The Lower Ossington Theatre has been producing some unique one-of-a-kind shows for the past several years, long before “The Ossington Strip” became gentrified and glorified. This theatre house is one of the mainstays of culture, along with the awesome Sweaty Betty’s, on this otherwise strand of bland. Beyond my cynicism, there are actually a few half-decent spots that have opened nearby as well.

I recently attended a couple of shows here, after not being there in a year or so, and to my surprise the theatre is still as busy as ever. So much so, that they’ve now added a third theatre space, so during busy times (such as the holidays), there are three productions all running simultaneously. Luckily the staff and volunteers are a courteous, friendly, helpful, and knowledgeable LOT.

Currently, there’s the seasonal production of “It’s a Wonderful Life” playing in the very intimate newly added “middle” theatre space, the brand new production of “Sister Act” in the far back “main stage”, and “Avenue Q” in the “first” cozy-size theatre space. Basically all spaces are wonderfully arranged, and perfect for immersing yourself in live theatre.

It’s a Wonderful Life” is a stage adaptation of the classic 1946 Christmas Eve radio broadcast from New York City. The stage is set up in the centre of the room with a half-dozen rows of seats on either side. Because of this intimate set up,  be aware there is no late admittance, and you will have to wait until the intermission if you miss the beginning.

Business man George Bailey messes up big time, misplacing cash and creating despair for many of his closest clients and friends. He’s out drowning his sorrows, thinking of his next move of jumping off a bridge, when he’s beckoned by a wing-less angel named Clarence. The  two ensue in conversation, and George eventually changes his mind, wanting to go home to his wife Mary, and their children. The only thing is, no one recognizes him anymore. This is a touching story of make belief that’s a perfect escape from the reality of the holiday season.

Each of the five actors “read” from their scripts, while bouncing back and forth, creating noises and sound effects for the “listeners”. Most of them play dual characters as well, so their tone, mannerisms, and vocal expressions often change in the split of a second. The assortment of items on stage are each used at some point during the production, from opening and closing doors, to the sound of a crackling fire. I’d highly suggest experiencing this theatre production as it was originally produced, by closing your eyes and listening to the action going on, and see how well you do at this old school revue. Either way, you’ll certainly leave in a more festive spirit. It even brought a bit of sentiment to this ole Grinch himself!

Hurry! On Stage only until December 30, 2016

What do you get when you have twelve ladies on stage dressed up in black and white? A hilarious rendition of the 1992 feature film,”Sister Act“. That film helped cement Whoopi Goldberg’s career at the time, who played the leading role of Deloris Van Cartier, a gad-about-town gal who’s life takes a surprisingly bizarre turn after she witnesses a crime, and the cops have to hide her out in a nun’s convent to protect her. For those who haven’t seen the film, you just need to know that comedy and antics prevail in this charming musical comedy.

Amaka Umeh takes on the lead role is this stage adaptation, and with some luck she might be going in the same direction as Whoopi. Umeh’s stage presence is commandeering, and her strong vocals hold themselves alone, on top of the acting. This holds true for several others in the cast as well, such as Autumn-Joy Dames, playing Sister Mary Robert, and Amy Holden, as Mother Superior.  The male characters also held there own as well, even though they are cast more as secondary characters.

Overall the slapstick humour works for a while, but does tire a bit during this two-and-a-half hour production. There’s a couple times where the cast are obviously trying to ignite the audience, perhaps to make sure they’re still with them. One thing I’d like to see removed from the production is the use of replicated handguns and gun shots. I’m not a fan of any form of violence, and I see guns as violence, not entertainment. I know it’s part of the original script, but perhaps these scenes could be done as slapstick humour, similar to a couple other scenes done that way. A simple pointing of the finger, with a vocalized “Bang-Bang” would do the trick just as well as overly loud “gun shots”.

On Stage until January 29th, 2017.

Both of these productions  are Joseph Patrick Presents who seems to be putting on the great majority of shows here. They’re also presenting “Avenue Q“, the third production currently playing, which I haven’t had a chance to see yet.

LOWER OSSINGTON THEATRE
100A Ossington Avenue
Toronto, ON M6J 2Z4
Phone: +1 416-915-6747 BOX OFFICE 1-888-324-6282 

www.lowerossingtontheatre.com

Joseph Patrick Presents are also the brains behind the very popular Golden  puppet parody, “Thank You For Being A Friend“. And guess what? As soon as you can say ho-ho-ho, it’s a new year, and the next celebration is Valentine’s Day. There’s no better date night than spending it with The Golden Girls, and yes, they’re coming back to the stage starting February 1oth at Toronto’s Theatre for the Performing Arts. Book Pre-Sale Tickets Now

 
 

 

 

On stage Feb 10 – Mar 5

Nightly Fri-Sat 8:00PM
Matinees Sat, Sun 3:30PM
Tickets from $69.99

About the Author

Bryen Dunn is a freelance journalist with a focus on travel, lifestyle, entertainment and hospitality. He has an extensive portfolio of celebrity interviews with musicians, actors and other public personalities. He enjoys discovering delicious eats, tasting spirited treats, and being mesmerized by musical beats.