The last Musical of the Month: The Secret Garden

Julia Stanski, Editor

Secret Garden was a trailblazer in more ways than one when it premiered in 1989, but it’s most notable simply for being heart-wrenchingly beautiful. Based on the wonderful book by Frances Hodgson Burnett, it follows 10-year-old orphan Mary Lennox as she unlocks the secrets of her uncle’s haunted past with the discovery of a hidden garden.  Written by Marsha Norman and Lucy Simon, it was the first show with an all-female writing team to be nominated for a Tony, and its lead actress Daisy Eagan won a Tony Award at age 11 (!!!)  The original cast also featured Mandy Patinkin as Archibald Craven and Rebecca Luker as the ghost of his wife Lily.

The whole score is absolutely gorgeous, but a highlight of the show is “Lily’s Eyes”, a tragic duet between Archibald and his brother respectively revealing the grief of loss and unrequited love. It’s known as one of the best male musical theatre duets ever written. Mary’s understated Act 2 opener, “The Girl I Mean to Be”, is strangely hopeful and endearing, without being irritating as so many songs for children are (see “Tomorrow” or basically anything from Annie). That’s one of this show’s strengths; in a very quaint and British way, it stays away from caricatures and clichés, and delivers a haunting, joyful and honest story of flawed and human characters.

Sadly, Secret Garden is rarely produced due to its hefty specifications: a male-heavy cast, an exceptionally talented 10-year-old, authentic British accents on everyone and a soprano who can sing Lily’s “Come to My Garden” up in the stratosphere. But a fantastic concert recording was made for the show’s 25th anniversary in February, featuring stars like Sierra Boggess and Ramin Karimloo (seen in Phantom of the Opera and Les Misérables), Sydney Lucas (Fun Home), Ben Platt (Book of Mormon and Pitch Perfect) and Daisy Eagan herself in an adult role. Watch some snippets from it here ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iRNvPZBy5gA ): I promise you’ll be glad you did. The Secret Garden is a perfect show for summer- an intensely sad and sweet look at healing, forgiveness and love with addictively beautiful music and irresistible characters.

 

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Cappies Gala 2016

Julia Stanski, Editor

A huge congratulations to Mac’s own Jocelyn Bartolome, a fabulously talented grade 12 actress who won the Cappie Award for Best Comic Actress in a Musical at the Cappies Gala last weekend!! She’s been voted the best in the region by the students critics of this year, and I’m sure everyone who saw her portrayal of Mrs. Meers in our December production of Thoroughly Modern Millie agrees she deserves it.  Thank you to all our nominees and everyone involved in Millie who attended the Gala at the Citadel Theater on June 12; it was an amazing night and an epic celebration of student achievement in the arts. Audiences were treated to excerpts from the five plays and five musicals nominated for Outstanding Production, as well as celebrity presenters like Liz Nicholls and Matt Schuurman and an opening and closing number performed by the Cappies Chorus. Click here

http://edmontonjournal.com/gallery/photo-gallery-cappies-gala-2016

The Cappies gala celebrates the reach of high school theatre

Social Seen: Cappies

for Edmonton Journal coverage and photos of the Gala, some taken by our very own student volunteer photographers Haley Dang and Christine Videna. Best wishes for an equally amazing Cappies season and gala next year!gala 2016 jocey

May’s Musical of the Month: Les Misérables

Julia Stanski, Editor

les mis barricade.jpg

As anyone will tell you, Les Mis is an absolute classic of the musical theatre canon. Known for being dramatic, French, three hours long and very very sad, it also contains some of the most gorgeous music ever written. The (extremely complex) plot follows redeemed ex-convict Jean Valjean in his quest to do good, raise an orphaned child, avoid his relentless pursuer Inspector Javert and save as many lives as possible in the failed Student Revolution of 1832. This epic tale of love, grace, justice and mercy is almost entire sung-through, and is guaranteed to tug some heartstrings.

The score is full of unforgettable songs like “Do You Hear the People Sing”, which will make you want to start your own revolution, and “On My Own”, the classic ballad of unrequited love. “Stars”, the vow of policeman Javert, is absolutely gorgeous, and “Bring Him Home” will bring you to tears.  There are lots of good recordings of Les Mis, notably the original London cast album featuring Colm Wilkinson, and the 10th anniversary cast with Phillip Quast and Lea Salonga. Be careful when watching the 2012 movie version; it take some liberties with plot and music, and not all actors are the strongest singers.  Probably your best bet is to watch the 25th anniversary concert starring Alfie Boe, Ramin Karimloo and Norm Lewis. Les Mis has converted many a skeptic to a musical theatre lover; its grandeur and melodrama are irresistibly escapist, but beautifully relevant.

April’s Musical of the Month: Ordinary Days

Julia Stanski, Editor

ordinary days.png

This little gem of a show is almost a one-act, clocking in at only 85 minutes. Written in 2008 by American composer Adam Gwon, Ordinary Days looks at four millennials dealing with life in New York City and the chance occurrences that cause their paths to intertwine. It’s a very contemporary-feeling show, with vivid and accessible characters and a charming score. Fresh and funny, its musical numbers are beautiful little portraits that could stand on their own, and include highlights like “Don’t Wanna Be Here” and “Saturday at the Met”. Its message about finding connection and beauty in everyday things is simple, but almost ridiculously relevant. Ordinary Days is definitely worth a listen if you’re in the mood for something smart, bittersweet and eminently relatable.

The Sound That Swings

The fifteenth official month celebrating the history and heritage of JazzJam Horizontal

Navneet Chand, Staff Writer2016-04-30

Get ready to tap your toes and swing to the smooth rhythm of the band, because it’s Jazz Appreciation Month! Known to many simply asJAM, this month was inaugurated by the world-renowned Smithsonian Museum to shine the spotlight on one of history’s greatest styles of music.

Since 2002, people everywhere having been dancing to the swaying sound of the horns as April marks this very special occasion for both jazzy souls and audiences of all ages. The birthplace of jazz is and always will be New Orleans, the soulful hub of everything from trumpets to tenors. It originated here from early African-American styles.

The Smithsonian plays an active role every JAM by assigning a different jazz legend to be featured on their official poster and represent the month for that year. This year, they have decided to celebrate the legacy of a true pioneer of swing, Benny Carter.

Carter seamlessly fits this year’s theme that describes jazz as a democratic voice which allows a universal communication between all people. Benny Carter is forever remembered as a man who broke down musical barriers for this genre and defined the role of the alto saxophone in history. With Carter’s image at the helm of this month’s poster, JAM is sure to be an absolute hit.

So shine up the brass, sing a “be-bop” note or two, take a music class, or maybe just visit the Smithsonian website where you can view and discover interactive and immersive activities to bring out the beat of the band in all of our hearts, making this year’s JAM a truly wonderful event to remember.

 

References:

  • Smithsonian: The National Museum of American History (Website)

 

Your Guide to Dramafest 2016

Julia Stanski, Editor

1. What is Dramafest?
Dramafest is a festival of student-directed one-act plays, done by your talented classmates here in Mac’s drama room/blackbox theater. Over the past three months, eight shows have been rehearsing to perform for you, April 12-15.

2. How does it work?
During the second week of April, Tuesday-Friday, shows will be performed in PLTs, drama classes and evenings. Admission is by donation, so if you’re a broke student you’re still welcome. To see your friends perform, sign up for PLTs, come on Wednesday, Thursday and/or Friday evening or ask your teachers to bring your class to the matinees.

3. What are the shows?
This year our program consists of eight shows, five in-class productions and three extracurricular ones. Keep reading to see what they are. Continue reading

March’s Musical of the Month: Matilda

Julia Stanski, Editormatilda pic (1)

If you remember Roald Dahl’s books from your childhood- The BFG, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Witches– this show will bring back beloved memories. If you don’t, it will open up a whole new world. Matilda the Musical, adapted by Dennis Kelly and Tim Minchin, is a gem of a new show, smart, hilarious and touching.  It stars precocious 5-year-old Matilda, whose extraordinary intelligence and imagination allow her to fight her way out of an apathetic home life and rescue her school from a tyrannous principal.  It opened in London in 2011 and on Broadway in 2013, winning seven Olivier awards and 5 Tonys.  It has a quintessentially British charm, but its playful sweetness and tender depictions of childhood and growing up are universal. Musical highlights include Matilda’s philosophy, ‘Naughty’, the epic dance number ‘Loud’ performed by her mother, and the gorgeously resonant Act 2 opener, ‘When I Grow Up’.

One of the best things about this show is the star opportunities it gives to amazing young performers. The role of Matilda is rotated between four actresses aged 9-11; she carries the show so much that eight performances a week would be impossible. This show also brought the incredible Lesli Margherita to Broadway, for which we are eternally grateful.  (If you’re ever bored, watch her vlogs here. They’re hilarious. )  This is a great show for kids, but also so much more. With an intelligent book, delicately beautiful score and wicked sense of humour, it seems likely to run on Broadway for a long time, and definitely deserves a listen.

Improv on Fire Recap

Roanne Andaya, Staff Writer

Edmonton is an amazing city for fine arts. We have awesome theatres across the city that host Broadway musicals and community shows throughout the year, and many people who have the potential to become great actors, singers and artists are discovered, some of whom are found in Edmonton’s own high schools. One of the festivals that encourage high school fine arts is the Wildfire Improv tournament that happens annually during the last few weeks of February.

Hosted by Rapid Fire Improv and the Citadel theatre, the Wildfire Festival is a sixteen-day improv festival for students in Alberta and the Territories. It consists of three tournaments: The Canadian Improv Games (CIG), the Nosebowl and the Wildfire Junior tournament. The CIG and the Nosebowl are tournaments set specifically for high school teams, while the Wildfire Junior festival is for junior high schools that are new to improv. The high school tournaments each run over a span of six days, while the junior high tournament lasts four. Every year during its ongoing production, the nights are sure to be full of laughter and fun. Continue reading

What the Heck is “Curtains” performed by Grant MacEwan?

Julia Stanski, Editor

Who?

Grant MacEwan University runs a two-year Theatre Arts program that culminates in a musical theatre diploma, the only such program in Edmonton.  Every year, their class of second-year students puts on three main stage musicals. It’s a great opportunity to see near-professional productions of musicals for a reasonable price; student tickets cost only $15. Every year their season is different and interesting; some previous shows include The Music Man, Pacific Overtures, Sondheim on Sondheim, A Little Night Music, Spring Awakening and Thoroughly Modern Millie. Usually, two of the shows take place in the beautiful John L. Haar Theater, while the third is produced in the Theatre Lab of the same building.

Why should I watch student theatre?

An advantage to seeing MacEwan shows is familiarizing yourself with the young artists and up-and-comers of our theatre scene. MacEwan has produced incredibly talented artists like Gianna Read, Luc Tellier, Jason Hardwick and Jarrett Krissa, who are now active and working in theatre all over the city, province and country. Tell people you saw them when they were just starting out! It’s also an opportunity to trace the careers of high school performers you’ve seen, especially for those involved in Cappies. Fun fact: Cappies award winner Ben Wheelwright is currently starring on Broadway.   Continue reading

Musical of the Month: Sweeney Todd

Julia Stanski, Editor

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If you’ve ever heard someone say that they don’t like musicals because ‘They’re too happy’-  make them watch “Sweeney Todd”. It will cure them of that attitude like nothing else.

Extremely dark, remarkably gory and exquisitely written, this masterpiece by Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler is definitely not for the whole family; probably only “Les Misérables” has a higher body count.  In short, it follows a deranged barber and his neighbour who murder people, chop them up and sell them in meat pies.  But it’s done with the magic Sondheim touch. Every character is psychologically complex and ingeniously developed. The music is by turns harrowing, beautiful and terrifying, and always intensely so. The story is gripping and fast-paced, with a surprising amount of comic relief; despite the subject matter, this is undeniably a fun show.  There’s an absolutely brilliant concert version of the show starring Bryn Terfel and Emma Thompson; the Johnny Depp movie version does not do it justice.

If you’re prepared for an emotionally exhausting experience of gloriously well-written theatre, plus one of the best plot-twist endings ever, spend some time this exam break with “Sweeney Todd”.