Monday, July 4, 2011

9 to 5: The Musical

So I know you were thinking the TSO season is over, therefore a summer with no blog posts...wrong!  This actually was a bit of a last minute event, but yesterday I saw 9 to 5: The Musical.  Based on the 1980 movie of the same name (well minus the "musical" part) starring Dolly Parton, Jane Fonda, and Lily Tomlin, it became a hit and great inspiration for transformation of the workplace to be more hospitable towards women.

The musical version is sensationally enjoyable.  The songs, written by Dolly Parton, are varied, some with that hit of country twang, some with it all out celebrated.  While the touring cast may not have the huge names of the original Broadway version (it would have been awesome to see Allison Janney as Violet), they have excellent voices and collectively quite an impressive resume, which includes a fair amount of spots on soap operas.  No wonder, they're all very pretty people.  Dolly herself makes an appearance via video at the start with some background info and again at the end providing an update on how the lives of the characters turned out in the future.  Part of the beginning intro was a bit campy, perhaps a few too many references that link back to her, but a descent idea to provide some background for those who haven't seen the movie or a refresher for those who did many, many years ago.  The projector didn't work at the end and her image was jerky then disappeared completely while the audio continued and the cast mouthed the words.

Diana as Doralee
Diana DeGarmo is probably the most well known of the cast to the general public, having been runner up way back on the third season of American Idol.  Since then she's been on Broadway in Hairspray and Hair, and is continuing the "hair" theme by sporting a Dolly Parton blonde wig in this show as the Texan Doralee.  At times you'd swear it was Dolly herself who had just spoken, she has her speech down exactly.  Never were there any doubts about her vocal skills, and she delivers her single solo "Backwoods Barbie" with a tenderness that makes her endearing.  It further emphasizes the boss's sleeziness for having spread the untrue rumours of them having an affair.  Oh and check out those heels!  A country girls idea of glam indeed :)

Dee as Violet
In the role of Violet is Dee Hoty, the widowed mother and no nonsense worker who knows it all and keeps getting passed over for promotion because she's a woman.  Continue theme of sleezy boss, adding sexist to the list of transgressions.  No stranger to Broadway, Dee has had 3 Tony nominations and was Donna in Mamma Mia.  She plays the role straight, and shines in the production "One of the Boys" number.

Wendy and Judy (not Mamie)
Mamie as Judy
Rounding out the trio of slighted women is Mamie Parris as Judy, the former housewife new on the job because her soon to be ex-husband Dick left her for his secretary.  Maybe it's the French twist hairstyle or some of the characters traits or her lovely smooth (yet also powerful as demonstrated in "Get Out and Stay Out") voice, but I could totally see her walking into the roll of Mary Poppins.  Must have Disney on the brain, because the long blue nightgown costume for that song could have been right off Wendy in Peter Pan.  Incidentally the song was one of my favourites.  There's something about those women power songs effectively saying "who needs a man?".  One of the best lines of the show was in the final montage regarding Judy's future life.  It explained how she remained single, and became a regular on The View talk show after her best selling book, "Life Without Dick"...pun I'm sure intended. ;)

Hart with Judy and Violet
While it is a women power show, there are some men worth mentioning as well, more for their skills as performers than characters which is especially true for Joseph Mahowald in his role as the "sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot" boss Franklin Hart, Jr.  His other Broadway credits include the title role in Jekyll & Hyde (oh to hear him sing "This is the Moment"!), and Javert in Les Mis.  His voice was one of those you could listen to all night.

Jesse (
An ensemble member who caught my eye was Jesse JP Johnson (who also played Violet's son).  He was the most enthusiastic dancer of the bunch, not to mention cute, but then he's one of those former soap stars from One Life to Live so it goes with the territory.

There was also the Chairman of the Board, Mr. Tinsworthy who looked incredibly like Colonel Sanders of Kentucky Fried Chicken fame.

What would one of these posts be without mentioning the happenings in the orchestra pit.  In this case "orchestra" is a bit of a misnomer, band is more appropriate.  Taking a peak over the railing at intermission I discovered a very complete percussion section, all handled by one guy, 7 different guitars played by two guys, several keyboards, each hooked up to a laptop which looked to be running something like Garage Band which I'm guessing provided the extra string and woodwind sounds.  There were also two reed players who each had a clarinet and flute, and between them a bass clarinet, bari and tenor sax.  Two trumpets, a trombone, and a bass rounded out the group.

The Women with Dolly Parton (
A little too much down home country charm to be considered a work of theatrical art, but all musicals aren't suppose to be.  Not everything ushers in a new era like Oklahoma, so for a fun evening/afternoon at the theatre, this is good one.

Friday, July 1, 2011

The Season Ends with Opera

The Toronto Symphony Orchestra 2010/2011 Season came to a close on June 26 with a program titled Opera Favourites.  I know very little about opera, the only one I have any interest in seeing is Mozart's Magic Flute, but I missed it when the Canadian Opera Company was performing it.  There is of course Wagner, and the wonderful Puccini who's works I've heard elsewhere (and incidentally blogged about).

Alasdair Neale (
And while Puccini might be great without words, to do opera justice requires singers.  This role was filled by soprano Leah Crocetto and tenor David Pomeroy.  Guest conductor for the final event was Alasdair Neale, making his TSO debut.

There was a nice mix of vocal and orchestra selections with informative introductions by Mr. Neale, and I would welcome his return to the podium.  Most of the pieces would start and I'd be thinking...hmm, I'm not sure I know this one, but shortly thereafter would be a common theme and suddenly I'd recognize it.  Some of the highlights included what have become the classic, and some may say over done opera pieces.  From Puccini "O mio babbino caro" from Gianni Schicchi (which is pronounced in a completely different way from how it's spelled) and the "famous or infamous", as commented by Maestro Neale, "Nesson dorma" from Turandot (seriously there are SO many versions of this, here's one that covers 3 in 1...The 3 Tenors).  Over done or not, David Pomeroy sang it amazingly well.

After an orchestra interlude of "Intermezzo" from Mascagni's Cavalleria rusticana, both Mr. Pomeroy and Ms. Crocetto joined forces to tell the love story of Pinkerton and Cio-Cio-San in the "Love Duet" from Madame Butterfly.  From that single song one would never realize what a heal of a guy Pinkerton actually is.  A shame Butterfly loved him so much.  But it's opera, these things come with the territory :)

The second half moved back in time to feature the music of Mozart and Verdi, and opened with the wonderful "Overture to The Marriage of Figaro".  It continued with the "Dove sono" from the same opera, then "Fuor del mar" from Idomeneo sung by Ms. Crocetto and Mr. Pomeroy respectively.  Moving onto Verdi, the segment opened with the "Triumphal March" from Aida, minus the elephants (and chorus that the linked version has, but it showcases the trumpets nicely...well I think there's a rotton note now that I listen to it).  Maestro Neale mentioned his desire to have been there at the debut of the the opera.  Evidently it must have been a very grand affair.  I've played an arrangement of this piece and it is quite fun, especially if you have a great brass section, like the TSO does, led by Andrew McCandless (principal trumpet) and Gordon Wolfe (principal trombone).

Just prior to the quiet finale duet of "Parigi o caro" from La Traviata was the ultimate chauvinist song (according to Mr. Neale) of "La donna e mobile" from Rigoletto.  Mr. Pomeroy acted the part very well beginning with a casual lean on the conductors podium.  This was a piece I remember from it being on a listening exam in High School.  It was much more enjoyable to see live than to listen to on cassette (yep, that's how we were given our listening pieces).

Not to let the audience leave on that quiet, somewhat relaxed note however, the vocalists and orchestra obliged the applause with an upbeat drinking song...which I think was from La Traviata.

It was a nice light end to the season as the audience filled out of the hall and several orchestra members shook others hands, probably wishing them a happy summer.

Thanks to everyone at the TSO for another fantastic season!  I'm eagerly anticipating returning to Roy Thomson Hall for next seasons 90th anniversary.

And with that (because I missed posting this in June), Happy Canada Day to everyone!