June 2010

Ebi Mayo Harumaki  at ShurakuRediscover Granville 2010

If New York City can successfully turn Broadway at Times Square from a taxi-clogged major street into a summer pedestrian mall with sidewalk cafes (New York, New York 2009 - Theatre, Food and Dance)  it's not surprising that Vancouver can do the same for Granville Street. summer seating on Broadway at Times Square in NYCIt certainly worked well for Vancouver during the 2010 Olympics in February - summer, with patio dining along Granville, should be even better.

Charles Gauthier of the Vancouver Downtown Business Improvement Association kicked off Michelle Ng's Media Granville Street Foodie Tour by telling us of the Rediscover Granville 2010 initiative that is already underway. Until September 5th Granville Street is closed from Hastings to Smithe and the VPD will also close the 900 and 1000 blocks between Smithe and Helmcken on Friday and Saturday nights from 9 pm.

Several programs have been developed to enhance the ambience of the area. One is to bring back buskers, to play on Friday nights from 5 to 7 pm, and to have three summer busker concerts on the 700 block from 7 pm to midnight on July 2, August 6 and September 3.

Even more important to foodies - more than a dozen restaurant, pub and bar patios will be open and between the 500 and 800 blocks, these patios can extend right out to the curbs for the summer. There will also be temporary seating in the middle of the street between the 600 and 800 blocks to encourage lingering.  Check out the picture of in-street seating on Broadway, New York. A thought ... when does lingering become loitering? I hope that the rowdies don't mess up this great idea.

And the Granville Street Foodie Tours aim to introduce the dining public to the plethora of great restaurants and pubs that have opened up along this location.

The Media meet The Granville Street Foodie Tour:

The Cast: Photo by Jo-Ann RichardsThe 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee
Music and Lyrics by William Finn and Book by Rachel Sheinkin
Directed by Michael Shamata. Musical Director Bruce Kellett
Arts Club Theatre/ Belfry Theatre production
Arts Club Granville Island Stage
June 15 to July 31, 2010

Vancouver, BC: I walked out of the Arts Club Theatre after seeing The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee thinking, much to my surprise, that it was actually a little gem of a musical and perfectly suited to the Granville Island Stage.  I really had not anticipated enjoying it as much as I did, so kudos to Michael Shamata and his cast.

This is because four years ago when I was  writing "Rants, Raves and Reviews" for Immediate Theatre, I saw The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee at The Circle in the Square Theatre in New York. That's a 650 seat theatre, larger than the 450 seat Granville Island Stage - and in retrospect it seemed much more cavernous than the Stanley which also has about 650 seats. I wonder whether the barn-like nature of the New York venue, and the fact that I was seated way back in the "bleachers" contributed to my grumpiness about the show at the time (Songs, Dances, Paintings -The Curtain Falls). My comments then were that "the story line was weak, the music unmemorable and the choreography unremarkable. The show runs for about an hour and 45 minutes with no intermission and my attention began to flag after the first hour."

Neff. Photo by David Cooper" hspace="3" vspace="3" align="left" border="1">This was not so for this energetic and funny Arts Club/Belfry production, which I enjoyed a lot. Fitting in nicely with the concept of the show, Shamata inserted a "snack break" midway through the Bee which means that those of us with short attention spans and stiffening joints got to come back relaxed and eagerly anticipating the second half of the show. 

Rosie Simon as Marcy Park. Photo by David CooperAnd this time I was also thoroughly engaged by the individual characters of the young spellers and their back- stories, which actually touch on quite weighty issues like parental neglect, sibling rivalry, and perfectionism. Not to mention that I found myself laughing out loud at some of their antics.<--break->

Antony (Andrew Wheeler) besotted by Cleopatra (Jennifer Lines). Photo by David BlueAntony and Cleopatra by William Shakespeare
Directed by Scott Bellis
Bard on the Beach
Main Stage, Vanier Park
to September 24, 2010

Vancouver, BC: Chronologically Antony and Cleopatra follows just after three of Shakespeare's most powerful tragedies, Othello, King Lear and Macbeth. Yet although this tragedy chronicles the downfall and the deaths of the heroic Roman, Mark Antony, and Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt, it does not make the same emotional impact on me that the fates of Othello and Lear do. 

Perhaps it is because when we first meet Antony in this play, he is already in thrall to Cleopatra and while in her presence, seems to lack the aura of greatness of a heroic figure. There are many ways to play these two characters but mostly we don't get any sense of the power Cleopatra must wield over the Kingdom of Egypt: instead we only see her as  a manipulative coquette, jealous of the other women in Antony's life. So despite their exalted status as Roman triumvir and Ruler, they seem all too human and commonplace in the way their sexual passion ultimately destroys them.

Curtis about to teach -  my notebook at the ready!At the Arts Club Chef's Cooking Class I attended last year I had a real blast and picked up some excellent tips for the kitchen - and the barbecue.  After chatting with Joe Fortes Executive Sous Chef, Curtis Webb, and Pastry Chef Kelly Urbanoski, I was impressed by their enthusiasm for these events - and was really excited to participate in this year's Celebrity Chef class where they would be cooking and teaching.

The only problem was that owing to a moment's indiscretion on my part during the earlier interview, a kitchen secret I had closely guarded for several years would be bared to the world - or at least to the 18 people present in Sandra and Peter's kitchen for the cooking class. And what would that do for the image of urbane foodie I was so carefully cultivating?

A masquerade ball in Much Ado About Nothing. Photo: David BlueMuch Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare
Directed by Dean Paul Gibson
Bard on the Beach
Main Stage , Vanier Park
to September 25, 2010

Vancouver, BC: I confess I really love the play Much Ado about Nothing and it's mainly because of the  verbal sparring between the spirited Beatrice and the self-confident cocky Benedick. I just wish I had their gifts for the snappy comeback - but I guess I need to channel the Bard to really match their wit.

Antonio (Allan Morgan), Beatrice<br />
(Jennifer Lines), Margaret (Sarah Afful) and Ursula (Patti Allan)<br />
comfort Hero (Almeera Jiwa)  Photo: David Blue

Guest Reviewer Amanda Lockitch: FoodieEvery so often my mother makes me metaphorically sing for my supper.
This time she said, "I'll take you on this awesome food tour of Vancouver IF you write it up for Sipping and Supping".

A day of walking in downtown Vancouver, eating really good food at places I've never been to, and hanging with my mom? Sounds pretty win-win-win to me!
So here it goes:

Michelle Ng hosts FoodieTours in Downtown Vancouver and Richmond. We joined her for the tour on Saturday, June 12, 2010

We lucked out with the weather being one of the only truly warm and sunny days that have come along since I've been back on the we(s)t coast. Our twenty minute walk to Hastings and Homer put us at our first stop with plenty of time to spare -- if you know my mother personally, you will know that for her early is on time, on time is late, and late is just out of the question.

Christine Willes as Clara Epp. Photo by Tim MathesonHerr Beckmann's People by Sally Stubbs
Directed by Katrina Dunn
A Flying Start production from Playwrights Theatre Centre and Touchstone Theatre
Playwrights Theatre Centre Studio
June 10-19, 2010

Vancouver, BC: The world premiere production of Herr Beckmann's People by Vancouver playwright, Sally Stubbs, is on this week at Festival House on Granville Island. A thought-provoking play sensitively performed by a strong cast, this is well worth seeing.

The play explores the choices made by a once close-knit family in Germany, before and during World War II, and how these choices continue to reverberate in the family psyche almost three decades later. A question that has been pondered ever since the realities of the Holocaust became known, is "how could ordinary people in an educated, cultured nation, participate in or facilitate the brutalities that were committed against their fellow human beings?"

Kelly Urbanoski and Curtis Webb at Joe Fortes RestaurantOne of the best aspects of writing for ReviewFromTheHouse.com is the chance it affords me, from time to time, to interview people who are committed and passionate about their work. Some such as professor Errol Durbach, Bard artistic director Christopher Gaze or playwright Emil Sher, work in theatre. 

Others like Kelowna chef Rod Butters or Vancouver Foodie Tours operator, Michelle Ng, work in the food industry.

Michelle Ng of Foodie ToursCharming, articulate, bursting with energy and passionate about food - those were my immediate impressions of Michelle Ng as we sat down to chat about her new venture, Vancouver Foodie Tours.

I was caught up in her enthusiasm as Michelle explained her Foodie Tours concept to me: 

The tours are for passionate foodies who want to sample the best restaurants  and cafes in town. Each tour lasts approximately 2 and a half hours. In this time Michelle introduces participants to 4 - 6 restaurants where they sample signature dishes, meet the owners and chefs, and get the inside scoop on how the restaurants began and what continues to bring in the crowds. Examples of places that the Foodie Tour may visit range from the Bonchaz Bakery Cafe where Michelle and I met for coffee, to fine dining restaurants like Coast or Italian Kitchen. 

Each place is personally selected by Michelle because it offers a food experience that she values. As I learned, the Bonchaz is named for their pastry specialty;  an oven baked milk bun topped with a crisp golden crust and a hint of fresh ground coffee, that comes in 5 different flavors.

I can hardly wait till June 30th to find out what is in my Ticketpalooza! "mystery" ticket package. What on earth is Ticketpalooza, you may ask?

Ticketpalooza, organized by the Greater Vancouver Professional Theatre Alliance aims to raise the visibility of the work of Lower Mainland theatre companies, large and small, through an online fundraiser selling tickets to a variety of shows.

There are 40 "mystery" ticket packages, donated by over 45 theatre companies are NOW AVAILABLE for you to purchase at price points of $50 and $200, with values of at least these amounts. All packages include tickets to GVPTA member company theatre productions, and many also include dinner or drinks at a local area restaurants. $200 packages may also include additional theatre tickets, entrée to other cultural events, and/or hotel stays at some of the best hotels in town!

When the online sale closes on June 30, the content of each of the packages that have been sold will be revealed to the buyers. And the fun will begin.

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