Couldn’t make it to the Tranzac? Too busy to watch the livestream on Sunday? No problem.
Back to the Tranzac last night for the first Toronto performance of Against the Grain’s national tour of the Joel Ivany transladaptation of Puccini’s La Bohème which started it all back in 2011. The Tranzac has changed a lot and so, of course, has Against the Grain. The room is way smarter, they brought in a proper piano to replace the one that Topher plonked the first performance out on (and which memorably accompanied Jonathan MacArthur’s rather startling Hitler a few years later). And not in any way to knock that first cast it’s a sign of AtG’s rising stature that this time they are fielding a cast that would not be out of place in most regional houses in Canada.
Six years ago a bunch of unknowns calling themselves “Against the Grain Theatre” put on Joel Ivany’s English language, updated version of Puccini’s La Bohème in the back room of the Tranzac club. I was there. I reviewed it on my LiveJournal because it would be another six months before I started this blog. There’s been a lot of water under the bridge since then. The Tranzac has been tarted up quite a bit since La Bohème 1.0, though even by 2011 it had become a lot smarter than when the Nomads hung out there and the wall featured a photo of Sorbie with the McCormick cup. Lets face it anywhere would be more sedate without Neil (RIP mate). Oh yeah, and the original AtG crowd have become quite respectable, even famous perhaps. The singers are all Equity members and get paid properly. There are sets and props that weren’t borrowed from Topher’s mum. Topher and Joel have done the conducting and directing thing for major companies in real opera houses. And I’ve been writing this stuff most every day for six years.
Why do I keep finding myself in the backroom of the Tranzac? We’ve had a relationship for 20 years now; Nomads’ dances, Waterson/Carthy, the first Against the Grain La Bohème. I see ghosts there. Last night I saw the latest in the Vocalis performance series from the UoT Music Faculty grad students. It was a cabaret show with appropriate music from the 20s, 30s and 40s. There was Weill and Eisler and Satie and Poulenc and others. This is music I adore and it was gritty enough and well MC’d by Adi Braun. I wish I could tell you who was singing, Adi aside, because it was really good but there was no program and I wasn’t taking notes. I think it was Tom King on keyboards. There’s a surprising number of shows of this kind on in Toronto that don’t get the heavy promotion treatment. They are worth keeping an eye out for.