Little Gem (Alumnae Theatre, Toronto) February 15th-March 3rd 2018

imageOn Thursday evening, with the snow finally thawing around our feet, but a lingering crisp cold air silently threatening more to come, I made my way to the Alumnae Theatre on 70 Berkley Street, Toronto, for opening night of the Toronto Irish Players production of LITTLE GEM.

LITTLE GEM has been garnering awards and special recognition since its debut back in 2008, when it sailed onto the stage at the Dublin Fringe Festival; winning the award for Best New Writing. Within a year, it made its way “over the pond” to Edinburgh, where its popularity soared, winning the Best of Edinburgh Award at Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Since then, the play written by Elaine Murphy has been travelling across the globe, entertaining audiences in major cities such as Dublin, Belfast, London, New York and Sydney, Australia.

But now it’s Toronto’s turn in bringing this popular show back to life. At the helm of this Irish stage show is director Cliona Kelly (Winner of Best Production at the ACT-CO Thea Awards) and producer Alan Hunt (Winner of Best Director & Best Drama: ACT-CO Awards, and Best Production: Acting Irish International Theatre Festival).

So lets get started. Little Gem tells the story of 3 generations of women in the same family, living in Dublin City Centre, Ireland. The comedy is presented to the viewers in monologue manner, where we get the chance to learn the deepest feelings, secrets and thoughts about what is not only going on in their lives, but their other female counterparts.

The three characters consist of grandmother Kay (played by Barbara Taylor), mother Lorraine (Rebecca De La Cour) and teenage granddaughter Amber (Billie Jean Shannon). As the play starts, we get to know each character intimately…Amber is a party-loving, wild child, who if not picking fights with the nearest girl who looks at her wrong, is devoting her time to waster boyfriend, Paul. Its not long before she gets some personal news that turns her life onto a whole new, unexpected path. Her mother Lorraine, who works in retail is stressed to the max in not only her job,  but at home also. When she is not agitated by careless customers, she is bringing her anger back home and taking her frustration out on her self created, rigorous cleaning schedule.  Unlucky in past relationships and picky in new ones, Lorraine craves some intimate attention, but remains afraid of being hurt (like she was by Amber’s estranged drug-addict father, Ray).

Grandmother Kay, on the other hand, is dealing with the events and side effects following her husband Gem’s stroke. With his psychological, social and physical impairments taking their toll, Kay is left wondering what is to become of their relationship, and whether they will ever recover what they lost.

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Each woman is going through their own emotional turmoil, and we can see how each of them perceive each others dilemmas, when the separate monologues are performed. Despite their troublesome situations, you would be very surprised to hear that the play is indeed quite humorous.

Typical of the Dublin nature, the three of them do what they do best and bring humor to mask the struggles they are experiencing; with laugh out loud scenes and quite relatable situations.

With each scene, the audience becomes to love each character; flaws and all. The characters soon come to realize that the ones who will always be there for them is each other… but it wouldn’t be family unless there were several arguments along the path to that discovery.

In terms of the acting, the 3 ladies were outstanding. Used to seeing Barbara Taylor behind the scenes, it was great to see her up on stage, as she was the perfect person to play strong willed Kay; portraying her tough and soft side perfectly. She definitely brought the laughs, as it was hilarious and actually refreshing to see the ‘grandmother’ of the story discussing the physical aspect of her love life.

Billie Jean Shannon played teenage granddaughter Amber in such a realistic and believable manner. A native of Ireland’s capital herself, she truly brought authenticity to this Dublin set play. As a past Dublin university student myself, I could see several of my friends all rolled into the character of Amber, which brought me back to my carefree years.

As always, Rebeccca De La Cour did not disappoint in the role of Lorraine. I think I related to this character the most. Seeing her act out her frustration working in the retail environment, had everybody laughing, as we all have experienced this in one way or the other over our careers. This was the second production I had seen Rebecca perform in; the last being “The Night Joe Dolan’s Car Broke Down,” and once again, she delivered a fantastic performance.

Throughout the show, these three entertaining actors help us to appreciate the journey that their characters have travelled to overcome their problems. We see Kay come to understand that its OK to not be strong sometimes. A mother’s instinct; especially a grandmothers’, is to put everyone first before herself, but at what cost? We see Amber overcome her worst fears, only to see the beauty of healing from hurt, disappointment and loss. We finally get to see Lorraine believe in herself and be open to more of life’s gifts.

imageAll of this…plus a barrel full of laughs. The Irish humor, particularly the Dublin one, is in a league of its own. Just when you think the laughs are over, there is a smart one-liner thrown into the mix.

In terms of the technical delivery of the comedy, I thought the sound design by Dan Schaumann was well timed and effective in expanding the visual and audible experience.

However, if there was anything I needed to slightly critique, it was the set design. I always find that with shows which are monologue driven, it is important to stimulate the audience through other means, as the character interaction can be limited. I have seen photos of  different sets of this show around the world, and others seemed to showcase more elaborate set design. As this play is set mainly in the home of the three characters, it would have been interesting to see more set additions and props to create the surroundings of each scene.

However, regardless of this, the show was very enjoyable, funny and heart warming. It will make you laugh, cry and then laugh some more. It truly is a touching play that everyone can relate to.

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If you would like to attend this comedy show at the Alumnae Theatre Toronto, tickets can be reserved by calling : 416-440-2888. Prices range from $23-$25 per ticket.

For online purchases, you can find all information by visiting www.torontoirishplayers.com

LITTLE GEM will be playing at the Alumnae Theatre from February 15th until March 3rd 2018.

I want to take the chance to wish the Toronto Irish Players, the cast and crew of Little Gem and the staff at Alumnae Theatre good luck for the rest of this run, and on future theatrical projects.

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The Crucible: Hart House Theatre (Jan 19-Feb 3)

image1692…SALEM, MASSACHUSETTS…THE TRIAL OF A CENTURY…WITCHCRAFT!

We’ve all heard the stories that surround the notorious Salem Witch Trials of 1692-1693, whether that be through history books or novels, the media, the movies and even TV shows.

It is a story that has intrigued, shocked and undoubtedly baffled people for many centuries, and still to today we ask ourselves…how did this all take place, who was responsible, but most of all…was there any truth in the accusations?

It is a story that has fascinated me since I was a child…when other kids were reading books on their favorite sports star or thumbing through the typical teenage novella series, I had my head stuck in a book which surrounded the mystery of Salem and the accounts of what happened.

However, in many ways, the media has recognized everyone’s interest in this piece of history and run with it. Take shows like Sabrina The Teenage Witch, who unsurprisingly had a cat called Salem. How about the 1993 family classic Hocus Pocus, which starred Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy as the Sanderson Sisters; hung at Salem in 1693, only to return 300 years later to wreak havoc on the town that wronged them?

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Or the recent fan favorite that had everybody talking; WGN drama series SALEM, which introduced characters not widely known in Salem’s history, and developed the theory that maybe the accusers of Salem where actually the ones guilty of Witchcraft…and therefore not the accused.

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So as you can see, even Hollywood loves re-telling this tale, as there are endless ways to approach this troublesome time in history.

Despite the entertainment of seeing these adaptions on screen, one looks for more…we look to experience the panic, and the events that followed for ourselves.

So therefore…go no further that the HART HOUSE THEATRE this January/February Season, as Arthur Miller’s famous play The Crucible will hit the stage; ready to re-open this chapter in history, right before your very eyes.

imageDirected by Michael Rubinstein, the play centres around the historical account of the the Salem Witch Trials, beginning with the discovery of several young girls and a slave, seemingly conjuring spirits within the woods. Rather than be accused and punished for such actions in a Puritan community, the girls begin to accuse others within Salem of the crime of Witchcraft. From here, the line between reality and illusion becomes blurred, allowing the accusers to take advantage of a town now drowning in panic. Love affairs, lies and friends becoming foes are only a few examples to what lies ahead.

The most wonderful thing about The Crucible is that, although it is a somewhat fictionalized account of these trials, it remains truthful to the characters involved and even shows us the scandals that they wished to remain hidden in their own lives.

imageNot only does the Hart House Theatre have a fantastic director on board to breathe life into this play, but a wonderful production team, including set designer Chris Penna, have many surprises in store, as they plan to recreate 17th century Salem on this Toronto stage. As a huge fan of Chris’ past projects like ground-breaking TV show The Strain, I am super excited to see what this artistic genius has planned for us. With both stunning visual and sound effects also in store, this show is sure to stand out among the many.

It goes without saying that this show boasts some of the best performers in Toronto, some new faces making their debut and some Hart House regulars, which adds something really special to the acting skills base.

The wonderful aspect of this play is that every single character gets their story told, which allows each actor/actress to shine in their parts. As a Salem Witch Trial fan, I must admit I will be looking out for my favorite historical characters and their portrayal. In particular, I look forward to the portrayal of MERCY LEWIS by actress Joanna Decc, as there is always a sense of mystery surrounding her actions during the trials.

If you too cannot wait to see this remarkable show, make sure to get down to The Hart House Theatre, Toronto from January 19th until February 3rd 2018.

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Tickets can be purchased in person at the the theatre box office (located on lower level of Hart House), but to avoid disappointment, you can purchase them online by clicking HERE

The Run-time is approximately 2 hrs and 30 mins (including 1 intermission).

“A timeless play and a pivotal work, The Crucible is a tale of caution that warns of the deadly consequences when a society allows fear, suspicion and superstitious gossip to rule over facts and reason.”

This is a play that will not only entertain you, but inform you. Many of us have heard of the Salem Witch Trials, but remain unaware of those involved. Whether you are a history buff or not, there is one thing everyone can agree on from seeing this classic. The Crucible is more relevant in today’s society than ever before. It is a lesson that teaches us to not allow our own fear and lack of understanding to rule over common sense, and most of all, prevent the intentional spread of our own personal insecurities onto others for our own benefits.

Hope you all enjoy the show!!!!

Dreamgirls Hits Toronto, and its the HOT TICKET this fall

imageLast weekend, the glitz and glamour of the 1960’s hit the Lower Ossington Theatre’s main stage, and set it alight. When hair was higher, moves were smoother and the only way to make it in the entertainment industry was to fight tooth and nail, the Dreamettes hit the music scene.

For those who have been living under a rock for the past 30 years, Dreamgirls was and continues to be one of Broadway and the West End’s highest grossing shows of all time, delivering a memorable storyline, as well as a hot, soulful musical score.

Dreamgirls first hit Broadway in 1981, and was an instant hit with critics across the US. Starring broadway legends such as Jennifer Holliday, Loretta Devine and Sheryl Lee Ralph, it was simply impossible for the public to not fall in love with its debut.

And despite this musical being over 30 years old, its popularity just keeps growing. In 2006, Dreamworks and Paramount pictures produced the film version of the much loved show, starring queen of R&B Beyonce, as well as American Idol Superstar Jennifer Hudson.

And just when we thought it had hit its peak in global domination, the West End stage in London UK opened its doors in 2016 to the musical once more and continues to garner fantastic reviews for its lead actress… TV star and Glee alumni Amber Riley.

But regardless of whether you seen its debut in the 1980’s or in worldwide cinemas in 2006, the story has remained the same and continues to draw us in. It is a show that not only has a big heart, but shows how important it is to follow your dream, and never let anyone change you…because being successful means being yourself.

imageSo it was now time for Dreamgirls to hit the LOT Toronto stage, and I find myself trying to find the words to express how FABULOUS I found it to be. The show opens with our 3 main divas Effie (Krystle Chance)Deena (Maddy Eddy) and Lorrell (Alinka Angelova), hitting the stage for a talent competition, with Effie singing lead vocals. With an original song and killer moves, they shine like stars in front of the judges. Unfortunately, they do not win, but opportunity shows itself before the band lose faith.

Music mogul Marty (Richelle Tavernier) and opportunistic entrepreneur Curtis Taylor, convince the girls and Effie’s songwriter brother C.C (Julian Mignott) that the female trio should become R&B superstar Jimmy Early’s (Kyle Brown) backup singer…The Dreamettes. After much deliberation and arguments, the girls agree, but still maintain the hope to have a solo career themselves.

imageSoon we see eccentric Jimmy getting popular by the second, but The Dreamettes are all the public can speak of. However, when fame is concerned, the new manager Curtis puts popularity over obvious talent. He now reforms them as The Dreams, but his choice to put curvier lead singer Effie in the back and Deena up front, sends tensions through the once close friendship. Effie becomes temperamental and accusations start flying, leading to hurtful claims, threatening ultimatums and explosive exits. With replacement Dreamgirl, Michelle (Amanda Mattar) taking Effie’s place, what is to happen of our once leading lady?

As the years pass, we get to see the true story of Dreamgirls… a tale of success, dreams and love…and how they can all come and go in a blink of an eye. But from failure comes awareness and hope, and a way to not only redeem oneself, but to finally be the best version that you can be.

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All in all, I cannot express how much I loved the show. It made me laugh and cry…all at the same time. The stage was spectacular as the LOT shows always are, thanks to the magic of set designer Michael Galloro and lighting designer Mikael Kangas. But it was the fashion and style that I truly fell in love with. The 1960’s was well known for its sparkly gowns and elegant presentation, and costume designer Erin Gerofsky without a doubt kept true to that fashion era.

The cast of Dreamgirls, I can truthfully say; with hand on heart, were the best and most talented cast I ever had the opportunity of seeing perform at the Lower Ossington Theatre. Not only were their vocals and harmonies on the money, but the energy they spread out across the audience was infectious. With every scene and musical number, I found myself wishing that I had been a 60’s child in Chicago, and if that wasn’t possible… I would settle for dancing and singing on the stage with this amazing cast myself.

For once, it is impossible to pick out the stars of the show, because each and every one of them was fantastic in every way. Maddy brought elegance to each performance, Alinka was the heart of the show, Amanda provided the crowd with flawless choreography, Julian brought soulful creativity, Bobby portrayed his character with authenticity and confidence and Richelle was perfect as the no-nonsense, tell it how it is, Marty.

But extra credit for the performances of Krystle Chance as leading lady Effie and Kyle Brown as smooth moving, sweet talking singer Jimmy Early must be given.

imageA voice such as Krystle’s is one that comes along once in a lifetime, and I found myself understanding why the LOT wanted her to play Effie White; a character that everybody in the world has come to love. Her voice is one of the best I have ever heard, and when I listened to her perform group numbers like Dreamgirls, and Move, as well as legendary solo songs (And I am telling youI’m Not Going and One Night Only, not only were the hairs on my arms standing up, but the people from their seats too. I actually cannot wait to see her performing again in future shows, as more people need to hear the name Krystle Chance.

Kyle Brown…what can I say? This guy brought the fun factor to the show as Jimmy, as well as the most energetic performances I have ever seen. Although keeping true to the original character, Kyle made the role his own, and made the audience crave more and more. I looked forward to every scene with Kyle in it, as his dialogue was hilarious throughout, but his choreography brought the house down. Performance numbers like Fake Your Way To The Top showed what a talent Kyle is in the entertainment and theatre industry. But for all potential theatre goers, his crowd pleasing performance of Jimmy’s Rap will have you wolf-whistling, dancing and booking future tickets to see it all over again.

If you don’t get down to see DREAMGIRLS before it ends its run, you will regret it later. This is a show to remember, and even a week later, I still cannot get the songs out of my head.

Performances are currently running and will continue to do so until NOVEMBER 19th 2017. Tickets can be purchased in person at the LOT box office at 100A Ossington Avenue, Toronto, or by online advance purchase, by clicking HERE.

“Enjoyable & Endearing:” On Golden Pond…The Review

imageAfter a brief hiatus from the theatre scene, it was great to finally get back into the run of things last weekend. When your life is a bit of a rollercoaster, it is both a joy and a release to escape into the world of fictitious live performance.

Friday evening approached and so did the long awaited opening night of On Golden Pond, performed by the Scarborough Players at Scarborough Village Theatre. As always, a buzz of excitement could be felt as the show attendees gathered in the theatre’s foyer.

For those, like myself, who were unfamiliar with this play, it was very interesting to finally find out what the whole story-line was about, and in the process, come to realize how popular it has been since its initial release. What with its debut onto Broadway in 1979, a 1981 movie adaption starring Henry Fonda, Katharine Hepburn & Jane Fonda, and a 20th Anniversary Live TV remake in 2001 starring Sound of Music power couple, Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer, I was eager to learn of the backstory to the show.

On Golden Pond, written by Ernest Thompson, is a play that centres around an elderly couple; Norman & Ethel Thayer. Each summer over the past 48 years of marriage, they have come to their holiday home in Maine beside a lake known as Golden Pond. Each year is the same: Ethel keeps herself busy exploring the wooded areas; picking wild berries and watching the birds on the lake, whilst Norman reads his books in the study; not making much effort to socialize. To make things even more challenging for his wife, Norman is not only a stubborn man, but a pessimistic one too. To Norman, each year at Golden Pond will be his last, and despite this poor attitude, his wife Ethel remains positive. But, in truth, she has to. Norman is already showing signs of memory loss and is already becoming unfamiliar with his surroundings, so her optimism is not only therapeutic but necessary for her husband.

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But this summer is different. It’s Norman’s 80th Birthday and their daughter Chelsea is coming to visit them at the lakeside home. When she does, she brings her significant other, Billy Ray, along for the ride. Accompanying them is Billy Ray’s 13 year old son, Billy Ray Jnr.

From here, the story begins. Ethel asks Chelsea and Billy Ray if their son can stay with them for the rest of the summer, as they travel across Europe. Billy Ray Snr is delighted, but Chelsea remains reluctant, but eventually agrees. Chelsea had always a tricky relationship with her father growing up, and trying to imagine her stepson having an enjoyable time with her parents, is somewhat unimaginable.

The rest of the summer proves to be the most enjoyable the Thayers have ever had, as the young boy brings so much energy to their quiet lives and awakens the hibernating household. Along with this he awakens the inner child in Norman and brings him out of his reclusive shell with every day they spend together.

imageBut On Golden Pond is not all sunshine and buttercups. Although it acknowledges the happiness a child can bring to a family, it also examines the mistakes parents can be responsible for with their own kids, and ultimately how important it is for those to admit their faults and move on as one unit.

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So now that you have the background to the story, without too many spoilers (I hope)…how did the Scarborough Players do with this classic?

Although the play was slow to begin, it quickly picked up its pace, once the Thayers had properly introduced themselves.

Chris Hardess played our lead Norman Thayer, and did so with both heart and character. He kept loyal to the original character description, by portraying his stubborn, pessimistic side very well. We all have a NORMAN in our lives…that one family member or friend…male or female…who is constantly complaining about something or someone, and has the most dismal outlook on life. But we love them regardless. Although Norman’s strong-willed attitude was over the top at times, it was a joy to see how Chris was able to believably become a new man, once the child arrived at the house.

Kathrine Tomlinson was a breath if fresh air to watch, as lovable wife Ethel Thayer. She brought warmth, emotion and genuine relatability to her character. She successfully portrayed the hard work that goes into being a wife and mother, by allowing the audience to see what we all know to be true….that you have to remain positive for the sake of your family, that have to encourage those you love to be the best they can be, and most of all; as a wife and mother, that one cannot take sides. All in all, Kathrine definitely was a highlight within the show.

Kerrie Lamb played daughter, Chelsea. Although we only get to see her for small scenes, I enjoyed watching her performance. She depicted very much what a lot of kids go through. When you grow up in a family where a parent does not take the time to know their child, or take an interest in their lives, it can be heart-breaking. It can be even harder, in this case, when she brings her new stepson to visit her parents, only to watch her father give the attention she always hoped for, to someone else. Kerrie was very convincing as Chelsea, as she effectively showed the audience how pain can travel with you, regardless of time passed.

Greg Nowlan played Billy Ray, bringing a fun, uplifting and warm personality to his performance. Like the part of Chelsea, we only see Billy Ray for small scenes, but in those, Greg depicted the strong, protective and caring nature of his character very well.

But the two stars of the show, who really stood out for me, were Will van der Zyl, who played Chelsea’s childhood sweetheart/mail man, Charlie Martin, and of course, Fraser Schaffer who played the child lead, Billy Ray Jnr. Both of these actors brought something different to the table. Will had the crowd laughing in every scene, as he delivered some very funny one-liners and the fact that his character was so innocent in his thoughts and actions, it made their delivery more effective.

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However, young Fraser gave us all a delightful performance as the 13 year old Billy Ray Jnr. For such a young actor, it was refreshing to see how comfortable he was on stage in front of a big crowd. He depicted the impressionable nature of this child, as his character spent time with 80 year old Norman. His portrayal of this relationship was so easy to watch, as I loved seeing two generations coming together and teaching each other something they were unfamiliar with.

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All in all, the performance was both enjoyable and endearing. It successfully gets across a message surrounding 3 things. Firstly, life is for living and be happy you get to do so. Secondly, people aren’t perfect, and we are all guilty of not being the best version of ourselves at times. And lastly, there are always second chances if we just open our hearts to giving and receiving the necessary forgiveness.

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ON GOLDEN POND will be on stage on September 14th, 15th, 16th & 17th, as well as September 21st, 22nd & 23rd, at Scarborough Village Theatre, located at 3600 Kingston Road, Scarborough.

Tickets can be purchased at the Box Office in person, or can be purchased in advance online, by clicking HERE.

Just like our main characters Norman & Ethel, make sure you take a trip to Golden Pond also, before the summer is officially over.

*Production photos courtesy of Thomas Kowal*

Bored? Don’t Be! Here are the Top 5 Things you should be doing right now.

As the summer break approaches the halfway mark, you can be one of two types of people; those who live to seek out more things while there is still time, and those who lie and wait for something to pull them out of their approaching autumn blues. Regardless of how proactive you are, it can be still very easy to miss the hidden treasures that surround you, and of course the great events that are ready to be experienced and the landmarks to be explored.

imageSpeaking solely for myself, I find pleasure in 5 simple things…Theatre, Literature, Fashion, Culture and Food. And when you thing about it…maybe these little moments of gratification could become yours too.

Everyone wants that feeling of happiness that comes from doing something you have always wished to do, finally getting that article of clothing you’ve had your eye on all this time, visiting a place of beauty, catching up with friends and family at your favorite cafe, or even reading a book that speaks to you personally.

For all the peeps back home, here are my TOP 5 THINGS happening right now:

1) THEATRE: It’s Wine O’ Clock at The Iontas Arts and Community Resource Centre, Castleblayney, County Monaghan

imageIt goes without saying that the Nuala and Noleen hype has got us all full of excitement and anticipation at what their next stunt, skit or on-stage show will be. One thing is for sure, they are sure to please us each time with their hilarious characters, and wild antics. Their latest show has went down a storm so far; with sell-out performances North and South of the Border, and now its coming to the Iontas in Castleblayney, to dish out tonnes of belly-aching laughs and moments of outright hilarity.

The show welcomes you to the craziest wedding of the year! Vera, the farmers wife who is so excited that her only son Seamus is getting married, has invited you all to the special day. Attending also are the farmers Pat and Eamon, the Bridesmaids, the Yummy Mummies, the Grannies, and of course Nuala and Noleen who are always looking for love. The shenanigans that go down and the situations each character find themselves in, will have you raising the roof with laughter and applause.

It all goes down FRIDAY 10th November @ 8PM. Get your tickets by clicking HERE.

 

 

2) FASHION: Couture Grandeur Newry Road, Crossmaglen (SUPER SUMMER SALE)

Ladies and Gents…correct me if I’m wrong, but we all aim for a little sprinkle of magic when it comes to our wardrobe selection, and love to know how smart, cute, sexy, handsome or sophisticated we look in a new number we have just added to the collection.

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In the words of fashion supermodel Miranda Kerr“…fashion doesn’t need to be expensive or complicated – just worn with grace and confidence.”

And what better place to embrace your inner style goddess than at Couture Grandeur. Even better, word has traveled my way that their SUMMER SALE has now started. Yes, you heard right people, prices have been slashed to Up To 70% OFF summer stock, as well as well as dresses and formal wear by up to 50% OFF.

 

We all love a great deal…even better when you’ve had your eye on something for so long, and now its right at your finger tips for a fabulous, affordable price. As you may all know, Couture Grandeur fashion has been racking up wonderful recognition for Best Dressed Ladies at the official races in Ireland, and now these award winning pieces could be yours, at a fraction of the original price.

 

And fret not people…there are shoes also. This is my ultimate weakness…my Kryptonite in many ways. Who can have ‘enough’ shoes? Not me, that’s for sure. And with this footwear being reduced to 10,15 and 20 pound, I am just jealous that you are able to avail of this opportunity, when I am thousands of miles across the ocean.

With Couture Grandeur going from strength to strength, I cannot wait to see what awaits the public for the Autumn/Fall Line. Until then… get down there and GET SHOPPING, whilst this incredible stock lasts.

 

3) CULTURE: Castlewellan Forest Park & Peace Maze in Castlewellan, County Down

Each time I see photographs of this historical and natural wonder, I am in awe of the beauty of how much it has to offer. For many people, we take these tourist attractions for granted, or even dismiss them, as we know little about their history or origins.

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However, as home to one of Northern Ireland’s most famous lakes, a stunning Victorian Castle, incredible panoramic views, scenic walking trails, 27km of Mountain Bike Trails, Nature Park perfect for the kids, an onsite multi-activity centre, a breath-taking hedge maze and equestrian centre, Castlewellan Forest Park boasts all of this and more; making it a must-see for all ages.

imageThe castle itself is an architectural treasure and to me, the perfect set for Hollywood movies. With the beauty of the surroundings, anyones creative ideas would spring to life on their first visit to the 19th Century stronghold. However, the main attraction that has everybody talking, has to be The Peace Maze. The Peace Maze is located on the grounds of the castle, and is in fact one of the largest permanent hedge mazes in the entire world. The maze represents the path to the peaceful future of Northern Ireland. Planted in 2000, it is now the intended height for public enjoyment. Visitors are encouraged to enter the maze and try to make their way to the centre, where a bell awaits to be rang. The hedge maze is a wonderful representation of how agreement and harmony can be achieved, if you put your mind to it, be open of the challenges that lie ahead, accept your mistakes and move on to achieve a common goal.

This is a definite must see for not only natives but visitors too. More information can be found by clicking HERE.

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4) LITERATURE: The Waiting Tree by Lindsay Moynihan

Huh? The Waiting Tree, I hear you ask? I know, I thought the same too. Not once did I ever see this book advertised on the shelves back home, or even in the book stores of Toronto. But thanks to the generosity of a close friend, she kindly gave me this novel to read…and since starting it, I cannot put it down.

This incredible book is the story of 18 year old Simon Peters, who falls in love with Stephen Levesque. When Stephen’s parents discover that they have been having a romantic relationship, they ship him of to Christian Center to “see the error of his ways” and be “normalized.”

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But Simon can’t let him disappear from his life.  He needs him and ‘the heart wants what the heart wants.” With his parents recently deceased and his brothers picking up the responsibility to raise the rest of the family, Simon’s mute twin, Jude, shows him that the secret to setting him free, lies within a tree at the bottom of their garden…The Waiting Tree.

imageThe Waiting Tree is a wonderful book for anyone to read, but especially for those struggling to come to terms with their feelings of who they are. Whether you are from a small community who doesn’t accept you, or from a family who fails to make peace with your happiness, there is always comfort in the written word. Stories have a way of helping us find hope, whether it is fictionalized or not. And this is no exception.

 

5) FOOD: Jackie’s Cafe at The Market Square, Dundalk, County Louth

Still to this day, I am so glad I came across this gorgeous, chic-style cafe on a day out with my mum. In an area we always frequented, we never seemed to venture beyond its doors, as it was always so busy during the mid-day coffee rush and lunch breaks.

But to my delight, we finally got to try it out and since then, I would not go to any other cafe in Dundalk for a bite to eat.

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Not only is the selection of food wonderful; appealing to everyone, but it tastes unbelievable as well. With warm daily specials, as well as a huge selection of salads, sandwiches, deserts, coffees and teas, baked goods and gluten free/vegetarian options, this culinary gem is a must stop on every visit to the town.

For the extremely reasonable prices, the portions are so generous, that you are genuinely satisfied for the whole day. But most of all, its the staff that brings the customers back again and again. They cheerful attitude and friendly manner is so obvious when you enter the establishment, that you are already subconsciously planning your next visit before you even order. My favorite part of all my visits is the one thing  that clientele love, and that is how staff remember you personally. With each visit, your time there is individually personalized and you are made feel welcome and appreciated.

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When I moved to Toronto, the one thing I wished to take with me was Jackie’s Cafe, as nothing has beaten it yet in the 16 months I have been away…so that just shows how good it is.

Next time you are in Dundalk, make sure to drop by and see for yourselves why this place is as good as it sounds.

SO THERE WE GO MY IRISH FAIRY FOLLOWERS, MY TOP 5 THINGS TO DO RIGHT NOW. GET GOING AND SEE WHICH ONE OF YOU GETS TO EXPERIENCE ALL 5 OF MY FAVORITES.

xoxoxoxo

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Deathtrap: A tale of genius, distrust and envy.

imageOn Thursday evening I set off once again in pursuit of 2017’s summer theatre lineup. After being wowed during my last visit to Scarborough Village Theatre, at their previous comedy “Tons of Money,” how could I turn away the opportunity to see this fabulous theatre group bring another classic to life?

This time around it was none other than the classic, dark comedy DEATHTRAP by Ira Levin. For those unfamiliar with this theatrical addition, you may be familiar with Ira’s other famous offspring, such as The Stepford Wives and Rosemary’s Baby. Simply by looking at his previous works, I was already excited as a lover of all things dark, with a touch of comedy.

As soon as the eager audience were introduced to the theatre by the delightful producer Katherine Turner, the lights dimmed and the show began.

The best way to describe this show to prospective attendees is that it is a “play within a play.” The story begins with our lead character Sidney Bruhl; a once “in-demand” playwright, now swimming in a mixture of writer’s block and discontentment; played by the talented Clive Lacey.

He hasn’t written a successful play in well over a decade, and to make matters worse, a former young pupil at one of his past seminars has sent him a copy of a play he has just created.

But why should that make things worse, I hear you ask? The reason…the play is fantastic. Sidney is kicking himself that he didn’t come up with the idea himself…the story is so fresh, so new and bursting with potential. Its got the perfect plot, as well as the many twists that lie throughout.

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Sidney’s wife Myra Bruhl; an intelligent, opportunistic business woman, sees a way to bring her husband out of his self-thrown ‘pity party.’ Played by Peta Bailey, Myra encourages her partner to get in touch with the aspiring young playwright, in a hope to offer her husband’s wealth of knowledge of the industry to this gentleman. Not only would this be seen as beneficial to the up-and-coming creative talent, but it inevitably would throw Sidney back into the spotlight, which he yearns to have back on him.

When Deathtrap’s creator Clifford Anderson (Nicholas Wicht) arrives to the Bruhl household in Westport, Connecticut, all seems to be going to plan. Sidney boasts to Clifford of past triumphs, even throwing in how he is ‘supposedly’ writing a new suspense play based loosely on the work of psychic-clairvoyant Helga Ten Dorp, which now will have to take a step back, if he is to inject his expertise into tweaking Deathtrap.

But much to Sidney’s surprise, Clifford is not as simple-minded and naive as he would have hoped for. Clifford soon informs Sidney and Myra that it would be silly of him to place all his eggs in one basket and solely consult Sidney on the promise of his play.

Darkness soon descends, and with it, Sidney’s distrust and feelings of a soon-to-be-lost opportunity. Myra can see what’s coming. With no-one knowing where Clifford has headed off to, and not a soul aware of Deathtrap’s existence, Sidney behavior begins to change.

Despite the creepiness of the scene, you cannot help but laugh at both Sidney’s efforts to appear calm and collected, and Clifford’s sudden realization of the approaching threat to his life and work. Sidney attacks and as the struggle dies down, so does the lifeless body of Clifford.

All over? Think again. Yes, Sidney now has Deathtrap for himself, and a future theatrical award on his mantelpiece, but more surprises lie on the horizon. Lo and behold, the renowned Helga Ten Dorp (played by the marvelous Erin Jones) has moved into the house next to the Bruhl’s. How much of a problem could she actually be? Yes she assisted authorities on missing person’s cases, especially murders…but she couldn’t be the real deal…or could she?

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With the arrival of this eccentric psychic, Helga, and lawyer Porter Milgrim (Frank de Francesco), the story unravels, and what we believe to be true gets turned upside down. With surprise visits, shocking revelations, hilarious outbursts and unforeseen twists that not even I seen coming, Deathtrap is one of those dark comedies you can laugh with from beginning to end.

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Some secrets are taken to the grave, whereas others cannot remain buried.

All in all, the show was extremely enjoyable, which I was not surprised by. The Scarborough Players never fail in delivering a show that touches the hearts of every theatre-goer and tickles their funny bone.

Once again, credit must be given to the wonderful set designers of Deathtrapas they surprise me each time, with the authenticity and life-like quality of each stage they create.

Although the 5 cast members were phenomenal in their own way, the two actors that stood out for me the entire show were Nicholas Wicht, who played Clifford and Erin Jones, who played Helga. The reason why these two actors stood out was not just simply down to the comedic element of their characters, but their natural ability to make the audience feel a mixture of emotions; whether it be fear or fun,  or an equal measurement of both.

Erin had the audience’s sides aching with laughter in every scene she appeared in. Her take on Helga had everyone wanting more and more. Whether it be the hilarious, psychic reactions to everything she touched or her unexpected visits when the Bruhl’s least expected it…Erin truly brought the fun factor to the show.

Throughout the performance and interval, I could hear people whisper, “I can’t wait to see the psychic come back,” “The psychic is hilarious,” and “Who is playing Helga? She is fantastic!”

imageNicholas, on the other hand was a breath of fresh air, in his portrayal of playwright hopeful, Clifford. He played the role wonderfully and I looked forward to each scene he was in. His take on the smooth, sweet-talking, cheeky student was second to none, and extra acknowledgment must be given to the physically demanding nature of his character’s role.

All in all, I would definitely urge the Toronto public to go and see this great show. You will hold your breath, gasp, jump and laugh your way from beginning to end. What more could you ask from a show?

 

DEATHTRAP runs for another 4 more days:

July 9th @ 2pm and July 13th-15th @ 8pm at Scarborough Village Theatre, 3600 Kingston Road. 

For TTC users, the (102) Warden Station bus provides a front door theatre drop off point.

Theatre has FREE PARKING and is Wheelchair Accessible.

Tickets for Deathtrap can be purchased online by clicking HERE or can be purchased at the Box Office (Tel: 416-267-9292).

Further information on upcoming shows at Scarborough Village Theatre can be found by clicking the link provided.

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Tons of Money: Opening Night Review at Scarborough Village Theatre

imageI have always loved the saying, “My husband says that I’m the crazy one…but he’s the one that married me,” and this couldn’t be any more relevant than to the theatrical delight I had the opportunity of attending last night.

Yesterday evening at 8pm, curtain went up on opening night of the famous play, Tons of Money; performed by the wonderful actors and actresses of the Scarborough Players and directed by Jeremy Henson.

As I traveled out to the show’s residence, Scarborough Village Theatre, to attend its first show of a run that extends from now until April 22nd, I was buzzing with excitement. This was not only because I never attended a performance at this theatre before, but I had recently been informed by Toronto theatre sources that any show put together by the Scarborough Players is always destined for success.

And as I took my seat in the auditorium surrounded by a huge turnout, I immediately got my first glimpse into what wonderful things were in store for the audience. Before I fill you in on the show itself, I must give a quick shout-out to people involved in the construction of such a memorable set. As Tons of Money is set in 1926, the crew put together a stage that brought the decadence of the 1920’s to life…the lavish parlor surrounded by tall radius windows, overlooking the green fields and river in the distance. With the East wing ready for the maids and butlers, the west wing ready for surprise guests and the parlor set for the hilarious mayhem that was about to ensue with our main characters…the fun began.

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The story opens with Aubrey Allington (Christopher Wakelin) and his wife Louise Allington (Konstance Koutoulakis), as they sit enjoying their morning tea at the breakfast table. Surrounded by bills and final orders, spread among the cutlery, Aubrey and Louise joke carelessly about the debt collectors and how their lifestyle will remain as it is, thanks to their little friend…CREDIT. 

But after butler Sprules (Drew Smylie), maid Simpson (Ana Gonzalez) and gardener Giles (Rob Neilly) deliver a letter from the bank announcing impending bankruptcy and the cease of any continued credit…their care free ways are turned upside down. What are they to do? Where are they to go? What will become of their staff…and are they, themselves, destined to the life of a pauper?

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Suddenly, the arrival of solicitor James Chesterman (Kory Preston) brings some shocking news. Aubrey’s estranged brother in the United States has sadly passed away…but does his near bankrupt brother care? Nope! He has other worries, and his relationship with him over the years was nothing other but a rocky one. But as soon as it is revealed that his brother has left him $740,000 in his will, all history of sibling rivalry is forgotten.

Sounds like the answer to their prayers…right? Think again. Louise starts to add up all the debts that they have, and if her calculations are correct, the new-found fortune will be only seconds in their hands, before it’s gone.

Nevertheless Louise has an unusual, but what she sees as a foolproof plan. It all begins with four simple words…”I Have An Idea.” She reads the will and begins to understand that if Aubrey was to die, the fortune would go to his cousin George Maitland in Mexixo. Regardless that George disappeared many years ago without a trace and assumed dead by his family…he was never announced as deceased to the public.

Louise and Aubrey carry out the plan and fake Aubrey’s death. But why? For him to reemerge as long-lost cousin George, of course,  and claim a debt free fortune. Nothing could go wrong…could it?

Just when everything is going to plan…surprise characters are thrown into the mix, threatening to mess up their fraudulent scheme. First it is in the form of Louise’s resident aunt Miss Benita Mullet (Paula Wilkie), whose questionable nature throws a spanner into the works every-time she challenges Aubrey (in George disguise).

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On the other hand, little does the stressed out couple know that their staff are planning their own surprise resurrection of George, through their scheming pal Henry (Len Henderson), so they can claim the fortune and escape their lowly lives.

Who else wants to ruin Louise’s plan? Step on up…Jean Everard (Charlie Parkes-Patel), the real George Maitland’s wife. Will she recognize Audrey in disguise as George, or maybe Henry as the additional impostor? Not to worry…maybe the unexpected and shocking arrival of the real George Maitland (Neil Nicholas Kulin) will clear all this confusion right up.

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From beginning to end, I never laughed as much in a play, as I did last night. It was the type of show that had jokes in every scene, and the situations each character got themselves into, would have you crying with laughter. The production not only flowed well, due to the perfect story-telling and direction of each act, but through the wonderful interaction between one actor and another.

Every actor and actress brought something wonderful to this fantastic, humor-filled theatrical wonder. Drew Smylie and Ana Gonzalez were perfect as the indoor-help duo “Spruce and Simpson“, as they believably portrayed their dual intentions so well; waiting on every beck and call from their employers, whilst secretly plotting against them.

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Rob Neilly was a nice addition as gardener Giles, as he brought a somewhat innocent nature to the play, as he was the only character without a secret agenda.

Paula Wilkie was a breath of fresh air and provided many laughs throughout, as Auntie Benita Mullet. For a character whom everyone believes to be of little impact to their shrewd plans because of her airy-fairy nature and lack of hearing, she surprisingly is a ninja at breaking down stories that “just don’t add up”…codswallop in her opinion.

Neil Nicholas Kulin and Len Henderson were wonderful as George Maitland and his impostor, Henry, respectively, as their addition into Louise’s now crumbling plan only brought more giggles.

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Also Charlie Parkes-Patel was a joy to watch as the dramatic, energetic and extravagant addition Jean Everard. She, in particular, was one of my favorite characters, as she played her carefree, shallow and unquestionable nature so well.

And who could forget Kory Preston, as solicitor James Chesterman; who had wonderful control and ownership over each scene, as he comically reigned in each of his fellow characters, who were making his job as executor of the will a difficult one.

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But the funniest times you will have watching this show, is the scenes involving Christopher Wakelin as male lead Aubrey and Konstance Koutoulakis as his outstanding wife Louise Allington. Never have I seen an acting duo that worked so well together, where you couldn’t help but smile at the on-stage chemistry they portrayed to the audience.

imageChristopher exuded confidence in every scene and never failed to delight the great turnout with his fun energy and humorous antics. But it was Konstance who was the person who shone the most for me. She was without a doubt the best choice of actress to play the female lead, Louise. For those who attended the show last night, and for those planning to…you will be blown away by her performance. From her character’s initial plan to save the fortune, to her constantly failing ideas…you see how she transforms from the cheerful, untroubled wife…to a woman who gets herself into hilarious tricky scenarios with every new lie she creates. TONS OF MONEY definitely proved to the public that Konstance is undoubtedly an actress who blossoms on the comedic scene.

imageIn many ways, I drew similarities between their stage relationship and that of on-screen duo John Cleese and Connie Booth in 1970’s BBC show Faulty Towers; to which I was delighted with, as those comical relationships are the most memorable.

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For those wishing to go see this amazing show for yourselves, tickets can be purchased at the theatre box office. Information on box office hours can be found by clicking HERE.

If you prefer to book your tickets online in advance, you can purchase them by clicking HERE

I encourage everyone reading this to get down and see the show. It is a play that will have you laughing from beginning to end and one that will have you talking for months to follow.

In the famous words of the delightful Louise Allington, “I HAVE AN IDEA…GET YOUR TICKETS NOW BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE!”

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NOTE: Many thanks for the delicious Wine and Cheese reception organized by the cast, crew and volunteers on opening night. It truly showed a wonderful sense of community and highlighted how much Theatre Scarborough appreciates their patrons.