Best of the 2012/13 season thus far….

I wasn’t going to do it. I resisted doing it. I didn’t want to do it. But then I got caught up in the end of season lists that litter our collective and media consciences at this time of year and I was sucked into it. With everyone putting their favorites out there, how could I resist giving my two cents? Anyone that knows me, knows that I rarely give up the chance to forward my opinion, so here I go…. Best of the 2012/13 Calgary theatre season thus far, in no particular order or comprehensive category framework. This is simply a mentioning of those shows and/or performers that left me with a lasting positive impression that still resonates with me on some important “wow” level.

It’s a nice narrative twist to say that my favorite shows this year comprise two productions that I did not review and one that I had not planned on reviewing.

I caught The Shakespeare Company’s Hamlet and Quest Theatre’s The Gardneron the last day of each performance. Hence, no point in reviewing. But if I had, I would have said that Hamlet was a terrifically beautiful economic production with overwhelmingly strong acting and extremely clever staging. Despite being just one day off of a 13 hour time difference, this production kept me engaged and excited and glad to have such tremendous talent in our city.

When I heard that two of my favorite actors were starring in The Gardner, an in-school children’s show that was getting a public showing for 2 days only, I jumped at the chance to see it. Not only did Christopher Hunt and Duval Lang reaffirm my belief that they are some of the most agile and affecting actors in the city at present, I was amazed at how this simple children’s story could be as compelling for us adults in the audience. Big kudos to director Ron Jenkins for bringing this delightful and interesting story to life on the stage and congrats to Quest for bringing such quality theatre to our kids.

When I saw the production dates for Downstage’s Bashir Lazhar I was crestfallen. The opening was the day after I was to leave town. Having never seen the stage version and very curious to see what Simon Mallet would do with the production, I begged a seat into a preview performance the evening before my flight explaining that I was just there to watch and didn’t have time to review as a result. Well so much for that idea. From about 10 minutes into the show I knew I had to review it. Imaginatively directed by Mallet and superbly and affectingly performed by Haysam Kadri, I was quite simply blown away by the entire effort. The production may have ruined my night as I went home and wrote my review in lieu of dinner or packing of the hundreds of other things I was supposed to do. But with theatre that good, I was happy to let everything else wait.

On the actor/actress front, there have been many performances that have made their way onto my potential Critter nominee list. Thirty-four to be exact. And while I won’t reveal all the names here, I will point out a few of the performances that easily rise to the top for me. In addition to those already named or alluded to above, of course.

In the solo performance category:

Sam Mullins for Tinfoil Dinosaur. This one man monologue in at the 2012 Fringe was in turns funny, emotional and respected the intelligence of the audience. Was a standing ovation from me.

Chantal Perron  for  Aviatrix.  Alone on a stage with a famous story to tell can overwhelm many actors. But Perron put on one hell of a show despite some flaws with the script. Tough and sweet and human, this performance was a joy to watch.

Musically speaking:

Robert Markus in Next to Normal. By far the strongest voice and most charismatic actor on the stage in this unique and well executed musical. This is a kid that will no doubt go far.

Scot Shepley in You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown. The one VERY bright spot in an otherwise dreary musical. Shepley’s showstopper “Suppertime” may go down as the best musical number all season.

Supporting roles.

Julie Orton and Graham Percy in Intimate Apparel. Orton made me bristle and Percy broke my heart. They both did so with incredible performances that I wish were given more weight in this problematic play.

Paul Welch in It Could Be Any One Of Us. THIS close to being too over the top to find funny, Welch manages to keep in just within the lines enough to deliver a hysterical performance delivered without the slightest tinge of irony.

Matt McKinney in The Underpants. Where did this actor come from and how do I see more of him. Outstanding surprise performance that was flawless and funny from start to finish.


Garrett Ross and Franz Zotter in Jack Goes Boating. Deliciously quirky and human, these two actors define perfect ensemble acting for me this season and set the bar very high for all other performers.

Wes Tritter in Second Chance, First Love. If for no other reason than one of the funniest and hard to pull off entrances I’ve seen all season. Tritter’s made me laugh with his ease of performance and grace in a show that wasn’t altogether satisfying.

As I said, many more worthwhile performances than are listed here. And for that I’m grateful. I’m also terribly excited about the 2nd half of the theatre season here in Calgary as there are many productions to look forward to. Stay tuned for early January when I will be doing a preview look ahead to this year’s High Performance Rodeo and my picks of the performances.

So, there you go. I made my list, I checked it twice. Let me know your thoughts. Do you agree? Think I’m nuts? Want to argue for your favorite play/performer? I’m all ears. Because after all, theatre is all about opening up and starting a discussion. So let’s have it.

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