client, at one job.  Although I was so happy (and continue to be so happy) to have made the choice to move in-house, I traded my flexibility in terms of working hours for that chance, and I haven't had the same opportunities to be onstage.  But in place of performing, I've had travel.  So. Much. Travel.    

And now - more!  In July I will be heading back to my other home, and spending the summer in Southampton and London, working in my company's UK offices.  In fact, today I've sorted out all my accommodation: our company's seaside flat in Southampton and a cute Brixton studio with an outdoor pool (!) in London.  And I won't be back until September.

This is exciting, of course.  Connecting with friends, having the luxury of time to fall back into my old routines - an opportunity I didn't have when I visited in January/February - it really will be in some ways like coming home.  I'm excited, I really am.  This week I bought my first theatre tickets, to see Carey Mulligan and Bill Nighy in David Hare's Skylight, which opened last week to rave reviews.  

I'm also anxious.  I'm sure I sound melodramatic and silly, but I'm leaving Curriecat behind.  For the whole summer.  I have trusted friends who will be staying at my apartment with her, but she and I will be apart for longer than we have in her. whole. life.  We haven't spent more than 10 days apart in 8 years.  Just thinking about it makes me tear up.  I know, I'm a schmuck, but she's my baby. 

I'm trying to be positive and focus on the exciting part of this amazing opportunity I've been given, but it's difficult to leave behind the little animal that has been my immediate family for almost a decade.  Any suggestions on how to keep in touch with my kitty while I'm gone gratefully accepted.


I'm going to miss this face.  Amazing Curriecat portrait copyright Michal Russell,  luvUpets.com.


Sunday, May 04, 2014

My Earliest Memory.

I carry a very vivid recollection with me:

A split-level house in Richmond.  Spring sunshine is streaming through a crescent-shaped window in a white front door, falling on golden wood floors.  Footsteps echo loudly; the house is empty.  

I am sitting on the front stairs in the hallway, sticking my short stubby legs out in front of me to admire white sandals.  I smooth my pink bunny - a combination of blanket and puppet - over my knees, touching the soft satin of his ears.  An adult, whose face I can no longer remember, sits on the stair below, and asks me how old I am.

I hold up two fingers, and pronounce proudly, "Two."  Then I correct myself.  "Two and a HALF."

There are other snapshots that are linked to this memory: of dancing on the wood floor, to hear the clatter of my own feet.  Of staring at blue and red wallpaper in an empty bedroom, printed with the smiling faces of Raggedy Ann and Andy.  

This is either my first real memory, of our move from Richmond to Victoria, where I grew up, or it's something I've imagined, based on stories I have been told.  That's the funny thing about memory, though - it can feel as real as right now.  And maybe that's all that matters, is what feels real to us.  

Friday, April 04, 2014

Neighourhood Food: Finch's Tea and Coffee House

I discovered Finch's, located at the corner of West Pender and Richards, in 2007 and it's been a favourite ever since.  I used to be able to spend a leisurely Saturday morning/afternoon reading my book, sipping on a steamed soy milk with maple syrup, and picking away at a delicious sandwich, but now it's so busy you can't get in the door a lot of the time - which is really my only complaint.

  NO, I do not mind that it takes a long time for my food to be made.  It is fresh, carefully crafted, and always delicious.  If you're in a rush, this isn't the place for you and the food isn't meant to be enjoyed quickly anyway!



I highly recommend the Pear Baguette (prosciutto, pears and blue brie, with walnuts and olive oil), but also really enjoy the Applewood Smoked Cheddar baguette (filled with fresh lettuces, cucumber and tomato and liberally sprinkled with salt and pepper).  The oatmeal chocolate chip cookie is my favourite (beware: it has raisins), but somehow the cookies are always magically warm and gooey.  

The decor here is also charming, cozy and non-pretentious.  Great for breakfast too.  While it may not look like much from the outside, Finch's is a great place to have a meal or spend time with friends.

The Smoked Applewood Cheddar Baguette.
The Oatmeal Raisin Chocolate Chip cookies.  Somehow always magically warm.  
* This review appears on my Yelp page, which you can visit at danwithatwist.yelp.ca for more reviews.  Thanks to Yelp for making me Yelp Elite '14!

Blink and You'll Miss It.

I feel like when I went to sleep last night, it was a chilly December evening, the darkness creeping in by the afternoon, and here we are in April, with the sunlight stretching longer into the evenings as each day passes.  The time flies so fast it's frightening.   I wanted to check in and give a micro-update on my whereabouts.

In January I headed to the UK for the first time since I moved home in late 2009.  I wasn't super-excited leading up to that trip.  I didn't know if I'd get back to London and insist on staying, throwing away the good life and the good people in it that I have cultivated in Vancouver.  Instead, I just felt happy to be there - and happy to come home when the time came.  I walked over every familiar inch of my city, caught up with friends, saw a show (the fabulous The Light Princess at the National Theatre), and had a guided tour of Parliament thanks to my old friend Stephen Doughty, now Stephen Doughty, MP.  I met my UK colleagues, and visited our London and Southampton offices.  It was a wonderful visit and in some ways put to rest my life there.  Home is truly Vancouver now, and there is some peace in knowing that. 

Carnaby Street on a Saturday night.


Big Ben as seen from Cromwell Hill. I had a chance to sit on debate in the House of Lords as well as the House of Commons.

A week after I got home from England, it was off to Maui to meet up with my parents.  After a few detours in Los Angeles and Honolulu, and a very bumpy ride thanks to the Pineapple Express, I spent a week in one of my favourite places. 
In the I'ao Valley on a rainy Monday.
Keawakapu Beach.

I returned home from Maui refreshed and relaxed, but walked into a bit of a shitstorm in my personal life, and within days it felt like my vacation had never happened.  So, in March it was off to Los Angeles with my travel buddy Cathy, to get out of my own space again and get some perspective.  
In Runyon Canyon. 
Waiting to watch a taping of my favourite, The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson.  I was delighted to get a chance during a commercial break to chat with Craig.  He was sassy and snarky and Scottish, just as I'd always imagined he would be.
While we spent a lot of time walking and exploring, and spent four days in and out of the Disney park (notice the bandaids on my toes from blisters!), I did find a good chunk of time to spend right here - staring at the water and doing absolutely nothing at all.  It was glorious.
Thanks to Yelp I was able to find some of the "cooler" parts of Anaheim, where we were staying, including this great "Park n' Read" in the middle of the Centre Street Promenade in downtown Anaheim.  
Cathy and I sipped coffee from the excellent Ink and Bean cafe and read Tom Sawyer aloud.

My focus during the past months has been settling into my job as Corporate Counsel at Peer 1 Hosting.  For the first time in a long time I can say I really love my job.  I love the people I work with, and I love what we're doing.  This past week I have spent working closely with my colleagues from the legal team on planning for the year ahead.  On Monday we went to the Top of Vancouver, the revolving restaurant, on top of Harbour Centre.  I got to see my home and neighbourhood from a whole new perspective:
Gastown.  My village.
On Wednesday night we all went up Grouse Mountain to the Observatory for dinner, and to once again take in some breathtaking views of the city:

Sunset on Grouse Mountain.  April 2, 2014.


So, that's how four months passes without you even knowing it.  A combination of hard work, travel, and a little heartbreak.   I'm now easing my way back into some theatre after an extended hiatus, and am currently in rehearsals for Looking, a Norm Foster play which goes up at the Shaw Theatre on May 8th, and a community production of the Sound of Music that opens at the end of May.  It's been a slightly uncomfortable feeling, being away from performing for so long, but as usual I managed to keep myself busy - which means I'm finding now that I've thrown theatre back into the mix that I'm so busy I can't breathe.  This whole "balance" thing is so difficult when you have so much you want to accomplish.  

Friday, March 07, 2014

Theatre Review: Beggar's Opera

Seven Tyrants Theatre  has remounted their successful 2013 production of Beggar's Opera at Jericho Arts Centre, and Caitlin and I made the trek to see it last night.   Adapted and directed by David Newham from the classic 18th century opera by John Gay (which also inspired the Threepenny Opera), the show features new music by Daniel Doerksen that crosses multiple genres, with self-conscious homages to jazz, rock, musical comedy and pop.  The story is told in 10 "Fantasias," or song sequences designed to communicate a particular plot point or a character's point of view.  

I will start by saying the show is weird in the most delightful way.   David Newham has made a choice to create a world that is surreal and almost absurd.  The characters are all dressed as easily recognizable "types:"  the whore, the thief, the "virgin," the servant, sporting garish, almost-kabuki style makeup and at times, using commedia dell'arte style masks.  The tale is a relatively simple one, but the stylized movement, the deliberately poetic and stilted dialogue, interspersed with decidedly modern music, made it hard for me to follow the story.  At intermission, I turned to Caitlin and our friends Dawn and Vanessa, and said, "I love it!  I have no idea what's going on, but I love it!"  

What Beggar's Opera lacks in linear narrative, it more than makes up for in visual spectacle, bursts of startlingly effective comedy (which completely and self-consciously subverts the "serious" nature of opera), and great use of the ensemble, who are present and doing interesting things in the background of every scene - almost interesting enough to be distracting at times, but for the most part they operate effectively as a kind of Greek chorus.  Catherine Burnett's choreography is more movement than dance, but it effectively contributes to the mood of each "Fantasia" and is visually cartoon-like in places (it reminded me in places of The Triplets of Belleville), making use of lighted scrims to play with shapes and shadows.

While there were no standout numbers in terms of songs that I went away humming, Doerksen's use of many genres was impressive, and one number that parodied "Mack the Knife" (in reference to heartthrob highwayman Macheath) had the audience giggling and applauding.  The band (including Doerksen on guitar and Phyllis Ho on violin, as well as several cast members chiming on on recorder, sax and accordion) was fantastic, and the cast were enthusiastic performers, if not necessarily all accomplished singers.  Sharon Crandall's Mrs. Coaxer was a vocal highlight, and some of the three part harmonies between the "Whore's Chorus" were delightful.

I have to give a particular shout-out to my friend Chris Lam, who very nearly steals the show playing dastardly butler Filch.  Chris is a master of physical comedy and a mere change of posture, the raising of an eyebrow, the shrug of his shoulder, had the audience in stitches.  Also he stood on one foot for a very very long time in the finale, with nary a wobble.  Well done sir, well done.  

Is Beggar's Opera a perfect piece?  No.  Is it a brave one?  Yes, and absolutely entertaining.   To see a large ensemble cast fully commit to the craziness and the spectacle of this original work was just wonderful, and the production values in terms of lighting, costume and makeup were great.  If you have a chance to see it, do - it's running at Jericho Arts Centre until March 14th.   I am looking forward to seeing with Seven Tyrants gets up to next.  

Score:  4 out of 5 (Dani) Lemons.