Ottawa Event Review: Cloudburst

I had the pleasure of taking in TotoToo’s production of Cloudburst last night (Thursday, September 13th) at The Gladstone Theatre. For those of you unfamiliar with the show, Cloudburst is the story of two women, partners in love and life for over 30 years, who, when faced with possible separation, escape together on a cross country adventure, travelling from New England to Nova Scotia. The show was first produced in Halifax in 2010, and has been charming audiences ever since. I hadn’t seen this show previously, but absolutely LOVED it! This show has something for absolutely everyone; the audience ranged in age from about 15-75, and it appeared as though everyone thoroughly enjoyed it. There were a number of ‘laugh out loud’ moments, as well as some more somber moments, which the cast wove together so beautifully that the show was phenomenal. Talented director Sarah Hearn brought this show to life, and it is not to be missed!

The Gladstone Theatre provides an exceptional venue for this story to unfold. As it is smaller than some of the large Ottawa theatres, it allows the audience to get quite close to the stage, and this provides them the opportunity to experience the emotion of the actors in a much more intimate way. This cast in particular has very strong facial expressions, which adds animated humour to the show that was really funny and enjoyable.

Now, on to the show! I don’t like to give away too many details from storylines in my reviews, and as such, prefer to comment instead on the overall experience of being at the show, and any exceptional performances. I don’t think that I have ever seen a show where the love/friendship/bond between two lead characters was portrayed as well as between Stella (Maureen Quinn McGovern) and Dot (Arlene Watson). These two were so well cast, and they played off of one another perfectly. They were so believable as this couple. It was truly heartwarming! Everything from the amusing banter between the two to the heart-wrenching, tragic moments, left the audience in awe of the incredible, unbreakable relationship between these women.

Speaking of amusing relationships between characters, the combination of Molly (Alianne Rozon) and Tommy (Tomas Chovanec) was great as well! Although this show has some serious themes, there is an undertone of humour throughout, and the scenes that featured these two were hilarious! While Molly initially comes across as being a fairly unlikeable character, Rozon charms the audience, and by the end, these two are a crowd favourite!

The role of Cat was portrayed by Cathy Nobleman, and I really enjoyed what she brought to the character. The audience cannot help but feel for this sick, sad woman, who clearly loves her son, but feels trapped in her current living situation. Everything from Nobleman’s slow, deliberate movements to the delivery of her lines made Cat a believable and loveable character. Nobleman is clearly a very strong actress, and she brought a lot to this role and this show.

I’d also like to highlight an often overlooked element of any show, which was the hair and makeup artistry. Artists Tiara Wallace and Susan Mclean did a fantastic job of transforming a woman from healthy to near death-like, and the hair and makeup for the rest of the cast was spot-on. These small elements can really enhance a show, so kudos to these two on a job very well done!

Standout Performances:

Jason Hopkins blew my mind as the loveable, eccentric Prentice. I didn’t realize that I had recently seen Hopkins in both Cry-Baby and Chicago, but his lengthy list of credits doesn’t surprise me at all, as this young man is exceptionally talented. Throughout the show, his animated and lively facial expressions, combined with some hilarious one-liners and then also some very sad moments, created an endearing character with extraordinary depth, that the audience fell in love with. Occasionally, when I see a show, there is an actor whose performance, in itself, could persuade me to see any other show that they are in, and Hopkins did that for me here. I would see this young man in pretty much any show, as I am sure that he would deliver a very strong and entertaining performance. I should note that Hopkins performs a contemporary-style dance in this show, choreographed by Rozon (clearly multi-talented!), that brought a few audience members to tears. It was beautifully danced, and added so much emotion, especially the second time that he performed it, near the end of the show.

While I already mentioned McGovern in terms of how much I enjoyed the interaction between Stella and Dot, I would be amiss if I did not give huge kudos to her individually in her portrayal of the role of Stella. I did not expect to love this character as much as I did, but from the very first scene, McGovern stole my heart (and the show, in my humble opinion!) The crass, sassy Stella is a feisty woman in her 70’s, who is so full of life and spunk, that you would think that she is half that age. I think what made this performance so magical for me was McGovern’s incomparable comedic timing. Her line delivery was spot on, and there were SO many great moments! She truly shone in this role, and I cannot imagine seeing this show with anyone else in that role, as she really, sincerely made the show for me!

This show is really something special. A superbly talented cast, combined with a great soundtrack and a beautiful storyline, it offers a truly enjoyable theatrical experience! The show runs through September 15th at The Gladstone with two performances on it’s last day. Check it out if you get the opportunity, you will not be disappointed!

**Note: I should mention that the show contains some language and adult themes that may not be suitable for children.**

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