Categories: Entertainment

Children’s Festival reviews highlight different disciplines

Jonathan Burns shows a hint of his extraordinary flexibilty - a teaser for his International Children's Festival of the Arts show running until June 4 running at St. Albert's downtown site.

Children’s festivals are a tough place to act all grown up. There’s just too much silliness saturating the air.

Whether you prefer big indoor shows, outdoor performers or keeping busy doing innovative activities, the St. Albert International Children’s Festival of the Arts has it all.

There’s an impressive lineup of feature productions and today St. Albert Gazette reviewers have checked out a few more shows to give you a heads up.

The festival runs until Sunday, June 4. Tickets for feature productions are $13 and are available in person at the Arden box office or at 780-459-1542. If you’re an online junkie, visit ticketmaster.ca.

Jonathan Burns: Flexible Comedy

Red Willow Place

Runs until Friday, June 4

All Ages

It might be a stretch to say Jonathan Burns is the best contortionist-comedian in the world, but he’s certainly up there.

His act, called “Flexible Comedy,” strikes the right balance between self-deprecating and self-assured, between highbrow and lowbrow, and includes the right balance of genuine illusions and genuine jokes.

Right from the start of the 45-minute show his understated manner, which he uses to great effect, captivate the rows of younger children in the front as well as the junior-high-school students sitting at the back. He was even able to include enough jokes that went over their heads to keep the parents and chaperones chuckling.

The act itself is roughly one-third comedy, one-third magic tricks and one-third contortions.

Burns’ jokes for the most part landed well, and his magic tricks incorporated enough comedy to keep the audience engaged – and even his pick-a-card-any-card act had enough of a twist to keep people wondering.

His contortions certainly drew some shocked gasps from the crowd and impressed everyone. Few in the audience had likely ever seen a tennis racket used like that!

His use of props in all aspects of the show kept the audience interested right up until the end, when he made a most memorable exit.

This one is worth checking out, regardless of who’s in your group.

– Doug Neuman


Aboriginal School of Dance

St. Albert Curling Rink

Runs until June 4

All ages

Unpredictable. Yes, Aboriginal School of Dance performance Niniimi’iwe was definitely unpredictable – but in a good way that made the crowd hunger for more.

From the first moment when a giant breezy butterfly floats gracefully across the stage to the energetic, pulse-pounding finale, the crowd was hushed, eyes glued to the stage.

This Winnipeg dance troupe produces exceptional contemporary indigenous dance rooted in tradition, but with a modern world-view.

The dances convey an aboriginal vocabulary with narratives connected to the land, nature and identity as dancers engage in self-expression and celebrate empowerment.

But the intricate regalia made from lightweight fabric tinted in gem stone colours and decorated with bling and feathers suggest a troupe that has a modern big-picture view of the 21st century.

The 11 dancers, also including a young toddler (who by the way completely charmed the audience), performed a variety of narratives including a buffalo hunt, a hoop dance, an eagle dance, a jingle dance and a round dance.

The non-stop narratives were skillfully woven together by a mesmerizing score that ranged from traditional drum beats and chanting to Latin music and current pop songs.

Expecting a streak of indigenous dance, the crowd was surprised and delighted with a Latin segment of folk dancers weaving across the stage to the rhythms of a Spanish guitar.

At times the score buoyed the spirit. At other times it was haunting such as one where a woman with a feather fan pays homage to the four directions. In the background a bird whistles while a flute accompanies a drum or beat box.

The dancers’ stamina, the beautifully choreographed dances and the bold, intricate costumes work to create vignettes told with intoxicating clarity and emotional power.

Niniimi’iwe is one show not to miss.

– Anna Borowiecki

Madagascar – A Musical Adventure

St. Albert Children’s Theatre

St. Albert Curling Rink

Runs until June 4

All ages

“This is the best thing ever,” declared a Grade 2 girl from Gold Bar School as the crowd slowly filed out of the jam-packed house. She could have been speaking for every other child attending.

St. Albert Children’s Theatre performance of Madagascar – A Musical Adventure resurrects some of DreamWorks most memorable characters: Alex, the star-struck lion; Marty, the adventurous zebra; Gloria, the motherly hippo; and Melman, the hypochondriac giraffe.

Taking a mega-hit movie and scaling it down takes a lot of imagination, creativity and dash of silliness. But co-directors Janice Flower and Jackie Pooke got the formula right.

The simple terraced set and low-key costumes, with actors wearing human clothes matching animal characteristics, keeps the attention focused on the action.

Alex the lion is a Travolta type character with flashy gold necklace and a rock star mane. His zebra buddy Marty is garbed in black and white.

Along with the affectionate hippo Gloria and the nerdy giraffe Melman, this quartet sings and dances its way out of Central Park Zoo only to be shipwrecked on the island paradise of Madagascar.

Once on Madagascar they encounter King Julien, ruler of the lemurs, a kooky character who nearly steals the show from our close-knit quartet.

Packed with signature numbers such as Showtime; Relax, Be Cool, Chill Out and I Like to Move It, the cast puts on an impressive 60-minute song and dance production.

This is one show that turns everyone into a kid – that is, everyone who has ever wanted to go on an adventure.

– Anna Borowiecki

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