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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Surprises in Simple Things

I'm not going to recant my rant about an earlier production I saw by Blue Canoe, but I'm sure glad that people perservere until they really get it right. Mary's Wedding, which the company produced for a very short run with Fifth Company Lane productions last week was 97% perfect. Sometimes one fears a beautiful script might be ruined by less-than-seasoned direction or casting, but in this case the youth and freshly unaffected but heartfelt performances of the two cast members (Meredith Busteed and Sean Ogle) under the impeccable eye of director Anja Zeljkovic meant for a perfect night at the theatre. Nice use, sparingly, of emblematic choreography, too. Biggest quibble -- you don't get an evening like that without the playwright...and the audiences deserve biographical materials on the writer in the programme. They should never be 'Out of sight, out of mind." Massicotte is a treasure, and this work is now a Canadian classic.

Congratulations, in any case.

Also hugely enjoyed the dark circus put on by the Upper Canada Performing Arts people, mostly on the spur of the moment (and with the help of great performers such as the Swamp Ward Orchestra) last week. Clarke Mackey is right --vernacular culture can really have impact. The Kingston Symphony's flash mob last weekend at Cataraqui Town Centre is another case in point. (And if you still want to donate to Upper Canada's curtain campaign, they may soon have the most versatile and affordable space in town!)

Other simple but sweet events coming up - concerts by the Voices of Joy, She Sings and Kingston Choral Society this weekend, and the Fat Goose Craft Fair Dec. 12 at the Renaissance Ballroom. I would be particularly remiss if I didn't point out that the Gallery Shop at the Agnes has a small but very sweet selection of work by local artists (under $400) and artisans ($8=200). Open every afternoon except Mondays.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

You Can't Always Get A Chihuahua

A few years ago at the Playhouse, our funny bones were really tickled discovering the phrase "you can't always get a chihuahua," substituted somewhere for the Stones' lyric of "You Can't Always Get What You Want.." This week, it started to seem that there wasn't a chihuahua around, as I'd been looking right and left without much success for cultural highs. Measha Brueggergosman left me unfulfilled... I got annoyed as hell at the Arts and Letters Club debate about arts elitism and vernacular culture. Theatre Kingston's new show also brought up a few "issues." Maybe I should just stay home and read from now on? I started to wonder.

But on the seventh day she clapped. Whistled. Smiled. Tonight I found that delight still lurks out there in the world, and truly in the unlikeliest of places. Who would have told me that, when my friend got sick and I couldn't go to see Royal Wood and Hannah Georgas, I'd actually be in for a fabulous time by "settling" for a show of old barbershop singers doing a tribute to the military? I'm an old draft dodger, remember? And someone who's not comfortable (yet) in a room full of old men. At all.

Now, the joy wasn't the Kingston Townsmen themselves, as nice and earnest as they are, nor the sepia-tinted military promo films at the beginning. But the group itself has to get a huge credit for assembling some totally unexpected talents, and ones that I, and a lot of others, would never have seen otherwise. A choir and sax quartet from RMC? Never would have gone. A group of young male barbershoppers, the modern equivalent of Forever Plaids? Probably would have passed. Ernestown Secondary SchoolChoir? "I'll see my own grandkids someday."

Well, this is the instance of "vernacular culture" Clarke Mackey had been talking about at Arts and Letters, and it worked. The RMC Choir and sax quartet were superb --at the top of their game (and also heartfelt and moving in their singing.) "May they never have to go to war, they're so lovely" I thought, stereotypes shattering away. And the young guys,the Rendezvous Quartet "hot damn" is all I can say. (Check out their YouTubes, and Invite them back, somebody!)

Here I thought I was just going to go to the concert, listen to my Ipod before the show, be a nice wife and a good sport, and not feel too sorry for myself about not having a date to Royal Wood (next time Royal, save me a seat)...and it was absolutely energizing. Amateurs, doing it all for the love of it, and aiming for the top. Vernacular culture --with standards. Absolutely.

You can't always get a chihuahua... you can't always get a chihuahua (all together now:) You can't always get a chihuahua...but if you try sometime, you might find, you get a burmese!