Saturday, December 23, 2023


Reviewed by James Karas

"You're going out there a youngster, but you've got to come back a star!"

Who can forget that marvelous line uttered by a director to a neophyte singer/dancer stepping out on the stage to perform a starring role for the first time? It captures the dream of every would-be performer. It engages the wish of every audience and provides vicarious satisfaction when it happens even in a fairy tale on the stage.

Welcome to 42nd Street, the 1980 smash song-and-dance musical that conveyed that fairy tale to the opening-night audience on Broadway who greeted it with a standing ovation. When the applause died down, they were informed that Gower Champion, the famous director of the production had died that day. Reality and fairy tale clashed head on.

David Mirvish has brought 42nd Street to the Princess of Wales Theatre with the fairy tale intact but without the unpleasant reality. He has imported the United Kingdom production directed by Jonathan Church.

42nd Street, more than a fairy tale, is a song and dance extravaganza, with spectacular tap dances, beautiful songs and glitzy costumes to light up everything. 

The company of 42nd Street. Photo: John Persson

The fairy tale. Peggy Sawyer (Nicole-Lily Baisden) from Pennsylvania arrives late for the casting of a new musical, Pretty Lady. We are treated to marvelous tap dancing that sends our heart pitter-patter in tune with the steps we witness. We meet the star of the show, the egotistical and sometimes obnoxious Dorothy Brock (Ruthie Henshall)  who can sing in a delicious voice but can’t dance. She is accompanied by her sugar-daddy, southern boor Abner Dillon (Anthony Ofoegbu). But before we get there, we need some more dancing and a polite invitation to lunch to Peggy by tenor Billy (Olly Christopher) and a romantic song  by the two, “Young and Healthy.”

Dorothy is a has-been but still a star and Henshall lends her luscious voice to several songs including the romantic “I only have eyes for you.”

The plot will inevitably involve some complications (we do have more than two hours to tell the whole story). Dorothy will be injured; Peggy will be fired and the show will be in serious danger of being cancelled completely. For tap dancing afficionados, there is a feast of routines done with precision, synchronization and gusto. The costumes have glitz and glamour and are a pleasure to watch. We are in the 1930’s and the dancers have the choice of accepting the job offers or going on the dole.

The music and songs of 42nd Street have the benefit of familiarity and they are melodic, memorable and beautiful. Dorothy sings “You’re Getting To Be A Habit With Me,” the Chorus and several dancers sing “We’re In The Money” and the cast serves up “Lullaby of Broadway”. Peggy and the Dancers  sing “Forty-Second Street” and the result is, let me coin a phrase and quote David Merrick, the original producer, a song and dance musical extravaganza.

Let me praise the people on the stage that I have not mentioned already from Adam Garcia as the tough director Julian Marsh, to Josefina Gabrielle as co-writer and producer  Maggie Jones and Michael Matus as co-writers and producer Bert Barry of Pretty Lady, the show they are putting on. I need hardly say that the ensemble of dancers is superlative. What they do is provided by the choreography and musical staging of Bill Beamer, what everyone is wearing and what they are playing in front and around them is the work Robert Jones, Lighting Designer Ben Cracknell, and Projection Designer Jon Driscoll.

The biggest credit for the overall success must needs go the the director of 42nd Street (not the fictitious Pretty Lady), Jonathan Church. He is highly adept at marshalling the talent, energy, gusto and high caliber performances to give us a superb evening at the theatre.


42nd STREET  by Harry Warren (music), Al Dubin (lyrics), Michael Stewart and Mark Bramble (book) continues until January 21, 2024, at the Princess of Wales Theatre, 300 King St. West, Toronto, Ontario.

James Karas is the Senior Editor, Culture of The Greek Press

Tuesday, December 19, 2023


Reviewed by James Karas

ain’t too proud – The Life and Times of THE TEMPTATIONS is a spectacular musical that tells what the title indicates. It is in Toronto for a short run at the CAA Ed Mirvish Theatre. It will run from December 7 to 17, 2023. Mirvish’s effusive blurb describes the show as “the electrifying new smash-hit Broadway musical that follows The Temptations’ extraordinary journey from the streets of Detroit to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.” 

The musical premiered in Berkeley, California in 2017 and it played in Toronto for more than a month in the fall of 2018 at the Princess of Wales Theatre. Its current brief visit to Toronto is welcome and undoubtedly successful. For those who keep track of our national artists, they should know that the production is directed by Des McAnuff. He is a master of grand musicals and this is just one of them.

The Temptations are five talented black singers and dancers who have been around with numerous changes since 1960. They sing with gusto and dance at the same time with unstoppable energy that may put Olympic athletes to shame. Their performance consists of a series of song and dance routines that leaves the audience breathless, let alone how the performers find the strength and stamina to last for more than two hours on stage.

The group was the creation of Otis Williams, a Texas-born bass-baritone who was raised in Detroit. The musical is based on his autobiography and the story of the group is told by Williams. He tells us that there have been 27 members of the group since its inception but the original five were Otis Williams (Michael Andreaus), David Ruffin (Elijah Ahmad Lewis), Melvin Franklin (Harrell Holmes Jr.), Eddie Kendricks (Jalen Harris), and Paul Williams (E. Clayton Cornelious).

Elijah Ahmad Lewis, Jalen Harris, Michael Andreaus, Harrell Holmes Jr., 
E. Clayton Cornelious from the National Touring Company of Ain’t Too Proud 
(Photo: © 2023 Emilio Madrid

I cannot overemphasize the performances of the original five and some of the replacements that we see that display vocal strength and athletic ability in dancing and singing.

The musical also features The Supremes, Diana Ross (Amber Mariah Talley), Florence Ballard (Shayla Brielle G.) and Mary Wilson (Brittney Smith)

We are treated to more than two dozen songs and you can judge their familiarity and popularity by the audience’s reactions.

The Supremes sing a medley of songs including "You Can't Hurry Love" and "Come See About Me."

With five talented people and many changes in the makeup of the group there are inevitable conflicts. David Ruffin sings with Tammi Terrell (Shayla Brielle G.) and ends up striking her. There is alcoholism, drug addiction, vehement arguments, ego trips and separations. There is also death, including Otis’s son, and a funeral, the full cycle of life. Otis Williams as our host relates the events to us but that is just background information. They then burst into song and dance with vocal fervor and athletic movements, arms flailing, feet moving frantically, all synchronized, impressive, entertaining.

Sergio Trujillo provides the over-the-top, boisterous  choreography. The scenic design by Robert Brill consists of a backdrop indicating the place where The Temptations are performing but also the names of the cities that they toured. It is a fine indicator of the supreme success of the group that they performed not just in numerous American cities but practically around the world.
Ain’t too proud, The life and times of The Temptations  by Dominique Morisseau (book) based on Otis Williams’ autobiography The Temptations, with music and lyrics from The Legendary Motown Catalogue, played at The CAA Ed Mirvish Theatre, 244 Victoria St. Toronto, Ontario.

James Karas is the Senior Editor, Culture of The Greek Press

Thursday, December 14, 2023


Reviewed by James Karas

If you want to see Tony Kushner’s epic plays Angels in America, you will have to devote two evenings and more than seven hours of intense attention. There are two parts, Angels in America, Part One, Millennium Approaches and Part Two, Perestroika. Kushner subtitles his doubleheader A Gay Fantasia on National Themes and that should give you a small handle on what to look for.

The pair of plays opened in 1991 and deal with a broad spectrum of American social issues with a focus on the AIDS epidemic of the time, homosexuality and the rise of conservatism. That Theatre Company and Buddies in Bad Times Theatre give the plays a highly effective if pared down production in the latter company’s tiny theatre on Alexander Street in Toronto.

The two plays contain numerous scenes and a complex plot that is not easily summarized but I will mention a few items to give some idea of the breadth of the play.

Kushner deals brutally, graphically and unapologetically with homosexuality and the AIDS epidemic and much more. There are eight actors who play some twenty characters. The plays go from the harshly realistic to the surreal with pungent remarks about political and social life during Ronald Reagan’s presidency and supernatural events like the appearance of angels and the ghost of Ethel Rosenberg, the American traitor who passed secrets about the atomic bomb to the Soviets. She was executed partly and perhaps mainly because of Roy Cohn, one of the lawyers who prosecuted her.

Prior Walters is a homosexual in the 20th century (played by Allister MacDonald) but also appears as a thirteenth century ghost (played by Wade Bogert-O’Brien who also plays Joe) and a seventeenth century wigged aristocratic ghost played by Jim Mezon who also plays Roy Cohn. It gets complicated, no?

Angels in America. Poto by Nathan Nash 

The best-known character in the play is Roy Cohn, a powerful lawyer, a bisexual who denied vehemently any sexual contact with men and died of AIDS. He was a malevolent, vile and vicious man, a Rottweiler, a fraudster, an egomaniac and the quintessence of evil. Jim Mezon gives a stunning performance, capturing the evil forcefulness of Cohn with bruising effectiveness.

In his final appearance in Perestroika, we see Cohn in a hospital bed visited by Ethel Rosenberg. He hallucinates or pretends that she is his mother and begs her to sing to him. She does and it seems that he is dead but he bolts up and triumphantly announces that he fooled her and got her to sing to him. She gets the pleasure of telling him that he has been disbarred. He dies.

Joe (Wade Bogart-O’Brien) is one of the main characters, a friend of Cohn’s who tries to manipulate him. Joe is a lawyer clerking for an appellate judge, a Mormon married to the valium-addicted Harper (Christine Horne) and a homosexual who vehemently denies it.  Joes goes for long walks in Central Park and comes out of the closet and falls in love with Louis. He is abandoned by him for political reasons. Joe is a conservative and a friend of the despicable Cohn. He tries to reconcile with his wife but nothing works for him. Bogart-O’Brien gives a stellar performance.

Joe’s wife Harper (Christine Horne) has serious problems with addiction and a husband who goes out for mysterious walks in Central  Park. She hallucinates about going to the Antarctic. She has sex and imagines being in heaven but all she wants is to be in San Francisco. We presume she overcomes her hallucinations and does end up in San Francisco.

Belize (Kaleb Alexander) is a decent and caring registered nurse who has a lot stacked against him. He is black, a former drag queen, gay and decent in an indecent world. He is assigned to look after Cohn in the hospital and has enough decency to do it. Alexander also plays the flamboyant Mr. Lies, Harper’s imaginary friend who emerges from a trap door on the stage to be with her. Superb performance.

Louis (Ben Sanders) is an idealistic Jew in love with Prior Walter but when the latter contracts AIDS, he abandons him. Louis does achieve maturity and displays faith in American democracy that is buffeted by the conservatives during Ronald Reagan’s presidency in the mid 1980’s. Ironically, it is as if nothing has changed in the last forty years. Superb performance by Sanders who also plays the ghost of Prior Walter in an unrecognizable English accent.  

Prior Walter (Allister MacDonald) retains his decency despite being rejected by his lover on account of his AIDS. After his death, he returns as a ghost on two occasions played by different actors. Prior is made a prophet by the Angel but he rejects it. In the end Louis tries to rekindle the old love and relationship. Prior generously avows that he loves Louis but rejects any idea of reconciliation. Marvelous performance  

The Angel (Soo Garay) is a mysterious and intriguing figure. Her wings have been clipped or fallen off and she has the barest indication  of  them. She wants to make Prior Walter a prophet but he rejects her.     

Director Craig Pike must organize the actors and the action of a complex play in a small rectangular playing area with the audience perched on each side. The advantage is that the audience is very close to the actors but the disadvantage is that we look at the back of one actor when two of them are seated on the stage facing each other. Unless the actors are moving around, this is unavoidable but undesirable.

There is very little room for a set of almost any kind except for two beds at opposite ends of the rectangle that are wheeled in and out as required and a few chairs being placed on the stage for some scenes and removed by the actors when they walk off. This is what I mean by a pared down version. 

Angels in America, Parts One and Two is a complex play with numerous characters and frequent scene changing. It is done on an almost bare stage and it requires close attention to keep up with the people and events. But it is theatre of high quality and That Theatre Company and Buddies in Bad Times Theatre deserve a standing ovation for the production.

Angels in America: Part One: Millennium Approaches and Part Two: Perestroika by Tony Kushner continue until December 17, 2023, at the Buddies in Bad Times Theatre,  12 Alexander Street, Toronto, Ontario.

James Karas is the Senior Editor, Culture of The Greek Press 

Tuesday, December 12, 2023


Reviewed by James Karas

If you are wondering about the title of the musical simply pronounce the two words and you should get Christmases. Chris, Mrs. is indeed a new musical unabashedly about Christmas and thoroughly enjoyable.

Its music, book and lyrics are by Matthew Stodolak and Katie Kerr. Stodolak is also the musical director and Katie Kerr directs the musical. They are a bright, young couple with experience in regional theatres and the ambition, talent and ability to write Chris, Mrs. and produce it at The Winter Garden Theatre in Toronto. That alone entitles them to a standing ovation. 

The musical takes place around Christmas, in fact much of it takes place on Christmas Eve. It is a  love story that has a few bumps to keep us entertained for over two hours with some wonderful songs, outstanding dancing and humour. The stars are Ben Chris (Liam Tobin) and Holly Carmichael (Danielle Wade) with Olivia Sinclair-Brisbane (Vicki Vandrelle) and AJ Bridel (Claire Chris) and a couple rambunctious children, Samantha  (played by Addison Wagman alternating with Finn Cofell) and Samuel (played by Lucien Duncan-Reid  alternating with Isaac Grates Myers). They are hilarious.

There are some seventeen actors and some of them dance up a storm and we have more than a dozen musical numbers from solos to ensembles. I will not disclose the plot because this is a new show and it will hold your attention more effectively if you see it firsthand.

Liam Tobin, Olivia Sinclair-Brisbane and ensemble.
Photo Max Power Photography

We need conflict and it comes when Ben Chris wants to sell the family lodge that is run by his brother Charlie Chris (Kale Penny). Ben goes to the lodge with his twins Samantha and Samuel, his teenage daughter Claire and his hoity-toity girlfriend Vicki. Will Ben convince Charlie to sell the lodge?

And those rocket-fueled children write to Santa, Nick in the play (Mark Weatherly), and he gives them holly which is the right gift if you write it with a capital H. You will have to untangle the rest for yourself in a romantic, family-friendly comedy that is perfect for the season.  

The songs are  melodic, romantic, comic and entertaining. We start with “Just Another Jingle,” go to the children’s “Dear Santa” to “All I Want  for Christmas” to “Vicki’s Lament.” There is a healthy offering of solos and ensemble pieces to fill up the evening.

Sarah Vance provides the superb choreography and Cory Sincennes designed the sets emphasizing the colour blue and costumes that are just what you want in a Christmas show.

I had a problem with some of the actors’ enunciation but the singing and the display of rhythm and athleticism of the dancing  was second to none.

Where I sat near the front, left I felt that the musicians should have been playing at reduced volume at times to allow the singers to be heard more clearly but my seat may have been too close to the band to merit this observation that may not apply to the rest of the audience.

The performers deserve praise and credit and I should mention that most of them are highly experienced. Chris, Mrs. is a youthful show but it is done on a highly professional level. Just go see it.


Chris, Mrs. - A New Holiday Musical by Matthew Stodolak and Katie Kerr, produced by Boldly Productions,  continues until December 30, 2023,  at The Winter Garden Theatre, 189 Yonge St. Toronto.

James Karas is the Senior Editor, Culture of The Greek Press 

Wednesday, December 6, 2023


Reviewed James Karas

Here Lies Henry is a one-actor play that covers a wide range of matters. At 80-minutes it looks like murder for the actor but Damien Atkins performs it like the seasoned professional that he is. His character Henry goes  from an awkward beginning to a boisterous middle and wordy end, enough to test the mettle of any actor. Atkins performs with aplomb and no sign of fatigue or faltering. Kudos for his performance.

I am not sure I would give the same high marks to the play. If there is a structure to what Henry, the character in the play is addressing, it was not apparent and I must admit that I found myself mentally wandering away from what was happening on the stage.

Atkins as Henry enters barefoot wearing a black suit, black tie and a white shirt. The stage is dark except for a column of bright light behind him. He speaks haltingly almost as if he has a speech impediment and stays on the same spot for some time. Henry tries to ingratiate himself with the audience by telling a couple of jokes  and relates some incidents badly and incoherently. He hits the spot only when he tells us about going to a symposium of vegetarians where there was an all-you-can-eat salad bar. The punch line is that no wonder vegetarians don’t eat pigs, they are pigs. A good line that got a big laugh but it was one of the few.

Henry gives us some personal information, quotes Nietzsche and continues talking haltingly about lying and his parents. He describes at some length the types of lies that there are, the stages of growing up and gives a funny recapitulation of Genesis and the curt observation that Eve was created from a rib. Do you want fries with that rib?     

Damien Atkins in Here Lies Henry. Photo: Dahlia Katz

His speech becomes assured, he does some dance steps, gets closer to the audience and engages members including getting a cigarette and a lighter from one attendee. His engaging the audience may not have been very successful because of the small number of people in the audience.  I did not count them but there could not have been many more than thirty people in attendance. That can be murder for the actor that tries to develop a rapport with them. Atkins kept soldiering on, to his credit.

Henry talks about himself and his parents again and the prose gets weaker and one’s attention span shorter. Heny tries to tell us about love but he gets repetitive, uncertain, faltering, uninteresting.

Henry seems to have run out of steam and he tells us that he became a commercial pilot but could not fly because he was too tall. And something about Noah’s Ark. More about his parents and about himself as a liar and so it ends. 

There are some flashes of lights and some thunderclaps and Henry does move around in the latter half of the monologue. The stage is empty except for a chair that Henry brings to the stage from the front of the theatre but unfortunately, I could not find enough salad to make a pig of myself or, not being a vegetarian, enough meat to satiate my theatrical hunger.

Director Tawiah M’Carthy does a good job directing but, in the end, there may have been only so much that he could do with the script.
Here Lies Henry by Daniel MacIvor directed by  Tawiah M’Carthy continues until December 17, 2023, at the Factory Theatre, 125 Bathurst Street, Toronto, Ontario.

Wednesday, November 29, 2023


Reviewed by James Karas 

The Lehman Trilogy is an epic play about the rise of the Lehman family from German immigrants to the United Sates to the billionaires and owners of Lehman Brothers, a  conglomerate of businesses that descended into the largest bankruptcy in American history.

The play takes us from 1844 when Henry Lehman, “a circumcised Jew with only one piece of luggage” arrived at the port of New York. After a tough and highly educational crossing of the Atlantic, he comes face to face with America that he sees as a magical music box. It is the story and vision of many immigrants.

He goes to Montgomery, Alabama where he works hard in a clothing store and saves his money. He opens his own store. His brother Emmanuel arrives and then Mayer, the third and last brother, follows him. They expand their business and the sign LEHMAN BROTHERS in gold letters is prominently displayed. They are on their way up.  

The Lehman Trilogy is based on Stefano Massini’s writing as adapted by Ben Power. It has only three actors, Ben Carlson as Henry Lehman, Graeme Somerville as Emmanual and Jordan Pettle as Mayer. They take on many roles but essentially remain the original three brothers and their progeny and some other characters until the 21st century.  

The play is written in verse and it is an epic in the Homeric sense where a bard tells a heroic story to an audience, in this case us. Each brother speaks his own lines but also describes other events in the history of the three brothers and the company. After a fire destroys their store in Alabama, they go into the sale of equipment to cotton plantation owners and are paid in cotton. They sell the cotton to the mills and make a handsome profit. 

Ben Carlson, Jordan Pettle and Graeme Somerville in
‘The Lehman Trilogy’, Photo by Dahlia Katz

The play is episodic and we move on to 1855 when Henry dies but he remains in the play and continues to address the audience and speak for other characters.

Lehman Brothers expands and diversifies They conquer New York and survive the great depression and they establish businesses around the world. The last Lehman in an executive position is Bobby who dies in 1969. The final scene of the trilogy is an imaginary dream play. What starts as a Homeric epic ends as a Greek tragedy. Hubris takes over and pushes sound thinking to the side. They speak of immortality, of taking over the world. Much of the discussion uses Wall Street language and what was a story of three brothers doing well gets muddled with ambition, greed, corporate wars and money, lots of money.

There is a surreal scene where Bobby Lehman dances the twist and everyone is dancing. The Russians, the Chinese, CEOs Dick Fuld, “the Gorilla,” and Lew Glucksman dance as does Bobby to age 120. He died in 1969. It is a confusing scene that may make poetic sense.

The play ends on an elegiac note recalling the past and the big changes with Pete Peterson taking over and being pushed out by Dick Fuld and becoming a billionaire in the processes. They recall the three brothers opening a store in Alabama, surviving fire and flood and standing together dreaming of America.

The Lehman Trilogy is a hugely successful play and a  hit wherever it has been produced. It has won praise and awards galore. But I cannot share in all the enthusiasm it has generated. It is a three-act play that runs for 3 hours and 20 minutes with two intermissions. A three-act play does not become a trilogy because it covers to a greater or lesser extent the period of 1844 to 2008. The Lehman Trilogy seems like the story of the Lehman family, especially the founding three brothers who are the main characters of the play. But the heirs of the founders ceased having any control in the company in 1969 and  therefore had nothing to do with the 2008 bankruptcy of the huge enterprise that bore the name Lehman.

The mammoth company called Lehman Brothers that engaged in fraud and caused immeasurable  harm to people in 2008 does not figure all that prominently in the play. It was a complex affair and the three Lehman brothers and their heirs that tell the story are not the right people to tell us about it. they had nothing to do with the company after 1969.

The bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers is the most important event in the company’s  but not the family’s history and it is skimmed over. It was caused by greed and fraud on an unimaginable scale. If you consider the fraud, skullduggery and devastating effect on investors, employees and ordinary people who had borrowed money on subprime mortgages and lost their houses, you will not find it in this play. The rise of the Lehman brothers may well be an epic story worth telling but surely the devastating effect on the people who suffered from its bankruptcy is at least as important. 

Ben Carlson, Graeme Somerville and Jordan Pettle are outstanding actors who give stunning performances. They speak directly to the audience, speak to each other and represent other characters with finesse and inherent talent.

Camellia Koo’s set does little to indicate the changes in locations from the New York dock to Alabama to New York over well over a century.

The Lehman Trilogy is indeed an epic story, especially in presenting the Lehman family but it falls short in dealing with the tragic end of their success after they left the company.
The Lehman Trilogy by Stafano Massini, adapted by Ben Power in a production by Canadian Stage continues  until December 2, 2023, at the Bluma Appel Theatre, St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts, 27 Front Street East, Toronto, Ontario.

Sunday, November 26, 2023


Reviewed by James Karas

The second offering of the Shaw Festival’s current Holiday Season is Brigadoon, that wonderful musical cum fairy  tale by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe that takes us to the Scottish highlands of our imagination and to New York City in 1946. We visit a beautiful and magical village in never-never land that is full of beauty, innocence and love. It is gorgeous.

This is a revival of the Shaw Festival’s 2019 production and it has lost none of its appeal. It uses the revised book by Brian Hill and the music, songs, humour and gorgeous sets take us to a world that exists only in the theatre and the imagination.

Brigadoon is a village that is not on the map and it appears only once every one hundred years. It appeared again in 1946 which happens to be the date when two Americans fall into it. Tommy Albright (Stewart Adam McKensy) is about to get married in New York and he has been sent with his friend Jeff Douglas (Kevin McLachlan) to Scotland on a hunting trip. The two get lost and find a picturesque village that is not on the map. It is Brigadoon.

The village is bustling with activity and the two Americans meet the colourful local people. The bonny lass Fiona and Tommy are attracted to each other and they fall in love. Jeff is pursued by Meg (Kristi Frank) a lusty lass who is rather generous with her gifts to men. Jean MacLaren (Madelyn Kriese) is getting married to Charlie (David Andrew Reid) but they are not allowed to see each other until after the wedding. Harry (Travis Seeto) is in love with Jean and bitter that she rejects him. He will come to a bad end when he tries to interfere with the happy nuptials.

David Andrew Reid as Charlie Dalrymple with the 
cast of Brigadoon. Photo by David Cooper.

The two friends return to New York and the crucial question becomes: will Tommy reject Jane (Deborah Castrilli), his American fiancée who is waiting for the wedding the next day and return to Brigadoon to find Fiona?

We have a long way to go before someone must make that decision. The delightful story of two American veterans in a magical land has some beautiful songs and spectacular dances choreographed for the original production by the inimitable Agnes DeMille and for this production by Linda Garneau. The people of Brigadoon make a great ensemble for the choral pieces, Fiona sings the beautiful and  romantic “Waiting for my Dearie” while Meg delivers the lusty “The Love of my Life” and admits that she gave many men her heart and a few other things and offers the same to Jeff.

Charlie can’t wait for the marriage to be done with and begs Jean to “Come to me, Bend to Me” and all he wants is a kiss. Meg tells the hilarious story of “My Mother’s Wedding Day” where a huge crowd got roaring drunk, her father the drunkest, until the preacher finally performed the ceremony. Meg was there, she tells us.

Stewart Adam McKensy and Alexis Gordon in
 Brigadoon (Shaw Festival, 2023). Photo by David Cooper.

Tommy and Fiona strike a different tune and sing of “Almost Like Being in Love.” The above are a few examples of the melodies composed by Loewe and Lerner’s splendid lyrics.

The set designed by Pam Johnson is surpassingly beautiful from the opening of the curtains to the end. A village with old houses in a wooded valley with mountains in the back. The people are dressed in traditional Scottish clothes designed by Sue LePage and the impression is that of a paradise.

We do see short video projections of troops and war. The two men are veterans of World War II and their sudden discovery of Brigadoon is a long way from their recent reality. We get a glimpse of Tommy’s wedding rehearsal party and the beautiful would-be bride Jane  but he cannot get Fiona out of his mind.

The dancing was of very high quality, the singing had some weaknesses and the ability to do Scottish accents was minimal. But the musical and the production are indomitable. A visit to a magical land is always welcome but a place like Brigadoon at this time of the year is especially welcome and wonderful. A deep bow to Glynis Leyshon for her superb directing and handling of the acting, singing and pacing of a great show.  
Brigadoon by Alan Jay Lerner (book and lyrics) and Frederick Loewe (music) continues until December 23, 2023, at the Festival Theatre, 10 Queen’s Parade, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario.

James Karas is the Senior Editor, Culture of The Greek Press

Thursday, November 23, 2023


Reviewed by James Karas

Before you enter the playing area of the Coal Mine Theatre, you are asked to take your shoes off. In the theatre, you see a slender woman in white slacks and blouse with blonde/grey hair covering most of her face. She appears to be in a trance as she expands her arms and moves slowly. The playing area is a circle with a couple of dozens of bowls full of stones from pebbles to fist-sized and a round red rug in the centre. The audience of about 60 sit in a circle around the playing area.

The woman crouches down and her face touches the floor as she starts wailing. She stands up and starts telling us stories.

The woman in the centre is Jani Lauzon who has created and is the sole performer of Prophecy Fog, stories about native beliefs, their relationship with nature and her    personal experiences. There is a large screen above the playing area that shows images of the sky, a desert, the Giant Rock in the Mojave Desert as well as videos of the author and her daughter. 

Jani Lauzon in Prophecy Fog. Photo: Dahlia Katz

The fabled Giant Rock is a central image in Prophecy Fog and Lauzon tells us about Frank Critzer who dug out a home near the rock and lived there and about George van Tassel who lived there as well. The Giant Rock fractured in two and has suffered the indignity of graffiti and Lauzon shows us the swastikas, obscenities and white supremacist garbage scrawled on it.

Lauzon treats the rocks as if they are living objects. If you listen to them, they will speak to you or you will be able to communicate with them. She tells us stories of elders from whom she heard stories about our relations with nature. She slowly empties all the bowls in the playing area and she chooses pebbles and larger stones and holds them up lovingly and puts them on her body.

Lauzon is an outstanding storyteller and she tells us about her background of being raised in a foster home until she graduated from high school, about going to the Mojave Desert with her daughter and about her love of and close relationship with nature, something that we seem to have lost but one day may rediscover.

                                    Jani Lauzon in Prophecy Fog. Photo: Dahlia Katz

Prophecy Fog is an amazing creation of movement, music and storytelling that I understood only partially because I admit shamefacedly, I lack a sufficient background in indigenous mythology and culture.

On her website Jani Lauzon is described as Writer/Actor/Director/Musician/Puppeteer and a multidisciplinary artist of Métis/French/Finnish ancestry. Gee, is that all?

The production is directed by Franco Boni with Environmental Design by Melissa Joakim. They are responsible for the quality of the sets and performance, of course. It lasts 75 minutes with no intermission. It is an astounding show and an extraordinary performance.
Prophecy Fog by Jani Lauzon in a production by Paper Canoe Projects continues until December 10, 2023, at the Coal Mine Theatre, 2076 Danforth Ave. Toronto, (northwest corner of Woodbine and Danforth) or

 James Karas is the Senior Editor, Culture of The Greek Press

Wednesday, November 22, 2023


Reviewed by James Karas

To Kill A Mockingbird is playing at the CAA Ed Mirvish Theatre, Toronto, until November 27, 2023. That is tight timing and if you love theatre, you should go and see it.

There can be few people who have not  heard of Harper Lee’s great novel. It was published in 1960 and has become an American classic. It is set in 1930s Alabama where racism is a roaring disease with Blacks being considered as subhuman and the Ku Klux Klan is ascendant. The novel tells the story of Tom Robinson (Yaegel T. Welch) a black man charged with beating and raping a young white girl. He is defended by Atticus Finch (Richard Thomas) a country lawyer who rises above the indecency of most of the locals. He thinks he can find enough decency in an all-white, male jury to get an acquittal.

To Kill A Mockingbird is also the story of growing up in a small town in Alabama where widower  Atticus Finch is raising two children with help of a Black woman.

In 1962 the novel was made into a great movie starring Gregory Peck and was adapted for the stage by Christopher Sergel in 1970, That stage adaptation was produced around the United States and in 2018 by the Stratford Festival. Aaron Sorkin adapted the novel anew for a production on Broadway in 2018 and it has proven to be remarkably successful, if less faithful to the novel. 

The current touring production in Toronto is an outstanding example of superb theatre. Richard Thomas’s Atticus Finch defines human decency and standing for justice against the prevailing racism and ugliness of his society. As a side comment I note that Atticus is a hero to law students for his stand during the night outside the Maycomb County jail where his client is held and the Ku Klux Klan attends in force to lynch him. 

Justin Mark (“Jem Finch”), Richard Thomas (“Atticus Finch”), 
Melanie Moore (“Scout Finch”) and Steven Lee Johnson (“Dill Harris”). 
Photo Credit: Julieta Cervantes

Thomas gives a nuanced performance as a good father, neighbour and human being. In the Alabama of yesteryear and in far too many places in the United States today, he may still be considered an exception and almost a villain. His performance alone is worth seeing the production.

Atticus’ children, Scout (Melanie Moor) and Jem (Justin Mark) with their friend Dill (Steven Lee Johnson)  are, to coin a phrase, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and they provide much of the humour of the play. Wonderful performances by three actors who are not youngsters but they do a damn  good job acting as such.

Yagel T. Welch gives a powerful and moving performance as Tom Robinson. He too is the soul of decency and he helps the young and pathetic Mayella (Mariah Lee) with some chores because he feels sorry for her. He is not allowed to say that because a black person is not permitted to say or feel.sorry for the whites. He is instructed not to say he feels sorry for her to the white jurors, In a supreme irony, Robinson blurts out the truth that he did feel sorry for her. That may have sealed his conviction.   

Richard Thomas (“Atticus Finch”) and Yaegel T. Welch (“Tom Robinson”). 
Photo Credit: Julieta Cervantes

Mariah Lee renders a pathetic and pitiful Mayella who is abused by her father in the worst incestuous way imaginable. She befriends Robinson and tries to have physical, even sexual contact with a decent human being. When her father Bob Ewell (Ted Koch) sees this, he beats her to a pulp and accuses Robinson of raping her. Robinson and Ewell are on the two extremes of humanity: the supremely decent and the utterly evil.

Jeff Still presents a decent and humane Judge Taylor who presides over the trial and has a sense of humour. Jacqueline Williams  plays a fine Calpurnia, the black woman who raised and looks after Atticus’s children after his wife’s death. She provides a small antidote of realism to Atticus’s optimism about the improvement of racial relations. She is not optimistic and she is right.

Miriam Buether’s sets are suitable, practical and efficient. The porch of the Finch house, the courtroom and the empty space on the street or in front of the courthouse are quickly changed as necessary and are all that we need for an outstanding production.

Sorkin’s superb adaptation finds a master director in Bartlett Sher to bring the whole thing together. The performances move well and the impact is indelible. Even if you have seen the movie and previous productions of the Sergel adaptation, you will be left astounded by this extraordinary night at the theatre.
To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee, adapted by Aaron Sorkin opened on November 21 and will run until November 27, 2024, at the CAA Ed Mirvish Theatre. The production will be reprised on May 28, to June 2, 2024. For more information go to

James Karas is the Senior Editor, Culture of The Greek Press

Monday, November 20, 2023


Reviewed by James Karas 

Diplos Ellinikos (Διπλός Ελληνικός) literally means “double Greek” and it is not a reference to a Greek who eats too much baklava or galaktobouriko. It refers to the way you take your Greek coffee and it is the title of George Skandalis’s new play.

It is a frenetic farce done at fever pitch  Imagine someone driving a Ferrari on a side street in Toronto and behaving as if you were on the Indy 500 track. There is no slowing down.

The main characters are Hara (Stella Mastrogiannakou who also plays Kafetzou) and Paraskevi (Deme Delis), two friends looking for love. They go to Madame Electra (Irene Bithas), a  kafetzou  meaning a woman who can tell your fortune, past, present and future, by reading the remains of your Greek coffee cup. But Madame Electra can accomplish the same by smelling certain parts of their bodies. I will not tell which ones, but she concluded and concludes that Hara is in love with Vasili and Paraskevi is in love with all the men in the neighbourhood.

Hara and Paraskevi go to a restaurant and Hara sees Vasilis (Gerasimos Pagoulatos)  proposing to Maria (Rania Bampasi).  Shock, dismay, furor. How can he do this to Hara who is in love with him?  But Hara does meet the waiter Yiannis (Peter Athanasopoulos)  The effervescent Paraskevi suggests that Hara become a kafetzou and, skipping a few details here, she does. She puts on an ornate wig, dresses bizarrely and, presto, she is a fortune teller. With Paraskevi doing some research and with some pretty stupid (and well-off) clients Hara becomes a success story.

Stella Mastrogiannakou, Deme Delis and Irene Bithas. 
Photo:Christina Coutsogeras 

In the meantime, Hara has fallen in love with the aggressively honest Yiannis that we just mentioned. Maria’s prospective mother-in-law (I think) visits Hara the Kafetzou and she is convinced to break up Vasilis’s upcoming marriage. It works and Vasilis is distraught and drunk in extremis. He repents dumping Hara and phones her to rekindle the fire that had been extinguished. No luck for him and sweet revenge for Hara.

Moving right along, Yiannis’s mother Soula visits Hara as does Maria and her mother Popi (Christina Houtris), and Vasilis and his mother do the same and with that many people in Hara’s apartment the situation reaches a high pitch of chaos with off-colour jokes aplenty and possible disaster.

Nonsense. All is worked out and there is a happy ending. Oh. I did not mention that blonde in red leather pants Lena (Niki Botteas) consults Hara and, how can I put this delicately,

gets the hots for Paraskevi. The latter is revealed as a “bahsexual” as Bitha would put it and we can only assume a life of joy and fulfilment will follow.

The play  has fourteen actors and with a minor exception is performed at break-neck speeds. As in all good farces, they speak so fast and scene changes are so frequent, I could not keep up with who is who. Demi Delis speaks so fast, if there were a radar in the theatre her tongue would have received a speeding ticket or even been arrested for dangerous tongue speed. Most of the others went over the limit but the frantic pace demanded by director Scandalis left them with little choice.

Peter Athanasopoulos (standing) and Stella Mastrogiannakou.
                                              Photo:Christina Coutsogeras 

Irene Bithas deserves special mention as being perhaps the most experienced comic actor in the production. She has an instinct for comedy and gets a laugh from almost any situation. Almost all the actors are part of the farcical situations and get their share of laughs. The male lovers are almost the straight men of the comedy but with the ridiculous women there is relatively little left for them.

Scandalis, who also directs the production, does not hesitate to use off-colour or should I say colourful language in the service of laughter and silly situations are his forte in a play that is unabashedly farcical. The audience reacted with gales of laughter, at times laughing for so long as to make it impossible to hear the follow-up lines.

If my memory is correct, this Skandalis’s fourth production at the Alumnae Theatre and if we feel that there is a paucity of Greek theatre in Toronto, we cannot blame him. For those who do not like live theatre, there is always plenty of baklava and galaktobouriko to wolf down.
Diplos Ellinikos by George Scandalis will continue with four more performances from November 23 to 26, 2023 inclusive  at the Alumnae Theatre, 70 Berkeley Street, Toronto, Ontario.

Saturday, November 18, 2023


Reviewed by James Karas

Morris Panych’s new play, Withrow Park, has the benefit of being named after a familiar landmark in Toronto and of being a marvelous piece of theatre done to perfection at the Tarragon Theatre. It is directed and acted by some of the best theatre people around. Jackie Maxwell directs a splendid cast made up of Benedict Campbell, Nancy Palk, Corrine Koslo and Johnathan Sousa.

The play is set in the comfortable living room of a house with a view of the park and the plot is made up of a mystery wrapped in hilarious one-liners. Arthur (Benedict Campbell) is a retired schoolteacher who loved teaching but hated children. He just realized that he is gay but his lover has left him for a dog-walker in Arizona. He is distraught and thinks that he perhaps is not gay after all. His ex-wife reminds him that  you can’t go back in the closet once you have come out.

Campbell gave a superb performance. His Arthus is not having a good life. He is living with Janet (Nancy Palk) who is his ex-wife and her sister Marrion (Corrine Koslo)  whom he dated before meeting Janet. She describes him as emotionally unreachable and when he is about to leave her, she tells him that she loves him and adds the rejoinder “but don’t come back.” Campbell times his delivery for maximum effect. He hesitates, pauses, grimaces, smiles, agonizes and makes us laugh. 

Benedict Campbell, Corrine Koslo, Johnathan Sousa, and 
Nancy Palk. Photo: Cylla von Tiedemann

Nancy Palk’s Janet is a no-nonsense woman who does everything for her inept husband and her useless sister who sits with a book on her lap without ever reading it. Palk has that marvelous voice and attitude that suits the role of Janet. She does everything around the house and looks for a way out of there. A wonderful performance as usual.

Koslo’s Marion spends her  time doing nothing and looking out the window on the park and imagining things. She has a sharp tongue and delivers Panych’s one-liners with panache.

Johnathan Sousa’s Simon is the mysterious character who knocks on the door at the beginning of the play and provides the additional element to the dysfunctional existence  of the three residents of the house. Simon is new to the neighbourhood and he has an exotic and unknowable background. He seems to have come for dinner but he addresses the audience directly while the other three stay petrified in their chairs. He tells us that he has been murdered. We meet him after dinner, having dessert but the family has no recollection of him ever coming to the house after the initial knock  on the door. 

Johnathan Sousa, Benedict Campbell, Corrine Koslo and 
Nancy Palk. Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann

We see him with arms stretched out like  a statue of Zeus with the other members of the family sitting motionless  in the dark and he announces that he has been killed and of course is dead.

The play (and Panych himself, perhaps) is preoccupied with death including Marion who tells us that she intends to commit suicide. She watches people in the park and her imagination goes in overdrive.

Panych wraps the play rather quickly when Arthur departs and the two sisters look wistfully into the light.

Ken MacDonald’s beautiful set shows a comfortable living room with large windows looking onto the park. Jack Maxwell directs the play splendidly, always careful of timing and making sure that the funny one-liners are delivered dead-on and maintaining the non-realistic mystery scenes with the visitor Simon.

A funny, thoughtful and splendid play in a terrific production.
Withrow Park by Morris Panych opened on November 15 and will run December 3, 2023, at the Tarragon Theatre, 30 Bridgman Ave. Toronto, Ontario.

James Karas is the Senior Editor, Culture of The Greek Press

Thursday, November 16, 2023


Reviewed by James Karas

The Shaw Festival has revived its production of A Christmas Carol yet one more time. What did you expect for the holiday season, The Murders in the Rue Morgue? Never mind.

Charles Dickens’ 1843 novella is by any measurement one of the best-known stories ever written. Every year there are countless stage adaptations of the story and we never tire of seeing them. Why? Because it is a wonderful story of a miser who is visited by the ghost of his former partner and three spirits and is transformed into a decent and generous human being. Look around you in well-off Canada (for some) and open your eyes further afield and the transformation of a bad man into a good one becomes a wonderful dream, fulfilled.

Tim Carroll, the Artistic Director of the Shaw Festival, adapted A Christmas Carol for the Festival’s holiday season in 2018 and it has been revived every year since with different directors and some cast changes. It has never ceased to entertain.

This year’s revival is deftly directed by Brendan McMurtry-Howlett who, along with the cast, emphasizes the fun of the play. Before the performance starts, the cast mingles with the audience chatting, providing some music and tossing a ball across the auditorium. We enter Scrooge’s office through a door – a board held by an actor, and see his desk, another board on the head of an actor. When the action requires it, Scrooge himself becomes “the door”.

Kiana Woo as Tiny Tim puppeteer, Tiny Tim and Andrew Lawrie 
as Bob Cratchit, with the cast. Photo by David Cooper

The drama begins with Scrooge (a playful Sanjay Talwar) mistreating Mr. Hubble (Jason Cadieux) who is trying to collect some money for the seriously disadvantaged – like the hungry. Scrooge’s employee, Mr Cratchit  (Andrew Lawrie) comes in for some serious abuse as does Scrooge’s servant Mrs. Dilber (Patty Jamieson).  His nephew Fred  (Jonathan Tan) is rebuffed brusquely when he tries to invite Uncle Scrooge to dinner.   

We get the picture, well, we really know the picture perfectly well, but we are ready for the equalizer and, yes, the triumph of good over whatever Scrooge represents.

We start with Marley’s Ghost who reminds Scrooge of what he has missed in life but our man thinks that the appearance of his former partner is caused by indigestion. The First Spirit comes as soon as Scrooge falls asleep again murmuring “money, money.”  He will see the Spirit of Christmas Present (Shawn Wright) who will make him face the present. The Spirit of Christmas Past (Elodie Gillett) takes him to the past when he was in love with Belle (Marlene Ginader) but lost her because of his greed and the last Spirit shows the horrible results of his tightfistedness. Yikes.

 Sanjay Talwar as Ebenezer Scrooge and Élodie Gillett as Christmas Past.
 Photo by David Cooper.

Scrooge is foisted on a trapeze as he faces the Spirit of Christmas Past, while the Spirit of Christmas Future looks like a three headed monster. We know who they are and we like them. Faced with Marley’s Ghost and the Three Spirits, we know that transformation and redemption are in the next happy scene of a large turkey (yes, turkey and not a goose) for the Cratchits, a pay raise for Cratchit, money for his servant and attending dinner at his nephew’s. Scrooge becomes what we want everyone to be - a most generous and wonderful man.

The production does not skimp on music and Christmas carols and we are treated to and asked to participate in “Ding Dong Merrily on High” and  “Jingle Bells.”  Paul Sportelli provides original music. 

Where is Tiny Tim, you ask. Yes, he is on stage as a puppet, one of many including a rambunctious cat. They are highly entertaining.

Puppets by Alexis Milligan, colourful sets and period costumes by Christine Lohre, and a large balloon that looks like the moon work wonders in a minimalist way. The only major piece of furniture is a curtained four-poster bed that Scrooge sleeps in and sticks his head out as he is disturbed by his visitors.

The production’s success lies in showing us what we know well with humour, imagination, wonderful singing and a light atmosphere suitable for the season.

What more do you want?
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, adapted by Tim Carroll continues until December 23, 2023, at the Royal George Theatre in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario.

James Karas is the Senior Editor, Culture of The Greek Press

Wednesday, November 15, 2023


Reviewed by James Karas 

Russia’s beastly attack on Ukraine has been in the news daily until it was somewhat sidelined by the Israel-Hamas War on October 7, 2023. The extent of the human and material cost is incalculable and incomprehensible. It is impossible for us to comprehend what the people of Ukraine are going through regardless of how many images we see and stories that we read.

Playwright Natal’ya Vorozhbit’s in Bad Roads attempts to give us some idea of the brutality of the  invasion of Crimea by Russia in 2014 and the beginning of the horrors and evil of humanity meted out on Ukraine. The play was written in 2017 and we do get some idea of what happened then and what is happening now but I still believe that it is impossible to grasp the extent of the harm done and the evil at work in that country.

The play consists of six scenes or episodes that have some connecting links and I will make brief  comments on each.


Of the six scenes of Bad Roads, five take place during the conflict and one occurs before the war. In the first segment, Natasha (Michele Monteith) a woman of forty with a small daughter, addresses Sergei, her lover. She is a journalist and he is an officer in the Ukrainian army and she is interviewing him about the defence of an airport.

Monteith does marvelous work as she works through the script that weaves the personal relationship and the national story, her relationship with Sergei and the events of the war. She mixes the banal, the erotic and the events of a horrible war in the style of the journalist that she is. It is a moving piece of prose that gives the fundamentals of an incident in the war together with the personal story of the narrator. She is frequently funny, always engaging and moving.

Michelle Monteith, Katherine Gauthier and Shauna Thompson. 
Photo: Dahlia Katz


Three teenagers trade stories about being young during a war and putting out for soldiers. They are described as Teenage girl 1 (Shauna Thompson), Teenage girl 2 (Michelle Monteith) and Teenage girls 3 (Katherine Gauthier). They get presents from the men that they have sex with and all they do is wait for the whistle from one of them.  

It is a subtle, understated and devastating snapshot of what war does to teenagers who have nothing left to offer but their bodies to soldiers. They even imagine that they love them or want them. Among the girls’ giggles, this is a subtle portrayal of what even young people descend to in time of war.


The third vignette shows what can happen when a Headteacher (Diego Matamoros) tries to pass a checkpoint at night. He is drunk and carries his wife’s passport and not his own. The Commander (Craig Lauzon) and the soldier (Andrew Chown) at the checkpoint are abusive and make it clear that in a war zone you can’t go to the toilet without a valid passport. But that is not the real story. What the Commander is up to with the missing girl Tanya is the subtext of the scene. He swears that  as an officer he is not doing anything untoward. The Headmaster decides to believe the Commander. We don’t.


A soldier (Craig Lauzon) and a woman (Shauna Thompson) are driving over a bad, deserted road  at night.   She is tough and domineering to the point of being abusive. The soldier is submissive and tries to be polite. Before the war, he was a professional swimmer and she had a travel agency. It is freezing cold and the car engine will not start after a brief stop. She suggests that they have sex to keep warm.

He hesitates because they are carrying the headless body of her lover who was the soldier’s commander. Then she gets a text message purportedly from her lover who of course is dead. The Russians who cut off his head are sending a message on the dead man’s phone asking her to go and find his head.

In a scene of supreme irony, the two keep warm or at least alive by using the dead man’s body bag for cover. An unbelievable scene.

Katherine Gauthier and Andrew Chown. Photo: Dahlia Katz


A teenager (Katherine Gauthier) and the psychotic soldier (Andrew Chown) are in a dark basement. He is a sadistic creep, a foul-mouthed and filthy-minded enemy officer who has drunk the Russian Cool-aid  and is intent on sexually humiliating the teenager. She is no fool and manages to stave off his demands by keeping him talking. It is a powerful and frightful episode that has its own conclusion. Gauthier and Chown give powerful performances.


The final episode takes place before the war and I found it to be the weakest among the previous scenes. A girl (Shauna Thompson) stops at a house to confess that she has run over a chicken on the road. She offers to pay the owners, Vasya (Matamoros) and his wife (Seana McKenna), for their loss. They turn out to be incredibly greedy and the girl does not have enough cash to meet their demands. She agrees to go get the cash and return. She returns.

Vorozhbit may wish to point out that greed can occur at any time which is true. What I could not understand is why did the girl who has a nice car and some jewelry returns to the two extortionists. They do find their humanity and the girl does not have to pay but the segment left me cold. Extortionists do not change their ways that easily.

The play is produced in the tiny Studio Theatre which restricts the provision of many sets and scenery. Director Andrew Kushnir does superb work without much in the way of sets especially

by underplaying the vicious scenes. The violent language is there but the acts of violence are played down and more effective for that.

The seven actors play at least two roles each and their acting is outstanding. The play lasts almost two hours without intermission and its impact is stunning. A supreme representation of people in the grip of a harrowing war. Giving us a fifteen-minute interval would not have diminished the impact of the play.


Bad Roads by Natal’ya Vorozhbit, translated by Sasha Dugdale  continues until November 26, 2023, in the Studio Theatre of Streetcar/Crowsnest Theatre, 345 Carlaw Avenue, Toronto, Ontario.

James Karas is the Senior Editor, Culture of The Greek Press