The Ward Cabaret, which opened at Harbourfront last night, is an exuberant celebration of the Ward; a Toronto neighbourhood that once covered the area bounded by Queen and College and Yonge and University. From the mid 1800s until well into the 20th century it was far from the highly respectable quartier it’s become. It was the first landing place for immigrants; Irish, Jews, Chinese, fugitive slaves, Italians. A neighbourhood of low rent housing, cheap restaurants, the factories that fed Mr. Eaton’s catalogue and a bunch of rather more dubious businesses. The City Fathers hated it but it had a life of its own that David Buchbinder (he of Yiddish Glory) and his team have turned into a spectacular evening of theatre/cabaret.
Danceworks 40th anniversary show opened at Harbourfront last night. Now contemporary dance isn’t really my thing but I was invited in part on the assumption I’d write about the music. Fair enough but I thought we could do better than that so I asked my partner Katja, who has at least some dance in her background to guest review. She has done this in rather more detail than I might have expected so what follows is basically her work. I have added a few comments, mostly about the music, and I have made it clear where it’s me talking. It would be obvious anyway as I am, as the good lady points out, a “grumpy old bastard”. Over to Katja…
Balancing on the Edge combines the talents of A Girl in the Sky Productions and the Thin Edge New Music Collective. It’s a challenging and exciting blend of New Circus and Contemporary Music (for some definition of both/either). The circus element included aerialists, juggling and clowns while the music varied from Cage and Xenakis to pieces composed for the show. There were live projections too. The show was divided into six “acts” with some clowning interludes and other breaks for set up but mostly it was pretty fluid. The performance space, the Harbourfront Theatre, was pretty much cleared down to a single ring of seats at ground level with more seating in the galleries, which allowed plenty of space for the various rigs employed.
Against the Grain Theatre revived their 2013 choreographed Messiah last night Harbourfront Centre. It’s quite heavily reworked from the 2013 edition and I think the changes are an improvement. The creative team of Topher Mokrzewski (Music), Joel Ivany (Stage direction) and Jenn Nichols (choreography) remains the same as does the overall “look and feel”. The soloists are supported here by a 16 strong chorus and 18 instrumentalists.