City of gold
It began in the gold mines of South Africa in the 19th century when a group of men, forbidden to speak to each other, began to communicate through song and dance. As they slapped their Wellington boots, which protected them in the flooded mines, the sounds became a kind of Morse code. When combined with traditional rhythms, this communication became a new form of entertainment. Now, it's been translated to the stage as a theatrical celebration of new and old South African urban life and as a tribute to those generations of mineworkers whose blood, sweat and tears built the fabulous wealth of Johannesburg, the famed city of gold. Direct from South Africa via the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, London's West End and the Just for Laughs Festival comes "Gumboots." The song and dance extravaganza incorporates traditional a capella singing and the beat of a contemporary, percussive band.
Under the direction of Zenzi Mbuli and presented by SFX, "Gumboots" opens March 6 at the Pantages Theatre and runs until March 18. For information, call (416) 870-8000.
From the moment he wandered onto the California jazz scene in the early 1950s to the day he fell to his death from a hotel balcony some 30 years later, Chet Baker has seduced and fascinated legions of fans. With his classics being re-issued continually and numbers of live recordings being discovered the world over, the time was ripe for an industrious theater company to build a drama around him. Crows Theatre, in association with Theatre Passe Muraille, will present "Time After Time: The Chet Baker Project." Presented in three parts, the play's narrative odyssey begins with Baker at the peak of his career, progressing to show Baker floating through his fame and private life on the edge of disaster and concludes trying to understand the relationship between the man, the music and his mysterious death. Written by James O'Reilly and directed by Jim Millan, musician Danny DePoe stars as Baker with Hardee T. Lineham as The Writer.
"Time after Time" opens at Theatre Passe Muraille's Mainspace on March 23 and runs until April 15. For information, call (416) 504-7529.
It seems like only yesterday that the feisty red-headed orphan with her faithful pooch Sandy was up to her ringlets in woes, being chased by the nasty orphanage owners who were out to spoil her new found relationship with the rich Daddy Warbucks. "Annie," Charles Strouse and Martin Charnin's musical based on the popular comic strip, won seven Tony Awards in 1977 and has since been presented in 17 foreign language productions. The original production, which starred Andrea McArdle, then Sarah Jessica Parker, became the 11th longest running show in the history of Broadway and continues to be one of the most lucrative stage properties ever. This production of Annie will play over 100 cities in the United States and Canada during its national tour. This time around it stars Dana Benedict who will have the honor of belting out the optimistic "Tomorrow."
Directed by Charnin, "Annie" plays at the Pantages Theatre from March 20-25. Call (416) 870-8000 for more information.
A favorite farce
Since its French premiere in 1907, Georges Feydeau's all-time favorite farce, "A Flea in Her Ear," has become an international classic. The plot is an all-too-familiar one with suspected infidelities, clever traps by the wronged spouse, mistaken identities, outlandish disguises and the requisite number of doors that figure so prominently as lovers, servants, husbands and wives run in and out in madcap confusion. This is a new production from the Soulpepper Theatre Company, Canada's acclaimed, award-winning classical repertory company that celebrated its third season last summer.
This mid-winter offering is presented by David and Ed Mirvish and is directed by Laszlo Marton. It plays at the Elgin Theatre from Friday to April 8. For information, call (800) 461-3333.
Looking for "Blue's Clues'
Here's a real theatrical treat for youngsters - as well as their moms and dads who are looking for something a little different to treat the kids during March break. "Blue's Clues Live!," the stage presentation for preschoolers that has revolutionized kids' theater, makes its Canadian debut at the Hummingbird Centre as part of its 40-city North American tour. Based on the television series that changed the way kids watch TV, this interactive theatrical production invites preschoolers and their parents to think, imagine and be an active part of the show as Blue and her friends embark on a search for clues to a most spectacular place. There is non-stop activity from the time the audience enters the theater. Each child receives a free "handy dandy notebook" and crayon to follow along looking for clues as they see the familiar characters from the television series, including Blue, Steve and all of their friends, along with some brand new characters created just for the live show.
"Blues Clues Live!" plays at the Hummingbird Centre for the Performing Arts from March 7 to March 11. For information, call (416) 872-2262.
This one's got some "Clout'
"Clout," David Young's satire about men, sex and power has two men locking horns in a battle of wits - and survival. Held hostage by a mysterious woman who claims to be an eco-terrorist, a burn-out left wing journalist and a Machiavellian press baron fight for control of the story that will define our collective future . . . until their captor turns reality on its head. "Clout" stars two of Canada's most esteemed stage performers, Eric Peterson and R.H. Thomson, and is directed by Richard Rose. It plays at the Factory Theatre from Thursday to March 25. For information, call (416) 504-9971.