Review: First Act Soars, Second Act Bores in THE LORAX at Mirvish

“I am the Lorax, I speak for the trees!” screams the puppet with three puppeteers on their knees. Unlike the show, I won’t spend this in rhyme – and I promise to not take as much of your time. THE LORAX, presented by Mirvish is vivaciously visual. Dr. Seuss’s fictional world becomes livable with colourful, captivating designs, folky tunes and unique, striking costumes that create a dreamy theatrical experience. In David Greig’s stage version, adapted from the short children’s book, most of the one-line story is covered by intermission, leaving the second act to grumble on and on through an already thin plot.

THE LORAX tells the tale of the ambitious inventor, the Once-ler (Simon Paisley Day). Misunderstood by his very large family, the Once-ler is forced out of his home to explore the world for a new invention. After exhausting every part of the world, the Once-ler settles in an animal-filled forest of beautiful Truffula trees. Discovering that the foliage of the Truffula can be knit into knittings, the Once-ler chops one down – calling the Lorax (David Ricardo-Pearce) to defend the voiceless tree. When a villager buys one of his knitted “thneeds”, the Once-ler invites his whole family to chop down trees, knit thneeds and get rich in the process. Eventually, greed gets the best of him. The more money is made, the more trees are chopped – until the very last colourful Truffula tree drops.

Pro-environmental themes are strong in this piece. There are several deeply affecting moments that stir strong feelings of guilt concerning our collective treatment and mentality towards the environment. In that respect, THE LORAX succeeds. The portrayal of smog entering the forest, disrupting a swan’s dance, hushed the theatre to a chilling silence – and when the lights came up for intermission, the energy was a similar muted, quiet reflection. Here again, THE LORAX succeeds. The timing of this show, in a post-Paris Agreement world, with the administration of our neighbour country below actively denying climate change. Here, the timing of THE LORAX succeeds.

Where THE LORAX doesn’t necessarily succeed is in the structure of the show. Squeezing a two-hour musical out of a 45-page children’s book is problematic without the creation of engaging, new material. The result, in this case, is a compelling first act that moves quickly through the story, and a second act that struggles to maintain the energy of the piece, extending the drama to fill time.

The music and lyrics, by Charlie Fink, is full of campy, cheery tunes fabulously sung by the talented ensemble – but full of melodies that are quick to leave your head. It certainly sounded nice, but it’s not something I would listen to again.

The ensemble of THE LORAX. Photo by Manuel Harlan.

The actors responsible for telling the story do it very well. The entire ensemble is full of confident singers, performing with cartoon-like energy. As the Once-ler, Simon Paisley Day is an exceptional storyteller, though I wish his singing was of the same calibre. Day’s acting is very audience focused, at times ignoring scene partners to look into the eyes of people seated in the first few rows. Day’s singing is somewhat Rex Harrison-like. It’s not terrible, but you wouldn’t leave the show raving about it.

David Ricardo-Pearce as the voice of the Lorax is where the real singing happens. A glorious, character baritone, Ricardo-Pearce has a warm, addicting timbre in speech and song. Also handling the Lorax puppet are Laura Caldow and Ben Thompson, whose faces wonderfully share the emotions of the Lorax with Ricardo-Pearce. Caldow works the arms and Thompson manages the Lorax’s feet – the two of them spend the entire show either kneeling or crouched in unusual positions.

So you’re wondering, is this where I should be spending my money? Is THE LORAX entertaining, provoking and funny? The answer is yes, to all of the above – although, maybe not a show that you’ll doubtlessly love.


THE LORAX, a production by the Old Vic, Atkin/Tobias Round and Tulchin Bartner Productions, is presented by Mirvish and runs through January 21, 2018 at the Royal Alexandra Theatre, 260 King Street W, Toronto ON

For more information and to purchase tickets, visit

Photo credit: (L to R) Laura Caldow, David Ricardo-Pearce, Ben Thompson and Simon Paisley Day. Photo by Manuel Harlan

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Review: THE ILLUSIONISTS Amazes with Diverse Magic

When is the last time you’ve been awestruck? THE ILLUSIONISTS – LIVE FROM BROADWAY, presented by Mirvish, puts you face-to-face with seven of the world’s greatest illusionists, as they deliver an extraordinary, hypnotizing stage show, exploring magic and trickery through the ages.

Bright, dynamic projections and epic, thrusting music introduces the seven magicians, each one a master of their own unique craft, and each one offering a performance of incredible stage wizardry.

Colin Cloud, The Deductionist plays with minds. Asking audience members to think of specific dreams and memories, he wows the crowd with his “telekinetic” magic. Thursday night’s opening featured an amusing moment with a nervous woman, unable to figure out how to unlock her iPhone, causing the trick to hilariously flop. That’s show-business.

Jeff Hobson, The Trickster, is the evening’s emcee – and what a perfect host. Hobson delivers an exquisitely polished performance, carrying the audience in a tight, proudly flamboyant grip that had the audience in stitches laughing. Hobson also does tricks, so keep an eye on your personal belongings.

Elegance and speed are the main traits of The Manipulator, An Ha Lim, who generates an endless stream of cards out of nothing at all, in a gorgeous, focused routine.

At the opposite spectrum is The Daredevil, Jonathan Goodwin. Muscular and assertive, Goodwin impresses with pain-based illusions and flaunts his archery skills with a crossbow. Goodwin causes the most anxiety during the evening with his death-defying stunts.

Taking us back to the days of Vaudeville magic, The Eccentric, Charlie Frye displays feats of mystifying balance in a silent Charlie Chaplin-esque juggling act that is wonderfully well-rehearsed.

The Unusualist, Raymond Crowe pushes the boundaries of what you thought possible for shadow puppets, in an emotional performance accompanied by Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World”.

Finally, The Grand Illusionist, Darcy Oake, shows us how far magic has advanced into the modern world. Oake’s tricks are grand spectacles – with tumbling dancers, disappearances, live doves, and a motorcycle that appears out of thin air.

Although each of the seven performers offer something completely different, they are all outstanding showmen. If you’re in the mood for a show, a sensational night of jaw-dropping magic awaits at Mirvish’s THE ILLUSIONISTS – LIVE FROM BROADWAY.


THE ILLUSIONISTS – LIVE FROM BROADWAY, presented by Mirvish, runs through January 7, 2018 at the Princess of Wales Theatre, 300 King Street W, Toronto, ON

For more information and to purchase tickets, visit

Photo credit: Darcy Oakes, The Grand Illusionist – Photo by Danielle Baguley

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Review: Drayton’s MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET at Mirvish Drags Through the Hits

Most people love jukebox musicals. Seeing some of the greatest hits from legends like Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins performed live, creates a nostalgic experience that is undeniably entertaining. Unless you’re not a fan of the jukebox style – and I should state that generally, I am not. Then for you, this type of show drags itself through a seemingly endless list of tunes with little to no emotional journey.

For the jukebox lovers, Drayton’s MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET is a fun night of rockin’ hits. The newly named CAA Theatre (formerly the Panasonic) was full of people bopping up and down, wide grins filling their faces, as they recognized songs that brought them memories of dances, breakups or makeups – with songs like, I Walk the LineBlue Suede ShoesGreat Balls of Fire and Hound Dog.

The story centres around the events of December 4, 1956 at Sun Records Studio in Memphis, Tennessee. On that day, history was made when Johnny Cash (Aaron Solomon), Elvis Presley (Matt Cage), Jerry Lee Lewis (Gerrad Everard) and Carl Perkins (Tyler Check) came together to play for the first and only time – becoming the “Million Dollar Quartet”. Sam Phillips (J. Sean Elliott), the owner of Sun Records Studio, was responsible for birthing the careers of the four men – but he now faces a changing industry – and the fear of losing his artists to bigger labels.

My problem with the jukebox musical is that they are notoriously crammed full of songs and usually feature a plot that is neglected and weak. There are exceptions. Beautiful – The Carole King Musical does feature some songs solely for the sake of including them, but the story has weight to it, using her songbook to explode out of emotional moments and heighten them through the music – like a good musical should.

MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET, unfortunately, does not have a single one of those moments. Most of the introductions to a new song include lines like, “John man, play that Walk the Line song!” without offering any reason for the song, other than playing another Johnny Cash hit.

Connecting a list of over twenty songs is a plot with stakes that hardly carry any weight. Why should we care if Phillips loses Johnny Cash to Columbia Records after he proudly announces that he was clever enough to buy stocks in Holiday Inn? Without a passionate story to really invest in, an intermission-less 100 minutes suddenly feels much, much longer.

But all of this pertains to the actual structure of the show. The performances – are fantastic. Save for a few moments (screeching female harmonies in the last few numbers), the music is tight and runs seamlessly. The performers are not only great impersonators, who sound, move and speak like their superstar counterparts, they are impressively talented, both vocally and instrumentally.

Solomon looks and sounds like Johnny Cash, comfortably droning in the lowest parts of the male voice to produce that signature, gravel-bass timbre that made Cash so famous. As Elvis, Cage swoons with some of the King’s signature moves and croons with a voice that leans into just the right vocal pockets – he does a terrific job singing the role.

Check’s powerful voice is a great match for Carl Perkins, flaunting his guitar skills in various solos throughout the show. As the much needed comedic relief, Everard amazes as he plays every single part of the piano as Jerry Lee Lewis. Practically vibrating with manic energy as the eccentric singer, Everard sang and played his way through the challenging repertoire – using nearly every part of his body to bang out his crazy piano solos.

If you’re a fan of this music, you will have a thrilling time at MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET – just don’t expect a story that will thrill as much as the music will.


Drayton Entertainment’s MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET is presented by Mirvish and runs through January 7, 2018 at the CAA Theatre (formerly the Panasonic), 651 Yonge Street, Toronto, ON

For more information and to purchase tickets, visit

photo credit: Company of MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET- Drayton Entertainment

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