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Boasting a cast of 14, the latest production from this province’s World class Wonderbolt Circus is called Tricksters.  The show, unveiled for a sneak peak in St. John’s, is without disappointment.  Those that grew up familiar with early Wonderbolt days have a golden opportunity to feel the magic in its purest form again and with any luck the show will eventually (and hopefully) be available on DVD.  Ringmaster Beni Malone performs in his classic, beloved way; signature funny clown hips, on stilts and playing with fire – his cherished charming smile, popping out for a well timed laugh.

Beni Malone in Tricksters

Beni Malone in Tricksters

Malone is joined in Tricksters by nephew Dash Malone who takes on an anime-style Zoolander appearance, living up to his name, zipping and flipping around the theatre.  Also from the family clan is Anahareo White-Malone who returns home from Germany, where she’s very obviously blossomed from training and is a rising international aerialist sensation.  White-Malone takes on a number of characters in the show including an uptight foreign woman milling about the audience before the show struggling to find her seat harassing ushers played by Lauren and Jeff Smyth.

That character reappears throughout the show with Champaign.  For the second act, in a pencil skirt and high heals she proceeds to perform acrobatics in a hanging hula hoop dangling over the stage with white round Chinese paper lanterns floating around her.

Wonderbolt's Tricksters

Wonderbolt's Tricksters

Prior to that standout solo, White-Malone snuck down on white silk ribbons attached to a stage fly wearing a white mask.  She was followed down by Josh Oliver in the same piece, whose aerial strength was revealed off the top of the show when he’d been lowered from a hatch in the ceiling on black canvas straps right over the audience. Both performances were beautifully executed, visually stunning and easily trigged tears for some in combination with the soundscape.

The sounds by George Morgan and Bill Brennan were nothing short of outstanding.  Speaking with producers at the intermission revealed Morgan made certain percussion elements, such as a wall of more then 7 gongs.  A brilliant play fight shared by Oliver and David Mercer graciously shared the spotlight with the Wonderbolt band with class when the four used plastic piping to tap familiar tunes out on their thighs.

Mercer was joined by fellow Gentleman Juggler James Burke as the main through-line characters with Beni Malone.  Both attempted to lure Mercer to step away from being fixated by the formulas of a rubrics cube in lieu of their world of make-believe.   The second scene featured a touching but comedic shared campfire complete with roasting marshmallows between Beni and the Gentleman Jugglers.  All three strategically used vocal exclamations during times of surprise, when Oliver snuck down from a fly and grabbed Mercer by a harness made to look like the back of his shirt for example.

A number of times a big dog popped out on stage to alarm Mercer, Burke and Malone as an especially great way to draw the younger audience in.  Also vaguely familiar to the youth was a character that resembled the ever-popular Mary Poppins played by Kat Finck.  She impressively lowered on stage holding an umbrella by a wrist strap that was also attached to a stage fly.  Finck later reappeared opening the second act with an impressive costume change and diabolo performance.  The second act also heats up with an amazing two hoop performance by Allison Collins (Ali Hoops) with Smyth ushers dutifully standing by the fire exits of the Reid.

A clear audience favourite was the vignette including world champion Aboriginal hoop dancer Terrance Littletent who’s joined by Jayson Littletent for vocals and percussion.  This is a particularly relevant feature as the show moves from St. John’s to the 5th Annual Kamataukatshiuht Circus Festival.  After running from August 19-23rd at the Reid Theatre (matinees Aug 19/20 at 2:00pm), Wonderbolt will take Tricksters to Natuashush and Sheshatshiu before doing a cross-island tour of Arts and Culture Centres in February 2010 after becoming a part of the Vancouver 2010 Cultural Olympics.

For more information about Wonderbolt go to www.wonderbolt.ca.  Tickets for Tricksters at the Reid Theatre are available at the Holy Heart Boxoffice or by calling 579-4424.

When Terri Andrews initially did The Rocky Horror Show at The Majestic back in 2002, Phil Goodridge “was absolutely rotted.”  The show he’d waned to be a part of since being 13 years old was finally here and he was heading back to Toronto for university and couldn’t audition.

He would get his chance six years later but not right away.  When auditions happened for Divas Do Broadway II, the number Sweet Transvestite was in the line up and Goodridge had his sights set on Franknfurter.  After making it known (well known) that he wanted the part, Andrews was surprised, but cast him as Riff Raff for Time Warp to see how far he was willing to go.  Clearly Goodridge delivered because after the official Rocky auditions, he “got a call from someone looking for Frank and it was Terri,” sharing that he “lost [his] mind when she said it.”

Phil Goodridge

Phil Goodridge

Not long after Goodridge went out and signed up with a gym to get ready.  “There’s not a lot of coverage in those outfits! I’ve only worn a corset once and I have to say say, they suck in the gut really well. The thing about wearing ladies undergarments, well, you just have to let go and get wild with it because that’s really what the show’s all about!”

Goodridge pointed out that the show will not simply recreate the movie though, which he feels is important because then people could watch the DVD. Film fans will recognize some honoured parts though and the show has no intentions of disappointment.

“We didn’t go into any scene with a pre-conceived notion of what it should be like which is great because we keep finding really great moments that’ll be really fun and new for the movie fans and also great for people who are seeing it for the first time.”

The cast also has members who are discovering Rocky for the first time but according to Goodridge “everyone involved is really into it, rehearsals are so much fun!  That’s definitely going to translate on stage.”  The energy at rehearsals helps the group strike a comfort zone according to Goodridge who says, “it’s really one of the best times” he’s had with a show. “Terri’s been a big part of that too because she has a clear vision of what she wants but she doesn’t force anyone to go one way or the other. She likes to see what people can bring to the table and sort of tailors it from there.”

Helpful for Goodridge, who’s never tackled anything this wild before. “I’ve been involved with musicals before but never one quite so raucous. And I’m usually wearing more clothes,” he laughs. “I’d never worn heels, much less platform heels, but I started wearing them early on in rehearsal and that actually helped a lot with the character. Everything’s a bit grander when you’re almost a foot taller.”

As for his character, he’s been conscious throughout rehearsals to put a touch-a touch-a Phil in his role and not mimic Tim Curry. Though he admits some lines slip out “very Curry-esque” he knows that “no one is an exact replica of their on-screen counterpart” and is certain a perfect balance has been struck.

Rocky Costume Contest

Rocky Costume Contest

When asked what his best memory from the production was so far, he confessed that he couldn’t choose between two. When it came time to rehearse “the scene where Frank seduces Brad and Janet, the three of us knew one another before doing this show and were pretty comfortable but we couldn’t stop laughing at each other. We’re talking all sexy and I’m throwing their legs in the air and it was just all too ridiculous.”

The other memorable moment came out of a signing rehearsal. “We were going over I’m Goin’ Home, my favourite song from the show, and there’s a part in the chorus where the entire cast starts singing this big swelling harmony. It was so beautiful – kinda almost wet my pants.”

The Rocky Horror Show runs at the Holy Heart Theatre, March 20 – 22nd 2009 with early and late shows on the first two nights.  Tickets are available by calling 579-4424 and there will be a best costume contest running along with the show.  Two winners will be chosen from the audience each performance and will receive tickets to the closing night where the best of the best will receive Rocky Horror t-shirts and $200.00 in cash.

originally published August 2008

Donnie Darko Poster

Darko Poster

The 2001 mind bending thriller originally written by Richard Kelly who also directed the blockbuster film has been adapted by Jamie MacDonald, a project he’s been working on for quite some time. The story is set in Middlesex, Virginia back in 1988 and features a sleepwalking socially awkward Donnie who sees hallucinations and possibly borders as a schizophrenic though it’s never diagnosed. Frank, who only appears hidden in a rabbit costume, is Donnie’s imaginary friend who both saves him from a jet engine in his bedroom and warns of the apocalypse at midnight on October 2. Sound sensational? According to MacDonald, his stage version will not disappoint, he’s even got the jet engine to prove it.

For those that have no idea, what’s Donnie Darko all about?
It is about the ambiguity of life, the enlightenment and disorientation that everyone goes through.  It harnesses the harmony of anarchy, the optimism in apathy, and the destiny of chance.  Lost? Come see the show and you’ll understand what I’m saying, but somehow, you still won’t, and neither do I and maybe we’re not supposed too.

Why did you choose this film?
I wanted to do something that everyone would say was impossible and do it in such a way that people wouldn’t know how it was done.  I also wanted to show young people that theatre can actually kick ass.

Was it difficult to differentiate your adaptation from the film?
I feel like it’s not my job to differentiate from the film, just to make it possible and worth doing on stage, without compromising the themes and values of this incredible film.

What makes the “dark night” performances different?
Something tells me that it will be the audience that makes the difference in the ‘dark night’ shows (laughs). Truthfully though, the ‘dark night’ shows are less about what time they start, and more so about the time of night it will end. True Donnie Darko fans will know what time is significant to the movie, the time when all the chaos begins.

Sensational special effects – what can people expect?
An elaborate sound design which will blow people’s socks off and musical score that pays homage to the movie, without just straight up copying it. Film projections with digital enhancement that interacts directly with the actors as well as our UV light creations that I won’t divulge (it’s the ace up our sleeve). A full size jet engine that is more than just a jet engine; I’ve said too much already!

How big is the cast?
I believe it is 36 people, 22 leads and 14 people in the extra roles.  This doesn’t include backstage or promotions so our grand total of folks helping out may be around 50 or so.

Were there blocks omitted from the film either for personal choice or because of known challenges translating them for stage?
We have faced all the challenges that Donnie Darko presents head on!  We have bridged certain characters into one but pretty much all the classic dialogue is there, as well as extending certain scenes that we would’ve loved to hear in the movie. Some scenes that take place in the same location have been [blended] together (hopefully seamlessly). For example, the audience gets one 5 minute scene, which in the movie were five one minute scenes.

What are some of the highlights of the show and people to watch out for?
Things that fly, morph, glow, float and go bump in the night.

How to check it out?

Call Holy Heart Theatre at 579 4424 for tickets. Show nights are August 28-30. Regular start time is 8pm, plus Friday and Saturday have the “dark night” performances at 10:30pm.

S. Darko Poster

S. Darko Poster

Film Follow Up
For Donnie Darko fans who’ve hoped for more, a sequel for which Fox has already acquired North American distribution for is in the works and titled S. Darko. Being made for $10 million, Donnie will not return however Daveigh Chase will reprise as Samantha Darko, the story now focusing on her. This time Richard Kelly isn’t involved having said he never wanted a sequel to maintain the integrity of the original. The sequel will be directed by Chris Fisher who “hopes to create a similar world of blurred fantasy and reality.”

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