AT RANDOM: Confession of a stage critic

It’s not that big of a secret, but as a critic, I tend to shy away from reviewing “kid” shows

Kristin Froneman is a columnist and arts editor with The Morning Star.

Kristin Froneman is a columnist and arts editor with The Morning Star.

In my 24 years, give or take, of reviewing both professional and amateur theatre, there’s been one little unspoken rule that I have abided by.

It’s not that big of a secret, but as a critic, I tend to shy away from reviewing “kid” shows.

As a member of this fine community, who has a daughter involved in musical theatre, you may wonder why. It’s not that I don’t go to these shows. I attend a lot of them, probably more than anything else, and I often enjoy them immensely.

There’s a ton of talent in our youth, and some of their shows are better than the professional productions – with adults – I have been witness to.

My reasoning is really just down to the fact that I’m a softy. I hate disappointing kids with the occasional truth. I want to tell it like it is, but if little Johnny or Sally is having a hard time with his/her lines, or is singing off key, should I ignore it, or report it? I would with an adult.

Also, I live in a relatively small community, so to critique little Johnny or Sally, then have to bump into his/her slightly raging parent is something I’d rather like to avoid. Mind you, most stage moms and dads are too tired by the time the show is on, driving Johnny and Sally to endless late-night rehearsals and helping out backstage, to have the energy to call out some clueless newspaper reporter.

Then there is the problem with time, and space.

Frankly, there are just too many dance, theatre, and performing arts schools in this community for us to attend all of their recitals, and shows, and then review them. We are happy to promote/preview most performances, but finding a way to be fair to everyone with a review is always a conundrum best to avoid.

OK, my long-winded excuse is over…

T’is the season for recitals, school, and dance/musical performances by our talented youth, and I am about to scrap my rule:  I have just seen too many incredible performances lately that need accolades, starting with the Okanagan Rhythmic Gymnastics/Cirque Theatre Company’s production of Scrooge’s Christmas Carol last weekend at the Performing Arts Centre. What can I say? It was a feast for the eyes and ears, an incredible show of what young people can do when they train – hard – both in athletics and the arts.

A shout out also to the incredible talents of a few certain adults: Director Camille Martens amazes me, and I don’t know where she finds all that music for her productions, but I want a mixtape!

Ben McLean, who played Scrooge, is honestly one of the best actors we have in this town; the guy should be in Hollywood, or New York, but we’re glad he is here. And Dave Brotsky designs sets that should be seen in the Smithsonian, let alone a small-town production.

The other “kid” show that you still have a chance to see is one that I caught on Wednesday night at Powerhouse Theatre.

Barbara Robinson’s The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, directed by Vernon’s own kid wrangler Jackson Mace, has some of the cutest, funniest and most delightful performances from both its youth and adult cast as they try to stage the worst, make that the best nativity play you will ever see.

Sorry I can’t name them all as there are more than 20 in the show – but their characters are reminiscent of the Peanuts gang, come to life. They all pull it off in fine fashion, right down to the little angel bully with missing teeth: Shazam, girl, you had me at “Hey! Unto you a child is born!”

Do yourself a favour and check out this show (running at Powerhouse until Dec. 10) along with the other youth productions happening right into the new year. These kids really do rock!


Vernon Morning Star