film, SPOTLIGHT, writing

REVIEW: La La Land @ TIFF16

Ahh, La La Land. Where do I begin?

On Sunday afternoon, I gladly waited in line outside of Roy Thomson Hall for 3 hours (OK maybe 2.5 outside and 30 min happily seated inside in what may be the best of the cheap seats… Surprise! All seats were free. Hence the 3 hours. But they really were great seats.) in the Toronto heat. Why would any sane person do such a thing?

Bragging rights. Yes, I said it, bragging rights. Why else does anyone (besides the stars/directors/other cast/crew/media and press… oh and also paparazzi) go to film festivals such as Sundance, TIFF and Cannes? Yes, a love of cinema, but really that’s just the guise pride hides behind. I mean, do you know anybody who goes to a semi-exclusive event that doesn’t instagram/snapchat the hell out of it / bring it up at every dinner party in the week thereafter? (Guilty on both counts, this is me sheepishly raising my hand and putting it back down). Anyway. This is not what you’re here for. You’re here for my supremely unqualified review of La La Land! Without further ado. God bless your lovely, lovely hearts.

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I don’t know why I’m telling this story, I really probably shouldn’t but…

Two years ago, Do Ho Suh’s work was featured at the Art Gallery of Ontario. If you pause the video at 1:40, you’ll see the bathroom installation that was on display at the AGO.

Two years ago, I went to that showcase.

Two years ago, that bathroom was placed on a small pedestal.

And two years ago, I thought it would be a good idea to step inside said installation and pose over the water closet. Why I thought it was a good idea at the time, I don’t know.

Needless to say, I got in trouble…

art, review, SPOTLIGHT

Falling Slowly… for the Toronto Cast of Once

Second row from the front — Total #JP #oncemusical #OnceTO #fallingslowly

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Where should I even begin with this group? I saw the Toronto production of the musical Once on Friday night. To say they put on a great show would be an understatement. Some background info– I’m not familiar with the book or movie. I knew of their existence but I was initially only interested in watching the show put on at the Ed Mirvish Theatre.

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That changed when everyone in the audience sprang from their seats to give the cast a standing ovation, myself included. I had already had high expectations upon entering the theater; having read overwhelmingly positive reviews of the Toronto production’s performance. The Toronto Star and The Globe and Mail gave the performance 4 out of 5 stars, while NOW Magazine gave it 5. I looked up the movie on Rotten Tomatoes, and upon seeing that it rated 97% on the tomato meter, I knew I had to go see it.

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I was not disappointed. The most impressive part of this production is that the cast is kept to a minimum– there are no separate dancers or musicians. Rather, every actor on stage is also a talented singer or musician (or both), and damn can they dance. Equal parts funny and touching, Once keeps you smiling both for the humor and the beautiful music.

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My friend and I were originally going to get the $69 tickets, but when we bought the tickets, there were no more $69 seats for the night we picked, so we “settled” for the $29 seats. The guy told us that the seats would be to the side, on the second row, but we brushed that off as him trying to make the situation sound better than it was. Imagine our surprise as we got to our seats that were literally in the second row, separated only by one row in front of us from the stage. The stage was literally 3 feet in front of us. I’ve circled our seats in red in the picture above. You can see from the picture at the top of the post how good we had it.

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I went home happy with the songs still stuck in my head, so I decided to listen to them again on YouTube. I stumbled upon some videos from productions of the same play in different cities, and compared the performances of the lead actresses to that of Trish Lindström’s. Lindström did an excellent job of making the character her own, injecting little mannerisms and movements in to her performance. There’s one idiosyncrasy in particular that I loved while watching in my seat, and I only realized its genius after watching other productions of Once. In one scene, Lindström picks up the male lead’s guitar case. Instead of grabbing it by its handle, she chooses to use her entire arm to pick up the case, in turn hugging the neck of the guitar case to her body. The eager yet clumsy movement is made even funnier when she repeatedly hoists up the case, shifting its weight in her arm, as if she was holding a child that didn’t know to latch on to her neck. This wonderful and inefficient guitar-case-carrying technique was absent in all the subsequent videos I watched, which only made Trish Lindström’s performance shine more brightly in my mind.

I also looked up the actor who played the male lead’s ex-girlfriend… I may or may not have really liked the dress and cowboy boots she was wearing. I found out that not only does Stephanie Cadman do theatre, she’s also an award-winning, tap-dancing fiddler. Not to mention, she’s in one of my favorite Canadian country bands, Belle Starr. Here’s a video of Cadman tap-dancing all over Toronto to Bach played by Lara St. John that is sure to put a smile on your darling face. The joy with which both women perform is infectious.

Clearly, Once was a show I enjoyed thoroughly. It only gets better as you do your research and see the other projects the cast is involved in, and it is a show I would recommend to anyone thinking of going.

Have you seen Once? Are there any shows you loved or would like to see? Leave it in the comments below!

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