I tend to avoid reading reviews before seeing the shows, so I'm not overly influenced, but it is always fun to compare notes afterward. Maybe I am getting more discerning, or maybe just more cynical, but the rave reviews weren't always jiving with my experience. There is also the opposite experience, with poor reviews of productions I've really enjoyed.
**Matilda: A fun night of musical theatre, based on Dahl’s novel first published in 1988. The play has been winning accolades in NYC, with Time magazine billing it the “show of the year.” We attended mid- August and although the show was thoroughly entertaining, it didn't charm me enough to renew for another season of song and dance.
*****Hamlet: . Rob and I had a backstage tour at Shakespeare in the Park this year and learned the show is produced on a shoestring budget, with actors laundering their own costumes and making the stage blood on the cheap (apparently insects love the recipe!). At 4,000 lines, Hamlet is Shakespeare’s longest play and takes 4 hours to perform, but the director took some liberties with this version and edited scenes down to 90
minutes. Events take place in modern times, and a funereal touch at the end was including a projection of the characters filmed in happier times.. The ampitheatre was crowded with an audience comprised of a great mix of ages and races, as diverse as the cast itself. When the play ended and people were leaving the park, I was listening to some of the teenagers' animated conversations about characters, plot twists, and the blood-bath-ending. We saw this at the end of August and I didn't read any of the reviews until we were actually sitting down, waiting for the show to begin. (mostly positive)
***Come What Mahem: The latest edition of sketch comedy at Second City was predictably hilarious, providing a couple of stand-out bits and good belly laughs. Saw this the day after opening night (August 31), but I didn't check out the reviews until just now. The Sun was disparaging, the Star and Globe both positive recounts of the irreverent and satirical sketches.
*The Plough and the Stars: Ireland’s national Abbey Theatre brought this production to Toronto for a limited run to commemorate the Easter Rising of 1916. The play is a classic and highly regarded, but unfortunately between the strong accents and the poor sound quality I couldn’t understand more than half the dialogue. This is the first time I ever left a play at intermission, thinking I would do better to read it or see the movie if I wanted to understand the original. A strong review in the Star the next day made me wonder if we had seen the same performance.