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REVIEW: 'Brilliant' Bobbie production deemed must-see

'Olivia Daniels has now brought the legend to life and has done so with the gusto that Bobbie likely confronted each day through trials and tribulations,' says reporter
The cast of Theatre by the Bay's production of 'Bobbie' includes, from left, Ori Black, Nadine Djoury, Matthew Gorman, and Olivia Daniels.

For a play that was seemingly just about a highly decorated local athlete, the story of Bobbie Rosenfeld dives much deeper into the struggles of antisemitism, sexism, anger against the expected norm, and how a young woman and her family deal with it all.

Theatre by the Bay’s Wednesday night preview showing of Bobbie, written by Trudee Romanek and directed by Lynn Weintraub, tells the relatively unknown story of one of Barrie’s greatest athletes and, eventually, also one of Canada’s.

Fanny 'Bobbie' Rosenfeld was born in 1904 during the Russian Empire in what is now known as Dnipro, Ukraine. Her family fled the violence and came to Barrie for a bit of the Canadian dream.

The unfortunate thing about Bobbie's story is that Barrie, her hometown, has rarely celebrated her life or told her story. 

Olivia Daniels has now brought the legend to life and has done so with the gusto that Bobbie likely confronted each day through trials and tribulations.

Daniels is a talented actor with an impressive resume outside of Theatre by the Bay, but will endear herself to a local audience for how much respect and care she gives this Barrie legend. 

Barrie athlete extraordinaire Fanny 'Bobbie' Rosenfeld. | File photo

Ori Black played a couple of roles, but mainly that of Bobbie’s brother, Maurice.

Maurice’s journey is as pertinent to the overall story as anyone’s and Black is able to nail it without a hint that it’s coming. Further to Maurice, check out the information placed around the theatre during the intermission about each person and you’ll be blown away by Maurice’s very cool accomplishments in life.

Nadine Djoury comes into the play with a fantastic resume, but as any good actor does, leaves it at the door to bring two characters to life. As Bobbie’s mother, Sarah, and a friend named Evelyn, Djoury pulls off two completely different people without a hitch.

Matthew Gorman plays Bobbie’s father and a Barrie journalist who would have had their social media accounts suspended had this story been based in 2023. 

The story is the most important aspect of this play, but Gorman’s performance of both characters is truly something to see. If at any point, for whatever ridiculous reason, your mind wanders from the production, focus on Gorman to get back into it. He really was brilliant and can make you feel like you’re in the Rosenfeld family.

The unsung hero of this production didn’t say a word and couldn’t take a bow. The set gives the performance of a lifetime, as much as inanimate objects can.

I don’t recall ever commending a set designer in a review, but Logan Raju Cracknell orchestrated a set that allowed for the telling of a fleeing Jewish family and an always-on-the-move athlete in a way that never felt chaotic and all over the stage, nor was it boxed in. The audience is never forced to take its eyes away from the actor’s actions. It really is among the best sets Theatre by the Bay have performed on.

It isn’t news that Theatre by the Bay continues to tell the stories of our city and community, as that is their mandate and what they have done well for over 20 years.

What is newsworthy, though, is the company has taken a woman who won countless medals nationally and internationally in a wide variety of sports, while dealing with severe anti-everything sentiment — Rosenfeld was a young, Jewish woman beating men in sports in the early 1900’s — and have re-introduced her to the city she loved. 

The brilliant play has everything an audience would want in a show, except for perhaps a typical central love story.

But the love story is there, it’s just in the relationship between Bobbie and her hometown of Barrie. Theatre by the Bay merely brings them back together. 

Thursday’s performance is sold out, but tickets are available for the next 11 showings that run from Sept. 1 until Sept. 10 at the Five Points Theatre in downtown Barrie. For tickets and dates, click here.

Note that some dates include post-show reception with hors d'oeuvres and a cash bar or feature a talk-back with authors Anne Dublin, Bruce Kidd and Rochelle Thompson, a descendant of Bobbie Rosenfeld, or feature a talk-back with members of the cast and creative team.

Shawn Gibson is a staff reporter at BarrieToday.