Summerworks Festival: Music Preview

Posted on by Ricky in Summerworks | 2 Comments

Toronto – August usually brings a few things to Toronto – heat, the Beer Festival, the Taste of Danforth, some sort of strike, really high utility bills and the Summerworks Festival. Now in it’s 20th year in existence, the Summerworks festival celebrates the best of Toronto’s thriving indie theatre and arts scene. Recently, they have also incorporated a music portion to this festival as well and this year the lineup features an impressive list of performers. Lets take a look at some of the acts.

The Hidden Cameras

August 5th and August 6th.

It only seemed yesterday when the Hidden Cameras released their single Ban Marriage and people were saying they were like a Canadian Belle and Sebastian, only gayer. Mississauga’s favorite band, the Hidden Cameras are arguably the biggest draw at Summerworks and will be playing two shows to kick off the festival. Seeing how this is a Toronto show, look for some “special” guest appearances.

The Hidden Cameras – Kingdom Come (Hidrogenesse Remix) by ArtsandCrafts

Diamond Rings, PS I Love You

August 11th

Anyone who has seen or heard Diamond Rings will know it’s just a matter of time before the glammed up John O’Regan becomes one of the bigger indie-electro music acts around. The songs are fantastic 80s influenced synth pop and the videos are visually arresting. He’ll be teaming up with his buddies in PS I Love You for a nice showcase on Wednesday night. PS I Love You failed to make an impression on me at NXNE, but they went after Japandroids, which is a tough act to follow.

Diamond Rings – Wait & See by Royalty Central

PS I Love You – Facelove by wavelengthtoronto

Wilderness of Manitoba, The Weather Station

Aug 12

The Wilderness of Manitoba are riding a nice wave of positive reviews from their latest release – When You Left the Fire. Expect some good vocal harmonies and a bowl. I have no real idea who The Weather Station are, but my friend Jen Polk said it was a band that’s her type of music, so it’s probably quiet folky music with some nicely layered acoustics. It’s during these shows I am most afraid my phone will go off and I accidentally forget to switch it to vibrate. It’s called showinterupptphobia, I think.

The Wilderness of Manitoba – “Evening” by wavelengthtoronto

The Weather Station – “March” by wavelengthtoronto

The following bands are pay what you can acts. Here’s a quicky preview. Maylee Todd is someone I’ve seen several times and have generally come away impressed. She has a nice voice and her soul-disco-bossa music is quite unique. Laura Barrett is Wade’s eternal crush so I figure I will check her out base on that alone. I also want to see her use the Kalimba. Ghost Bees were one of the weirdest acts I’ve seen, but I am interested to see them again because of that. Also, Mark almost singlehandedly sabotaged their NXNE showcase at C’est What with his loud talking so I feel like we might have to make up for that.

For a more in-depth look at Summerworks, check out Joe’s blog: Mechanical Forest Sounds. Joe actually knows the local music scene really well and digs deep into it.

Maylee Todd – Summer Sounds by Do Right

Laura Barrett – Bluebird by wavelengthtoronto

Brian will be checking in sometime this week with a theatre preview!

SummerWorks Review: Greenland [The Greenland Collective]

Posted on by Brian in Everything, Reviews, Summerworks, Theatre | Leave a comment


It’s been a few days now, and aside from finding new and creative ways to put off writing my last couple of SummerWorks reviews, I’ve been thinking about Greenland, and trying to come up with reasons why it’s such an amazingly spectacular show. Certainly, along with Melancholy Play, it’s the best show of the festival, at least out of the ones I saw.

Really, it’s all about the characters.

Jonathan (Andrew Musselman) is one of the world’s leading glaciologists (yeah it’s a real thing, look it up). He’s discovered an island off the coast of Greenland, previously unknown because it was covered by a glacier. He relates his story of being interviewed about his discovery. He talks about his father, about getting his Dad ice for his belts of rye when he was small. He talks a little about his own family, particularly his wife Judith. It’s all quite interesting and funny and just a bit sad.

Judith (Clair Calnan) is Jonathan’s wife. She’s an actor, and desperately wants a kid by Jonathan. She talks about feeling like her ovaries are drying up. How she and her husband are not really a good match, that they don’t really understand each other’s occupations. And she talks about her sister an brother-in-law, and how they were killed in an accident, when a piece broke off a bridge and crushed their car while they were in it, orphaning their two teenage kids. About her and Jonathan taking them both in. And she smokes like a chimney while doing it. It’s really sad, rather sexy, and compelling as hell.

Tanya (Jajube Mandiela) is their niece and adopted daughter. She’s doing a school report on Greenland. She talks about her twin brother, about dealing with death, about living with Jonathan and Judith, and makes up a fable on the spot for Jonathan’s newly-discovered island. It’s REALLY sad, but also inspiring and stunning.

And that’s all there is to it, really. The three of them come up, one at a time, with a spotlight on each, and they tell their stories. They don’t interact with each other on stage, they don’t speak to each other. The story comes out through their respective soliloquies, and it paints a complex, sad family picture.

It’s just a terrific piece of work, and all three actors in it are wonderful. The details of their stories is fantastic and the performances so nuanced that’s it was impossible not to be completely drawn in.

The show was an hour long, but flew by.

If you see that there’s a production of this show upcoming, see it, especially if this cast is reprising their roles. Hopefully it’ll be in a bigger space, since the 55-seat Passe Muraille Backspace couldn’t accommodate everyone who wanted to see it (I felt bad, some people waited in line for an hour and still didn’t get in, while I had advance tickets).

SummerWorks: Capsule Reviews (Piano Tuner, Gilgamesh, Parrot/Tennessee, Apricots)

Posted on by Brian in Everything, Summerworks, Theatre | 1 Comment


I’m pretty behind in my reviews and SummerWorks is nearing completion. I’m also getting burned out on plays after seeing four plays yesterday (I was scheduled to see Doppleganger and Underneath today but am passing on both from theatre over-exertion, so I apologize to those shows and to SummerWorks for cancelling on them) and 15 in just 7 days.

I’m also getting a little tired of writing full-length reviews of shows I didn’t love. Contrary to what some might think, I really do wish I could write rave reviews of every show. It sucks to write poor reviews, it’s way more fun to write good ones. As such, I’ll have full-length reviews of Greenland and the Sunparlour Players show shortly, and here’s some quick thoughts and capsule reviews of four shows I’ve seen since Friday: The Piano Tuner, The Epic of Gilgamesh, Under the Parrot/Over Tennessee, and Apricots.

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SummerWorks Review: Melancholy Play [Project Undertow]

Posted on by Brian in Everything, Summerworks, Theatre | Leave a comment


Man, this reviewing gig is tough sometimes. How can I write a coherent review of a show when all I want to do is rave about it and call it the best I’ve seen at SummerWorks, at least so far? I think it’s easier to write a detailed review of a show you hated…

So what can I say about Melancholy Play? It centres around a woman named Tillie who is embroiled in a very deep melancholy. The funny thing about it is, during her melancholy she says the most enchanting (and absurd, but that’s part of the reason it’s so funny) things about her sadness and suffering and the world around her that the people around her, both men and women, can’t help but fall in love with her. These people include her psychiatrist, tailor, hairdresser, and a nurse who’s involved with the hairdresser. They all fall for Tillie, but when Tillie suddenly becomes a happy person, their love for her fades and they become miserable.

It’s silly, but it’s a show that has a lot of heart, too, with an understanding of the certain kind of sadness and depression that makes up melancholy. The kind of sadness that leaves one staring out the window in the afternoon, doing nothing more than observing the passage of time, or leads you to see the beauty in another person’s tears and makes you want to keep them forever.

There’s a lot of talk like that in the show (in fact, these two examples are relatively tame and straightforward), and it takes a very skilled cast to deliver those sorts of lines without sounding just ludicrous and totally beyond what a person would actually say. Fortunately, Melancholy Play has just such a cast. Ennis Esmer (Frank) and Pamela Rhae Ferguson (Frances) have a couple of scenes where they speak the same lines in concert without looking at each other, which is a whole lot harder to do than it looks. Anna Hardwick has some memorable lines as Joan. There’s a woman on stage, Cheryl Ockrant, who plays cello throughout the show, giving it some very proper melancholic ambience. Salvatore Antonio is a hoot as Lorenzo, Tillie’s psychiatrist, who speaks with an over the top accent (“I am from a eur-OH-pee-an country”) and keeps bringing up that his mother abandoned him as a child in a candy shop. And both actresses who play Tillie, Ingrid Rae Doucet as melancholy Tillie and Melissa-Jane Shaw as happy Tillie, strike just the right notes.

And if I can be slightly lewd for a moment, I don’t need a play to have several beautiful female cast members with very lovely legs who mostly wear short skirts throughout the show to enjoy it, with two of them in a relationship and living together and spending one scene trying to seduce a third. I don’t NEED that to enjoy a play, but it certainly doesn’t hurt…

Really, though, it’s a wonderfully absurd script by Sarah Ruhl, directed nicely by Rosa Laborde with a superb cast. I laughed the hardest that I’ve laughed all festival throughout, and don’t have a single bad thing to say about Melancholy Play. Sounds like a 5/5 to me.

Melancholy Play has just one show left at SummerWorks: August 15 at 10:30 at Factory Theatre Mainspace. See it if you can.