West Side Story: The Lower Ossinngton Theatre Review

5 OUT OF 5 STAR RATING

“Outstanding…phenomenal…breath-taking!!!!”

No that’s not my reaction every time I look in the mirror.  I am instead putting into words my thoughts of The Lower Ossington Theatre‘s production of Broadway West End classic musical, WEST SIDE STORY, last night.

wss 11Despite knowing the back-story of the show, I pondered whether I would enjoy a musical that I had never seen performed before. Sitting in the centre of the audience; at a SOLD OUT PERFORMANCE, I was blown away by the stage that lay before me. Decorated with red-brick walls, steel fencing, park benches, apartment blocks and buildings, the set lay under a beautiful backdrop of evening sunset; depicting a typical upper west-side neighbourhood in New York City.

But for those not familiar with this mesmerising, touching and romantic love story of Tony & Maria, I will let you all in on the tale that is to unfold…without spoiling the ending and the surprises that lie in-store, of course.

As the theatre lights dimmed, the stage exploded with a mixture of music and dazzling colours; signalling the awakening of the uplifting orchestra and our exciting characters. With whoops and cheers from an enthusiastic crowd, the show burst to life and this is where our story begins.

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We are introduced immediately to The Jets, a American teenage street gang, who reside in this mid 1950’s, blue collar neighbourhood. Immigration is on the rise, bringing new nationalities and cultures to New York City. However, with unemployment rates increasing and crime becoming more regular; the Jets relationship with the rival Puerto Rican street gang, The Sharks, is turbulent, volatile and unpredictable at the best of times. With a “Them versus Us” attitude, neither gang see eye to eye in any matter, and vow to take control over territory in their neighbourhood.

 The Jets leader Riff (played by Robbie Fenton) and the Sharks leader Bernardo (played by Luiz Monterei) are fantastic characters within this story. Both headstrong and determined to get their own way, they plan to meet at the annual gym dance to settle a score. But Riff can’t do this alone. Yes, he has his four mates, but he looks to someone else who may have his back in a fight. He seeks out his old friend Tony, the male lead of the show (played by the talented Hugh Ritchie), who has now left all memories of gang life behind and is making an honest living working in a local drugstore. Riff encourages his old friend to come along to the dance, and after much deliberation…Tony agrees. wss 2

But what is a love story without a love interest? Across town, another story is unfolding in a small bridal store. Maria (played by the astounding Meher Pavri) works in a bridal shop with her brother’s girlfriend Anita (portrayed phenomenally by Victoria Scully) and has just arrived from Puerto Rico. Her brother is in fact the leader of the Puerto Rican gang. She yearns for a wonderful life and looks beyond boundaries and differences. Her family have intended for her to soon marry her brother’s friend Chino, but Maria has no feelings for this man. Anita and her friends decide to bring Maria to the dance at the gym, in order for her and Chino to get to know each other more.

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But when both the Sharks and the Jets arrive at the dance with their girlfriends, the inevitable romantic encounter is set in motion. In an energetic, sexy and competitive dance-off, the groups create a spectacular performance, as they take on each other with high kicks, rolling hips, sensual moves and perfect splits. But in the distance Tony meets Maria, and it is love at first sight. Their initial meeting send them soaring away from the tensions between each gang and sail beyond the differences of their families.

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However, falling in love may occur in an instant but allowing it to blossom is never that simple. Cue these secret lovers meeting on the balcony and kissing in the moonlight, holding hands, and singing of their love, in songs such as Maria and One Hand, One Heart. Nevertheless, as soon as their friends and family find out, rivalries grow and it soon becomes as race against time for Tony and Maria to prove their love, not only to themselves, but to those around them.

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And this is where I must stop myself from telling too much. But what I must say is that the musical is a fantastic portrayal of a well known classic. It is the perfect example of a musical that will have you laughing, gasping, crying and applauding throughout each scene.

The acting is second to none, the choreography is crisp, smooth and professional, and when it comes to the singing; I am nearly lost for words. Meher Pavri’s (Maria) voice is phenomenal to say the least, as her operatic notes will lift you off your seat and give you chills. Hugh Ritchie (Tony), an actor and singer from Brookville ON, will have you feeling every kind of emotion, as his ability to interpret a song and its meaning is nothing short of amazing.

Every single actor, singer and performer was fantastic, which made it difficult to single out a particular “star of the show,” so to speak, as they were equally talented, in many different ways. For example, Victoria Scully (Anita) blew me away with her ability to own the stage, as she performed the hilarious song “America.” The injection of fun and drama was effortlessly delivered, in the musical number “I Feel Pretty,”  by the talented Natasha Strilchuk and Andrea Gregorio, in their roles as Consuela and Francisca, whereas there was not a dry eye in the house when Jess McKay (Rosalia) sang the haunting, emotional ballad “Somewhere.”

Sarah Jones‘ (Velma), along with the entire cast, was exceptional with her impressive choreography, making me want to grab my own dancing shoes and join them on stage. And the Jets Gang (Matthew Eldracher, Dominic Gauthier and Travis Paul) had me crying with laughter at their funny, cheerful and chuckle worthy performance of the song “Gee, Officer Krupke.” 

As the show came to an end, the audience rose to their feet in a well deserved standing ovation for the cast and crew. Each performer took their bows to whoops and cheers from the crowds, and the clapping bounced off the theatre walls. As each theatregoer exited, I could hear several of them singing the show tunes to themselves, voicing how much they enjoyed the performance and even a certain lady imitating one of the Puerto Rican girls, as she shook and ruffled her cocktail dress from side to side.

So there you go my Entertainment Fairy Followers. This adaption of West Side Story by Joseph Patrick & Mauruce Galpern is a MUST SEE in my theatrical and musical opinion. It has everything a successful show requires…a great story-line, a shocking twist, an astonishing cast and a killer musical score.

West Side Story is famously described as a modern day adaption of Romeo & Juliet, with its emphasis on forbidden love and heart-breaking losses, but in fact, it can be related to nearly every struggle we face in life.

What I took from the story were three things: (1) Love Knows No Boundaries, (2) Acceptance Is The First Step and (3) Forgiveness Is Everything.

***

West Side Story is being performed at The Lower Ossington Theatre at 100A Lower Ossignton Avenue, Toronto, ON. 

If you want to see this fantastic show for yourself, tickets can be purchased at the theatre box office or by clicking HERE to purchase online.

Performances are at scheduled from Thursday 11th August until Sunday 18th September 2016. Thursday and Friday performances are at 7:30pm, Saturdays are at 3:30pm and 7:30pm, and Sundays at 3:30pm.

Hope you all enjoy it as much as I have.

Love: The Entertainment Fairy xxx

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A Step Back In time: Black Creek Pioneer Village REVIEW

bc 1Now we all wonder; from time to time, of what life would have been like hundreds of years ago: what would our jobs have been, was life hard, and ultimately, would we have even survived?

With my love of everything historical and a deep interest in pioneer life, I find myself day-dreaming occasionally about how if I had one wish, I would probably use it to travel back in time and experience this life for myself…minus the wars, influenza and diseases of course. But that’s silly of me, isn’t it?  Other than books, journals and documentaries; how would this ever be possible. Well folks…it sure is.

Since arriving here in Toronto, I set out without the slightest bit of hesitation, to find all the best tourist attractions that the city and surrounding areas had to offer. Searching high and low, I sought out something that was not only enjoyable, but something that was informative, memorable and possessed that certain Je ne sais quoi

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When I came across an advertisement in the local tourist office for Black Creek Pioneer Village, I knew immediately that this was something not only I would enjoy, but something every age group would love. Located in Toronto’s North-West Region, at 1000 Murray Ross Parkway, M2J 2P3, Toronto, lies a village frozen in the mid 19th century. Houses, schools, meeting halls, churches, mills and several trade stores are just a small example of what is on offer here at Black Creek.

As soon as I stepped through the entrance to the village, my senses went into over-drive. The sounds, the smells, the  buildings and the staff (who, by the way, make the experience even more realistic by dressing in the attire of the time), all played a huge part in helping you to immerse yourself into what life was like in rural Toronto during that time.

“In the buildings, and surrounding gardens and farmyards you will find historical interpreters and trades people in authentic period dress who will demonstrate and explain for you how people lived, worked and played in mid 19th century rural Ontario.” (Black Creek Pioneer Village Quote)

bc 3I got to perform several tasks whilst I was here, like learning how to make brooms in the broom-makers shops, how early settlers used natural products they found around them to dye their fabrics a desired colour, how early printing presses designed each page of a newspaper and also learning of the instruments that doctors used on their patients, to cure them of their ailments.

You couldn’t help but admire the fascination of the younger generation, as they eagerly asked the staff several questions on what life would have been like for them, if they lived during this time. Their inquisitive nature even answered some questions I had about the village…which can be quite helpful for the shy adult.

bc 4But the village is not only a collection of buildings, with actors inside. The village houses artifacts that go back hundreds of years, including doll houses of such intricate detail, suitcases of the poor, home children and records of all the residents that lived in this wonderful community.

From beginning to end, there was a buzz in the air. Every age group you could think of were entering each building and showing incredible interest in the historical expertise and knowledge each interpreter provided. Being from Ireland, I found myself drawn to the stories of those families from my side of the world, like the Flynn Family of County Fermanagh in Ireland, and the Mackenzie Family from Scotland.

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However, the highlight of my visit here has to be the Black Creek Historic Brewery. I know, what a cliche, a Irish person loving a brewery… but its true. Set deep in the cellar of the beautiful halfway house, lies the historic brewery and its selection of fine ales, prepared on site; using methods from 19th century times. For only $5, you get to try three different ales, which in my opinion, you will love. It is just another way to transport back in time, and is unquestionably a great treat for the adults after a long, hot day.

Before I forget I must say that the staff are truly what makes the village a success. They are so warm, charming, informative and funny, and are the reason why people will come back time and time again. A special shout out is required to KT Bryski and Blythe Haynes who are a great asset to this attraction. Both girls are queens at dramatically interpreting this period, and every interaction I had with them was full of laughter, cheerfulness and fun. KT is also an accomplished author and podcaster, and her novels can be purchased in the gift shop, as well as in Indigo BookShops and on Amazon.ca.

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 Blythe is a fantastic actress, who never fails on delivering a fun, professional and memorable performance in every project she takes on. And if you want a weekly giggle, click here to access the official twitter page, to see Blythe trying out 19th century tasks direct from Black Creek, in the #BlytheTries videos. These videos show exactly how entertaining and humorous your meeting with Blythe will be.

As I left the village on that hot summer afternoon, I was already planning my next visit. Just before I left I paid the gift shop a visit, which made me fall in love with the Toronto attraction even more. With a vast selection of not only Canadian gifts, but gifts hand-crafted in Black Creek Pioneer Village itself, it was like a treasure trove to me. I bought gifts and sent them home to Ireland, which were greeted with amazement upon arrival. Also, the staff in the gift shop are absolutely amazing. Their helpfulness and welcoming nature are such a treat during your visit to the heritage museum.bc 11

Since my first visit here, I have come back twice again with many of my friends, who have all enjoyed the experience immensely, and plan on coming back again at a later time themselves. The historic interpreters even joked upon my third visit that I could start taking people on a tour of the village myself;; seeing that I have been here so much.

But it is not just me who enjoys visiting over and over again. Reading the reviews online is a glimpse into how popular this attraction is, with families and friends coming back several times a year to relax and take in the atmosphere of this serene landscape. Even celebrities like Katy Perry, who has visited on occasions, say that Black Creek Pioneer Village is a MUST SEE during any visit to Toronto.

So if you want to attend something that will have you talking about it for months later, head on over to Black Creek Pioneer Village. It’s a sure winner in pleasing everyone and creates fond memories for families, friends, siblings, history enthusiasts and many more.

Tickets can be purchased at the attraction or you can click here to buy tickets online prior to your visit.

THE ENTERTAINMENT FAIRY GIVES A MAGICAL…

5 STAR RATING TO BLACK CREEK PIONEER VILLAGE

Well Deserved.

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G.R.L Are Back & Stronger Than Ever

We know we can’t give up on this, as we want to spread the message of strength and resilience; no matter what obstacles come our way.

 

imageBack in September 2014, the music world was rocked and came to an immediate standstill, when the media announced that Simone Battle was found dead in her West Hollywood residence, due to the unfortunate circumstance of suicide.

Simone made up one fifth of the hugely popular, energetic and fresh new girl-group, G.R.L, and were the definition of chart domination.

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Formed by Robin Antin, creator of the famous Pussycat DollsG.R.L came roaring into the music limelight in June 2013, with the release of their debut single Vacation. As soon as the public heard of this new addition to the pop charts, the group’s only destination was up, and nothing was going to hold them back.

On 25th February 2014, the quintet, which consisted of Emmalyn Estrada, Lauren Bennett, Natasha Slayton, Paula Van Oppen and Simone Battle, teamed up with the internationally popular rapper, Pitbull, on his single Wild Wild Love. The song became an internet sensation and dominated the charts, as well as becoming a floor filler when played at clubs and festivals globally.

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As the five beautiful ladies went from one success to another, the world came to love G.R.L; not only for their raw, unquestionable singing talents, but for their warm, unique and fun personalities.

However, as the months went by, not even the girls could anticipate the fame and success they were about to receive following the release of their upcoming single titled, Ugly Heart. Unlike many other chart hits, it did not take us several replays to warm to this top tune. Everyone became immediately addicted to the clever melody, up-beat tempo, and energetic beat; not to mention the slick-ass lyrics delivered throughout.

Ugly Heart went to No:7 on the U.S Billboard Charts, and hit even higher at No:2 in the U.K, Ireland, Scotland and Australia. The dance-floor classic went four-times Platinum in Australia, but upon going Gold Certified in the United Kingdom, it became clear that this band were going to be one of the biggest girl-groups of recent times.

As each country  around the globe were introduced to the group via radio broadcasts, live TV appearances and promotional tours, G.R.L moved up to the top of every girl and boys playlist.

imageHowever, on 5th September 2014, the tragic death of Simone Battle shook the group. Only three months after the release of their most successful single to date, they had now lost their band-mate and true friend. The four remaining members halted all public appearances to allow themselves and their fans to grieve, and on January 15th 2015, the girls produced a song in memory of their fallen comrade, entitled Lighthouse. The song and accompanying music video aimed to highlight the importance of looking after your mental health, and most of all, talking to others about your worries and fears. Fans and critics agreed on the power and message of the song; collectively voicing their verdict that this creative effort was a touching, memorable and respectful representation of Simone’s life.

Sadly, amid rumours of a brief hiatus, the group’s label and creator announced that the group were disbanding, whilst thanking the fans for their support and wishing the ladies every success in their future endeavours. Following the statement, fans took to social media, mourning the loss of G.R.L and their music, whilst praying that at some point they would reform.

WELL, I’M HAPPY TO ANNOUNCE THAT THE WAIT IS FINALLY OVER!!!!

imageIt has just been revealed by the band’s new rep Matt Wynter, that G.R.L will be returning with a smaller lineup. Original G.R.L members Natasha Slayton and Lauren Bennett are returning, and together they are happy to announce the addition of a third member to G.R.L…Jazzy Mejia.

Social media, as well as music blogs and forums have been buzzing with anticipation and elation, since this amazing news was released. Lauren and Natasha released a joint statement saying, “We are so excited to introduce our amazing fans to our newest G.R.L sister, Jazzy Mejia. Besides her raw talent, she is kindhearted and willing to put in the work necessary to make G.R.L greater than ever.”

imageThe first time we will be able to see the girls perform as a G.R.L trio will be at the Nickelodeon Slimefest in Australia. The annual music festival will take place on 25th September 2016 in Melbourne and again on 30th September 2016 in Sydney.

Click here to purchase tickets to the GRL Comeback Performance

So G.R.L fans, get ready for the return you have been waiting for. If you are in Australia, then you are one of the lucky people. Dust of your glow-sticks and festival gear, and get down to the Slimefest this year. For those individuals like myself who don’t reside in Oz, we will just have to sit back and watch the whole performance live online. The one consolation we do have is that the band is truly back for good, new singles are on the horizon and who knows…maybe even the possibility of a worldwide tour.

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Are you excited?…The Entertainment Fairy sure is.

xxx