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This article was published 30/12/2009 (4155 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
As the first decade of the 21st century draws to a close, what moments on Winnipeg's performing-arts stages stand out as the most memorable?
The Free Press asked some discerning members of the arts community to look back at the years 2000-2009 and tell us what performances remain unforgettable.
In January, 2008 I took my daughter Anna, age nine, out of school to enjoy a daddy-daughter theatre day at the matinee of Fiddler on the Roof at MTC. Jay Brazeau was playing Tevye. Anna soon sat on my knee, becoming completely transfixed by the story, and absolutely engaged and concerned for the characters. Experiencing her vivid emotions brought me a profound connection as a father. I'm sure whomever sat nearby wondered why father and daughter wept so openly during Sunrise, Sunset. It still brings me to tears as I write this now.
Danny Schur, creator of Strike! The Musical
One of my highlights of the decade happened just last summer: Elvis Costello on opening night of the Winnipeg Folk Festival. Droll. Charming. Incisive. Angry. And man, can he still rock the two-and-a-half-minute song!
Terry MacLeod, co-host, CBC's Information Radio
David Fox is one of Canada's best actors. To see him work at MTC in The Drawer Boy in 2001 and Trying in 2005 was to be present as an entire world was created with words and gesture. It's hard to say which performance was more electric. Perhaps The Drawer Boy, given its place as a unique jewel in Canadian theatre, might win by a whisker. Having said that, Fox was unforgettable in Trying as a cantankerous judge in his autumn years.
Al Rae, artistic director, CBC Winnipeg Comedy Festival
One of the most amazing arts events I've experienced has to be the Vaudeville Show in Roseisle in 2008. Al Simmons was the host and he is one of Winnipeg's true treasures. Musicians, comedians, dancers, jugglers, magicians, and really anyone who had an act to share would perform. It was probably what the Folk Festival used to be like in the really early years -- a makeshift stage with homemade curtains, a couple of outhouses, local residents selling ice cream, snacks and crafts. There were a bunch of old sofas, automobiles and wood stumps to sit on during the show, surrounded by the prairie... all day and into the night.
Sharon Bajer, actor, director and playwright
I have never forgotten WSO principal cellist Yuri Hooker's mesmerizing performance of Tchaikovsky's Variations on a Rococo Theme in January 2007. Extremely demanding, this work challenges the cello to show its impressive range and many facets -- from sweet to fierce, whisper-quiet to boldly loud. This gifted musician was technically precise while pouring his heart and soul into his performance. Seated in Row 2, I was so overcome by his soulful playing that I found myself moved to tears. It was the only time I broke my rule of professional objectivity. I searched out Hooker after the performance to congratulate and thank him.
Gwenda Nemerofsky, Free Press music critic
I'll never forget Canadian pianist Janina Fialkowska with the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra in September 2006. Already known worldwide for her formidable technique and sublime artistry, the Montreal-born musician defied all odds by returning to a full performing, teaching and recording schedule a mere two years after a cancer diagnosis that required several delicate surgeries on her left arm. Not only did Beethoven's Piano Concerto, No. 3 in C Minor, Op. 37 showcase her strength on so many levels, her stirring performance also spoke to the healing power of music. This concert burns brightest among the hundreds I've seen over the past 10 years.
Holly Harris, Free Press music critic
Theatre Incarnate's Arcadia (2007) was the best interpretation of the play I had ever seen. Other theatrical highlights were a superb Waiting for Godot (2001) at the MTC Warehouse and Winnipeg Jewish Theatre's Speed-the-Plow (2008). A dance high point was the witty, enchanting Royal Winnipeg Ballet production of The Magic Flute (2003). What I remember is how Pamina takes ownership of the daunting task imposed by her father as a punishment, and turns it into an artistic triumph. The curtain goes up to reveal that she has built a dazzling wall of glass blocks.
Moti Shojania, chair, Winnipeg Arts Council
Most memorable performance? Tough choice. Theatre Projects' Encore, Ulla Ryum's Dance of Death, Tom-Tom Theatre's Winter's Tale, Theatre Incarnate's Arcadia, or Shakespeare in the Ruins' Graffiti Gallery version of Macbeth? My final choice is Adhere And Deny's 2000 production of Oscar Wilde's Salome, the epitome of Grant Guy's object-oriented theatre. The characters are hand-size stones that the actors move in a sandbox while they speak their lines. Soon magic takes over, and you experience the characters' lives as fully as if they were walking, talking people.
Kevin Longfield, theatre historian
For me, the most memorable dance performance wasn't on stage. In spring 2005, watching Evelyn Hart rehearse, little did I know that would be the last time I would see her dance. Evelyn retired and surprised us all by simply leaving town... One artist who definitely made an impression on me was the legendary Odetta. She was honoured by the Winnipeg Folk Festival in 2006. Meeting her was like stepping back into time, talking about the beginning of blues, folk and roots music. No other artist had the passion and grace that Odetta possessed. She passed away in 2008.
Tracy Koga, Shaw TV entertainment reporter
Be careful what you wish for. In MTYP's 2004 production of A Year With Frog and Toad, I was Frog. I often said that I wished my granddaughter were old enough for it. Heck, I wished I could watch the show myself. In 2008, I was asked to be in the show again, but a knee injury and subsequent operation put me out of commission. That is how a very fortunate ex-Frog and his granddaughter wound up in the audience, watching the most amazing production I've seen all decade. The sets, the costumes, the music, the lighting and my pond pals were better than I had even imagined. And Larry Mannell was a superb Frog.
Al Simmons, family entertainer
May 25, 2007, was the final night of the Winnipeg Poetry Slam at The Cyrk. The moment of the decade happened after the competition was over, when Fernando Raguero, one of Vancouver's most loved poets, took the stage. You should have seen the audience at this completely packed venue devour Fernando's every word. He couldn't finish a sentence without being interrupted by people standing up and uttering screams, laughs, and other ecstatic extra-linguistic remarks. It was a sublime half-hour that will never happen again.
Drek Daa: That Polish Guy, performance poet
RWB's premiere of Carmina Burana (2002), choreographed by Mauricio Wainrot, was spectacular. The power of the music, with its pulsating, primal rhythms, was matched by the strength and grace of the dancers. Wainrot used the whole company to great effect, recognizing when the stage needed to be filled, even to the point of filling it further with voluminous costumes. The choirs were a staggeringly beautiful addition to the sound. The total effect was a feast for the senses.
Talia Pura, actor and dancer